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Crime, Drama, Thriller, Mystery, Film-Noir
IMDB rating:
John Huston
Humphrey Bogart as Sam Spade
Mary Astor as Brigid O'Shaughnessy
Gladys George as Iva Archer
Peter Lorre as Joel Cairo
Barton MacLane as Det. Lt. Dundy
Lee Patrick as Effie Perine
Sydney Greenstreet as Kasper Gutman
Ward Bond as Det. Tom Polhaus
Jerome Cowan as Miles Archer
Elisha Cook Jr. as Wilmer Cook
James Burke as Luke
Murray Alper as Frank Richman
Storyline: Spade and Archer is the name of a San Francisco detective agency. That's for Sam Spade and Miles Archer. The two men are partners, but Sam doesn't like Miles much. A knockout, who goes by the name of Miss Wanderly, walks into their office; and by that night everything's changed. Miles is dead. And so is a man named Floyd Thursby. It seems Miss Wanderly is surrounded by dangerous men. There's Joel Cairo, who uses gardenia-scented calling cards. There's Kasper Gutman, with his enormous girth and feigned civility. Her only hope of protection comes from Sam, who is suspected by the police of one or the other murder. More murders are yet to come, and it will all be because of these dangerous men -- and their lust for a statuette of a bird: the Maltese Falcon.
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I remember looking at my movies list for class and seeing The Maltese Falcon and I got excited. I remember watching this in my Detective Fiction class in high school and loving it. I couldn't wait to watch it again. After watch Casablanca and seeing what a great job Humphrey Bogart did he did in that film, he killed it with the Maltese Falcon. Although Casablanca came out a year later he did an exceptional job. These types of old movies are my favorite. Old mysteries where the main character is some type of detective and tries to solve cases are the best. I try and follow along and solve everything myself. I would watch this movie over and over again and I have come to really like Humphrey Bogart and his work.
The First Film-Noir !!!
'The Maltese Falcon' is highly influential, oppressively dark and it presents a deeply pessimistic view of the world and life in Depression Era USA. The screenplay is very carefully structure and maneuvered to keep the viewer in the dark for almost the entirety of the film just like its protagonist Sam Spade. There is very impressive camera-work and crafty usage of lighting on show here which to a great extent laid down the framework for the visual language for film-noir. Reminiscent of German Expressionism, we see deliberately prominent shadows everywhere and a big chunk of the film gets engulfed by an oppressively, dark visual texture complimenting the thematic tone of the film. Like other noir films, the characters, including Spade himself are deliberately made to lack a sense of morality and they are shown to be greedy emotionless organisms who have opted to choose a life involving a constant pursuit of material gains, instead of being burdened by the worthless weight of a conscience.

However if I have to be honest, even though I found myself relatively pleased and impressed by Huston's edginess and the colourful characters, I was never really bowled over by the film. I can easily understand and admire why it is so influential and important in American film history, but I'd be lying if I say the film and its contents lingered in my thoughts for a long time after it came to its conclusion. Whenever there is a film where the director is deliberately forcing the characters and the plot to remain and feel distant to the viewer, it has to be captivating and for the lack of a more appropriate term - fun. I find this aforementioned fun(along with thematic depth) in abundance while watching other noir films like 'Sunset Boulevard', 'Sweet Smell of Success', 'Ace in the Hole', etc. to name a few. Unfortunately 'The Maltese Falcon' never did manage to give me a similar fun experience at least on this first viewing which prevented me from being swept up by the film.

I admire the quippy, razor sharp dialogue, I admire the technical elements like Huston and his cinematographer's lighting and intricate camera-work, I admire the colourful characters and the actors portraying them, but unfortunately I couldn't 'love' the film and as a whole it left me a bit underwhelmed.
The Stuff That Dreams are Made of
The Maltese Falcon was another great film that included Humphrey Bogart. Bogart's character in the film keeps the suspense going until the end when he states who killed Miles Archer, his partner in a San Francisco detective agency.

A lot of long takes are used in this film during scenes of conversation on matters of trying to solve a murder mystery. There are also some scenes that include short fast takes of being zoomed in on individual faces to help us connect with each to see how they are reacting to the investigation.

The dialogue of the film was creatively done to keep my interest as the film went on. The lighting on the movie was a lot of shadow and dim lighting to portray a setting of despair and unknown.

The majority of the film is based on speech rather than physical action. Which in return the audience must pay close attention to so not to miss important details. This kind of directing and writing by John Huston creates a different type of film for audience to enjoy while along with the characters trying to solve the mystery.

