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Still the tightest, sharpest, and most cynical of Hollywood's official deathless classics, bracingly tough even by post-Tarantino standards. Humphrey Bogart is Dashiell Hammett's definitive private eye, Sam Spade, struggling to keep his hard-boiled cool as the double-crosses pile up around his ankles. The plot, which dances all around the stolen Middle Eastern statuette of the title, is too baroque to try to follow, and it doesn't make a bit of difference. The dialogue, much of it lifted straight from Hammett, is delivered with whip-crack speed and sneering ferocity, as Bogie faces off against Peter Lorre and Sydney Greenstreet, fends off the duplicitous advances of Mary Astor, and roughs up a cringing "gunsel" played by Elisha Cook Jr. It's an action movie of sorts, at least by implication: the characters always seem keyed up, right on the verge of erupting into violence. This is a turning-point picture in several respects: John Huston (The African Queen) made his directorial debut here in 1941, and Bogart, who had mostly played bad guys, was a last-minute substitution for George Raft, who must have been kicking himself for years afterward. This is the role that made Bogart a star and established his trend-setting (and still influential) antihero persona. --David Chute
- Always a pleasure
Excellent production. Package contains enhanced feature cut, the original and the first Falcon called Satin is a Lady. Nice complete package w/ exc ellent special features....more info
- The original 1931 version is really good, too!
The three-disc special edition of the 1941 version of The Maltese Falcon contains some very interesting bonus features: the two previous adaptations of Dashiell Hammett's novel, the first also called The Maltese Falcon (though it was renamed Dangerous Female for TV in the '50s to avoid confusion), and the second titled Satan Met a Lady.
Since the 1941 version (directed by John Huston and starring Humphrey Bogart, Mary Astor, Sydney Greenstreet, and Peter Lorre) is the one considered "definitive," it's not surprising that relatively few viewers realize that was actually Hollywood's third adaptation of Hammett's classic detective novel.
Satan Met a Lady (directed by William Dieterle and starring Bette Davis and Warren William), is by all accounts a disaster (a very loose adaptation by screenwriter Brown Holmes, who co-wrote this version), but the first Maltese Falcon, filmed in 1931 by director Roy del Ruth, is a terrific alternative for viewers who love the story and would just like to watch a different take on it. (Both films are faithful to the source, with few changes.)
The main difference in tone comes from Ricardo Cortez's portrayal of Sam Spade. Cortez's Spade is much more of a ladies man than Bogart's. In fact, the opening scene of the movie shows a woman leaving Spade's office, adjusting her stockings (later, he is shown picking up sofa cushions from the floor). His roving eye (and hand) also includes his secretary, Effie. Una Merkel plays Effie as if she's not only a willing participant in these shenanigans, but is also quite aware of Spade's other dalliances -- including partner Miles Archer's wife Iva (Thelma Todd) -- and thinks it's funny.
That lightness extends to Cortez, as well. He goes throughout The Maltese Falcon with a huge smirk on his face, as if everything going on around him is endlessly entertaining. And I can imagine why. When Ruth Wonderly (Bebe Daniels) comes into his office, he probably already knows she'll end up naked in his bath, in his bed, and in his kitchen. Cortez displays just the right mix of sleaze and charm.
But the only other actor who gives anything close to as interesting a performance is Dudley Digges as Kasper Gutman. Digges gives the role real grease, making him a truly unlikeable antagonist (Greenstreet always charmed even in his most villainous roles, much like Claude Rains, his costar in Casablanca). And I was very pleasantly surprised to find that Dwight Frye (Renfield in the Lugosi Dracula) shows up briefly as Wilmer Cook. He doesn't say much, but just try to look away when he flashes those psychotic eyes.
This Maltese Falcon was made three years before the enforcement of the Production Code that would whitewash movies for the next thirty years. Thus, there are instances like those mentioned above that did not make it into the "cleaner" 1941 version. One major effect this had is when Mary Astor's Brigid O'Shaughnessy proclaims to Bogart's Spade, "I thought you loved me," it doesn't make a whole lot of sense based on what preceded. Here, when Wonderly (who never reveals herself to be O'Shaughnessy, a plot point I always thought was unnecessarily confusing anyway) says the same words, they hold real meaning.
