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Mickey Spillane's Mike Hammer: The Complete Series DVD set

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#1 of 38 OFFLINE   Timothy E

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Posted September 21 2011 - 02:06 PM

 Mickey Spillane’s Mike Hammer features Darren McGavin(Kolchak: The Night Stalker) as the two-fisted detective. McGavin appeared in 78 episodes of the syndicated TV series that was produced in 1958 and 1959. The series was criticized at the time for being excessively violent for television standards and practices, and TV Guide actually called it "easily the worst series on TV." This was an unfair and inaccurate statement, and Mickey Spillane’s Mike Hammer actually has a lot to recommend it. The series makes use of some nice location shots of 1950s New York City even though produced on a low budget at Republic Studios.


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Mickey Spillane’s Mike Hammer

The Complete Series DVD


Studio: A&E

Year: 1958-1959

Rated: Not Rated

Film Length: 33 hours, 48 minutes (approximate)

Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1

Audio: English Dolby Digital 2.0


Release Date: September 20, 2011


The Series


Although Mickey Spillane had no involvement with this series other than his name on the title, the regular writers had a good pedigree in hardboiled detective fiction. Frank Kane contributed many scripts to the series and had previously created the Johnny Liddell series of books. Lawrence Kimble also wrote a number of scripts for the series; Kimble had also written for Soldiers of Fortune, State Trooper, and Coronado 9. A couple of scripts were even written by Evan Hunter(The Birds), who had written the original novel The Blackboard Jungle and was also known to mystery readers as Ed McBain when he created the 87th Precinct series of books.


Mike Hammer was created by author Mickey Spillane and first appeared in print in I, The Jury in 1947. In addition to the book series, there was a radio series, a comic strip, and various films including Robert Aldrich’s Kiss Me Deadly(1955). An earlier effort to develop a Mike Hammer TV series was made by Blake Edwards(The Pink Panther) who wrote and directed a pilot in 1954 starring Brian Keith(Family Affair). The pilot was never picked up for series, and Edwards went on to create another TV private eye, Peter Gunn(1958-1961). Stacy Keach starred in several Mike Hammer TV movies and series in the 1980s and 1990s.


Guest stars in this series included Angie Dickinson(Police Woman), Herschel Bernardi(Peter Gunn), Marion Ross(Happy Days), Dick Van Patten(Eight Is Enough), Robert Vaughn(The Man From U.N.C.L.E.), Barbara Bain(Space:1999), DeForest Kelley(Star Trek), Ted Knight(The Mary Tyler Moore Show), and Lorne Greene(Bonanza).


This new release includes all 78 episodes from both seasons on 12 discs. Each season has a separate clamshell case of 6 discs with both cases sliding into the illustrated cardboard outer sleeve. The episodes are apparently included in production order rather than air-date, although it is really not essential to see the episodes in order, since the episodes stand alone and aired out of order in different markets. The episodes appear to be complete and unedited, and the running times are consistent with the episodes being complete, except for one episode from season 2, Coney Island Baby, which has a running time approximately 2 minutes shorter than the other episodes. The episodes have great atmospheric titles, as set forth below:


Season 1, Disc 1

The High Cost Of Dying (25:48)

Just Around The Corner (25:52)

Hot Hands, Cold Dice (25:51)

Death Gets A Diploma (25:55)

So That’s Who It Was (25:51)

Dead Men Don’t Dream (25:49)

Letter Edged in Blackmail (25:53)


Season 1, Disc 2

Death Takes An Encore (26:06)

Lead Ache (25:51)

Overdose Of Lead (25:49)

A Grave Undertaking (25:49)

A Shot In The Arm (25:40)

Stay Out Of Town (25:57)

Beautiful, Blue And Deadly (25:51)


Season 1, Disc 3

Skinned Deep (25:53)

Peace Bond (25:52)

Play Belles’ Toll (25:55)

For Sale: Deathbed-Used (25:51)

Music To Die By (25:50)

My Fair Deadly (25:48)

The New Look (25:38)


Season 1, Disc 4

The Broken Frame (25:56)

Look At The Old Man Go (25:51)

The Paper Shroud (25:41)

My Son And Heir (25:54)

Final Curtain (25:52)

A Detective Tail (25:48)


Season 1, Disc 5

It’s An Art (25:52)

Four Blind Mice (25:36)

Scar And Garter (25:49)

No Pockets In A Shroud (25:50)

The Living Dead (25:48)

Old Folks At Home Blues (25:55)


Season 1, Disc 6

No Business Like - - - - -(25:48)

Crepe For Suzette (25:51)

Letter Of The Weak (25:41)

That School-Girl Complex (25:50)

To Bury A Friend (25:52)

Mere Maid (25:52)


Season 2, Disc 1

Accentuate The Negative (25:47)

Requiem For A Sucker (25:53)

I Ain’t Talkin’(25:44)

The Big Drop (25:49)

Aces And Eights (25:52)

Baubles, Bangles and Blood (25:49)

Husbands Are Bad Luck (25:50)


