Posts Tagged ‘Mickey Spillane’s Mike Hammer’

Encore For Paula

Tuesday, September 6th, 2022

Last Thursday (Sept. 1) I appeared on the Paula Sands Live at KWQC TV in Davenport. Paula’s hour-long Monday-thru-Friday show is extremely high-rated in the Quad Cities market, and she herself – also the nightly news anchor – is celebrating an astonishing forty years at the station. (I accuse her regularly of having an aging portrait in the attic.) This was my first TV shot post-Covid lockdown, and it felt like coming home.

Paula Sands and M.A.C.

As some of you may recall, Paula Sands Live (or a satirized version thereof) appeared with Paula as herself in my movie Mommy’s Day. She was a major character in the film and did a terrific job. Also in that film was Gary Sandy, co-starring with Patty McCormack of course; Gary’s upcoming appearance in Encore for Murder as Mike Hammer on September 17 at the Muscatine High School Theater grows out of my friendship with him when he shot his scenes right here in Muscatine, Iowa, in 1996.

Gary is generously donating his time, reprising his performance as Hammer in the radio-style play Encore for Murder (we originally presented it several years back in Owensboro, Kentucky, and later at Clearwater, Florida), in this one-night-only benefit for the Muscatine Art Center.

Here’s the info, in case you missed it, for those of you close enough to this area (or crazed enough to drive or fly here).

We had our second table read via phone with Gary and the full cast on the evening of the day I appeared on Paula Sands Live. It went very well and the production is really coming together. The cast assembled by co-director Karen Cooney is excellent, and we have Chad Bishop (himself a filmmaker among his many talents) as the foley artist, which is a big, entertaining part of the play, as old-fashioned radio sound effects (and some newfangled computer effects) are generated right on stage.

We are planning to shoot footage at several rehearsals and the performance itself for use in the expansion of my 1999 Mickey Spillane’s Mike Hammer documentary, which is part of what I’m planning for the ongoing 75th anniversary of Mike Hammer celebration. We already have a video distributor lined up (which will include streaming).

And speaking of Mommy’s Day, my filmmaking partner Phil Dingeldein and I are remastering Mommy and its sequel for another Blu-Ray release. We have vastly improved visuals and will return to the original 4:3 format as intended. For those of you who have bought the movies before, well, uh…thanks! But we are just trying to get the best versions out there so that we can appeal to more streaming services and make the physical media as doggone good as we can.

Mommy Before and After upscale/deinterlace.

And speaking of physical media….

So, all of you film and TV fans, remember when we were told that physical media – that journey from Betamax and VHS to laser disc and DVD, and more recently Blu-Ray to 4K discs – would soon be a thing of the past. Would die a much deserved death, because after all everything we could ever want to see will be permanently available in the “cloud.” It’ll all be out there, childishly simple to access, thanks to the wonder of (drum roll please) streaming services.

This is where you are free to either (a), laugh derisively, (b), laugh maniacally, (c), swear and pound a fist on a table or desk, (d), sit morosely staring into space, or (e), find a quiet corner to sit in and weep. (“All of the above” doesn’t seem a practical option, but attempt if you wish.)

After all, we now know several things about this Brave New Streaming World. Well, first it sucks. Sucks money from each of us and just plain sucks. But admittedly it offers a lot of options, if mostly taking the old So Many Channels and Nothing Is On paradigm to ridiculous heights/lows. But all of these streaming services offer their selection options for a limited time. Sometimes, as with HBO Max, they break promises to subscribers like a popular girl in junior high in 1960 (but I am not bitter).

Yes, movies and TV shows are out there somewhere in the ether, just not where you can access them.

Meanwhile, Blu-ray and 4K chug somewhat expensively along, and break the backs (or anyway banks) of film and TV buffs trying to build their non-cyber library. And yet what a wonderful thing a non-cyber library is. For me, my collection of DVDs, Blu-Rays and 4Ks are (nearly) as important to me as the thousands of books I’ve accumulated in my lifetime.

Now I am not against Kindle and Nook and other methods of reading books on little monitor screens. Some people even read books on their phones, probably the same troubled souls who watch 4K movies on those tiny screens, unless they are carrying large flat screens in their pockets and purses in the pursuit of making their lives seem even more absurd.

I am tolerant of Kindle especially because I have made much more money in recent years from e-books than from what I like to call real books. God bless people for utilizing that tool. And I am obviously berating the streaming services even as I seek to sell my wares to them. But here is a wonderful irony – several of the generations younger than mine (actually, that’s more than several) prefer to buy, read and collect physical books. Kindle use is much, much more predominant among older people, the kind of people still wondering when those flying cars are going to get here.

Listen, Kindle has its place. If I were in a big city commuting, I would be using the one that is gathering dust somewhere in this house (it was given to me by the Thomas & Mercer folks). But I like media in physical object form. I like to hold a book in my hands. I like to study a book’s cover (not the covers of most recent books, which are by and large cold and hideous beyond belief) and delight at how it reflects the book at hand (or bitch about how it doesn’t). I even like the smell of books. And I like the way DVDs and Blu-Rays and 4Ks have pictorial jackets and can be lined up on shelves like books with spines and everything. I am resolutely old-fashioned in that regard, and delighted that so many people younger than me are reading books not on glowing screens.

But glowing screens played an interesting role in all this. Yes, it’s annoying that people have their faces in their phones, and it will serve them right in thirty years when their radioactive noses fall off and they have to go searching for them in the dark (the detached noses will glow, so will be easy to find, don’t worry).

But it was Harry Potter, thanks to the now reviled J.K. Rowling, and the much criticized cell phone that taught several generations to read again. They read those Potter books, actual physical books, and on their phones they read (“read” both past and present tense here) e-mails and texts, and they write them, too. Like people used to write letters.