Though quite entertaining in its own right, the 1931 Maltese Falcon is undoubtedly destined to remain forgotten in the shadow of its later remake. I recommend it, however, due to its lighter and sexier tone, handsomer leading man, and almost completely different approach to the same source material. Fans of pre-Code cinema will especially enjoy it, even if they generally prefer a little more noir in their detective stories....more info
- Fantastic, Classic Film Noir
This classic movie from 1941 is a great Film Noir in black and white. It's based on the 1930s book by Dashiell Hammett. There are spoilers in this review, so be warned.
Sam Spade is a San Francisco detective in 1928 that loves to drink whiskey. His partner, Archer, is knocked off almost immediately, working on a case. It turns out Sam is sleeping with Archer's wife. She really loves him, and was trying to divorce Archer to be with him. He dismisses her casually once she is "free". Sam also keeps his hand on his secretary's knee while she sits on his desk and lights his cigarette for him. She's the dutiful sweet-but-ditzy slave who does anything he wants without question. She even puts up his new girlfriend, Brigid for a few days in her own home. Sam's building an entire harem here.
That's only the beginning.
The core of the problem is a gold Maltese Falcon - tracing back to the Knights Templar many centuries ago. A number of double crossers are trying to get their hands on the gold. This includes Mary Astor who plays Brigid Wonderley / LeBlanc / O'Shaughnessey the multi-named woman. This is made fun of beautifully in the spoof "without a clue".
I love the characters in this story. Lorre is the well heeled gardenia-smelling Cairo. Brigid is a woman who loves to play roles to get what she wants. You've got a Fat Man who serves Sam whiskey each time they chat. Through it all waltzes Sam, who is sharp enough to change his attitude to suit the situation. He tells the DA that he knows he's under suspicion - and that the only way he sees to clear his name is to tie up the events and bring in the murderers all identified.
I love some of the quotes in here - "The cheaper the crook - the gaudier the patter", he says after the gunner makes a snide remark. Sam shows he can move in any circle - he goes up against the police, harasses the lowly gunners and can discuss issues with the educated as well. He can hold off the approaches of sexy women and keep a semi-clear mind.
On the other hand, for all his perfection, he tends to use the people around him without much concern. I love how he shakes up his secretary when she's about to pass out. None of that silly female behavior from her. He ditches the grieving widow, abandoning her completely even though she was ready to get divorced to be with him. The secretary has all sorts of wild demands made on her. "You're a good man, sister" he says to his secretary while abandoning her with a corpse. What's that mean, that she's useful, where a "normal" woman is not? Jeez :)
That's not to say that anybody in this story is a real "good guy". You'd think his love interest might be - but Brigid lies pretty much every second, with lies on lies on lies. Even when she says she's telling the truth, she's lying again. Sam is wise to it and turns her over to the police. "I don't care who loves who, I'm not playing the sap ... you killed Miles, and you're going over for it" he says. He gives his famous speech about having to do what's right.
I like how they show her "behind bars" as she gets into the elevator - and how he refuses to go with her. He takes his own path, with the "stuff dreams are made of" in his hands. As he explains, he might grieve for a few days, but he'll be right back to his cocky self after that. She made bad choices and will live with them. He made all the right choices, is quite happy with his conscience, and heck, he still has 2 women waiting for him....more info
- Another Home Run for Bogart and Huston
Maltese Falcon in my mind created Sam Spade as I cannot see anyone but Bogart playing the role that he did so preternaturally well. Huston in his first directors job did an incredible job and the movie as a whole as masterful in all aspects....more info
This movie was supposed to be simlar to "The Big Sleep". Since I enjoyed "The Big Sleep" so much, I thought I'd give this one a try.
On the surface, this movie seems almost identical to "The Big Sleep". Both are classic hard boiled private detective movies. Both star Humphry Bogart. Both take place in California. And both movies even create a similar atmosphere.
Indeed the similarities between these movies do seem to outway the differences, but there are some differences. For example "The Maltese Falcon" is not about the adventures of Philip Marlow, but of Sam Spade, a different private detective from a different series of books. I've not read any of Sam Spade's books, but the general consensus among book reviewers seems to be that Raymond Chandler (the author of the Philip Marlow series) is much superior.
That, perhaps added to the fact that this film has no William Faulkner or Leigh Brackett credited on the screen play might account for the fact that the dialogue isn't as near as good as "The Big Sleep". But dialogue aside, I actually enjoyed the general story of "The Maltese Falcon" more.
