TV… Remembering Ray Liotta as more than a Goodfella

 #1980s

 

Recalling Ray Liotta in an early role in The New Mike Hammer…

 

Flashbacking to Ray Liotta as one of the alley “scuzz” as a 1980s TV spin gives a Mike Hammer-ing homage to The Warriors movie.

 

MIKE HAMMER — 6p ET on getTV, Facebook

 

Like the rest of the world, I’m still reeling at the sad news that actor Ray Liotta passed away recently. This actor the star of films, TV and video games, had started his career in 1980 and reading through his filmography it seems he worked in a variety of genres including a surprising entry in a soap opera, Another World (1978-81).

My favourite role of the Liotta films I’ve seen so far was his villainous – and hilarious – screen-stealing turn as Gallian in In the Name of the King: A Dungeon Siege Tale (2007). Gallian, I’ll admit for me is more of a favourite Liotta character than his role as protagonist, Henry Hill in Goodfellas (1990). But today in my tribute to Liotta, I’m returning to a TV Series from the 1980s.

In the series The New Mike Hammer (1984-89) Ray Liotta was seen in one of this series’ more surprising guest roles. This episode to be reviewed is found in Season 02 Episode 03 and named Kill Devil (1984). The New Mike Hammer was a drama crime series that came about after a successful then standalone, TV Movie.

Again this was my first watch of this series, and on reading more about it – and seeing the episode – I can now appreciate my father’s then appreciation of this show.  I discovered the show was narrated by a private detective Mike Hammer (Stacy Keach), and a homage to those noir films my dad adored. Often these noir motifs were added for comic effect as they clashed with the 1980s setting of this series.

Hammer narrates this show like a Raymond Chandler character and despite the anachronistic appearance of his fedora, suit and trench coat, he’s quick with double entendres and non-stop chick magnet appeal with those 1980s women. In this episode, Hammer seeks revenge on the street gang who attacked his secretary, Velda with Liotta as the mean and nasty gang member, Tony Cable. But Mike Hammer uncovers a conspiracy before a Scooby Doo ending (that Darlin Husband spotted long before I did).

The series opening theme is a slow sax number with an on-screen montage of Private Detective Hammer fighting evil and chatting up the New York broads ladies. The episode starts as after charming a garage attendant with more double entendres than his Street People (1976) co-star Roger Moore, Keach as our Fedora wearing hero is late for meeting his pretty secretary, Velda (Lindsay Bloom).

Velda is a wee bit peeved, but she’s spotted by Tony Cable (Ray Liotta). Cable is in the company of his gang, The Stones. Cable then chats her up (badly) and when she doesn’t respond to his “charm”, he manhandles her into an alleyway. She appears unconscious when she hits a wall after he roughly pushes her in their scuffle.

Luckily like Cinderella, Velda left her shoe behind, and this shoe and her scream are recognised by Hammer who drives up the street shortly after this. Driving into the alleyway, Hammer challenges the “scuzz” from the street and gets some streetwise lip from Cable and his gang for his efforts. After Hammer produces a gun, Cable sheepishly follows his instructions and Cable puts Velda in the back seat of Hammer’s car.

Then both men rue revenge on each other, and Hammer is followed by the gang by car, as he drives Velda to the hospital. He then goes to Velda’s place to try and to pick up some things for her hospital stay. Hammer tells his parole officer, John Shayne (Dan Lauria) he wants to charge Cable with robbery, assault and battery. Shayne warns him that Cable will be most likely protected by an alibi from his fellow gang members. Hammer is later attacked by the gang, after distracting him with a lady…

Hammer discovers that Cable will be attending a meeting of all the New York gang leaders, with the inspiring White Moses the next day in a park. White Moses is like Santa Claus dressed up like The Dukes of Hazzards Boss Hogg (from 1979-85) with white hair and beard but wearing a white suit and stetson. Moses may advocate peace between the New York gangs in passionate speeches (but for his own benefit… mwhahahaha), but he gives Cable a gun to shoot Krager, the Stones’ gang leader.

After the gangs all meet in the park the day after, Cable shoots and kills Krager as he makes a speech. He then returns this gun to Moses, but not before Cable blames Hammer for this murder. Then with the gangs now running after Hammer and wanting to give Hammer a hammering, Hammer goes on the run…

It was fun seeing Liotta in this early guest star role, where he showed his early talents in commanding the wee screen. He was convincing as this not very bright character. Cable seemed a wee bit glaikit in his approach to chat up the ladies, as it was obvious Velda wasn’t interested. He could probably have learned a thing or two from the chick magnet, Mike Hammer who had at least three propositions from various ladies in the episode.

Cable was also manipulated by the evil White Moses, for Moses’ own selfish means. So, in some ways, I did feel sympathetic towards his character. Liotta was more credible in this role, in which he made his character seem more vulnerable and troubled in just one look or action, yet with a man’ man bravado in front of his fellow The Stones gang members.

But thanks to Liotta’s sterling performance, I’m going to immerse myself in more of his movies and in this another Hammer franchise that keeps on giving. After reading more about this series, This show comes with surprising behind the scenes stories, spin-off TV Movies and big names as guest stars of the show that include Sharon Stone and Michael Ironside.

I also recently learned Keach and Liotta’s co-star Lindsay Bloom had an all-important Dallas (1978-91) role. But next up on the Liotta to watch list, after seeing him in this episode as a character that got a whacking, it’s time to revisit him as one who instead gave a whacking role as one of Scorsese’s Goodfellas.

 

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