The search for the Maltese Falcon Bogart is able to solve the crime while keeping the Maltese Falcon. Ending of the movie is the best part for me with the conversation between Sam Spade (Humphrey Bogart) and Brigid O'Shaughnessy (Mary Astor) and him expressing his true feelings for her but that he must do the right thing for what she has done. His dedication to his job takes over his feelings. Money being the root of evil is the main reason for all this fuss over a Falcon that had no real significance all along. The Stuff that Dreams are Made of.... can turn out to be nothing but a nightmare.
Noir at its best

Humphrey Bogart died nearly fifty years ago, but polls still put him at the top of all-time Hollywood stars. What turns a man into a legend? The man himself wasn't much: a slight build, not too tall, no Stallone muscles to swell his suit. What he had in classic films like `The Maltese Falcon' was a voice that cut through a script like a knife. `The Maltese Falcon,' directed by John Huston in 1941, reprised Dashiell Hammett's thriller. (It had been filmed before.) Hammett practically invented the tough guy so deep in cynicism nobody could hope to put anything past him. The novel, thick with plot, wasn't easy for director John Huston to untangle. Few people who cherish this film can summarize its story in a sentence or two. I'll try. San Francisco private eye Sam Spade (Bogart) is pulled into the search for a fabulously valuable statue by a woman who seeks his help. First, his partner is killed, then Spade pushes through her lies to uncover connections to an effete foreigner (Peter Lorre) and a mysterious kingpin (Sydney Greenstreet). The story unfolds like a crumpled paper. But the whodunit becomes less important than how we respond to the strong screen presence of Bogart and his co-stars. That's what makes `The Maltese Falcon' a classic. We see more and appreciate more each time we watch it. The art of Huston and Bogart doesn't come across until a second or third viewing. Huston invented what the French called film noir, in honor of Hollywood films (often `B' movies, cheap to make, second movies in double features) that took no-name stars into city streets to pit tough guys, often with a vulnerable streak, against dangerous dames. Audiences knew that when the tough guy said, `I'm wise to you, babe,' he'd be dead within a reel or two. Bogart was luckier than most noir heroes, but it cost. Struggling to maintain his own independence – against the claims of love or his own penchant towards dishonesty – the Bogart hero can do little better than surrender, with a rueful shrug, to the irony his survival depends on. The climax of `The Maltese Falcon' ranks with the last scene of `Casablanca,' another Bogart vehicle, in showing how the tough guy has to put himself back together after his emotions almost get the better of him. That assertion of strength, bowed but not broken, defines the enduring quality of Bogart on screen. For Huston, telling this story posed a different problem. Telling it straight wasn't possible – too many twists. Huston chose to focus on characters. One way to appreciate Huston's choices is to LISTEN to the movie. Hear the voices. Notice how in long sequences narrating back story, Huston relies on the exotic accents of his characters to keep us interested. Could we endure the scene in which Greenstreet explains the history of the Maltese falcon unless his clipped, somewhat prissy English accent held our attention? Also, we watch Bogart slip into drug-induced sleep while Greenstreet drones on. Has any director thought of a better way to keep us interested during a long narrative interlude? And is there a bit of wit in our watching Bogart nod off during a scene which, if told straight, would make US doze? All of this leads to the ending, minutes of screen time in which more goes on, gesture by gesture, than a million words could summarize. He loves her, maybe, but he won't be a sucker. The cops come in, and the emotional color shifts to gray, the color of film noir heroes like Bogart. Bars on the elevator door as Brigid descends in police custody foreshadow her fate in the last image of Huston's film. But after the film, we're left with Spade, whom we like and loathe, a man whose sense of justice squares, just this once, with our own, maybe. Black and white morality prevails in a black and white movie, but Sam Spade remains gray – and so does our response to this film classic.
Third Time's the Charm in the 1941 Version of Hammett's Classic
The classic 1941 version of THE MALTESE FALCON (TMF) was the third movie adaptation of Dashiell Hammett's seminal detective novel about cynical private eye Sam Spade's adventures with the alluring but treacherous Brigid O'Shaughnessy and other greedy no-goodniks vying for the titular falcon statue. It proves the old adage "The third time is the charm." No wonder John Huston's taut, wryly cynical take on Hammett's tale put him on the map as a writer/director. His version has the best of everything in one package: the best private eye thriller, the best Dashiell Hammett movie adaptation, the best remake, and the best nest-of-vipers cast, including the signature Humphrey Bogart role/performance.