The premise of "The Maltese Falcon" itself is based on a legend about the knights templars (just like another more recent popular novel/movie combination you may have heard of.) Several different people are interested in recovering the lost Templar treasure of the maltese falcon. There are several different characters with conflicting motives, and lots of betrayals and changing alliances. It requires a certain amount of close attention to keep track of everything, but if you watch closely, everything makes perfect sense in the end. Unlike "The Big Sleep", there are no big plot holes in this movie (or at least I didn't catch any. If someone out there has a quick eye, there welcome to point some out to me).
And there are a couple great shockers at the end. One of the them I saw coming, the other one took me by surprise. But both of them make perfect sense once you think about it.
The lighting and cinematography are superior in this movie as well, although I'm almost hesistant to bring that up because it makes it sound like I'm discussing a classic movie. From my point of view this was a really fun movie that just happens to be a classic. Like "The Big Sleep", it can hold its own against any of Hollywood's modern thrillers today.
Finally, this movie is worth seeing if for no other reason than it has a great performance by Peter Lorre. Peter Lorre was the Austrian-Hungarian actor who was famous as a great character actor. You might be thinking you don't know who he is, but actually you probably do. He usually plays the creepy characters in old movies. He's been parodied a million times by a million different people.
- The finest "private eye" ever made!
John Huston was one the greatest directors Hollywood ever had. His camera is an incisive and untiring witness that accompanies us along this enigmatic adventure in search of this historical statue.
Acquiring you will be owner of one of the landmark movies in all the history of cinema.
- Ultimate noir
Houston's first directing job is a knockout. Bogart as the hard-boiled Sam Spade is pitch perfect. Can't say enough good things about this movie, so if you haven't watched it yet, put it next on your list!...more info
- Film Noir is Born! Excellent Detective Movie but Too Bad About the DVD!
Like a true classic should this movie seems to improve with each successive viewing. The acting is great and so is the directing leaving me unsurprised that it's ranked among the top quarter of the American Film Institute's 100 Greatest American Films list. The only problem I have is with the quality of the DVD; the picture quality isn't very good and the sound quality although Dolby Digital is in Mono. Perhaps with the advent of Blu-Ray, a newer, better restored version will surface with good quality surround sound options perhaps DTS with THX for instance.
Overall, this a a great movie but I'd recommend waiting for a better quality DVD version to come out. Hope it's soon!...more info
- the stuff that dreams are made of!
This movie is inimitable.
Terse, convoluted, gritty, and satirical. The scenes of this movie pack a visceral punch rarely matched in classic Hollywood movies.
The plot is confusing, if not incomprehensible at times. However, the basics are pretty straightforward. Sam Spade is a private eye working in San Fransisco with his partner. One afternoon a beautiful, malevolent women walks into Spade's office, paying him and his partner (Miles Archer) to find her sister. She claims her sister is in grave danger. She is, of course, lying. Her real goals are hidden, but slowly revealed as the movie progresses. Unfortunately her little ruse ends up getting Spade's partner killed. Thus is unleashed a complex series of events.
The plot focuses on Spade's attempt to keep up with the criminal elements around him. It seems every one is machiavellian, and the underworld Spade belongs to is byzantine in its betrayals, double-crossings, and machinations. The people he talks to are inveterate liars. One gets vertigo trying to make sense of it all. This makes us all the more amazed that Spade can keep his cool. Oddly, it turns out all the fuss in the movie has to do with the statue of a Maltese Falcon. An object worth killing and dying for.
Spade plays crooked, but deep down inside he is a Kantian. His ethical nature, stoic exterior, and masculine facade, make him irresistable as a protaganist. This is the movie that marked the rise of Bogart the superhuman-and rightfully so.
The Maltese Falcon is a rich movie, with myriad meanings. One of the major themes is the quest for an unattainable object and the havoc such a quest can cause. After all, the dead bodies in this movie accumulated over nothing more than the silly statue of a bird! It is interesting to compare the Maltese Falcon with Don Quixote. Both works contain the mythological heroic quest. However, in Quixote, the quest is needed to sustain life. Without it, Quixote dies. In the Maltese Falcon the quest causes death. When the quest is over, sanity is restored. This is an interesting contrast, and one well worth pondering.
Is the quest worth while? Or, should we stay sane and firmly planted on the sinful streets of the world?
In the end, it is hard to find any flaws in this movie. There are no superfluous scenes, nor is there any hint of condescending directing. Just straight to the point, action and dialogue packed delivery.
