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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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Pretty good film, but too much talk
This film received such praise because of the quality film-noir tag it got. It's authentic, an engaging experience for the viewer right into the insides of the detective world, a grand prize involved, the complex plot with various characters and sides leading to the one same goal, the acting is assertive, energetic...

But all in all, what we really get is a ton of that fast tough-guy talk for the whole way, even the "action scenes" really are a steady-paced piece of narrative, and whether or not this film certainly has its qualities in what it does it is still non-stop dialog which requires all the viewer's attention while not delivering much more than just what one could expect at the beginning of it. There isn't much surprise, anything in the way of its basic plot, if not for the expected turns of tides as Bogart's character is one of great verve and guts, not willing to give away an inch to his dissidents.

It makes for quite a linear experience, and while again it achieves what it sets out to do, for non-fanatics of the genre it remains there is a flatness about it with a tinge of predictability or even monotony, but a fine product of its realm nonetheless.
The Greek dealer, Charilaos Konstantinides
I can attest to that it's a great joy to revisit a classic and be able to testify to its power. This is augmented by the fact that it's the one famous John Huston film I did not like, and I consider Huston the most talented and diverse of his Hollywood generation, he took more risks than anyone, with the possible exception of Hitchcock, but when Huston gambled - Freud, Fat City, Wise Blood - it was not to titillate his audience.

We know this as the film that set the ball rolling on noir, a conventional credit, since a long tradition supports it both in film and print, but very much like Kane the previous year, the innovation here is that a large array of cinematic elements is made to coalesce into a confident, polished expression. Huston did not invent film noir, but watching this you get the impression that he might as well have.

Now I was not a fan of this before because it lacked the most powerful engine of film noir; the invisible karmic design. It comes not from the Weimar narrative but the American print tradition of hardboiled detectives making the world spin fast enough to reveal itself. No, what this has going for it is something altogether different, either taken wholesale from Hammett or improvised by Huston on the set with this dreamy set of actors.

The game is overcooked detective plot mischievously annotated with commentary on the process.

Your first clue is the many times that Fat Man refers to Spade as a 'character', like a viewer gleefully amused from his armchair at Bogie's bluster and theatrics in his living-room. Bogie himself plays Spade like an actor performing according to the situation, and he's often seen exiting a scene of dangerous confrontation highly amused at his show.

Your second clue is the many times that Spade drops hints of the movie being assembled around him, for instance commenting on the plot that it's 'ridiculous... or thrilling', or 'the lowlier the crook, the gaudier the patter' while he's very much a crook himself and spouting the gaudiest patter throughout the film. You can tell that everyone's having a helluva time playing their part, the effect is that often it feels like we're eavesdropping on a rehearsal; a story has to unfold at face value, while everyone relishes perfecting their trade. This is never more obvious than when the two policemen storm the hideout and everyone chimes in on the ridiculous story Bogie makes up on the spot.

Third clue and one that wraps everything together, let's say the totemic object at the center of the ritual, is of course the highly coveted bird. We're told quite openly; the treasure was enameled to obscure it not once but twice, and of course the whole story behind it - involving knights, kings, buccaneers, and spanning centuries - is bogus, Huston's fabrication.

So not one but two layers of polish concealing the thing that matters.

One is of course the actual plot, a pedestrian, convoluted affair designed to throw off the audience into piecing together improbable clues and stories. Following this thread, you get the trite resolution that the actual bird is back in Istanbul with a Russian general Kemidov. Of course the film is going to seem slight for so much energy spent. Fortunately, this is easy to peel off now.

The second layer is that every actor is performing two roles, and you don't know most of the time which one's on top. This is a little harder to keep track of because the camera will not clue you in, you have to closely follow the rehearsal. An example of this is near the end, when Bogie and Astor are taken in by the gang and Bogie for the umpteenth time starts riling up the gunsel - notably the only one in all this who's not an actor and basically this unpleasant stiff we first see, with no hidden dimensions, made to be German presumably so WWII US audiences would cheer at the abuse he suffers at the hands of Spade.

The Fat Man presumes that Spade is merely bluffing because he knows they can't kill him so long as he knows where the bird is hidden. We presume this is part of the gaudy patter that buys time, and that Bogie is putting on a show. What is actually going on, is that Spade brings the gunsel to the boiling point where he knows he can knock him off and put his hands on the only gun in the room.

So ridiculous detective story plus layered acting by the participants slipping from characters to commentators, all the fun being in following the roles a moment too late, being a step behind, the whole being spun again as the viewer is starting to orientate.

And a whole other post should be devoted to the commentary of sizzling sexuality pushed off-screen to sidestep the Code, the shared soul between the three women, that Spade's secretary - a spinster, living with her mother - is in fact the highly deductive/detective mind, the cinematic history the bird maps to - rediscovered in 1923 in Paris and taken to Russia and out again.
The Maltese Falcon Review
The Maltese Falcon was a great movie! An iconic scene was the end of the movie when the private detective realizes that the woman he has fallen in love with has killed his partner.