Huston's powerhouse cast was born to play these characters. Between the perfect performances (even the great Walter Huston is memorable in his brief cameo as the dying Captain Jacobi), Huston's lean, mean pacing and striking visuals (Arthur Edeson's expressionistic photography and Thomas Richards' editing work beautifully), and the overall faithfulness to the novel, it's as if Huston & Company just opened the book and shook it until the characters fell out, then started filming.

Humphrey Bogart doesn't match Hammett's description of Sam Spade as a "blond Satan," but he's got Spade's attitude down perfectly, and besides, he's Bogart! What's not to like? Bogie deftly balances toughness, trickiness, and tenderness, but he never lets his tender side make a sap out of him. I find Bogart's Spade sexier than skirt-chasing Ricardo Cortez or Warren William in the previous films because the dames are drawn to Bogie because of his sheer charisma and strength of character, as opposed to him aggressively pitching woo at them until they give in from sheer exhaustion. In an early scene with Brigid, Spade has a line about how all he has to do is stand still and the cops will be swarming all over him; substitute "women" for "cops" and the line would still be accurate! :-) Mary Astor's real-life shady-lady past informs her spot-on performance as quicksilver Brigid O'Shaughnessy, but it's her watchful eyes, elegance, and that beseeching "throb in (her) voice" as she enlists Spade's aid that makes her so fascinating and believable as an avaricious adventuress with a prim, sweet facade—a woman who'd kill a guy as soon as kiss him, and keep him guessing about her intentions until the bitter end. That's what made Astor and Bogart such a great team; in their capable hands, Brigid and Spade are two wily, street-smart people who are onto each other as well as into each other.

Every actor in TMF shines, from Bogart and Astor to Ward Bond and Barton MacLane as Sgt. Polhaus and Lt. Dundy, to Jerome Cowan as Spade's doomed partner Miles Archer, to Gladys George as clingy, vindictive Iva Archer, to the only cast members who reprised their roles in the otherwise so-so 1975 sequel/spoof THE BLACK BIRD: Elisha Cook Jr. as gunsel Wilmer Cook and Lee Patrick as Spade's trusty secretary Effie Perine. After Spade's tomcatting with Effie and other babes in the early films, it was refreshing that Effie's interest in Spade here is more professional than personal. There's warmth between them, but it stops well short of neck-nuzzling and lap-sitting. :-) Cook has many memorable moments, particularly one brilliant scene where he's on the verge of shooting the cool, calm Spade, his eyes filling with tears of rage as he whispers, "Get on your feet. I've taken all the riding from you I'm gonna take." When Wilmer comes to after Spade punches him out, dread and horror spreads over his face as each of the conspirators stares at him coldly (another triumph of editing and photography), and he realizes he's being set up as their fall guy. You can almost hear Wilmer frantically thinking, "Oh, s***!!!" Still, Sydney Greenstreet and Peter Lorre come closest to stealing the show. As Kasper Gutman, Greenstreet blends menace with avuncularity, his voice a cultured growl. Greenstreet's performance is so assured, it's hard to believe TMF was this veteran stage actor's first movie job, but it's easy to see why he earned a Best Supporting Actor Oscar nomination. TMF made Greenstreet an in-demand character actor and one of cinema's most memorable villains, especially in his team-ups with Peter Lorre. Lorre's witty, sly performance as the smoothly effeminate yet ruthless weasel Joel Cairo is a marvelous addition to the rogues' gallery of lowlifes Lorre played over the course of his long career. After TMF's success, the great cast worked together in various combinations in many movies, including CASABLANCA. I've always wondered what a TMF caper film sequel following Gutman and Cairo to Istanbul would've been like, considering Greenstreet and Cairo's antihero buddy chemistry.