- How can you find fault with this classic
Humpry Bogart is a favorite in our family. Although I've seen this before I was again impressed with the dialog and both overt and subtile gestures that added so much to this movie. I'd have to put the African Queen (still not on DVD!!!), the Maltese Falcon, and Casablanca as the top three Bogart films in my estimate....more info
- Crime and punishment
The dialog is fast and the plot is thick. Yes this the screen play was lifted directly from the book. The only thing I have trouble with is that I don't see Humphry Bogart as tough as he sounds. He is the classic tough guy though and does his detective best to figure out the plot. Worth owning because it takes several viewings to get all the details of the plot down. I didn't notice the sound mis-synch but then maybe its the machine.
Of the best of Bogart, it's not my favorite (which is Casablanca and African Queen) but it's in my collection....more info
- Warner Bros. does it yet again.
Again, Warner Bros. continues to rival other studios with their DVD releases of their classic movies. This time, they've pulled out all the stops for the 1941 version of The Maltese Falcon, the film that practically invented the film noir genre. Although not as packed with bonus materials like some of their other previous Special Edition, they've still put enough material on here to use THREE discs. The set contains a cardboard slipcase packaging two slim DVD cases. Disc 1 is contained in the first case, and the second case contains discs 2 and 3. I won't go into detail on the movie, because I'm here to review the product itself, not the movie.
The first disc contains the 1941 film noir classic, with a newly restored digital transfer. Digital artifacting is minimal if existent. Some film artifacting, such as occasional slight shakiness is present, but for the most part, the transfer is clean and free from flaws. The audio is presented in its glorious original mono mix, which has been cleaned up for this new transfer. An audio commentary is included, but I have yet to listen to it. Also included is a bonus called Warner Night At The Movies, which allows you to view a gallery of short subjects before The Maltese Falcon - the way you would have in 1941. The short subjects included are informative and/or entertaining and even include a couple of short cartoons. But the restored movie is, of course, the main attraction - and what an attraction!
Disc 2 contains a nice surprise - the first two film versions of The Maltese Falcon! The first one is the pre-code 1931 version starring Ricardo Cortez as Sam Spade and Bebe Daniels as Ruth Wonderly. Although this first version is very similar to the 1941 version, it contains a bit more sexual innuendo and suggestive scenes. For many years after its initial release, the film was not allowed to be shown until the late 60's, when it turned up on TV under the title Dangerous Female. The second film is a thinly veiled screwball comedy take on the story titled Satan Met A Lady, starring Warren William as Ted Shane (Sam Spade) and Bette Davis as Valerie Purvis (Ruth Wonderly/Brigid O'Shaughnessy). Despite having all of the characters' names changed and the object of desire changed to a ram's horn filled with jewels, it's obvious what the source material is. Satan Met A Lady's theatrical trailer is included, but not the trailer for the 1931 film, despite the packaging's claim that both versions' trailers are included. Having all three films on this set is a good idea, in my opinion, because it allows the viewer to decide for themself what their favorite version is. Although in my opinion, the 1941 tops both of them, I highly enjoyed the other two films too. Unlike the 1941 version, these versions have not been restored and definitely show their age, with plenty of dirts, spots, and scratches. They're unlikely to be revisited on DVD anytime soon, so this is about as good as they're going to get treated on DVD.
Disc 3 contains all of the 1941 version's bonus materials. Not as packed as most supplemental material discs in Warner's Special Editions, (In fact, a single-layer disc was used for disc 3, and holds approx. 3.5 GB of data.) the bonuses included are quite excellent and informative. Included is a new documentary on the making and impact of the movie, called One Magnificent Bird. Next is the TCM documentary Becoming Attractions: The Trailers of Humphrey Bogart, which includes theatrical trailers for many of Bogey's classics, such as High Sierra, The Maltese Falcon, Casablanca, The Petrified Forest, and Treasure Of The Sierra Madre. The idea is to show Bogart's progression from B-list bad guy to A-list movie star. Another great bonus is the Breakdowns of 1941 blooper reel, which contains some of the greatest old school actors and actresses, such as Bogart, Bette Davis, and James Cagney, blowing their lines - and often using some pretty salty language that couldn't be shown in theaters at the time. Also included are some Mary Astor makeup tests, although I personally don't see the significance. Finally, rounding out this set are three radio broadcast performances - the Lux Radio Theater performance with Edward G. Robinson, and two featuring Bogart, Mary Astor, and Sydney Greenstreet, with Peter Lorre also starring in one of the broadcasts. Approx. two hours of great old time radio to listen to.