Season 2, Disc 2

Jury Of One (25:45)

Park The Body (25:51)

Tatto Brute?(25:48)

Coney Island Baby (23:30)

According To Luke (25:42)

Save Me In San Salvidor (25:50)

The Last Aloha (25:49)


Season 2, Disc 3

Swing Low, Sweet Harriet (25:52)

Another Man’s Poisson (25:52)

A Haze On The Lake (25:53)

When I Am Dead, My Darling...(25:50)

Stocks And Blondes (25:45)

Evidence On The Record (25:51)

Shoot Before You Look (25:47)


Season 2, Disc 4

The Commodore (25:49)

See No Evil (25:52)

Curtains For An Angel (25:47)

Dixie Is Dead (25:49)

M Is For Murder (25:52)

Pen Pals (25:51)


Season 2, Disc 5

Now Die In It (25:50)

Slay Upon Delivery (25:54)

Groomed To Kill (25:50)

Doll Trouble (25:50)

I Remember Sally (25:47)

Wedding Mourning (25:52)


Season 2, Disc 6

Merchant Of Menace (25:47)

Bride And Doom (25:56)

Slab-Happy (25:49)

A Mugging Evening (25:46)

Siamese Twinge (25:49)

Goodbye, Al (25:46)


Video


Mickey Spillane’s Mike Hammer appears on DVD in its original 1.33:1 aspect ratio. Video quality is excellent, particularly for a syndicated black and white television series from the 1950s. Some minor compression issues are present but are fortunately not pervasive. There is some black crush apparent in night scenes. The video is surprisingly free of dirt and debris. The opening titles on a few of the later episodes have some minor scratches but these are minor as well.


Audio


The English Dolby Digital 2.0 track is excellent with no apparent flaws. The audio does not suffer from the audible hiss and popping that we have sometimes come to expect from television of the 1950s. Dialogue is always properly audible over music and sound effects.


Special Features


The special features are non-existent.


Conclusion


Mickey Spillane’s Mike Hammer is certainly not the worst show on television, not even then and definitely not 50 years later. The quality of talent behind the scenes as well as in front of the camera is impressive and it shows, in spite of the low budget sets. Video and audio quality are excellent for a series from the late 1950s. If you are looking for a hardboiled detective to solve a mystery in 30 minutes or less, you could do a lot worse than to spend some time with Darren McGavin in Mickey Spillane’s Mike Hammer The Complete Series DVD. 



#2 of 38 OFFLINE   Gary OS

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Posted September 21 2011 - 02:23 PM

Timothy, I have a quick question about the series overall.  Is the show mostly studio/set bound, or does it make use of a lot of on location shooting?



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#3 of 38 OFFLINE   vnisanian2001

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Posted September 21 2011 - 02:34 PM

Timothy, I have a quick question about the series overall.  Is the show mostly studio/set bound, or does it make use of a lot of on location shooting?



Gary "if you can answer that question, it would be greatly appreciated" O.

Gary, for you, do on-location shoots make the show more exciting, than when it's done in a studio, or at a city that serves as a double for the setting of the show?
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#4 of 38 OFFLINE   Gary OS

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Posted September 21 2011 - 03:19 PM

     Quote:

Originally Posted by vnisanian2001 

Gary, for you, do on-location shoots make the show more exciting, than when it's done in a studio, or at a city that serves as a double for the setting of the show?


Absolutely!  I love on-location stuff so much more.  Studio sets, no matter how elaborate or well done, come off for me as stuffy.  Sometimes they almost feel claustraphobic.  Give me an open, real setting any day of the week.



Gary "that's an easy call for me" O.


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#5 of 38 OFFLINE   Steve...O

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Posted September 21 2011 - 03:28 PM

Very good and thorough review,Tim.  Thank you!


I also have a question:  do these discs have an English subtitle option?  I can't find an answer one way or another on the Amazon listing.   I suspect not, but want to confirm.


Thank you.


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#6 of 38 OFFLINE   Timothy E

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Posted September 21 2011 - 03:46 PM

Originally Posted by Gary OS 

Timothy, I have a quick question about the series overall.  Is the show mostly studio/set bound, or does it make use of a lot of on location shooting?



Gary "if you can answer that question, it would be greatly appreciated" O.


The show is mostly studio set bound, but it does not feel studio set bound due to the use of some nice exterior shots from late 1950s New York.  Although the series was shot on a low budget at Republic Studios, it does not seem any lower budget than any network detective show from the same era.




#7 of 38 OFFLINE   Timothy E

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Posted September 21 2011 - 03:50 PM

Originally Posted by Steve...O 
Very good and thorough review,Tim.  Thank you!


I also have a question:  do these discs have an English subtitle option?  I can't find an answer one way or another on the Amazon listing.   I suspect not, but want to confirm.


Thank you.


Your suspicions are correct, Steve.  There are no subtitles on these discs.




