Lively, entertaining reviews of, and essays on, old and newer films and everything relating to them, written by professional author William Schoell.

Thursday, February 12, 2015


Peggie Castle and Biff Elliott
I, THE JURY (1953). Writer/director: Harry Essex.

"No one should belong to someone so completely that it blocks out the rest of the world, because if something should happen, you're lost." -- Dr. Charlotte Manning.

"From now on no one cuts me so deep I can't close the wounds." --Myrna Devlin

"You're not gettin' the heebie jeebies, are ya, baby?" -- Mike Hammer

Mike Hammer (Biff Elliot) is so outraged that someone murdered a friend, Jack, who saved his life during the war, that he vows to take care of the guilty party himself, being judge, jury and executioner. His friend, Captain Pat Chambers (Preston Foster) hopes to find the killer first. There are numerous suspects: art dealer George Kalecki (Alan Reed), who may be up to shady business; alleged college student Hal Kines (Bob Cunningham), who may be Kalecki's "playmate," among other things; the flirtatious Bellamy twins, Esther and Mary (Tani Guthire and Dran Hamilton); and a host of toughs and other nasty characters. Jack's girlfriend Myrna (Frances Osborne) has been seeing the sophisticated and wealthy shrink Dr. Charlotte Manning (Peggie Castle), with whom Mike becomes involved during the investigation. Then there are more murders, and Mike becomes more frustrated and violent. Who the hell is shooting all of these people, and why? I, the Jury, based on Mickey Spillane's first Mike Hammer novel, is an absorbing and well-acted thriller, with Biff Elliot, the first and arguably best Mike Hammer, playing the pants off of the role; he's just perfect as Hammer, with his good looks, sensitivity and sex appeal playing well off his brusque, rude and two-fisted manner. Castle [Beginning of the End] gives one of her more memorable performances, and there is fine work from the others mentioned, as well as from Mary Anderson [Chicago Calling] as Eileen Vickers. Margaret Sheridan [The Thing from Another World] makes a more than creditable Velma, Hammer's helpful secretary. Franz Waxman contributed an interesting jazz score. The story is the usual twisting Spillane concoction, watered down from the novel, and with the usual soupcon of misogyny underlining the whole story. When Kalecki breaks down into tears when he hears news of Hal's death, it seems clear the film is hinting that he was in love with him, but otherwise this is not explored. Some good dialogue sprinkled throughout. Elisha Cook Jr. and Nestor Paiva have smaller roles. This was remade with Armand Assante as Hammer about thirty years later.

Verdict: Highly interesting Mike Hammer picture. ***.

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