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Author Topic: Hammett (1982) A Noir Lover's Wet Dream  (Read 2437 times)
cigar joe
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« on: December 11, 2015, 01:53:12 PM »

Director: Wim Wenders and based on Joe Gores (novel) with gorgeous, magic realism, cinematography by Joseph F. Biroc, and a haunting score by John Barry.



The film has quite the cast, Frederic Forrest (The Conversation (1974)), Peter Boyle (Taxi Driver (1976), Hardcore (1979)), Marilu Henner, Roy Kinnear, Elisha Cook Jr. (veteran Noir actor), Lydia Lei, Jack Nance (Blue Velvet (1986), Lost Highway (1997)),  Royal Dano (Under the Gun (1951), Sylvia Sidney (Street Scene (1931), Dead End (1937), Violent Saturday (1955)), Samuel Fuller (director Pickup on South Street (1953), House of Bamboo (1955),The Crimson Kimono (1959) Underworld U.S.A. (1961),Shock Corridor (1963) The Naked Kiss (1964) and Hank Worden (Undercurrent (1946), High Wall (1947), Crime Wave (1954).


Opening screencap partially quoting Raymond Chandler's The Simple Art of Murder

Hammett is sort of an alcoholic stupor/dream of a PI flick, fully enforced by the storybook poetic/magic realism quality of the Zoetrope Studio sets and a melancholy soundtrack. The story revolves around Dashiell "Sam" Hammett post his Pinkerton years, late 1920s, during his Pulp Fiction/Black Mask penny a word hack writer days, and the accounting of one last case or is it just another hard boiled tale?


Hammett's walkup apartment on rt.,  in Chinatown from the street


The reverse shot  alley entrance to Sam Hammett's apartment

Wim Wenders and Zoetrope Studios managed to recreate a late 1920s San Francisco crammed with amazing details and populated by what seems like hundreds of extras. Our story begins with a slow zoom into a cheap walk up apartment. Sam Hammer (Fredrick Forest) a chain smoker, a lunger, and a heavy boozer prematurely gray, is pecking out the finale to a pulp story on what looks like an Underhill. While Sam is typing we see the tale as it unfolds. A voice over narrates in true Hard Boiled Noir fashion. It's a fog bound waterfront of docks and warehouses. A operative named Sue Alabama, has just double crossed her partner Jimmy Ryan.  Ryan dopes it out, gets the drop on Sue and recovers the pearl necklace. Sue asks Ryan to give her an hour for old times sake, he agrees, she takes off, but in his narration Ryan tells us he only gave her fifteen minutes and she was picked up at the station. His last line of narration is "Back in '26 Sue Alabama and I nearly got married. I suppose it's just as well we didn't.



The Underhill
Sam types The End rolls out his last page and adds it to the stack of the manuscript. He smiles grabs up the pages and stumbles over to his bed where he passes out.


Alcoholic stupor/lucid dream?


Lunger

We fade to black then cut to Sam hacking and coughing his lungs up into the sink in his bathroom, until he collapses on the tile floor

Waking up in the middle of the night Sam lights up a tar bar and sees a figure sitting in his easy chair.  It turns out to be Jimmy Ryan (Boyle) his partner from his Pinkerton days, and he reading his Continental Op manuscript. Ryan says "Sam I don't know wether to be flattered or embarrassed, .. How come the guy doesn't have a name?.... this guy does all the stuff I used to do"  


Sucking a tar bar


Ryan reading the Continental Op

Ryan tells Sam that he's in San Francisco working an MP (a Missing Person Case) and that he needs Sam's help. Sam protests that he's done with all that. But Ryan tells the story about a young kid green on the job who would have got a bullet in the eye if Ryan hadn't stepped in the line of fire taking it in the shoulder. The kid tells Ryan that he owes him "saying any time any place " Well Ryan tell's Sam "the place is here, the time is now!"


"the place is here the time is now"

Ryan informs Sam that they are looking for a Chinese girl called Crystal Ling and since San Francisco is his burg and that het knows a little Chinese, Ryan is going to use him as a go between. Sam gets dressed. A knock on the door gets Ryan jumpy, but it's Kit Conger (Henner) in a slinky nightgown, looking to "borrow a cup of booze". Henner gives off a bit of a Susan Hayward vibe. Sam tells her he's out but he'll bring her back some.


Ryan, Kit, Sam


Ryan and Sam head off into the bowels of Chinatown, but they are being tailed by a man in black the gunsel.

Continued......

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« Reply #1 on: December 11, 2015, 02:05:33 PM »

Continuing....

Chinatown


Gambling dens


Opium Dens

A gunshot rings out. Sam gets seperated from Ryan during a melee, but the wheels of the game have already been set in motion. While Sam is trying to hook up back with Ryan Sam gets approached by a strange man named Salt who first tells Sam that he's a photographer who's trying to break in on the writing business by trying to sell a story to a newspaper, but later recants that. Salt the next day shows up at Sam's apartment, he asks him where is Ryan and Crystal Ling. He shows Sam her semi nude photo. He leaves telling Sam that Ryan is going to get seriously hurt if he doesn't find Crystal.


