That’s not necessarily a bad thing, as network television of the 1950s could not depict Hammer’s violent, sexual world to any degree approaching faithfulness (we’d have to wait until Stacy Keach’s considerably more saucy version in 1984), so you take what you can get. In this case, that’s Darren McGavin, the über-likable actor who made a more indelible impression two decades later as Kolchak.
A&E’s 12-disc set of “Mickey Spillane’s Mike Hammer: The Complete Series” rounds up a cool 78 episodes — each under half an hour, which is unusual for such a story-driven crime show with so many murders and mysteries for our square-jawed P.I. to solve.
A brassy, jazzy intro amid New York City’s shoreline puts you in the right mood, even if our first exposure to Hammer is a goofy smile. Hammer shouldn’t smile. He should plant a smooch on a dame seconds after meeting her, which he does, and also head for the bed, which he doesn’t.
Amid tales of kidnappings, assassinations, thefts and other felonious behavior, Hammer’s our hero. The scripts have none of Spillane’s zing with dialogue, opting for clichés (“Something stinks around here, Ryan, and I can smell it!”), but it does have something Spillane did not: beautiful woman moving before our very eyes. Their slinky forms (a very young Angie Dickinson among them) trump letters and words every time.
The set’s missing an episode guide, which would be handy for newbies and collectors alike, considering the sheer amount of adventures — nearly 34 hours worth — through which to wade. —Rod Lott