TMF has so much memorable dialogue, often laced with sardonic humor, that I'd be virtually transcribing the whole script if I quoted all my fave lines. In my family, "The cheaper the crook, the gaudier the patter" and "When you're slapped, you'll take it and like it" have often been jokingly quoted. Then there's Gutman's deliciously ironic toast with Spade: "Here's to plain speaking and clear understanding." Plain speaking and clear understanding with this band of greedy, duplicitous cutthroats?! Good luck! :-) But the talk's a joy to listen to; as Gutman says, "I distrust a closed-mouthed man. He generally picks the wrong time to talk and says all the wrong things. Talking is something you can't do judiciously unless you keep in practice." TMF has one of cinema's greatest last lines, Spade's answer when Polhaus asks what the statue is: "The stuff that dreams are made of." I also love the climactic scene with all the principal players, especially the dialogue between Spade and Gutman about how to go about getting what they want ("...If you kill me, how are you gonna get the bird? And if I know you can't afford to kill me, how are you gonna scare me into giving it to you?...") Truly, TMF is "The stuff that dreams are made of"!
Old School detective work
There is a good chance I am just a sucker for these types of movies. When the movie starts out, the first murder brings the mystery that is needed to make for a great twist ending that we tend to take for granted nowadays. The character Mary Astor is a type that has been duplicated ever since the debut of this movie. An obviously attractive woman that seeks out help when not telling the whole truth. The rest of the movie follows the unveiling of what really happens. You need a actor like Bogart to help with this kind of plot movement. His quick wit and snarky remarks are essential to why the movie is great. He almost seems like he is the inspiration for Robert Downey Jr. and his roll in the new Sherlock Holmes series. All in all, I think that this is one of the greats that should never be forgotten.
Our Private Conversations Have Not Been Such That I Am Anxious To Continue Them
Sam Spade and Miles Archer run a private detective agency in San Francisco, and are hired by a Miss Wonderly to find her sister, who has eloped with a man named Thursby. That night both Miles and Thursby are shot in separate incidents, Wonderly disappears and Sam is the police's chief suspect for both murders. Who killed them, and why ?

Like only a handful of other movies, it's hard to overestimate The Maltese Falcon's huge influence on the crime genre in specific and cinema in general. Of course there are films which preceded it about private eyes, slippery femme fatales, shifty suspects and twisting plot lines. It's not even the original screen adaptation of Dashiel Hammett's classic 1930 novel (Roy Del Ruth first filmed it in 1931, and it was remade again in 1936 as Satan Met A Lady). This version however combines an astonishingly assured performance by Bogart with an outstanding supporting cast, a brilliant head-scratching script by Huston and superb direction to create perhaps the definitive crime picture, and paved the way for many memorable film noir and gangster classics to follow. It's also important to note the small scale of the film - Bogart and Huston were well respected as a supporting actor and writer respectively, but it was Huston's debut as a director (arguably one of the best ever) and it made Bogart a huge star and cemented his reputation as a hard-boiled tough guy. The screenplay is very faithful to Hammett's riveting book, with only minimal abridging for such a deliciously deceiving story, and as with all the best crime fiction it's really all about the people, and what drives their darker personas. Bogart plays a fabulous thin line between good guy, world-weary cynic and dangerous bluffer as he plays off everyone out to chisel him, on both sides of the law. He is aided by one of the most memorable support casts I've ever come across; Astor is sensational as the serial liar/lover who's constructed so many false identities she's not sure of anything anymore, Lorre is superb as the dapper Levantine Mr Joel Cairo, all perfumed accessories and aloof mannerisms, Greenstreet is unforgettable as the corpulently wily Kasper Gutman ("By Gad sir, you are a character."), and arguably best of all is Cook as the psychotic gunsel Wilmer, who seems constantly poised to explode but instead suffers every indignity at the hands of Spade. The players bring Hammett's rich and strange characters to vivid life with such craft and intensity it's almost impossible to imagine anybody else portraying them. The rumpled detective has become such a staple of books and movies it's easy to forget its origins, but Bogart here will always be the definitive private eye. Crisply photographed by Arthur Edeson (who also shot Frankenstein and Casablanca), this is an unmissable forties classic and one of Huston's best movies. It's also a truly amazing book you must read, although in my view two of Hammett's other novels, Red Harvest and The Glass Key, are equally sensational. Trivia - the one-shot-no-lines-die-on-the-sofa scene-stealing character of Captain Jacoby is played by the great Walter Huston, the director's father.
John Huston's Directional Debut Is One Of The First Examples Of Film-Noir!
Jam-packed with twists n turns from start to finish, presenting Humphrey Bogart in one of his most impressive roles, and also marking the feature film debut for esteemed filmmaker John Huston, The Maltese Falcon is regarded by many as one of the first examples of film noir and although its plot is always on the move, I wasn't entirely enthralled by it.

Based on the novel of the same name, The Maltese Falcon tells the story of Sam Spade; a private investigator in San Francisco who takes on a case that results in his partner's death on the very first night, and involves not only his beautiful client who's very manipulative but three more eccentric criminals, who are on a quest to obtain a priceless statuette.

Written & directed by John Huston, this is a finely crafted mystery that instantly sets its tone & is swiftly narrated from that point onwards but then, it also stays on the same level from beginning to end because of which there is no escalation in the story. But it nonetheless features some impressively staged camera-work & tight editing which makes sure every scene has a role to play.