Salt


Crystal Ling

Sam gets a phone call from Ryan. Ryan tells him he can't talk but he left a clue for him in his dictionary. Stuffed in the dictionary is the front page of a newspaper it has an article ripped out. Sam heads to the library and gets a duplicate paper and discovers a news item about a millionaire's suicide, how its that connected to the MP case. Coming back to his apartment Sam encounters Crystal Ling in the flesh. She tells Sam how Fong bought her at 12 years old from her parents for $5,000 to use for prostitution. She asks him for sanctuary, saying she will do "anything" he wants.


Crystal Ling at Sam's

Sam tells Crystal that she can stay in the apartment.  Sam takes off again to try and find Ryan. At Fong's he he gets waylaid, and then with the help of a small Chinese girl escapes and discovers and releases Ryan who has been held by Fong who is also looking for Crystal. Outside of Fong's Sam & Ryan get arrested, and Sam is held for the murder of Crystal Ling who was found with her head beaten in, in Sam's apartment.


Interrogated about a murder Lt. O'Mara (R.G. Armstrong) center

Having an airtight alibi Sam is released but his friend on the force Detective Bradford brings him to an evidence room where he shows Sam a stag film featuring Crystal Ling.


Crystal Lings' Stag Film

Sam leaves with Bradford for the coroner's office. At the morgue Sam notices that the dead bodys ankles are too thick and that she is not Crystal. Sam again runs into Salt, a tussel ensues and Sam recovers Salts wallet from a coat he dropped. He finds a pink lottery ticket in the wallet. Getting an idea Sam gets Kit to come along with him on the hunt. Sam uses the ticket to trace the newstand where it was bought. There he shows the newsstand man Crystals photo. The man replies that he's seen here a lot going in and out of Salt's photography studio just down the street.

Sam and Kit break into the studio and discover the stag film set and a number of photographic stills of the richest men in San Francisco in various sexual encounters with Crystal Ling. Hammett the half-decent man in a 9/10ths dishonest world of the cops, the crooks and the big rich.

The rest of the tale involves the extortion plot and the various individuals connected, the film is a Noir lover's visual wet dream with a wonderful backlots and set designed by Dean Tavoularis




Maltese falcon quote


Laura (1944) quote - Hagedorn (Roy Kinnear) in a recreation of the opening scene in Laura between Waldo Lydecker (Clifton Webb) in tub and Dana Andrews


Lydia Lei as Femme Fatale Crystal


Sam (Forrest) in iconic Trench Coat

Federic Forrest is excellent as Hammett, perfect and totally believable in the role of a hard drinking, chain smoking, lunger, ex detective. Marilu Henner is good as Kit. Crystal Ling is great as the story's femme fatale. David Patrick Kelly is good as the gunsel.

The rest of the cast perform well the films only faults are one, Peter Boyle, I feel that he is only adequate as Jimmy Ryan, the original casting choice was supposed to be Brian Kieth, who would have brought a ton of cinematic memory with him to the role, Boyle brings the wrong kind of baggage, he's played in too many comedies, he's almost but not quite spoofing the part, too bad.



David Patrick Kelly  the gunsel


Slyvia Sidney


R.G Armstrong & Richard Bradford


Royal Dano, Hank Worden, Frederic Forrest


Sam Fuller


Filn Noir veteran Elisha Cook

The second fault is with the problems with the production, From a Wiki article:

German director Wenders was hired by Francis Ford Coppola to direct this film, which was to be his American debut feature. "But," according to one source, "by the time the final version was released in 1982, only 30 percent of Wenders' footage remained, and the rest was completely reshot by Coppola, whose mere 'executive producer' credit is just a technicality."[2] Wenders made a short film called Reverse Angle documenting his disputes with Coppola surrounding the making of Hammett. As The A.V. Club review states, "A Coppola or Wenders commentary track might have sorted things out a bit—or at least settled an old score—but the bare-bones DVD release leaves viewers with a fascinating mess."[2] The reviewer, though, never says what the source of his information is, and the question of the degree and nature of Coppola's involvement in the directing of the film remains open. However, the confusion surrounding the making of the movie "would certainly explain some of the films’ oddities."

All along the film plays with the idea of reality and fantasy which is enhanced by the way the film was shot and it also plays with how fictional characters are created from real life people. I found visual quotes from Film Noirs Laura and The Maltese Falcon, there are probably more. A final montage also shows the characters being rewritten as the characters that populated The Maltese Falcon. Entertaining, DVD is currently out of print 8/10


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« Reply #2 on: December 11, 2015, 05:01:09 PM »

Saw it in cinema and read the novel. I generally agree with your assessment.

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« Reply #3 on: December 12, 2015, 05:09:13 AM »

Saw it in cinema and read the novel. I generally agree with your assessment.

According to a source the original co stars were Brian Keith and Ronee Blakley. I think Brian Keith would have upped it a notch.

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« Reply #4 on: December 12, 2015, 03:47:32 PM »

According to a source the original co stars were Brian Keith and Ronee Blakley. I think Brian Keith would have upped it a notch.