This set may disappoint the consumer that has been spoiled by 4-Disc sets of Ben-Hur and Gone With The Wind and the 3-Disc set of The Wizard of Oz. Although I'm one of the consumers that has been spoiled with those releases, in my opinion, The Maltese Falcon's 3-Disc Special Edition stands up alongside these releases beautifully. With THREE movies and around four hours of additional bonus materials, this set truly delivers. If you love old movies, Bogey, or film noir, this is a MUST-have for your collection....more info
- One of Hollywood's greatest mysteries that sets the standard for film-noir detective movies!
This review is for the 2000 Warner Brothers DVD
The film opens with Brigid O'Shaughnessy (Mary Astor) hiring two detectives Sam Spade (Humphrey Bogart) and Miles Archer (Jerome Cowan) to tail a man named Floyd Thursby who knows the whereabouts of her long, lost sister. Archer takes on the assignment is shot and hours later Thursby is found dead too. Not too long afterwards, other shady characters played by Peter Lorre, Elisha Cook Jr. and Sidney Greenstreet enter into the plot and Spade then realizes that O'Shaughnessy didn't tell him the whole truth and now the real motive revolves around an invaluable golden statue of a falcon. This sets up the remainder of the movie where Spade tries to solve the double murder and also locate this priceless work of art.
The movie is a classic and works fantastically in many ways. First, Humphrey Bogart elevates himself as a former B-movie supporting actor into a Hollywood superstar. He's perfect for this role with his hard-edge persona and street-smart demeanor. The story is a bit convoluted at times, but it still works extremely well since the movie is a mystery. The dialogue among the characters is perhaps the strongest asset to the film. All of it is witty and entertaining with dozens upon dozens of memorable lines.
This movie seems imitated more times than I can count. How many films have been made where a beautiful woman comes in to a private eye's office and gives the detective a false story that gets him in hot water? A lot of credit also has to go to screenwriter and director John Huston who made this film work on the screen. Bogart is at his best also and so is Sidney Greenstreet.
The DVD quality is very mixed. Most of the time the picture quality is excellent, while several short segments appear to have been mastered from inferior movie copies. There are also some frames of noticeable film damage. It's a shame that a movie of this stature didn't receive better restoration treatment. The sound is fine, but the bonus features are also disappointing. The only significant extras are some trailers of Bogart's early movies. With these shortcomings, perhaps Warner Brothers will issue a 2 disc special edition package like they did for "Casablanca" or "Treasure of the Sierra Madre" and restore this movie to perfection and add plenty of background and commentary to this historically important film. Let's hope so!
DVD Quality: B-...more info
- 3 stars out 4
The Bottom Line:
An overrated early noir that suffers from O'Shaughnessy's uninspired performance and the lack of any compelling characters the audience cares about, The Maltese Falcon is only really alive when Sydney Greenstreet is onscreen; look to Treasure of the Sierra Madre or Double Indemnity for similar themes done better....more info
- CONFUSING CLASSIC
Famous 1941 film has lost its punch. Granted, one is assured of good acting with Bogart, Astor, Grreenstreet, Lorre, and Bond in the lineup. Likewise, Director Huston was never known for gaffes or poor quality. The casting is good. So, where's my problem? In a film dealing with dishonesty, there's not a single character that one can trust.This leads to a highly confusing tale that requires several viewings to set the audience straight. That's a definite no-no to me. Having seen this tale at least 6 times over my lifetime, I still couldn't begin to explain it to a non viewer with any sense of acumen. I'd rather try explaining baseball to a foreign novice. No, I think that this picture will continue on a downward spiral, based only on 70 year old reviews. Ted Williams is dead. Derek Jeter plays on....more info
- Well deserved special presentation of an immortal classic
One of the finest detective films ever finds Humphrey Bogart, as private eye Sam Spade, up to his trench coat in greed, deception and murder. Joining Bogie in the search for the priceless "black bird" are Mary Astor, Sydney Greenstreet, Peter Lorre, and Elisha Cook, Jr.; John Huston's directorial debut. This collector's set also includes the first two film versions of Dashiell Hammett's thriller: "The Maltese Falcon" (1931), starring Ricardo Cortez, Bebe Daniels and Dudley Digges; and Bette Davis and Warren William in "Satan Met a Lady" (1936). Trivia - The corpse in the office at the beginning of the film lying face down is actually Walter Huston, director John's father! ...more info
- The third time's the charm
The Maltese Falcon has earned a reputation of being one of the all-time great movies. Does it deserve this title? As shown in the three-disc special edition of the movie, yes.