Coming to the performances, The Maltese Falcon packs in a dependable cast in Humphrey Bogart, Mary Astor, Gladys George, Peter Lorre, Sydney Greenstreet & others and everyone is very poised in their given roles. Bogart delivers a supremely confident performance as the private detective Slade, Astor is overly melodramatic at times, Lorre is hilarious while Greenstreet steals nearly every moment he's in.

On an overall scale, The Maltese Falcon never really steps on the wrong foot yet the entire experience of sitting through it was quite ordinary. There's rarely a moment when anyone isn't talking, which isn't a complaint for it kept the momentum going but none of its twists leave a lasting impression. The film is at its best when the screen is shared by Bogart & Greenstreet and for that alone, The Maltese Falcon is worth a watch.
Maltese Falcon (1941
Sam Spade and Miles Archer are private investigators who reside in San Francisco. They are hired by Ruth Wonderly to her find her sister, who has runaway. Wonderly wants to meet the man she believes her sister is mixed up with, Floyd Thusby.

After the investigators meet with Wonderly; Archer and Thursby are killed and Wonderly has checked out of her hotel room. As the film progresses, you learn Wonderly's real name is Brigid O'Shaughnessy. After she confesses her real name, Spade then agrees to take on her case.

This movie definitely did not turn out the way I expected. There are many twist and turns in this film. I thought it was going to turn out to be your normal love story where the boy gets the girl, but that definitely did not happen.
Exceptional (though flawed) film with brilliant performances
Although I had watched this movie a couple of times before, when I saw a documentary that talked about, I decided that perhaps I hadn't given it its full due. So I pulled the DVD off the shelf last evening and watched it again...after reading about it on Wikipedia for some background.

In terms of plot, I don't think it's any masterpiece, although it is a good story. I would fault the movie somewhat because during the first half hour (of 101 minute film) you may find yourself struggling to grasp what the movie is really about (although, since I had seen it before and read about it, I knew...but I still think the first 30 minutes meanders around quite a bit with no clear destination, although that's not to say it's not intriguing. But then, things begin to fall into place and you have the development of a good mystery. In the end, you may reflect and say: wow! It's amazing how much they packed into 101 minutes! It's interesting how many references to homosexuality there are in this film...and that they got away with some of them. First, Peter Lorre's character is clearly effeminate, both with his behaviors and his gardenia scented calling cards. In an early scene, Bogart says to a male detective of his male partner, "What's your boyfriend getting at, Tom?" And later, when Bogart slaps a thug, "When you're slapped, you'll take it and like it." But the reason this film is sooooooo good is the acting. Although he had already been in films from 1928 - 1940, 1941 was really the year that Humphrey Bogart came into his own right as a true star, rather than a supporting actor. And it was in this film, in my view, that he showed what would be a fairly common theme throughout the rest of his career -- a good guy who was just a shade away from being a bad guy. As Sam Spade, that persona worked well, and continued to work well for Bogart in any number of pictures. The female lead -- Mary Astor -- is perfect here as a woman who is acting an evolving part in a never-ending comedy of errors; you can see she's not to be trusted, although superficially she seems highbrow, while underneath she's really a con.

Gladys George, who surprisingly gets third billing, is rather irrelevant to the story as Bogart's partner's wife. I don't think how good Peter Lorre's role is here as an somewhat effeminate crook; in fact, I would say it's brilliant, and perhaps his best role. Barton MacLane is around as a detective, but his acting is always pretty static. Lee Patrick is enjoyable here as Bogart's secretary.

Surprisingly way down at 7th billing is Sydney Greenstreet as "the fat man"; but this was his first film...and he turned it into a gem of a role with his evil giggling; interesting to watch his early scenes here where he is filmed sitting and you see him at an odd angle from the belly up.

I've always thought that Ward Bond was an underrated actor. Here as a police detective he gets better screen time. Jerome Cowan, as Bogart's detective partner doesn't last long...killed off within minutes of the beginning of the film. Of special note here is Elisha Cook, as Wilmer, an effeminate gangster (?) who plays it too tough only to be put down repeatedly by Bogart...a very good role for him. Interestingly, John Hamilton is around as the DA (he later played Perry White in television's "Superman" series. And you have to watch carefully for the ship's captain, who turns out to be Walter Huston, director John Huston's father, in an uncredited cameo.

The bottom line of this film is the old saying that there is no honor among thieves. But few films have ever portrayed that concept with such verve. Highly exceptional (though flawed) film.

Walter Huston as Captain Jacobi (uncredited)
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