"Murder Me, Murder You," the CBS movie at 9 tonight on Channel 9, is a bright little onyx, dark and sparkling, in which the eminently watchable Stacy Keach turns himself into an able and insinuating Mike Hammer, putting just the right sardonic spin on dialogue along the lines of "I'm gonna dance a flamenco on your face."
The film, a shamelessly reactionary entertainment--brutal and swaggering enough to amuse Bo Gritz while appalling the stauncher feminist--wanders off-kilter only when it tries without success to relate itself to the real world. For some odd reason, distracting references to detective Hammer's tour of duty in Vietnam are tossed into spare corners, and midway through the mystery Mike plops down on a barstool to deliver the gospel according to himself:
"I don't understand what happened to values. I really don't . . . It's time for the 'we' generation. It's time we stopped bad-mouthing this country we live in and started doing a few things, started solving a few problems." Mike Hammer should shoot first and make speeches like that never. He's a much better hero when, asked if he "works out," he responds by raising a beer can to his lips and saying, "I do 12-ounce curls every day."
The official title for the film, according to CBS, is "Mickey Spillane's Mike Hammer: 'Murder Me, Murder You.' " That's more crowded than the Whitehurst Freeway at 5 p.m. In fact, Spillane had nothing to do with the film beyond creating the basic characters; the script, a limber and sassy affair, is by Bill Stratton and the direction by Gary Nelson, who made sure, among other things, that "Murder Me" caught New York locations in the full grubby glory of true grime.
The plot introduces first the one woman Mike almost married (Michelle Phillips, in stellar shape) and the 19-year-old daughter he never knew he had (Lisa Blount, an extremely potent ingenue). It appears she has become a porno star, or, as Mike delicately puts it, "Here I found out she's frolicking in sewer city with one of the maggots. I wanted to puke." Of course one feels fairly certain both women will be bumped off before two hours are up. But the film has females by the dense pack. It drips with beautiful women, among the more imposing of them Tanya Roberts as Velda, the versatile and impossibly statuesque receptionist, able to deliver convincingly such exhortations as, "Back off--or I'll blow-dry your brains."
One small twist is supposed to surprise us: the fact that one of the women is really a man (what movie today would be complete without that?)--a karate-kicking tranvestite, as it happens, borrowed, shall we say, from the film "Freebie and the Bean." Here's one aging TV critic who spotted her for a ringer right from View One. Is that a good sign, or a bad sign?
Since this incarnation of Mike Hammer stands for all things right-wing and Reaganful, he spends some of his time beating up on a pornographer for no good reason except that, well, who needs a good reason? Of course this is after the film itself has afforded generous views of two cuteaceous bikinians rollicking sensuously in synthetic mud. Perhaps Mike is entitled to his hypocrisy.
He's entitled to his philosophy, too, even when it doesn't wash. "Two things you can't share are pain and guilt," Mike says. But Mike! Who could face another painful and guilt-ridden day on this big overgrown cinder of a planet if you couldn't share those?