hammer

Photo: Music Connection

Jan Hammer: A Filmography

Miami Vice legend Jan Hammer (b. 1948) is a Czech composer, keyboardist and band leader with a long and varied career. He was a member of the jazz fusion group Mahavishnu Orchestra from 1971-73 and has also released several albums by himself and with others. 

In the following article, you will find information on every film, TV project or game for which Jan Hammer wrote original music, mostly in the 80s and 90s. Note that this filmography will not include the music he wrote for dozens of TV programs for the Czech “TV Nova” channel in the 90s, or music he wrote for TV commercials.

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Metamorphoses (1964)

A 16 -year-old Jan Hammer is credited as composer on this 4-minute, animated Czech film originally titled Promeny and directed by Vaclav Mergl. It is unclear how this music sounds.

The Incredibly Sad Princess (1968)

Hammer had just turned 20 when this Pop-Art fairy tale film got its premiere in Czechoslovakia. Apparently, Hammer wrote both score and songs for the film, and the score was conducted by Stepan Konicek. The music is in the typical Eastern European melodramatic style, and in 1992, the music was released on CD, LP and MC. A real curiosity in Hammer’s filmography.

Lasko, Mej Se Hezky (1968)

50-minute drama TV movie directed by Eva Sadkova where Hammer is also credited as actor in addition to composer. After Hammer had worked on this film, his country got invaded by four Warsaw Pact countries, and he fled to the US to start a new life there.

A Night in Heaven (1983)

15 years would pass where Hammer experienced great success with Mahavishnu Orchestra and with his own Jan Hammer Group. In 1983, he got the chance to score a new romantic drama film directed by Rocky director John G. Avildsen. Hammer had seriously started embracing the new musical technology that the early/mid 80s had to offer, and he wrote a charming score for the film. Two of his selections appeared on the soundtrack album, both of the tracks co-performed with an enigmatic artist called “Next”. The soundtrack never received a CD release.

Miami Vice (1984-1988)

Michael Mann originally wanted his buddies in Tangerine Dream to score Miami Vice, but they had just agreed to score the Streethawk series, so Jan Hammer got the chance instead. He had already written the track that would become the opening theme for the show, and Mann and the filmmakers felt the tune was perfect for their new cop show starring Don Johnson and Philip Michael Thomas. Hammer would go on to score three and a half seasons of Miami Vice, before he decided to leave in 1988, after having partly handed the scoring over to John Petersen in the 4th season. Tim Truman would score the 5th and final season.

Three volumes of soundtracks would be released, all of them featuring a combination of score by Jan Hammer and songs. «Miami Vice Theme» unbelievably peaked at number 1 at Billboard Top 100 and it won two Grammy awards. «Crockett’s Theme» peaked at number 2 on the UK charts in 1987. The same year, Hammer released the album Escape From Television which featured more tracks from MV, and in 1989 it was time for the Snapshots record, also with some music from the show included. In 2002, One Way Records released a Jan Hammer 2CD set called Miami Vice – The Complete Collection (which of course it was not), where the second disc included 22 previously unreleased tracks from the show. This album goes for 249 Euro at Discogs 20 years after its release.

Gimme an ‘F’ (1984)

Another teen comedy filled with songs. Hammer’s score features a recurring theme similar to «The Great Boat Race» from Miami Vice and also some nice romantic themes. On the other hand, his attempts at comedy music aren’t particularly successful. The end credits state that a soundtrack album is available on EMI America, but this album most probably got cancelled in the last minute as there are no traces of it anywhere.

Two Fathers’ Justice (1985)

Rod Holcomb directed this drama movie that Hammer apparently scored in the midst of his busy Miami Vice schedule. I have so far not come across this film anywhere, so I don’t know how his score sounds.

Secret Admirer (1985)

David Greenwalt was the director of this romantic comedy starring C. Thomas Howell and Lori Loughlin. The soundtrack album features only one instrumental by Hammer («Finale»), but it’s up there among the best tracks he ever did. The rest of the album features tracks by artists like Kim Wilde and Nik Kershaw, but just like A Night in Heaven it never received a CD release, only vinyl and cassette.

Charley Hannah (1986)

A rather obscure crime/drama TV movie directed by Peter H. Hunt. I have so far not managed to track it down, so I have not heard how Hammer’s score sounds, but as the composer was deeply immersed in Miami Vice around this time (and Charley Hannah also had a storyline that could be from an MV episode), chances are good the music will be in the same vein.

