The first film adaptation of Mickey Spillane's trashy best seller was written and directed by Harry Essex, the screenwriter of two of the best science fiction-horror films of the 1950s--IT CAME FROM OUTER SPACE and CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON--both originally released in 3-D, as was I,
As the film opens we hear "Hark the Herald Angels Sing," but the Yuletide spirit is shattered by a gunman, shrouded in darkness, brutally shooting Jack Williams (Robert Swanger), an amputee, several times. Still alive, Williams painfully crawls towards his own gun. The mysterious killer allows the
dying man a chance at the weapon and then finishes him off before he can retaliate. Enter Mike Hammer (Elliot), a private detective and friend of the victim. Williams had saved Hammer's life during WWII, and now the detective is determined to avenge his death. Warned against breaking the law by
police detective Foster, he begins to dig for clues. What he finds is a seedy world populated by junkies, nymphomaniacs, and drug dealers. Hammer swaggers through the sleaze, and a number of bodies complicate the case.
The opening and closing scenes of I, THE JURY are stunningly brutal and skillfully executed. The murder of the amputee while "Hark the Herald Angels Sing" plays in the background is profoundly chilling, as is the unexpected finale. Unfortunately, the film's center suffers from Elliot's feeble
performance as Spillane's brutish detective. Audiences would have to wait two years for Ralph Meeker to deliver the definitive Mike Hammer performance in Robert Aldrich's incredible KISS ME DEADLY.
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