Re: RARA-AVIS: the many Mikes

Date: 17 Aug 2001

In a message dated 8/16/01 6:04:47 PM, writes:

<< And here's a warning if it should ever show up again: Avoid the made-for-TV movie that starred the guy from Silk Stalkings (and some primetime soaps, can't remember his name) as Hammer and Pamela Anderson as Velda. >>

Hey, I wrote that thing!

In 1993, Jay Bernstein, who exec-produced the Keach series sold CBS on the idea of doing a new series of Hammer movies. I was brought in to script. Knowing Stacy was getting on in years, I started working up an idea kind of based on Chandler's Playback that had Hammer unsuccessfully adjusting to retirement and domesticity. While I was working on that, the network got the brilliant idea that this should be an all new version, with a young, hip Mike Hammer, and that it should be set in Miami. Okaaaaaaaaay. I started working on that.

I like Mike Hammer. I like how he's a violent, misogyinistic, sociopathic anachronism. I can do a lot of fun and disturbing things with that. I love Meeker in Kiss Me Deadly. I got tears in my eyes when Assante pushed the creep's face into the wok in I, The Jury. However, Hollywood at that time was catching a LOT OF SHIT that year for violence on television. It was an election year. So... don't make it violent, the network said. Mike Hammer, not violent? Okaaaaaaaaay.

And there were notes. Not so much voice over, the network said. Audiences don't listen to voice over. It confuses them. Yeah, you guys maybe...

You have to put in more Hammerettes, Jay Bernstein said. Hammerettes were the girls who were always walking up to Mike and propositioning him with double entendres in the Keach series. Who cares if it stops the story? Jay loved casting starlets to be Hammerettes. There can never be too many Hammerettes. And frankly, when we were casting the movie, I have to admit. It's a blast casting Hammerettes.

And since this movie was a back door pilot for another series, introduce a bunch of quirky characters who can be regulars on the show. Okay okay okay.

It was apparent by now that we were doing nothing that bore any resemblance to Mickey Spillane's Mike Hammer. It was obvious that we were manufacturing a generic television show for people who have no real interest in telling mysteries. Fine. I can still have some fun with this.

So I did.

The picture was greenlit after the network signed Pamela Anderson to be Velda. Of course that meant there had to be some ahem, changes in her dialogue... You know, like fewer words.

And the movie was being co-financed by a French television company. Now, I don't know how many of you know this, but the French love Pamela Anderson. So... more scenes with Pamela! And put her in fewer clothes!

The director thought the script was funny. Well, it was. I mean, how many of you would be taking this venture seriously at this point? I was just trying to entertain myself. But the director went out of his way to make it even broader.

At any rate, it's called COME DIE WITH ME. My original title was DEADER THAN EVER but Jay Bernstein had issues with that for reasons too tiresome to get into. Rob Estes plays Mike and in my opinion, once he figured out this wasn't drama, he did exactly what he was supposed to do. (Movies are never shot in sequence by the way.)

Is it Mike Hammer? Not on your life. Is the film version of CASINO ROYALE James Bond? I don't think so. But I think they're both a hoot to watch. And if any of you happen to catch it late at night and manage to make it to the scene where Mike's in the hospital with tubes up his nose after falling out a window onto a hot dog cart, and he and Velda are arguing about the legitimacy of the killer in the woods with a hook for a hand, I defy you not to laugh.

And by the way, I'm in the thing too. I'm the guy who drags Mike onstage in his underwear, where he gets a number spraypainted on his chest for a hot body contest, while he's being pursued across the beach by a team of killer cops from Daytona during spring break.

And they call TV a wasteland.

John Lau

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