Noir Movie of the Week: “Murder Me, Murder You”, Mickey Spillane’s Mike Hammer starring Stacy Keach, 1983Posted on March 13th, 2013 No comments
It’s in color, made for TV, and from the ’80s…in spite of all that, this flick is a surprisingly well done, gripping movie with Keach playing Hammer truly like his namesake from the book. He pulls no punches, and has no qualms about killing the bad guys.
from 1983 staring Stacy Keach, Tanya Roberts, Don Stroud and Tom Atkins.
The 1980s were not known for the decade’s great Noir movies, and TV murder mysteries of the era were often some of the worst ever made. Consider this flick an exception. With a limited TV budget and Reagan-era censorship, Director Gary Nelson (a seasoned TV & Film director) managed to capture the true essence of Spillane’s style: dark and deadly serious, kept human by a few rays of sarcasm, a few laughs, and some hard liquor.
What makes this movie interesting to people like you and me is that it’s timeless. Mike Hammer is a 1950’s detective, living in the ’80s, driving a ’66 Mustang and listening to music from the ’40s. He talks, dresses and acts like a Noir gumshoe (including Porkpie hat) while fighting off Punk rockers and spandex-wearing muscle-heads. He carries his army issue .45 (named Betsy, just like in the books) and hangs out in a basement bar that only plays Swing on the Wurlitzer. Yet he’s got modern smarts, and although he runs into trouble with a whiny DA, he doesn’t think twice about beating the pulp out of some scumbags – and always gets away with it.
The Scene: The Art Director and locations manager did a bang-up job picking out “old” looking streets in New York. If it weren’t for the modern cars, this filrm would look like the outdoors were shot in the middle of the century. Don Stroud makes a grew Pat Chambers, Hammer’s friend and connection on the police force. And Tanya Roberts plays a fantastic Velda, sexy and sweet but tough underneath. Her ‘look’ is a lot more ’80s than you might expect, but it works – because Hammer is the only one really pulled from the past.
Ah yes, Hammer. Mike Hammer. Stacy Keach. Big, muscular, and already in his 40s when he shot these movies, Keach plays Hammer closer to the book than any other actor I’ve ever seen, including Spillane himself (No offense, Mickey). He perfectly combines the sarcastic, know-it-all detective with the dark, lonely and murderous killer that lurks beneath. That’s right, killer: In the books, Hammer admits to enjoying killing bad guys. He likes it. He looks forward to it. He admits (to himself) that he’s basically a serial killer who gets off on the thrill of watching someone (who deserves it) die, and found a way to do it legally. He does this very well, without the corniness or silliness that other actors just couldn’t leave alone.
Keach pulls it off like a champ. And the writing, although a little hokey at times (to be expected from an 80s TV movie, I think) really nails the character when it comes down to how Hammer would react to the given situations.
What the movie is about:
Any movie that starts off with two hot chicks getting knocked off the road and crushed and burned to death in their car is going to keep you enthralled. Two female couriers, transporting an important briefcase (contents unknown) are murdered. Mike Hammer is subpoenaed when it turns out his ex-fiance (Chris) is connected to the courier agency (in fact, she is a partner). The big bomb is dropped when it’s revealed that this chick had Hammer’s daughter 19 years earlier. She of course never told him.
Chris dies in the courtroom in Hammer’s arms, and although it looks like a heart attack he knows it’s murder. That’s when the Hammer character from the book kicks in full swing, vowing to avenge her death by killing her killer. He also needs to track down his daughter, and embarks on a journey that takes him through his own past, the pornography business, corrupt businesses and a 1-2 punch ending that will have your head spinning.
Fun stuff: Look for Michelle Phillips (yes, THE Michelle Phillips) and a very young, very sexy Delta Burke with more hair than should be legal on a chick’s head. Also look for Lee Meredith (Ulla from “The Producers”) and Jonathan Banks (that guy who was in a million things and always looked like he was about to fall asleep).
Food & Booze:
This is an easy one. Hammer orders a “Police Special” which, apparently, is a bottle of Jack Daniels in a paper sack. So, yeah. As for food, this a New York movie. Throw together a couple of fat, corned beef sandwiches with slaw and Russian Dressing and a pickle.
Note: The Mike Hammer series and TV movies from the ’80s were great. In the 1990s, Keach revived the series which, I believe, went straight to video. Although still decent, the production value of the later series isn’t as good as the original. Watch the originals first. If you dig them, move on to the 90s episodes.
My Take: Although I was a young teenager when these movies came out, I was already a fan of Spillane, the Hammer novels, and wearing fedoras. Spillane’s writing and Keach’s portrayal of Mike Hammer would highly influence my first works of writing, including my scripts for Stardust Theater in the 90s. Hammer’s character would also influence the main character in my best-selling murder mysteries, “Murder on Tiki Island” and “Murder Behind the Closet Door”: Detective Bill Riggins.
I found a TV trailer from ’83. This movie is second (around the 1:00 mark). Prepare to go back in time 30 years…
-Tiki Chris reporting from a basement bar with a 1939 Wurlitzer playing “Harlem Nocturn”.
