Hammett Review

Wim Wenders’ 1982 film Hammett is now available on DVD, and about time too. Featuring a smokin’ hot Marilu Henner and a suitably louche turn from her soon to be ex-husband Frederic Forrest as the eponymous hero, and produced by a minor director called Francis Ford Coppola, Hammett may be the one of the last gasps of the true Film Noir.

Wenders’ own signature, dream-like style fits brilliantly with this fictional tale about the inspiration for Hammett’s story The Maltese Falcon. Eschewing a natural look, most of the action takes place on lavish stage sets that call to mind films as diverse as West Side Story, Desperate Remedies and Dogville.


Hammett is busy writing up his latest pot-boiler when he is visited by his old partner Jimmy Ryan (the late Peter Boyle). Jimmy wants his help in looking for Crystal, a hooker and “stag film” star who’s gone missing. Of course, Crystal is merely a MacGuffin and the harder Hammett looks for her, the more trouble he gets into.

Hard-faced henchmen with speech impediments, fat cat businessmen with kinky secrets, silky lingerie, Fedora hats, brothels packed with underage Asian girls, flirty librarians, double-crosses and seedy alleys: Wenders throws all of it at the screen and the result is still restrained and understated. Hammett mentions suicide to an impoverished doctor. “My advice?” wheezes the quack. “Don’t hesitate.”

The timing of this release can’t be accidental, so why not buy it for yourself for Christmas?

Clare Moody

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