Before I picked up this edition, I was familiar enough with the movie, having seen it a couple of times as well as reading the book. Before re-watching it, however, I skipped to Disc 2 and watched the two older versions. The original version of The Maltese Falcon came out in 1931. This movie is reasonably faithful to the book, but has the stiff acting of many early talkies which used a lot of silent movie stars (such as Bebe Daniels). It does, however, have the entertaining Dwight Frye (an early screen villain most well known as Renfield in Dracula), though he doesn't do that much here. The 1936 remake was Satan Met a Lady which added a comic twist to the story. Unfortunately, star Warren William plays his role more like Nick Charles (a rather tipsy gentleman) than Sam Spade. The story changes the Falcon to a Ram's Horn, but not even Bette Davis (who considered this one of her worst films) can save it. With two mediocre efforts, it was amazing that Warner Brothers would try it again just five years later.
They did, however, and the third time was the charm. Despite having just seen the same story twice within a couple of weeks and being familiar with the classic version, it remained immensely entertaining, not just a cut above the first two versions, but several cuts. What makes this version so good? Basically, everything came together almost perfectly.
One key thing was rookie director John Huston whose direction is so good that it helped create an entire style of movie-making, film noir. Whether The Maltese Falcon is truly noir itself (the standard definition usually begins the era with post-WWII films), it is at least proto-noir. Then there is the cast, notably Peter Lorre as the oily Joel Cairo is a scene stealer as is Sydney Greenstreet as The Fat Man. Mary Astor makes her character, Brigid O'Shaughnessy, one of filmdom's great femme fatales, a woman who is able to manipulate almost any man (and her one failing will be costly).
In the center of it all, however, is Humphrey Bogart in one of his first heroic roles as Sam Spade. Bogie is in almost every scene of the movie (the only exception is an early murder), so he is critical to the movie's success. Actually, Spade is more of an anti-hero than a hero: a man who is willing to use other people to achieve his own ends. If you are unfamiliar with the plot, I'll sum it up quickly (and it's pretty much the same in all movies): After Spade's partner is killed, Spade is drawn into a tangled web of murder and intrigue all centering on the Maltese Falcon, a valuable statue that everyone wants and no one has. Of course, there's more to it than that, but why spoil the fun?
The first disc in this set has the Bogart version along with a commentary track. There is also a "Warner Night at the Movies" feature that provides cartoons, a newsreel, movie trailers and a short subject (a rather interminable ballet that will mostly appeal to fans of dance). The third disc provides other bonus features, most notably a documentary about the movie. The Disc One material is enough to give the set five stars (the movie itself is actually enough); the rest is just gravy. If you want to see one of the true classics, this is a must-get.
- Bogart is a giant! (recommended)
Creative cinematography (a la Citizen Kane) is employed throughout this film to increase Humphrey Bogart's stature. Perfectly cast Bogart plays Sam Spade -- a wise cracking detective who has as much difficulty establishing the ever changing identity of his client as he does the murderer of a close friend. Ever present of those who may be lurking in the shadows, Spade skillfully unravels one deception after another while vilians like "The Fat Man" try to play him as a pawn in their race for a mysterious Maltese Falcon. In such a setting it would seem there is no time for romance but alas, this is Bogie!
Movie quote: "Talking's something you can't do judiciously, unless you keep in practice. Now, sir, we'll talk if you like. I'll tell you right out, I'm a man who likes talking to a man who likes to talk." ...more info
- One of the most widely imitated / parodied films of all time!
`The Maltese Falcon', written and directed by the young and upcoming talent, John Huston, is also the first big starring role for Humphrey Bogart and the first appearance on film of Sydney Greenstreet. That also makes this the first appearance of the famous `Casablanca' trio of Bogart, Lorre, and Greenstreet on film. While `Casablanca' may be, hands down, the most widely quoted film in history (It had six (6) quotes out of the 100 most quotable film lines of all times. I think all of the James Bond films together had but two!), `The Maltese Falcon' may be the most widely copied and parodied. The best known parody is probably Rowan and Martin's `The Maltese Bippie' movie. My favorite is the Nick Danger side of the Firesign Theater's second album, `How Can You Be Two Places at Once When You Are Not Anywhere At All'.