Posted on March 14th, 2011 2 comments
Edward G. Robinson as a Federal Detective. Post-war Nazi plots. Deceit, murder, and clocks. Orson Welles directs this classic 1946 Noir thriller in a way other directors only dreamed of. Even the title takes on a new meaning as the story unfolds in
The Stranger, 1946
The film opens darkly as authorities plan to find and capture Franz Kindler (played by Welles), the heartless mastermind of the Holocaust. Kindler managed to evade capture, erase his identity, leading him to take up life as a professor in a small town in Connecticut. (Remember, this is 1946, the time when Nazi atrocities were first coming to light and war criminals were being hunted around the globe). Robinson’s character eventually tracks Kindler down…I won’t tell you how here, as that would give away the whole story…
As you’d expect from a classic, every scene is filmed artistically, bringing together perfect camera angles with deliberate-styled acting to achieve a final print that holds up 65 years later.
It’s also a wonderful window into small-town life in pre-television days. People spend their time listening to the radio, or playing checkers with the local general store/diner owner. It might as well have been a million years ago, compared to today’s world.
-Tiki Chris Pinto reporting from the theater, down the avenue from Pirate’s Cove Tiki Bar.
Posted on March 7th, 2011 No comments
Phillip Marlowe is one of my favorite fictional characters of all time…and The Big Sleep is my favorite Marlowe movie, period. Starring Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall, this cream of the crop Raymond Chandler Noir thriller encompasses everything Film Noir is about: The seedier side of life, making no distinction for class, wealth or education. Crime, and the inevitable punishment. Gambling. Loose women. Murder.
Swing by Marlowe’s scene and you’ll pick up some of the roughest, most colorful characters to hit the silver screen. The plot opens up easy but quickly thickens into a muddy soup of lies, blackmail and murder. Marlowe teeters between being one step ahead and one step behind throughout. But of course, using his wit and relying on a lotta luck, he comes out on top in the end, with a nicely wrapped-up little package: the case solved.
Interesting notes: This flick was shot in 1945, but didn’t release until a year later. Pushed off by a plethora of war films, The Big Sleep premiered so late that wartime stuff (like the “B” gas ration stickers on the cars) was already out of date. There were even some late reshoots, adding Lauren Bacall into even more scenes. This ended up with the film having two separates prints: one that was released for the Army in ’45, and the 1946 version that was released to the public with the changed scenes. I’ve seen both, plus a special cut that was put together later which has all the scenes put in together, and honestly I like the combined one the best. (Don’t know if that’s available, but I found a DVD with both versions plus The Maltese Falcon, Dial “M” for Murder and The Postman Always Rings Twice for $11.99 on Amazon.com). This was also the film that sealed the deal for Bogart and Bacall…He ditched his wife and married his co-star three months after the film was finished. Reportedly, guilt over his affair with Bacall led to Bogart’s over-drinking during filming, enough that he held up production on a couple of dates. Live hard, baby.
Food & Booze: The story goes that Phillip Marlowe introduced The Gimlet to America in The Long Goodbye. The original recipe calls for Rose’s Lime Juice, not fresh, and most Gimlet drinkers will tell you they prefer the time-honored recipe with the bottled lime.
2 oz Gin
1 oz Rose’s Lime Juice
For dinner: “Somebody gunned Geiger or somebody got gunned by Geiger who ran away. Or he had meat for dinner and he likes to do his butchering in the parlour.” So, meat. Maybe Steak Tartare (From AllRecipes.com)
* 1 pound finely ground beef tenderloin
* 1 teaspoon brown mustard
* 1/2 teaspoon hot pepper sauce (e.g. Tabasco™), or to taste
* 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
* 1 teaspoon brandy
* 1 pinch salt, or to taste
* ground white pepper to taste
* 1 egg
1. In a medium bowl, mix together the beef, mustard, hot pepper sauce, Worcestershire sauce, brandy, salt, pepper and egg until well blended. Arrange the meat in a neat pile on a glass dish, and cover with aluminum foil. Refrigerate for 30 minutes to allow the flavors to blend. Serve as a spread on crackers or toast. The legend goes that Tartare tribes when fighting in the past didn’t even have time to stop and cook their food. They are said to have kept the meat underneath their saddles and mince it in this way. Today this dish is a gourmet classic. This dish is eaten like a pate, spread on a piece of warm toast with fresh tomato and onion rings on top. It is very important though to make sure that both the meat and the egg are very fresh because they are eaten raw.”
Yeah, really, that’s Steak Tartare. Raw egg, raw meat. Mmmm. That’s a trip to the emergency room waiting to happen if I ever saw one. Maybe just a New York Strip done medium rare and a couple of potatoes instead. Yeah.
-Tiki Chris Pinto reporting from the kitchenette in the snack bar at Tiki Lounge Talk, the Blounge for cool movies, exotic cocktails and Tiki-rama.
