When two employees of an all-female courier service are murdered, Private Investigator Mike Hammer (Stacy Keach) is on the case. The service was owned by his ex-girlfriend, Chris (Michelle Phillips), and she wants him to protect her while she testifies in front of a grand jury. It turns out that her courier service has gotten involved in some shady business, transporting deliveries between a helicopter company and a South American dictator. Chris fears that she’ll be murdered to keep her from testifying. Hammer agrees to protect her and she tells him that he has a 19 year-old daughter who he’s never met.
While Chris is testifying, she suddenly dies on the stand. The doctors say that it was a heart attack but Hammer knows that it was murder. Hammer sets out to not only get revenge for Chris but also to find his daughter, who has disappeared into the world of underground pornography. It’s all connected though, as is traditional with Mike Hammer, it can sometimes be difficult to keep up with how.
Murder Me, Murder You was a pilot film for a brief-lived but fondly-remembered Mike Hammer TV series that aired in the 80s. Murder Me, Murder You takes Mickey Spillane’s famous detective into what was then the modern age but it allows him to remain a man of the hard-boiled noir era. Hammer’s narration is tougher than leather, he’s more interested in listening to swing music than new wave, and he still dresses like an old-fashioned private eye, complete with a fedora on his head. As played by Stacy Keach, he’s also just as dangerous and quick to kill as Hammer was in Spillane’s original novels. In the novels, Hammer was an unapologetic brute who often bragged about how much he enjoyed killing criminals and communist spies and whose closest associate was his gun, which he nicknamed Betsy. When Spillane’s novels were filmed, the violence of Hammer’s character was often downplayed. (A notable exception was Robert Aldrich’s Kiss Me Deadly, which suggested that Hammer was such a fascist that he would eventually be responsible for the end of the world. The Mike Hammer of Spillane’s novels would probably dismiss Kiss Me Deadly as being red propaganda and set out to deliver American justice to the Hollywood communists who wrote it.) In Murder Me, Murder You, Mike Hammer is just as brutal an avenger as Spillane originally imagined him to be. With his hulking frame, grim eyes, and his surly manner, Stacy Keach is the perfect Mike Hammer.
Murder Me, Murder You is a convoluted and often difficult-to-follow murder mystery but with Keach’s bravura lead performance, a strong supporting cast (including notable tough guys Tom Atkins and Jonathan Banks) and good direction from TV movie vet Gary Nelson, this movie comes about as close as any to capturing the feel of Mickey Spillane’s original novels. Murder Me, Murder You was released on DVD fourteen years ago. Though it is now out-of-print, copies are still available on Amazon.