Blood Money (1988)

Action/crime film for TV (also known as Clinton & Nadine), directed by Jerry Schatzberg and starring three well-known actors in Andy Garcia, Ellen Barkin and Morgan Freeman. Hammer’s score is quite good, melodic and with a hint of South American flavour for the Costa Rica scenes. There’s not enough material for a score release, but coupled with the songs from the film, it could have been an album. Interestingly, the 1979 Jan Hammer track «Nowhere To Go», from the album Hammer also appears in the film.

Eurocops (1988)

Hammer wrote a catchy theme for this European crime TV series. The theme was released on a single, and also on his 1989 album Snapshots. Hammer was not involved in any of the scores from the episodes, which was produced by several different European countries.

The Poet Remembers (1989)

Documentary on poet Czeslaw Milosz, who, like Hammer, had lived in the US for many years. Hammer took a break from action and crime in ’89 to score this 1-hour docu. The end credits features a theme that later would appear as the track «Brave New World» on the Beyond The Mind’s Eye album. There is also a theme here which would later appear as «Coming Back Home» on his 1994 album Drive. The film can be viewed here.

Dark Angel (1990)

Craig R. Baxley directed this hardboiled Dolph Lundgren action thriller also known as I Come in Peace. Hammer’s main theme could have been a Miami Vice track as it had all the trademarks of that show. Sadly, a soundtrack album failed to materialize, but the theme has become something of a cult classic online in recent years, with several keyboard twiddlers performing their own versions.

Capital News (1990)

Jan scored the pilot (and possibly some episodes) of this short-lived drama series about newspaper reporters in Washington DC, starring Lloyd Bridges. His main theme appeared 4 years later on his 1994-album Drive. Composer J.A.C Redford also scored episodes of the sole season. The filmmakers decided to add orchestral strings to some of Hammer’s electronic cues for the show, a decision that appalled him when he heard it.

K-9000 (1990)

Quite embarrassing TV movie directed by Kim Manners and starring Chris Mulkey, Catherine Oxenberg and a talking dog. I haven’t seen the whole film in about 30 years, but YouTube clips reveal a rather jazzy number for the opening car chase, and a typical Hammer snippet for the last scene of the film.

Curiousity Kills (1990)

Colin Bucksey directed this thriller for TV after having done several Miami Vice episodes in the 80s. The opening titles goes on for a few minutes without dialogue and it shows the power of Hammer’s main theme which would appear on the Drive album four years later. Also of interest is the end credits theme which later appeared as «Sunset» on Beyond the Mind’s Eye.

Tales from the Crypt (1990)

Hammer scored two episodes of this cult horror series. In “Mute Witness To Murder”, he goes all lounge jazz for the opening credits, and that theme appeared 30(!) years later as «My Father’s Vibes» on his 2020 download album Sketches In Jazz. The episode is heavily scored. His haunting theme from the episode “Three’s A Crowd” is a total Miami Vice copy. This theme even showed up on the soundtrack album from the show, released in 1992 on Big Screen Records. The rest of the album featured more traditional, and less listenable, horror music by the likes of James Horner, Bruce Broughton, David Newman and Ry Cooder.

Chancer (1990-1991)

Hammer apparently scored all 20 episodes of this two-season UK crime series starring Clive Owen. The main theme got released on a CD single and a 7″ vinyl single, plus on a peculiar double A-side single coupled with «Crockett’s Theme», after the latter featured on a series of adverts in the early 90s.

In the Light of the King’s Love (1991)

Jan Hammer continued working occasionally on movies from his native Czechoslovakia, especially those directed by Jan Nemec. This was a fantasy comedy featuring an opening theme sounding quite “classical” in style and sound, while the end credits contains two cues which would appear a few years later as «Pyramid» and «Seeds» on the Beyond the Mind’s Eye album.

Knight Rider 2000 (1991)

David Hasselhoff returned as Michael Knight in this early 90s TV movie directed by Alan Levi. Jan Hammer was brought in to score, and his catchy title theme appeared 3 years later on his album Drive. Trivia: Knight Rider 2010 from 1994 is scored by Tim Truman, who also followed in Hammer’s footsteps on Miami Vice Season 5 in 1988/89.

The Taking of Beverly Hills (1991)

Sidney J. Furie directed this action thriller starring Ken Wahl. Hammer’s score is quite unremarkable, mostly because of the number of songs permeating the film. Whenever there is a music supervisor appearing in the opening credits (like on this film), you know the score composer will have difficulty coming through. The most exciting part of the music of this film is actually not by Jan Hammer at all, but rather the lovely sax-led instrumental «Ghost Box» by the Italian group Black Box.

Police Quest III: The Kindred (1991)

Jan Hammer also dabbled in music for computer games. This was a game from Sierra Entertainment, and Hammer delivered a score in his tried-and-true electronic style, recorded from the Roland M-32 sound module with sound canvas enhancements. In 2006, the music received a release as MP3 files, running for over 50 minutes and totalling 33 tracks.

