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With: Frederic Forrest, Peter Boyle, Marilu Henner, Roy Kinnear, Elisha Cook Jr., Lydia Lei, R.G. Armstrong, Richard Bradford, Michael Chow, David Patrick Kelly, Sylvia Sidney, Jack Nance, Elmer L. Kline, Royal Dano, Samuel Fuller
Written by: Dennis O'Flaherty, Thomas Pope, Ross Thomas, based on a novel by Joe Gores
Directed by: Wim Wenders
MPAA Rating: PG
Running Time: 97
Date: 05/01/1982

Hammett (1982)

3 Stars (out of 4)

The Class Key

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Like Francis Ford Coppola's One from theHeart, made the same year, Hammett is probably today best knownfor its production troubles. Producer Coppola is rumored to havedirected portions himself, and director Wim Wenders actually went outand made another movie, The State of Things, during production lags. Butviewed in a fresh light today on a sparkling new DVD from Paramount,Hammett surfaces as a truly delightful and gorgeous homage to pulpmysteries. Frederic Forrest plays author Dashiell Hammett, living in SanFrancisco and grinding out stories for "Black Mask" magazine for a pennya word. Trouble comes when an old pal, Jimmy Ryan (Peter Boyle), turnsup. Jimmy is a detective who taught Hammett everything he knows. Now heneeds a favor that will bring Hammett into San Francisco's inky, spotlitunderworld, especially the cathouses of Chinatown. The mystery useselements from many of Hammett's real-life novels, and true fans will beable to spot them, but the film is sure-footed and gloriously moody inits own right. Marilu Henner co-stars as the film's "dame," Hammett'sneighbor, who nurses a crush on him. Best of all, Elisha Cook Jr. (oneof the stars of John Huston's The Maltese Falcon) plays a hack driverwho coaches Hammett in the correct use of the word "gunsel." Jack Nance(Eraserhead) and director Samuel Fuller play small parts as well.

DVD Details: Paramount's 2005 DVD release is letterboxed and includes optional English subtitles but has no other extras.

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