Saturday, July 16, 2016


It has long been suggested there one thing you do not discuss with your friends. Politics. There is a second. Do not discuss who was the best at portraying Mike Hammer. If you acknowledge and accept this B-movie version, Robert Bray does a decent job and generally looks formidable, toned and fit in a tee shirt. The action is limited with Bray becoming the punchee more often than not with this script. The bold sans serif lowercase opening title credits gives the impression the film is not only breaking all grammatical rules but that Bray will be breaking procedural rules as well. It was a trendy designer’s touch during this period. Overall, not a bad effort but seems longer than its ninety-one minutes.

Under those trendy titles, we have Bray wearily walking by storefronts at night, exhausted from two days without sleep. The makeup for his two-day facial hair growth is dark and oily. Not a stubble to be found, however. He tries later to convince you it really is a beard with a nifty electric razor he keeps in his office. A practice that had a limited run. Stopping in a diner, he meets a young woman, Jan Chaney in her only movie role, fresh from the Midwest who has been trying to make survival money any way she can. For shame. Bray notices she is wearing a unique ring which he later learns is part of a famous jewel collection smuggled out of Nazi Germany during World War II. How about that?!

From his Ford Fairlane convertible, Bray tails a suspect in two murders centered around the jewel collection. It is a long film-reel-eating sequence but the ride is authentic enough with in-car camera and location shoots. Still, budget dictates the usual studio prop cars with back-scrim footage. The suspect disappears at Whitney Blake’s beachside home. The suspect is confronted by Bray and Blake. Words are exchanged. She fires her butler on the spot. It is a scene that seems to have little consequence to the story at that point. With that stressful situation behind her, she asks Bray if he can handle a boat. He says, “I can handle anything.” Do tell. While on the open water we hear the sob story of Blake’s life with Bray seemingly more interested in boating. Blake seems oblivious to his wise counsel as well. Her story seems a bit too polished.

While in Europe she rented the house to an Army Colonel, played by Donald Randolph, the man who smuggled the jewels to California. He has lost track of their location due to his ten year prison term for the theft. His embodiment of the character seems an odd choice as he comes off more a dapper, sometimes witty, underworld kingpin than an Army vet. He and Bray verbally spar yet Randolph likes his bluntness. He feels they will get along fine and asks for Bray’s help to locate the jewels. Patricia Donahue is one of the colonel’s companions in another of her condescending, smirking roles who always seems amused by whomever she is with. In the end, all is sorted out with guns blazing and the jewels located. A murder rap awaits one, while another has reserved a room at the state prison.

In the only noir element, outside the opening, Bray is jumped and beaten in a darkened room by stuntmen. It is obvious they are pulling their punches in precise choreographed form. Bray lies bruised and bleeding on the floor while a high wailing trumpet sums up Bray’s consequence. A lone neon sign flashes from dark to light over his body.

Note: I am safe in saying Robert Bray was not going to reprise this role again yet he makes the film better. It is not a bad film despite obvious budget restraints. There are numerous one-liners that could have worked but the script did not include any. Bray could have delivered those pretty well. Instead his comebacks are not very clever. One exception might be his comment about his curvaceous secretary, Velda, played by Pamela Duncan. Bray’s pet name for her is “Beautiful.” For the first couple of weeks after she started working for him, he could not take his eyes off her. But she is smart, too. He says “she has a brain that figures all the angles. I only figure the curves.” Rim shot! 

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