Girl Hunters [1963]

Mickey Spillane plays his own creation, street-thug-turned-PI Mike Hammer, in this 1963 adaptation of his novel. The film opens with Hammer on the downside of a years-long bender, scooped out of the gutter by a bitter cop intent on prying information from a dying man. Inspired to clean up his act by the secrets he hears, Hammer hits the streets on a personal crusade to find the love of his life. Future Bond girl Shirley Earton costars as a glamorous society widow who goes slumming with Hammer. Spillane, who brings the grace of a trained monkey and the sex appeal of a Bronx cheer to the role, is less a stoic, tarnished street knight than a street bum at a cocktail party, but it works for the working-class pug. The low-budget production is a rare black-and-white CinemaScope picture, rough and messy but lacking the raw edge and gritty look of more accomplished crime pictures. B-movie veteran Roy Rowland directs with a lazy pace and a prosaic style that drags until he takes his camera to streets of New York City. The definitive Hammer remains Ralph Meeker in Robert Aldrich's Kiss Me Deadly, but Spillane makes a respectable runner-up. --Sean Axmaker

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