For, Oct. 10, 2014

Making its disc debut (after a short life on VHS back in 2000), "The Girl Hunters" (1963, b/w) is one of those much sought-after titles that isn't really a great film, but it is a pretty good one for a certain genre, and now the boutique label Kino Lorber has decided to give it another life on Blu-ray and DVD.

The film is based on Mickey Spillane's novel about tough-as-nails private eye Mike Hammer, with a screenplay by the author — and Spillane also stars as Hammer!

While his performance wasn't likely to be noticed by the Motion Picture Academy, it's actually not bad in the oeuvre of writers-as-actors (which is larger than you might think). In fact, it may be the only one where a writer plays an iconic character he created himself.

And it must be said that as a result this particular gumshoe yarn has an aura of authenticity like no other, despite its modest budget.

As "The Girl Hunters" opens, Hammer is in a drunken funk, which he's maintained since the disappearance of Velda, his girl Friday. But with help, he sobers up and vows to track down the bad guys and find out what happened to her.


      Shirley Eaton, sunbathing with protection, 'The Girl Hunters'

The film gets a boost from Lloyd Nolan in support and a pre-"Goldfinger" Shirley Eaton as the love interest, along with some solid black-and-white cinematography and a really jazzy musical score.

As for Spillane, his dialogue delivery is strictly a staccato monotone but after a while it grows on you and sort of suits the character.

Among the annals of pulp-fiction sleuths, Mike Hammer is notable and notorious for his propensity for fisticuffs and shootouts. In fact, some of the character's TV incarnations have been condemned for being too violent.

By 1963, Hammer had been on the small screen once, with Darren McGavin's "Mike Hammer" series in the 1950s, and on the big screen three times in B-movie form: "I, the Jury" (1953), "Kiss Me Deadly" (1955) and "My Gun Is Quick" (1957). Of those, only the TV series and "Kiss Me Deadly" have been released on DVD.


There was one more big-screen effort in the 1980s, a remake of "I, the Jury," with Armand Assante. But the most famous incarnation is Stacy Keach's, which he honed on two TV series, one in the 1980s and another in the late 1990s, along with some TV movies. For some reason, only the latter is on DVD.

But one has to think that Spillane in "The Girl Hunters" was bringing to the character all the tough-guy elements he thought were necessary, and it shows.