|Mickey Spillane and Scott Peters|
"Tough guys I got all the time. Old tough guys I don't need." -- bar owner.
Mike Hammer (Mickey Spillane) has given up his practice and gone on a months-long bender after his secretary, Velda, supposedly ran off with another man and may be either missing or dead. His once-friendly antagonist, Captain Pat Chambers (Scott Peters), was also in love with Velda and is furious with Mike for putting her in danger. Sobered up, Hammer helps investigate the murder of a government agent, all the while hoping to find Velda, with the help of G-Man Rickerby (Lloyd Nolan) and a beautiful widow, Laura (Shirley Eaton), whose husband's murder may also have something to do with the case; a communist plot. Then there's the "red" hit man known only as the "Dragon" (Larry Taylor). Frankly, it's hard to follow the convoluted Girl Hunters at times, although the movie has a fast enough pace and is entertaining and well-acted. Spillane may not have been impressive playing himself in Ring of Fear, but in this he's actually quite good as his creation Mike Hammer. Spillane may not have been an Olivier or had great range, but he could have been developed as a tough guy hero or gangster in future films, but he was probably making enough money as a novelist. Scott Peters scores as Pat; he mostly had television credits. Nolan [Portrait in Black] is excellent, as is Charles Farrell as Grissi, who also assists Mike in the adventure. [This is not the Charles Farrell who appeared on My Little Margie.] Shirley Eaton, who had previously appeared in some of the British "Carry On" movies, appeared the following year in Goldfinger and became especially famous. Although Eaton gives a fine and sharp performance in Girl Hunters, she retired to raise a family after appearing in a few more mostly mediocre movies. Girl Hunters is quite gruesome and hard-edged (if not graphic) at times with a particularly nasty coda, but its central mystery is never quite resolved. Kenneth Talbot offers some superior black and white Panavision cinematography, and the film is well-directed and well-produced.
Verdict: Despite many imperfections, this is pretty good film noir. ***.