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I, the Jury

Posted by martinteller on November 20, 2010

While his old war buddy gets murdered, Mike Hammer sets out to find the killer.  This movie has a number of interesting facets.  It’s the first Mike Hammer movie, before Kiss Me Deadly.  Transitions between locations are announced with Christmas card titles.  The movie was shot in 3D, and although I didn’t get to watch it in that format, of course, I could see how they intended to use it… the opening sequence in which the victim crawls towards the camera, reaching out to the audience, and a few other little gimmicky moments.  John Alton was the cinematographer, so I hardly need mention that there are any number of glorious shots.  Likewise, the Franz Waxman score is pretty good.  The film is quite lurid, with loads of sexual innuendo, rough violence, references to drug use, and even a hint of homosexuality.  And I enjoyed the operatic melodrama of the finale (despite being kind of a rip-off of Double Indemnity).  But there are problems.  The first is something I also experienced with Kiss Me Deadly: I don’t like Hammer.  His solution to everything is to throw a few punches, he doesn’t have the cunning of Spade or Marlowe.  The film is almost entirely Hammer visits some guy, beats him up, Hammer visits some dame, makes out with her, goes to beat up another guy, goes to kiss another gal.  I just don’t enjoy watching this character, at least not as the protagonist.  This problem is compounded by star Biff Elliott, a lousy actor with very little screen presence.  This guy should be relegated to roles like “Heavy #3″… not the lead actor.  Another thing is that the movie is rather dull.  Anyone ought to be able to guess the killer the moment he (or she) appears onscreen, and even if you don’t, all the information being provided is too convoluted to keep track of, and I wasn’t invested at all.  So it’s a rough and tumble film with some intriguing elements, but fails to satisfy.  Rating: 5


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