#8 of 38 OFFLINE   Dave Scarpa

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Posted September 22 2011 - 12:32 AM

I picked this right up as I was able to see a few eps on VHS several years back, those looked horrible these are nicely remastered, the elements have some defects but its not M Squad level quality. Its easy to see where the inspirations for the voiceover in the Night Stalker Came from as MiKe Hammer plays like a non Spooky version of that series. I love McGavin, he's easily one of the most underated actors on Television, his acting style is so free and easy he easily inhabits any character he is playing. Add to that some Great Noir sensibilites, its a very enjoyable series.
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#9 of 38 OFFLINE   Gary OS

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Posted September 22 2011 - 01:24 AM

Nevermind.


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#10 of 38 OFFLINE   Dave Scarpa

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Posted September 22 2011 - 05:00 AM

It does go on location occasionally , in the pilot Hammer goes out to a lake and boats over to a lakehouse, so occasionally it strolls from the backlots
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#11 of 38 OFFLINE   Timothy E

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Posted September 22 2011 - 05:30 AM

Originally Posted by Dave Scarpa 

It does go on location occasionally , in the pilot Hammer goes out to a lake and boats over to a lakehouse, so occasionally it strolls
from the backlots


I found it interesting how the producers made full use of their location shots and reused the same shots at times.  There is another episode near the end of the first season when Hammer goes to his cabin for some R&R and they used the same lake and cabin for some new exterior shots.




#12 of 38 OFFLINE   WaveCrest

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Posted September 23 2011 - 10:16 AM

Very good review Timothy.


Have considered getting this set, because of the whole Mike Hammer thing and Darren McGavin I've enjoyed in the films and TV shows he's appeared/guest starred in. Will wait for the set to come down in price a bit.


After looking at the DVD Talk review (the review was based on 20 episodes in the set) I was a tad disappointed by the comments on the picture/print quality. Reading the comments in the HTF DVD review it's a lot more positive.



#13 of 38 OFFLINE   DeWilson

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Posted September 23 2011 - 05:35 PM

They most likely took off-the-shelf masters from NBC/Universal with no additional work done. Which is how TIMELESS did the color TALES OF WELLS FARGO shows.

#14 of 38 OFFLINE   smithb

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Posted September 25 2011 - 01:48 AM

Very good review Timothy.


Have considered getting this set, because of the whole Mike Hammer thing and Darren McGavin I've enjoyed in the films and TV shows he's appeared/guest starred in (Kolchak of course, Frank Black's father in Millennium and an episode of The X Files). Will wait for the set to come down in price a bit.


After looking at the DVD Talk review (the review was based on 20 episodes in the set) I was a tad disappointed by the comments on the picture/print quality. Reading the comments in the HTF DVD review it's a lot more positive.

I picked it up from Costco yesterday and after watching the first episode it looked pretty good to me on a large screen. Not quite Perry Mason quality but better then average. They have a disclaimer at the beginning so it could be that there is some inconsistency.

#15 of 38 OFFLINE   HenryDuBrow

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Posted September 25 2011 - 02:44 AM

The price may be a bit hefty, so is It Takes A Thief by the way, but I shall be buying them both one way or the other eventually. Soon, I hope. Already loving The Untouchables, feel confident I'll become a fan of the McGavin show too.

#16 of 38 OFFLINE   Neil Brock

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Posted September 25 2011 - 03:15 AM

They most likely took off-the-shelf masters from NBC/Universal with no additional work done. Which is how TIMELESS did the color TALES OF WELLS FARGO shows.

The show ran on Encore Mystery in the 90s so its likely that these are taken from the transfers that were done back then. As with any Universal show from the 50s and 60s, you aren't going to ever get "CBS" quality as they really don't give a damn about their shows that are that old. Least of all when its licensed out to another distributor.

#17 of 38 OFFLINE   vnisanian2001

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Posted September 25 2011 - 07:47 AM

About the episode that only runs 23:30. Is it possible that it was from an older syndicated print, or from an older cable TV print?
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#18 of 38 OFFLINE   WaveCrest

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Posted September 26 2011 - 03:28 AM



Originally Posted by smithb 



I picked it up from Costco yesterday and after watching the first episode it looked pretty good to me on a large screen. Not quite Perry Mason quality but better then average. They have a disclaimer at the beginning so it could be that there is some inconsistency.



I asked about the general picture/print quality because there was a difference in the observations between the two reviews. Haven't got many black and white TV series on DVD, but that's not because I don't like them. Far from it, I have a few black and white TV series DVD sets. Like watching a mixture of black and white and colour TV shows.


I shall be getting this Mike Hammer (Darren McGavin) series at some point. The general vibe I'm getting is positive.



#19 of 38 ONLINE   Mike*HTF

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Posted September 26 2011 - 09:06 AM

The show itself is charming - the quality of the presentation is generally quite good. Here a few caps for the interested: Posted Image Posted Image Posted Image Posted Image

#20 of 38 OFFLINE   WaveCrest

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Posted September 26 2011 - 10:22 AM

Not too bad at all. Thanks for posting some screencaps. Posted Image







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