Produced by Francis Ford Coppola, Hammett is the fictional story about a time in real-life writer Dashiell Hammett's ("The Maltese Falcoln") life. Directed by Wim Wenders, the 1920's era noir mystery contained an equally noir score by veteran composer John Barry. Fresh off of Body Heat and Somewhere in Time, Barry had no problem writing the jazzy score, which contains an interesting combination of slinky jazz numbers and ethnic Chinese cues. Beginning with the "Main Titles", which is performed by a single piano and clarinet, Barry immediately draws the listener in to this dark seductive world. The theme is simple and elegant, yet has an underlying sensuality about it. That sensuality is never fully realized in full orchestral form - except for a small moment in "The Wrap Up / Finale" - but it's still a very enjoyable theme.
He may have gotten his start with the hep swing of BEAT GIRL, then became a musical sensation for creating the cool jazz action of Agent 007. But for all of the lush stylings that John Barry used to define symphonic scoring as a contemporary “with it” sound, the composer proved he could make his approach sound just as contemporarily moving in the service of such historical dramas as MARY QUEEN OF SCOTTS, THE LION AND THE WINTER and THE LAST VALLEY. For if any music conveyed the feeling of untouched forests, royal intrigue and romantic mythmaking, then it was Barry’s theme-heavy scoring. Sure he’d latch onto a melody and beat you to death with it. But what a way to go, as Barry usually came up with a motif that you wouldn’t mind hearing ad infinitum, especially as his theme took on new life with each variation for strings, brass and winds. This was the kind of melody that helped make legendary figures into breathing, loving people, even when their movie got its kicks from turning such Technicolor heroes as Robin Hood and Maid Marian into characters just about ready for assisted living.