Oh, here’s the original trailer…
Posted on January 25th, 2011 No comments
If you haven’t seen Sin City, I highly recommend it. We’re talking about a fantastic mix of real, old-style Noir/pulp fiction infused with modern digital effects and contemporary shooting. Director Robert Rodriguez (Machete, Once Upon a Time in Mexico, Grindhouse) digs down deep into the dark and nasty side of human nature, bringing to life Frank Miller’s graphic novel of twisted maniacs, sexy hookers and debaucherous lunatics.
The movie, in true Noir fashion, is filmed in black and white – with modern splashes of color added in for a stunning visual effect. Artsy camera angles and lighting perfectly frame every shot. Multiple plot lines converge, and the action is pulled off with finesse.
The really funny thing is that most of this movie was shot in front of a blue screen, with digital effects added in post production. There is a very good balance of realism and artistic graphics, giving you the sense that this really was taken from the pages of a graphic novel, and exists in a strange underworld where prostitutes carry machine guns and blood can be yellow.
This flick strays from the old-style Noir thrillers in that it contains much more graphic violence, sex, nudity, and language. Nothing is held back. Where the subtleties of mid-20th century Noir suggested violence and sex, this reel throws it in your face. Not necessarily a bad thing, but some kats might find this over-the-top style a little too much. Either way, you should check it out.
The cast is built with stars all over the place. Bruce Willis, Jessica Alba, Brittany Murphy, Rosario Dawson, Mickey Rourke, Rutger Hauer, Micheal Madsen, Clive Owen…there’s a star, a gun, or a bucket of surrealistic blood in every scene.
The story lines are pretty interesting too…not as deep as a Hitchcock thriller, but then again this movie is all about the imagery. An interesting note is how Bruce Willis’ character has a monologue at the beginning of the movie, and mirrors it at the end as his story comes full-circle. Damned good writing.
Food & Booze: To go with this Neo-Noir black and white with a splash of color theme, I’d suggest blackened chicken or steak over Fettuccine Alfredo, with diced red peppers and tomatoes. For the drinks, Black Russians and White Russians, or maybe a Black And White Martini…3 oz good vodka, 1 oz creme de cocoa, shaken (not stirred).
My Take: If I were a film maker, this would definitely be the kind of movie I’d want to make. The only thing I might do different is throw in a supernatural angle, a little paranormal fun to the mix.
The book I’m currently working on, “Murder on Tiki Island” would make a great screenplay to be produced in this style. It takes place in a mythical Tiki Resort in the Florida Keys in 1956. I could just see the characters in black and white, with the red flames from the Tiki torches dancing in the background. Who knows…maybe someday.
-Tiki Chris, reporting from the screening room at Tiki Lounge Talk. Noir and Mod Movie Mondays – a new flick every week, for retro-lovin’ kats and swingin’ kittens.
Posted on January 18th, 2011 4 comments
The Maltese Falcon, 1941,
coming at the very beginning of the classic Film Noir era, is a movie that exhibits every aspect of the genre in perfect proportion. Indeed, many honor this flick as the first Film Noir.
Sam Spade (played by none other than Humphrey Bogart) is a cold, wise-cracking, hardened private dick with his own ideas of morality and justice. He doesn’t play by the rules, because the rules to apply to the underworld in which he moves. Throw in a couple of tough dames, con men, strong arms and plenty of guns; back-light it and shoot with high contrast film; add a score that throws you into the era the second it hits your ears and you’ve got one of the greatest movies ever projected upon the Silver Screen.
With a cast that includes Mary Astor, Gladys George, Peter Lorre and Sydney Greenstreet (his first role), this flick is packed with murder, backstabbing, and women of questionable reputation. Throw in an antique metal bird and a Nazi angle, and you’ve got yourself a sleek winner.
Why Should You Watch This Movie: Unparalleled writing in the genre, suburb acting, classy dames and very hep cars. Plus a plot that twists so many times your neck will hurt. The ending ain’t too shabby, either. It’s the movie that defined Bogart as an actor, and John Huston as a director. It opened up a whole new world where the good guys could sometimes be as bad (or worse) than the bad guys, but you root for them anyway because in the end, they get the job done with a flair that can’t be matched by today’s over-the-top characters.
Food & Booze: No fancy stuff here. Hard, straight whiskey, neat. A roast beef club on rye. Eggs and hash. Eat it fast and move on before the killers catch up with you.
My Take: I was a young kid when I first saw this flick on TV, so young that I didn’t understand half of what was going on, but I know I liked it. The men’s hats alone were enough to have me hooked. When I saw it again years later, it took me so far out I needed more…and so started watching more Bogart movies, and began reading books by Raymond Chandler and Micky Spillane etc. etc. Fast forward 30 years later…and here I am, writing to you, dressing like a gangster, writing Noir-style mystery novels myself, and sharing my take on great films, booze, women, cars et al from the past. Dig it, kats.
Here’s the original movie trailer:
-Tiki Chris reporting from the his worn out desk in the back of the dusty, brown office at Samual Spade Private Investigation Agency.