Hammett the 1982 film directed by Wim Wenders, the adaptation of the 1975 novel by Joe Gores, is not nearly as good as the book. Gores was a private investigator turned writer, like Dashiell Hammett, and he knew Hammett and his work—both types—very well. They both knew San Francisco. The novel is one writer writing about another and his stories. The film is aimed at people that know The Maltese Falcon, especially John Huston’s 1941 adaptation with Humphrey Bogart as Sam Spade. Fair enough. It’s made by movie people. It’s certainly worth seeing by anyone with the slightest interest in any of this. But it’s not as good.
It does have several things going for it. One is Frederic Forrest as Hammett. He’s perfect. Another is the atmosphere: the costumes, sets and design are wonderful.
This is Hammett introducing his librarian neighbour Kit Conger (played by Marilu Henner) to Eli the taxi driver, played by Cook.
Hammett: Kid, this is Eli, the last of the IWW organizers.
Conger: Are you really a Wobbly?
Eli: No, that’s just Hammett talking. What I am now is sort of an anarchist, with syndicalist tendencies.
Ross Thomas was one of the writers, and I bet he wrote that. Thomas has a non-speaking cameo as one of the rich men Hammett confronts at the end, in a scene with excellent cinematography.
It was nice to see David Fechheimer, another San Francisco PI, in the credits. He became a PI because of Hammett, but he stayed in the job and didn’t become a crime writer.