The main character hands the love of his life over to the police in the end; this shows his honesty and loyalty. Throughout the entire movie his goal is to find his partner's , not knowing it was the woman's case he was working on the entire time, and his/her motive behind it. The movie is primarily about deception lies and loyalty.

This movie goes hand in hand with the other Bogart film 'Casablanca' when the main character, Bogart, has to pull back together his tough guy image, after showing a more emotional side.
Slightly overrated
Bogart made his name as a private detective in this one, so the expectations were pretty much high prior to watching. Humprey's being classical Humprey, cool, old school macho trying to wiggle his way out an elaborate scheme revolving around the ancient artifact, but that's pretty much it. Rest of the cast, as the script itself will blend into a classical conspiracy/crime story of that era, with all the right moves and turns, but lacking any kind of innovation at all. „Maltese Falcon" is solid piece of movie history and a classical Bogart's role that made him what he is.
A big gamble that paid off.
No one was tougher than Bogart.No one was more sharp tongued than Bogart.No one had just the right retort more often than Bogart.No one had a stronger screen presence than Bogart.He commanded the screen every time he graced it.In this film,he was in the hands of a young upstart screenwriter directing his very first feature,a young man named John Huston.The studio was taking a gamble.George Raft even turned down the role of Sam Spade due to Huston's inexperience as a director.More Hollywood gambles probably fail than succeed,put this one paid of big dividends.Huston's direction was excellent,Bogey was awesome as always,and the supporting cast was top notch.Very worthy of it's classic status.
A Potpourri of Vestiges Review: Humphrey Bogart makes his highly deserved tryst with super-stardom in John Huston's directorial debut
Seven decades have passed but the suspense and thrill of The Maltese Falcon still reign supreme. The movie, despite being in black & white, appears strikingly refreshing both to the eyes and the intellect. Primarily remembered as John Huston's directorial debut, the movie played a decisive role in giving Film-Noire its true identity as a genre. The Maltese Falcon also gave Humphrey Bogart his highly deserved super-stardom that had hitherto eluded him. Huston creates an environment of suspicion, doubt and uncertainty that is so convoluted that even Hitchcock would be proud of it. The movie has multiple layers of mystery and suspense that keeps the viewer engaged throughout.

Sam Spade is a private detective who runs an agency with his partner Miles Archer. An ostensibly naive lady, Miss Wanderly offers them a task to pursue a man, Floyd Thursby, who has allegedly run off with her younger sister. The over-simplicity of task arouses Spade's suspicion, but Wanderly's lucrative offer makes the duo overlook it initially. Miles is killed during the pursuit and the police inform Spade of the mishap. Spade only discreetly tells the police that Miles was after a man named Thursby without disclosing anything about Miss Wandely. The police soon find Thursby dead as well and suspect Spade for killing him in an act of revenge. Soon Miles Archer's widow shows up at Spade's office and insinuates of her romantic involvement with Spade, who shuns her away after she tries to incriminate him for the murder. The police come across an anonymous lead and begin suspecting Spade for killing his partner, Miles. The plot thickens with the entry a couple of obscure characters including Joel Cairo, who happens be an acquaintance of Miss Wanderly. He is in pursuit of a highly precious, antique, gold statuette of Maltese Falcon and offers Spade five grands to help him find it. A game of cat and mouse soon ensues, between the various stake holders, which becomes deadlier as the stakes are raised.

Humphrey Bogart perfectly fits into the shoes of Spade—a sleek and sharp sleuth—and makes it his own in a manner that only someone of his grit and caliber could. Bogart is in top form right from the inception to the finale, stealing the spotlight in almost every scene that is he is part of. Bogart could only demonstrate his prodigious talent and acting prowess in short bursts during his long "B movie" stint in which he was mostly type-casted as a gangster. The Maltese Falcon was Bogart's big break after years of anticipation and he didn't leave a single stone unturned to prove his mettle. Bogart shows his class and stamps his authority as a performer during the portrayal of Spade: he is ever so quick-witted thanks to his sublime articulacy and his prowess at repartee seems unparalleled; the inherent cynicism in Spade and the perspicacity with which he operates soon became Bogart's trademark and catapulted him to super-stardom. Many regard Bogart's performance in Casablanca as his absolute best, but I rate his portrayal of Spade second only to his supernal portrayal of Dobbs in The Treasure of Sierre Madre, where he took acting to hitherto unattainable and unforeseeable heights.

John Huston uses the Midas touch he had as a screenwriter to strike all the right cords in his directorial debut. Almost everyone in the supporting cast gives a memorable performance with special mention of Peter Lorre as the deceptive Joel Cairo, Sydney Greenstreet as the witty yet dangerous Kasper Gutman and Mary Astor as the scheming Brigid O' Shaughnessy. The taut plot of the movie, which is masterfully adapted from the novel of the same name by Huston himself, is well complemented by the impressively written dialogs that are delivered with an equal prowess. Amidst the everlasting suspense the movie has an obvious undertone of dark humor that adds great value to the movie. The cinematography undoubtedly features amongst the best works of the time.

