Personal blog - and temporary home page until new website is finished - of writer, editor and graphic artist Christopher Mills

Monday, June 27, 2011

Still Missing on DVD: I, The Jury (1982)

So, Robert Aldrich's Mickey Spillane film "adaptation," Kiss Me Deadly came out on Blu-ray last week (I haven't picked it up yet, but it's a priority purchase, and I hope to get my hands on it soon), and My Gun Is Quick came out on Manufacture-On-Demand DVD from MGM earlier this month (you can read my review HERE), but there's another Spillane-based film that has never been released on DVD that I would very much like to add to my library, and that's 1982's I, The Jury, directed by Richard T. Heffron from a screenplay by Larry Cohen.

Starring Armand Assante as Mike Hammer and Barbara Carrera as the flick's femme fatale, I, The Jury takes great liberties with the Spillane source novel (as do the other films mentioned above), but is chock-full of sleazy, drive-in movie energy. The cinematography has something of a TV movie look (at least, it does on the pan & scan VHS print; the only one available for the last thirty years - presumably, it would look better in its correct theatrical widescreen aspect ratio), but it's gleefully violent, filled with gratuitous nudity, and Assante plays Hammer with a nice psychotic edge. Cohen's script is wryly humorous and damned sexy, and the supporting cast - which includes Laurene Landon, Paul Sorvino, Judson Scott and Geoffrey Lewis - is great. I also love Bill Conti's jazzy score.

It was not a box office success, and it's not really remembered fondly by most people (at least, not on the IMDb), but I've loved it ever since I first rented the tape as a teenager. It's not at all faithful to Spillane's novel (except the ending), but it's not a 50s period piece, either. As a product of the early 80s, I think it updates the Spillane style quite appropriately. Everything's more cynical and graphic - and that was the early 1980s, all over.

It was originally released by American Cinema, one of the first "big" films from the scrappy little studio that had made the early Chuck Norris vehicles A Force Of One and The Octagon. The VHS was issued not long after its theatrical showings by CBS/Fox - but that particular entity no longer exists, with CBS and Fox having long ago gone their separate corporate ways. A few of the American Cinema titles made it to DVD a few years ago (albeit as pan & scan, budget-priced discs from Trinity Entertainment), but I, The Jury wasn't among them, so I wonder if the rights are tied up elsewhere?

I'd love to see I, The Jury make it to DVD (or, better yet, Blu-ray); maybe a quality cult label like Blue Underground or Severin Films could untangle the rights and give it a digital upgrade.

I hope so - my VHS tape is nearly worn out.


Marty McKee said...

A LBX print has aired on Fox Movie Channel, so keep an eye out.

Craig Zablo said...

I, too, would love a Blu-Ray copy for my collection. It's a movie that I enjoy revisiting every so often. The only thing cooler would be to watch it on the big screen with you and other like-minded fans followed by a Q&A with Assante!

Kevin Findley said...

Wouldn't Gene Colan have done one kick-@$$ Mike Hammer comic?

I need to dig out Mike Danger for a reread.

Pidde Andersson said...

I taped it off TV in the '90s, but haven't seen it in a very long time.
The (heavily cut) VHS releases (at least two) of it in Sweden back in the '80s were on Warners, so I always thought this was a Warner movie...
(It aired uncut on TV, btw)
Bill Conti's score is absolutely amazing! I love it.

Anonymous said...

That this version of I, the Jury produced no sequels reminds me of the common plight of private eye movies in the last forty years or so.

I find it interesting that while people such as Frank Miller talked about how much influence by Spillane (as well as Richard Stark, Chandler, etc.) one could find in their writings. They tried to move the comic book adventure genre away from Flash Gordon whimsy.

However, at around the same time as these writers more comfortable with crime stories started writing, George Lucas injected Flash Gordon whimsy into the film adventure genre. Meanwhile, private eye films have tended not to produce sequels (Eight Million Ways to Die, V.I. Warshawski, etc.)

Anonymous said...

FYI, just released on DVD, which I learned about from this blog post (which includes a link to the Amazon listing):