I don't like him, I much prefer Boyle. I don't understand your:" Boyle brings the wrong kind of baggage, he's played in too many comedies,". When? After this one, mainly. Throughout the '70's he was cast essentially for dramatic roles and I don't think Keith (who, on the contrary, had played in comedic roles prior to this one) was ever cast in an evil character like the one Boyle plays in Eddie Coyle.
Never heard or took notice of Ronee Blakey. But I must re-read the novel or watch the movie again to be more precise in my assessment.

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« Reply #5 on: December 12, 2015, 04:17:49 PM »

German dvd available.

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« Reply #6 on: December 12, 2015, 06:03:04 PM »

I don't like him, I much prefer Boyle. I don't understand your:" Boyle brings the wrong kind of baggage, he's played in too many comedies,". When? After this one, mainly. Throughout the '70's he was cast essentially for dramatic roles and I don't think Keith (who, on the contrary, had played in comedic roles prior to this one) was ever cast in an evil character like the one Boyle plays in Eddie Coyle.
Never heard or took notice of Ronee Blakey. But I must re-read the novel or watch the movie again to be more precise in my assessment.

All Comedies that I saw Boyle in Kid Blue 1973, Young Frankenstein 1974, Where the Buffalo Roam 1980, In God We Tru$t 1980, then after Hammett, quite a few too, then TV of course, so I always associated him being a goofball with comedy and non serious work because that's all I ever saw him in.

I didn't see Hammett at all ever until about two years ago, ditto for The Friends of Eddie Coyle so the baggage I'm talking about is his comedy work both pre and post Hammett.

While Brian Keith has some Crime/Film Noir credentials, Alaska Seas 1954, Tight Spot 1955, 5 Against the House 1955, Nightfall 1957, Chicago Confidential 1957, Appointment with a Shadow 1957,  then of course Westerns.

So it's a matter of preference, I don't care for Boyle all that much. I have the bare bones DVD from LIONSGATE.

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« Reply #7 on: December 12, 2015, 10:39:48 PM »

I've just remembered that Keith, as to comedy roles, was in Family Affair: so he sure carried a comedy aura huger than Boyle. 

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« Reply #8 on: December 13, 2015, 04:38:09 AM »

I've just remembered that Keith, as to comedy roles, was in Family Affair: so he sure carried a comedy aura huger than Boyle. 

I think it's a sort of personal imprinting that has to do with the order in which you experience things, when all you see of an actor is his comedy work that's the impression you are first imprinted with. Like I said I saw Brian Keith in way more serious roles in Westerns and early TV programs more Westerns, Hitchcock, etc., before I saw his more lighthearted roles, Hell I don't even think I saw The Parent Trap until after I got married (it's one of my wife's favorite films). I think I remember telling you that the Western that most impressed me before I saw Leone's Westerns was Nevada Smith, where Brian Keith shows Mcqueen how to shoot.

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« Reply #9 on: June 16, 2016, 12:46:55 PM »

Rewatched. The value judgment holds. I'm curious to re-read the novel.

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« Reply #10 on: July 02, 2016, 05:06:43 PM »



Novel re-read. It has nothing to do with the movie except for the characters of H. and Crystal and Goodie (in the movie called Henner). But the plot is totally different, very convoluted, as a hard-boiled novel is supposed to be: I lost myself many times and had to go back in pages. But Gores is as good at creating the atmosphere of 1928 S.F. as Wenders was. So though it's a bit too long it earns a 8/10.

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« Reply #11 on: July 03, 2016, 10:25:36 AM »



Novel re-read. It has nothing to do with the movie except for the characters of H. and Crystal and Goodie (in the movie called Henner). But the plot is totally different, very convoluted, as a hard-boiled novel is supposed to be: I lost myself many times and had to go back in pages. But Gores is as good at creating the atmosphere of 1928 S.F. as Wenders was. So though it's a bit too long it earns a 8/10.

I liked it also though as you say completely different other than some character names. The book as written would also make a good film.

I've also read Gores "Stakeout on Page Street and Other DKA Files (DKA Short Stories; 2000)" It wasn't anything special it was based on his true cases. I haven't read any more of his novels though have you?

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« Reply #12 on: July 03, 2016, 04:24:20 PM »



Novel re-read. It has nothing to do with the movie except for the characters of H. and Crystal and Goodie (in the movie called Henner). But the plot is totally different, very convoluted, as a hard-boiled novel is supposed to be: I lost myself many times and had to go back in pages. But Gores is as good at creating the atmosphere of 1928 S.F. as Wenders was. So though it's a bit too long it earns a 8/10.

No, I didn't. I read his Hammett when it was translated over here almost immediately but I can't remember if I read it before watching the movie. The strange thing is that the book was reprinted twice and it's still in print, which doesn't happen often unless it's Agatha Christie or some other classic.







But it is a sure fact I would like to read this one:



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« Reply #13 on: July 03, 2016, 09:43:03 PM »


But it is a sure fact I would like to read this one:




It's probably on Amazon

« Last Edit: July 03, 2016, 09:44:19 PM by cigar joe » Logged

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