The Maltese Falcon is not merely a Noire masterpiece but also a testament to the true spirit of cinema that has kept itself alive despite decades of relentless mutilation and sabotage in the name of commercial movie-making. Despite being devoid of modern-day gimmicks the movie is incredibly high on suspense and holds the viewer in a vice-like grip throughout its runtime. It's a real shame that movies like these are seldom made these days. The tone of the movie is such that it makes suspense thrillers of today appear like kids cartoon.

PS. The movie is an ode to Bogart, Huston and all those who made it a reality. It's suspense cinema at its absolute best with a completely different treatment to themes propagated by the likes of Hitchcock. It's a must for all the Bogart fans worldwide, and absolutely essential for all those who have a penchant for Film-Noire as a genre. 10/10
classic noir film
In San Francisco in 1941, private investigators Sam Spade (Humphrey Bogart) and Miles Archer (Jerome Cowan) meet prospective client Ruth Wonderly (Mary Astor). She claims to be looking for her missing sister, who is involved with a man named Floyd Thursby, whom she is to meet. After receiving a substantial retainer, Archer agrees to follow her that night and help get her sister back.

That night, Spade is awakened by a phone call from the police and is informed that Archer has been killed. He meets his friend, Police Detective Tom Polhaus (Ward Bond), at the murder scene and they determine how Miles has been murdered. He tells Polhaus he doesn't need or want to see anything else, and abruptly leaves. He tries calling Wonderly at her hotel, but she has checked out. Back at his apartment, he is grilled by Polhaus and Lieutenant Dundy (Barton MacLane), who inform him that Thursby was also murdered the same evening. Dundy suggests that Spade had the opportunity and motive to kill Thursby, who likely killed Archer, immediately after he learned of Archer's death. Archer's widow Iva (Gladys George) believes that Spade shot his partner so he could have her.
Well, it's just brilliant cinema is all.
Sam Spade, a tough private detective gets involved in a murderous hunt for The Maltese Falcon, a legendary statuette thought to contain diamonds.

What can I possibly say that hasn't been said, written and studied by the greatest film critics and industry members, about The Maltese Falcon before? Well nothing by way of new stuff or a differing slant on the plot, I can merely concur and hopefully jolt prospective first time viewers into believing the reputation afforded this stunning piece of cinema.

First off I have to let it be known that The Maltese Falcon is far from being my favourite Bogart movie, in fact it's not even my favourite Bogart movie from 1941, it's well trumped in my affections by High Sierra, but few films ever get as close to being perfect as the Maltese Falcon clearly is. The source from Dashiell Hammett is first rate, yet it took someone like John Huston (director and screenwriter) to bring it triumphantly together. It had been adapted for the screen twice before with less than favourable results, but Huston, working tightly from Hammett's dialogue driven astuteness, molds a claustrophobic, shadowy classic amongst classics, that in the process laid the cornerstone for what became known as essential film noir.

You will search in vain for faults here, every scene is as tight as a Duck's bottom, not one filler scene is in this picture. The cast are across the board perfect in performances, Bogart (Spade) is peerless, Mary Astor, Peter Lorre, Sydney Greenstreet (film debut) and Elisha Cook Jr. stand out, but every other member of this cast add something good to this picture. The plot (of which I'm "so" not going to summarise for you) is complex to a degree, but really it all makes sense, you do not need to be Albert Einstein to knit the twisters nicely together. Also don't be fooled into thinking this is a film devoid of humour either, it has deadly wry smirks popping up all over the place, OK ,so they may be the sort of smirks brought about by devilish unease of admiration, but rest assured they are valid and integral to The Maltese Falcon's classic standing.

I could go on fawning but I really don't need too, the Academy may well have saw fit to not award this picture any awards for 1941, but time is an immeasurable force sometimes, and time now shows that The Maltese Falcon stands proud as not only a Titan of cinematic entertainment, but also of technical movie brilliance. 10/10
It's all right
I felt like I'd seen 'The Maltese Falcon' before, probably because as these things go it's pretty standard. A few dry quips, rapid fallings-in-love, double crosses, and characters pinging from hotel room to hotel room explaining the plot to each other while with every round of exposition it becomes less and less clear who did what to whom and why.

I mean, it's fine but nothing special. It's worth watching for Humphrey Bogart, who is, as always, a magnetic screen presence, not the greatest actor in the world but a proper Movie Star. The highlight of the film for me, however, is the performance of Sydney Greenstreet, with his entertaining line in affable menace and a squeaky giggle that really tickled me.

Solid stuff but nothing that really grabbed me.
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.
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