Murder Me, Murder You (1983, directed by Gary Nelson)

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.

4 Shots From 4 Films: R.I.P., Max von Sydow

Steppenwolf (1974, directed by Fred Haines)

I woke up to the sad news that Max von Sydow, one of the greatest actors of all time, died yesterday.  He was 90 years old and he leaves behind a truly amazing filmography.  He played saints, sinners, assassins, exorcists, generals, poets, doctors, and even ordinary men who were just trying to make it day-to-day.  That he was nominated for only two Academy Awards over a career that lasted 71 years was a major oversight on the Academy’s part.  He was an actor who was as capable in arthouse films as he was in the latest installment of a legendary sci-fi franchise.

It’s hard to take a career as long and productive as von Sydow’s and narrow it down to just four shots from four films so I’m not going to try.  The shots are below are some of my favorite von Sydow performances but they’re hardly definitive.  Max von Sydow gave so many good and memorable performances that it’s hard to know where to start.  Below are 4 shots from 4 films from a truly remarkable career.

Max von Sydow, R.I.P.

4 Shots From 4 Films

The Virgin Spring (1960, directed by Ingmar Bergman)

Flash Gordon (1980, directed by Mike Hodges)

Needful Things (1993, directed by Fraser C. Heston)

Shutter Island (2010, directed by Martin Scorsese)

Spring Breakdown: 7 Deadly Sins (dir by Glenn Plummer)

Before I really get started on this review, I think I should make clear two things:

First off, this film can be found, for free, on Amazon Prime under the title 7 Deadly Sins.  That’s also the title under which it’s listed on the imdb.  However, all of the poster art that I’ve found for this film indicates that this film was originally entitled Charlie Charlie.  It makes sense, as the whole point of the film is that 7 idiots play a game called “Charlie Charlie,” where the point is to talk to some dead guy who never went to church and was therefore never cleansed of his sins.  Apparently, playing Charlie Charlie gets you killed.  Who would have guessed contacting an evil spirit would have such dire consequences.

Secondly, I tend to be forgiving of low budget horror films.  Some of my favorite films are low-budget horror films.  I respect any director who can create a frightening scene or maintain an ominous atmosphere on a low budget.  If you can make the paranormal seem real even when you can’t afford CGI, I have a tremendous amount of respect for your filmmaking skills.  My point is that when I tell you that this is not a good film and that it’s actually one of the worst horror films that I’ve seen in  while, I’m not just saying that because of the low budget.  I’m saying it because the movie freaking sucks.

7 Deadly Sins takes place at a Spring Break house party being thrown by the least likable teenagers on the planet.  Most of them are celebrating because it’s their last Spring Break before college.  Jamal (Steph Santana), on the other hand, is celebrating because it’s his last weekend before he starts a five year prison sentence.  At the start of Spring Break, Jamal was pulled over by a cop who discovered a huge amount of weed in the trunk of his car.  Apparently, in the world of 7 Deadly Sins, the justice system moves a lot quicker than it does in the real world because it only takes Jamal a few days to be found guilty and sentenced to prison.

Jamal’s girlfriend, Kim (Tori Vild), was in the car as well.  However, because she’s rich and she’s white, she’s only sentenced to a few months of house arrest.  She has to wear an ankle bracelet and listen to her racist mom and her pervy stepfather complain about her boyfriend. Kim swears to Jamal that she’ll wait for him to get out of prison.  Jamal suggests a threesome to help him prepare for life behind bars.  Kim kicks him out of her room.  It’s that type of party.

Sara (Gladys Bautista) has been hired, by Kim’s stepfather, to keep an eye on Kim for the weekend.  Kim is upset because Sara is Mexican and they’re both the same age.  Sara is upset because everyone screwed up the Charlie Charlie game.  “You have to play the game,” she repeats, “You have to repent your sins.”

“Shit’s fucked up,” Jamal says at one point and he’s probably right.

Anyway, 7 Deadly Sins is one of those films that tries to be both a horror film and a comedy but it doesn’t work as either, largely because the characters aren’t sympathetic enough to care about and none of the actors are particularly comedic.  You don’t care when they die and it’s hard to be amused when someone says that Sara should be selling oranges along the freeway.

7 Deadly Sins does feature two semi-celebrity cameos.  Tom Sizemore plays a dude in an mental hospital while Eric Roberts plays the judge who sentences Jamal and Kim.  Eric Roberts has a lot of fun with his role, railing about how much he hates drug dealers and marijuana.  Unfortunately, Roberts only gets one scene and then he’s out of the film.

Anyway, 7 Deadly Sins is pretty dumb.  It takes forever to get to the “Charlie Charlie” game and it doesn’t do anything particularly creative with any of the sins.  (At one point, we see written in blood: “Envy is a sin.”  Well, no shit.)  As far as Spring Break horror films go, you could just go down to Galveston and shoot your own and the end results would probably be superior to this one.