Hammer (Blu-ray Review)

HammerFormer football-player-turned-actor Fred Williamson’s off-the-field nickname was “The Hammer.”  Fred Williamson (M.A.S.H., Black Caesar) brings his athletic prowess and acting chops to the role of B.J. Hammer in the street-smart, action pic Hammer.  Rounding out the Hammer cast are Bernie Hamilton (The Swimmer,TV’s Starkey and Hutch) and William Smith (Any Which Way You Can, The Frisco Kid) in the Bruce Clark (The Ski Bum, Galaxy of Terror) directed film.  Williamson would go on to be one of the poster children of the blaxploitation movement starring hits like Black Caesar and Hell Up In Harlem.  He also would star in the original Inglorious Bastards, which Quentin Tarantino would later remake.  Tarantino also employed Williamson when he teamed with Robert Rodriguez for the incredibly awesome From Dusk Til Dawn.

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A boxer on-the-rise, Hammer is asked to throw a fight by the local Mob who have figured prominently in his success. His moral dilemma hits close to home when the life of his girlfriend, Lois’ is put in jeopardy.

Fred Williamson had done some movie and television appearances prior to Hammer (Including a guest spot on Star Trek).  He had also had the film The Legend of the Nigger Charley prior.  But, this was his real tride and true break out.  This would lead him to be a big time action star in the 70s.  Mainly his stuff would be grindhouse action features and the like, but he was embracing it and making a name for himself.  Unlike Richard Roundtree (Who I adore), who seemed to be trying to “break free” of those confines.  Williamson embraced it.  It also might help that he was a former athlete trying to get into the movies and may have been more grateful for what was given to him.

In Hammer (Which the title is so obviously an ode or “hats” off to his very famous nickname), he gets to show off a lot of his physicality and fighting prowess.  He’s not overdone with fashion here.  But, he does speak a mean game of lingo-jive throughout the film.  Williamson exudes a screen command and coolness with every frame he takes up.  You’d never have thought this guy was a football player turned movie star by watching this film.  And man, does he have a badass set of sideburns.

Watching Hammer now, I was amused at how “ahead of its time” some of the directing and production was.  Camera angles, movements and cuts that don’t feel like your typical 70s film, especially of the grindhouse fare.  There are some really interesting and neat things done with cars driving or during chases that were highly effective.  I’d go so much as to say the approach on this is experimental.  While some stuff is really effective and fresh feeling, there are also many moments that feel sloppy, fall flat or just feel like someone doesn’t know too much about what they’re doing.  Overall, its worth the risk as the good stuff outweighs the bad.

This isn’t really a perfect movie, but its a decent one and its entertaining.  Fred Williamson has always been a favorite screen presence of mine and its fun to see him here right before he shoots out of the canon and takes on a ton of projects as more of star.  The film itself also has an interesting enough production approach to it to feel different and stand out form a lot of the other schlock that was coming out around this time.  I didn’t make too much mention either, but this also works as a solid boxing movie too, pre-Rocky and Raging Bull even.  And I’m not sure, but I think Mike Tyson’s Punch Out! for the original NES riffed its training cut scenes from one of the training scenes in this movie.

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Encoding: MPEG-4 AVC

Resolution: 1o80p

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1

Clarity/Detail:  There are moments in this transfer of Hammer that are absolutely gorgeous, and you wouldn’t believe a film would look this good.  The picture will be nice and sharp with plenty of detail to fill a mirror.  But, it does come with some very soft moments and some that appear out of focus.  Most of the time this film looks pretty great, but there are some moments that range from mediocre to poorer.  They are few, but you’ll spot them pretty easily on this transfer.

Depth:  There is an impressive bit of depth here.  Characters and objects look free and loose as they smoothly move through their environments.

Black Levels:  Blacks are probably as accurate to as they looked when the film came out.  It all depends on how well lit the scenes are.

Color Reproduction:  Colors are very natural.  Blue stick out pretty good, but most of them on colorful clothing pop pretty nicely with no bleeding around.

Flesh Tones: Skin tones are natural and consistent.  Facial detail is very impressive given the type of film this is and the history of their safekeeping.

Noise/Artifacts: There is a nice level of grain and specs/dirt/scuffs throughout.  Gives a real genuine feel to the film.  Some compression/blocking issues are there but very minimal and won’t stick out to the untrained eye.

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Audio Format(s): English 2.0 Mono DTS-HD MA

Subtitles: N/A

Dynamics:  While it doesn’t necessarily bring the hammer down, this track fills its speakers quite nicely.  Sounds are distinct, well rounded and effectively orchestrated into this mono mix.  There is a nice balance of the scoring and vocals mixed in with it too.  Each track feeling among its own.  There are a few moments of it feeling dated, but aside from that, this is enough to enhance the experience and give a viewer the original theatrical experience from an audio perspective.

Low Frequency Extension:  N/A

Surround Sound Presentation:  N/A

Dialogue Reproduction:  Dialogue is loud and clear.  There are some moments sounding very analog and some ADR feeling that way too.

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Hammer contains no supplemental features.  Menu offers “Play Movie” and “Chapters”.

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Fred Williamson’s break out in Hammer comes on the coat tails of all the Pam Grier gloriousness coming out from Olive Films.  Hopefully it doesn’t get lost in the fold because it has its place and is a big deal too.  I’d love to see more Fred Williamson movies transcend to Blu-ray (Three The Hard Way, Black Caesar, let’s not get me started on how awesome Bucktown on Blu-ray would be).  Olive Films once again at the very least gets this thing upgraded and it looks and sounds quite good.  If you’re a fan of the movie and the man, then the movie should be worth it to you for above a little bit of a reasonable cost.



Brandon is the host, producer, writer and editor of The Brandon Peters Show (thebrandonpetersshow.com) on the Creative Zombie Studios Network. At Why So Blu he is a Writer/Reviewer. Brandon is a lifelong obsessive film nerd. As eager to educate in the world of film as I am to learn. An avid lover of horror, schlock and trash. You can also find older essays on his blog Naptown Nerd (naptownnerd.blogspot.com).

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