When I hear people of my generation say, “These kids don’t read today,” I think: that’s what old people were saying when I was a kid; and statistically more old people are reading on Kindles rather than actual books, so what are they talking about?

I find the return to vinyl interesting if odd, since I have loved CDs for their lacks of skips and crackles for decades now. But the CD is old-school physical media that truly is dying, because downloadable music is more closely infinite than the very not infinite “availability” of film and TV from the streamers. Downloadable music is the enemy because it has people creating their own play lists and the art of the album is damaged and maybe dying (you know, like most of Sinatra’s Capitol catalogue and Rubber Soul and Pet Sounds and My Aim Is True and the first Vanilla Fudge album and Weezer’s green album).

So it’s a mixed bag, and it will not sort itself out (if it does) while I am still here.

My son Nate – who is selling a lot more books with his Jo Jo translations than I could ever dream of – has a wonderful idea that I hope he carries through on. He wants to write a blog where each week or maybe day he plucks a random disc from my endless DVD and Blu-Ray collection and watches (and then reviews) it. These will be things he did not watch with me while I was on the planet. I will now walk across the room to a bookcase of Blu-rays, and a spinner of DVDs, and pluck five things at eyes-closed random.

Here are Nate’s first five columns. He will discuss:

The Bowery Boys Volume Four (okay, I cheated on this one); The Halliday Brand (a western directed by Gun Crazy’s Joseph Lewis; An Angel for Satan (with Barbara Steele); Haunt from Scott Beck & Bryan Woods (the Quad Cities boys who made good with A Quiet Place, and unlike the Bowery Boys a genuine chance selection); and Ernest Scared Stupid.

Man would I like to read that column.

M.A.C. with JoJo's Bizarre Adventure shelves at BAM!
THAT’S MY BOY! Translator Nate Collins’ shelves of Jo Jo’s Bizarre Adventure at the Davenport BAM!
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Here’s a nice write-up on the upcoming Encore for Murder.

Ms. Tree is on this cool list from Punk Noir (great name); but there’s an inaccurate suggestion that I’ve written more than just the one Ms. Tree prose novel for Hard Case Crime.

Finally, this Wealth of Geeks essay discusses the merits of ignoring canon in films from a book (or comic book) series, and uses Mike Hammer to demonstrate. Good piece.

M.A.C.

Untouchable in Blu

Tuesday, June 26th, 2018

This weekend I watched the “check disc” for the forthcoming Blu-ray of Eliot Ness: An Untouchable Life. I was very pleased. We had gone to some trouble and expense to shoot in HD (at the time something rather new, particularly for low-budget productions), and having the feature appear as intended, looking rather beautiful, is gratifying. It’s made bittersweet by seeing the amazing performance of Michael Cornelison, who passed away in 2011. The loss of this key collaborator on my film and TV work remains painful.

Mike and my great friend and collaborator Phil Dingeldein are featured on the commentary, which listening to is also bittersweet…and I wish I hadn’t dominated it so. But I tend to do that in such situations.

The Blu-ray has everything on it that the DVD did, and “An Inconvenient Matter” – the short film that was the last collaboration between Collins, Cornelison and Dingeldein – is also in High-Def for the first time. It’s an overtly film noir piece written by Chuck Hughes, my fellow Iowan and the screenwriter of Ed and His Dead Mother, a cult fave. This is the only time to date I’ve directed a script I didn’t write, and it was fun and interesting. There’s a Collins/Cornelison/Dingeldein commentary on that, as well.

Obviously, the advance buzz about the “magnum opus” (as the publisher describes it), Scarface and the Untouchable: Al Capone, Eliot Ness and the Battle for Chicago by A. Brad Schwartz and me, inspired this release. The book is out in August, but the Blu-ray will bring up the rear in October.

You can pre-order the disc at Amazon (and I wish you would).

Phil and I are exploring a new film project around the second Mike Hammer play, The Little Death, that is scheduled for January 17 – 27, though if it sells out like the previous one did, an extra week may be added on. This will again star the wonderful Gary Sandy, and I am negotiating with legendary producer Zev Buffman to direct it myself. All concerned are hopeful that I will be able to direct a film version, somewhat in the style of the Eliot Ness: An Untouchable Life feature.

More as that develops.

Speaking of Mike Hammer, the first issue of the serialized graphic novel, The Night I Died (developed from some of the same unpublished Spillane material that inspired The Little Death play) will be in comic book shops this week. A number of sites feature an advance look at the comic book, and this link will take you to one.

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Crusin’s summer/early fall season (we mostly lay off in the later fall and winter) continued on Sunday with an appearance at the Muscatine Art Center’s annual Ice Cream Social. It was a fun, informal event, and the crowd liked us just fine, though I would be surprised if the ice cream and pie didn’t get even better reviews.

Our next appearance is in Muscatine at the Missipi Brew in their beer garden on the Fourth of July, which is on July 4 this year, interestingly. This can be a grueling event for us, particularly if we draw a hot day/evening. It’s also one of the longer shows we do, at least three hours. Lately we’ve been limiting ourselves to one- and two-hour gigs.

This does get more physically taxing, the loading in, setting up, tearing down and loading out in particular. How much longer I will be able to indulge myself in my rock ‘n’ roll fixation remains unclear.

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Here is a very nice Quarry in the Black review. The cover of that one – I believe the great Glen Orbik’s last, completed by the very talented Laurel Blechman – is popping up all over the Net. It’s much admired, and I’m pleased to have acquired the original for my office (in my home with its sophisticated security system).

Here’s a little write-up about my long-ago Digest Dolls card set.

Finally, here is a really nice review of Scarface and the Untouchable in Publisher’s Weekly.

M.A.C.