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Mike Hammer

Release Year:   1956 – 1959
Studio:   A&E Home Video
Format:   B/W; NTSC; Box Set
Rated:   Not Rated
# of Discs/Episodes:   12 / 78
Running Time:   33 h 48 m
DVD Release Date:   September 20, 2011

Actors:   Darren McGavin, Bart Burns, Vito Scotti, Boris Sagal, William Witney, Richard Irving
E: Top Picks Rating: 9/10

A&E Write-up: 

In Mike Hammer’s world, nothing is what it appears to be. In the first season of MICKEY SPILLANE’S MIKE HAMMER, the hardboiled detective (played by Darren McGavin) finds out the hard way that he can’t trust anybody except loyal ally Police Capt. Pat Chambers (Bart Burns). Damsels in distress turn into femmes fatale, victims turn out to be villains and even dead men won’t stay in the ground.

Season 1 features some of the earliest appearances of TV legends Angie Dickinson (Police Woman) in “Letter Edged in Blackmail” and “Look At the Old Man Go;” Herschel Bernardi (Peter Gunn) in “A Shot in the Arm;” Marion Ross (Happy Days) in “Peace Bond;” Dick Van Patten (Eight is Enough, Spaceballs) in “The Broken Frame;” and Robert Vaughn (The Man from U.N.C.L.E.) in “The Living Dead.” The Ames Brothers, 1958’s Billboard Vocal Group of the Year, also make a musical guest appearance.

Jon Ted Wynne Review: 

Starring Bill Richardson. Who? How about William Lyle Richardson? Who?

You’re right. Just doesn’t have the same ring as Darren McGavin. But then carving out his own identity was an early life lesson for McGavin, born William Lyle Richardson. Abandoned at the age of 11, he came to live in a boys’ home, where he learned traditional values like taking pride in a job well done, and respect for self and others.

McGavin was a successful stage actor as well as film and TV performer. He originated the title role in The Rainmaker on Broadway (later made into a film starring Burt Lancaster and Katharine Hepburn).

Best known today for playing reporter Carl Kolchak in “The Night Stalker” TV movies and series, as well as Old Man Parker in the perennial holiday favourite “A Christmas Story”, McGavin was a tough-minded, independent, complex person who was utterly believable in one of his earliest television successes, as MIKE HAMMER.

Author Mickey Spillane’s detective put the “hard” in “hardboiled”. Several MIKE HAMMER movies have been made, including, not long after this series, one starring the author himself. But McGavin’s turn in the role helped put MIKE HAMMER into countless living rooms across North America in the late 1950s.

Now all 78 episodes are beautifully packaged by A&E. True, this is half hour drama with its tight, sometimes ridiculously under-developed plot lines, with limited budgets and limited production timelines. But it’s also true that this series was groundbreaking for its “excessive and gratuitous violence”. And with McGavin’s easy-going charm to soften the mayhem, the show withstood this criticism and ran for two full seasons.

Though he had wonky knees that kept him out of the military during World War II, McGavin was a black belt in karate, which accounts for his prowess in fight scenes. Does this mean the fact he appeared in a military training film on venereal disease account for his believability in portraying Mike Hammer’s success with the ladies? Since this is 1950s television, maybe that one is best left to the imagination…

MICKEY SPILLANE’S MIKE HAMMER is a super cool show with a nifty original jazz theme, Riff Blues. Take it for what it is, and you’ll love it.

Remember, the wonderful McGavin screen persona that so impressed in shows like “Kolchak: The Night Stalker”, inspired writer Chris Carter to create The X-Files.  McGavin even guested on that show, twice playing FBI agent Arthur Dales.

That in itself is a pretty good reason to watch MICKEY SPILLANE’S MIKE HAMMER: THE COMPLETE COLLECTION..