Sunset Heat (1992)

Director John Nicolella was no stranger to Jan Hammer, as he had directed 9 episodes of Miami Vice between 1985 and 1987. Dennis Hopper and pop artist Adam Ant starred in this crime/drama feature movie. The music by Hammer is unreleased, and Lisa O’Donovan is somewhat enigmatically credited with additional music.

Beyond the Mind’s Eye (1993)

This is a collection of animated and CGI videos set to the music of Jan Hammer. In 1993, this was impressive stuff, almost like a look into the future, with virtual reality and whatnot. As mentioned above, several of the tracks from this album/video started life in movies Hammer had scored in the late 80s and early 90s, but there is also lots of new and original music here. The director Michael Boydstun has also worked with other artists in the electronic/instrumental genre, like Tangerine Dream, Thomas Dolby and Pete Bardens, all through the Seattle-based Miramar record label in the 1990s.

In the Kingdom of the Blind (1995)

Michael Biehn and William Petersen starred in this crime/drama film directed by Nick Vallelonga. Some of Jan Hammer’s music had a certain Snapshots feel, while the haunting main theme appeared as «Causeway Bridge» 23 years later on the 2018 Jan Hammer album Seasons Part 1, his first full album since Drive in 1994.

A Modern Affair (1995)

A rare foray into romantic comedy/drama territory for Hammer, this was a Lisa Eichhorn/Stanley Tucci film directed by Vern Oakley. The charming main theme remained unreleased for 5 years, until Hammer decided to put it on Snapshots 1.2 in 2000, a reissue/remaster of the 1989 album, with two bonus tracks, the other one being a theme for the Czech TV channel Nova.

Vanishing Son (1995)

Hammer scored all 13 episodes of this action/crime series created by Rob Cohen. As far as I know, none of the music is released in any shape or form. David Bergeaud is credited with additional music, the same composer who also scored different movie versions of the same show.

The Babysitter’s Seduction (1996)

This was a drama thriller made for TV, directed by David Burton Morris. The main theme is a creepy music box motif that plays in both the opening and closing credits. Other than that, the film does not feature any particularly strong musical moments from Hammer.

The Secret Agent Club (1996)

Hulk Hogan action comedy for kids. Hammer’s score is kind of 90s techno-ish, a bit similar to his Drive album. There is lots of music in the film, I’m sure a label like Varese (who never released a Jan Hammer score) could have released a 40-minute album at the time of the film’s release. The opening theme weirdly appeared on the Jan Hammer download compilation Miami Vice Special Edition as «The Kick», even though it never appeared in MV.

Beastmaster III: The Eye of Braxus (1996)

This third installment in the Beastmaster series was directed by Gabrielle Beaumont, who knew of Jan Hammer through directing episodes of Miami Vice and Vanishing Son. Hammer composed one of his best post-Miami Vice themes for the opening and end credits, an adventurous and noble theme that is still sadly unreleased. The first and second Beastmaster were scored by Lee Holdridge and Robert Folk, respectively, in a more traditional orchestral way.

The Corporate Ladder (1997)

This is a Playboy Channel production directed by Nick Vallelonga. Jan Hammer is credited with writing the score, but there are also 4 “songs” by Hammer listed on IMDB, titled «Late Night», «Scratch And Shout», «Shoreline» and «High Above». This could well be score cues which have been given titles, but this is unclear.

Code Name Ruby (1997)

Another Czech Jan Nemec production. This controversial feature blends documentary, archival footage and fiction into an elliptical narrative. It is unclear how Jan Hammer’s score to this sounds.

Prince Street (1997)

American cop drama TV series that got quickly cancelled by NBC. Jan Hammer apparently composed all the music for the show, including the theme. None of the music is available in any shape or form, as far as I know.

Outlaw Racers (1997)

Computer game by MegaMedia. Jan Hammer wrote the theme for the game. It is unclear whether he wrote underscore too.

Red Cap (2003)

British crime/drama TV series about the UK military’s Special Investigation Branch. Jan Hammer scored the first season of the show while the title theme was by the rock group Reef. Sheridan Tongue scored the second season. Hammer’s music is often used sparingly and is unfortunately not a very important part of the show.

Cocaine Cowboys (2006)

2-hour documentary directed by Billy Corben about how Miami became the cocaine capital of the United States in the early 1980s. Jan Hammer got to revisit some of his Miami Vice sensibilities here, almost 20 years after he had left the show. In 2008, a download-only mini-album featuring 6 tracks by Hammer got released, totalling about 17 minutes of music.

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