We blasted through the Thanksgiving/Black Friday/CyberMonday weekend. The Season is upon us. Bad commercial Christmas music fouls the air. To make matters worse, you're going to need a blindfold and earplugs to avoid some of the most sickeningly sentimental movies of all time.
As a public service, my next few posts will about some alternative selections for Yuletide viewing that put a different spin on the Season of Joy.
Let's start with, I, the Jury, from 1953, based on the novel by Mickey Spillane, the first screen appearance of the immortal tough-guy private-eye, Mike Hammer, portrayed by Biff Elliot. And it was originally in 3D!
No, this is not a surrealistic non-sequitur, this version of I, the Jury is a Christmas movie!
It takes place on the days before the holiday. It opens with a closeup of a Christmas card, and traditional Christmas music, then there's gunshots -- and it goes stark, raving noir. Throughout the film, Christmas cards and music are used as transitions between scenes. The mayhem is punctuated by Christmas carols, which are interrupted by gunfire – a two-fisted, gun-toting celebration!
Sure, the heroin of the novel is replaced buy stolen jewelry (because in the early Fifties you couldn't mention such things on the Big Screen), but glorious, insane mayhem comes through:
In the opening scene a man's prosthetic arm is torn off. He fights for his life, thrashing at the camera that seems to have attacked him. The credits keep shooting out of his armpit – 3D, remember? Later Mike/Biff holds the arm, and explains that the man, an army buddy of his, “would give his right arm for a pal.”
There's also a kiss that results in the longest, thickest saliva string in the history of motion pictures. Imagine what it must have been like in the third dimension!
Unfortunately, there are no trailers or clips from this film available. But to get a feel for it, here's some of Spillane's prose set to some funky animation:
And here's Duke Ellington doing the tune that Spillane always considered to be Mike Hammer's proper theme song, “Harlem Nocturne” composed by Earle Hagen in 1939.
And if you think this has been outrageous, wait until you see what's coming!