The squib on the back of the DVD case claims this is the `best detective drama ever'. I would argue that it is certainly not the best, but it is one of the very best, made to seem better by its innovative style, being at the dawn of that most distinctive American film style, `film noir'. I suspect it launched `film noir' with its very distinctive photographic style where the camera point of view always seems to be below the actors' waist. It always seems as if the camera is looking up at the actors.
By many counts, I think the last great `film noir', `Chinatown' is a much better detective, or at least `private detective' movie than `The Maltese Falcon', as the dual mystery of murder and parenthood is so much more interesting and it is unraveled in a much cleaner way, with few if any awkward scenes which seem to litter `The Maltese Falcon' from the very start, with the wooden scene in which Bogart's movie partner, Miles Archer is murdered by an unseen gunman.
Other artificialities are the easily parodied name changes of Mary Astor's character and the way it is revealed at the very end that she pulled the trigger for the murder of one of the film's several victims.
The other side of the coin is how well the story is constructed on the whole, and the genius behind the character of Sam Spade, which has as much to do with Dashiell Hammett's novel as with Bogart's portrayal. He's the tough guy who doesn't actually carry a gun, is on good terms with the police and other private detectives, and is careful to stay just inside the law, unlike the loose canon anti-heroes of a later time. He is the perfect model for the later Jake Geddes of `Chinatown'.
The story also does well by opening in a very straightforward manner, to become suddenly one great big muddle of questions with the appearance of Peter Lorre's character, Joel Cairo. The plot gets even more interesting when `gunsul' Elijah Cook, Jr. and `the fat man', Sydney Greenstreet show up. Amazingly, this is a story built almost entirely from exposition, primarily from Astor, Lorre, and Greenstreet's characters, about the elusive object of the story, the `black bird' statue.
Oddly, the story's resolution is so much better when it turns out the statue is revealed to be a fake, or at the very least, a simple lead figurine, instead of a disguised jewel encrusted treasure.
`The Maltese Falcon' is a very important movie, but not for its great detective story, but rather for its acting, direction, camera work, and the invention of a major new genre in American film.
- The Maltese Falcon 1941 (Three-Disc Collector's Edition)
A gallery of High-living lowlifes will stopp at nothing to get their sweaty hands on a jewel-encrusted falcon . Detective Sam Spade (Humprey Bogart 1899 - 1957 ) wants to find out why -and who would take the fall of his partner's murder . An all-star casting ( including Sydney Greenstreet 1879- 1954 , Peter Lorre 1904-1964, Elisha Cook ,Jr 1903-1995 , Mary Ashtor 1906- 1987) joins Bogart in this cracking mystery masterwork written for the screen (from Dashiell Hammett's (1894-1961) novel) and directed by John Houston (1906 - 1987). This nominee for 3 academy awards (1941) Captulted Bogart to stardome and lauched Huston's directional career all with a bird and bang ! . Warner Brothers has one of the greatest film catalogs of any studio; yet they don't appear to take their DVD issues very seriously. Who on earth would put "Goodfellas" on two sides of a disc? or not release the "Director's Cut" version of "Eyes Wide Shut" (imagine the added revenue if they had)? or almost never digitally enhance the audio or visual transfer or provide any significant extras? Compared to the deluxe packages that Universal, Criterion, are a peculiar desecration of a vaunted film legacy.
Case in point: "The Maltese Falcon". Arguably the greatest detective film ever made, Warners at least releases it with a decent video transfer. Unfortunately, the audio synchronizing is off during the last 15 minutes of the movie (by a second but it's still noticable) and I wasn't able to access all the people on the "Cast and Crew" menual though I enjoyed the "Trailers of Humphrey Bogart" section, it would have been nice if Warners spent the money to create a documentary history of the film the way they did on Universal's "Casablanca" release.
Much ink has been spilt praising "The Maltese Falcon" so I won't go into any panegyrics here. It's just a shame that Warners doesn't take this market seriously enough to put more care into the DVD releases of their finest films. High Quality Transfer . Recommended
- This is The Stuff That Dreams Are Made Of.
This Is The Best Movie I Ever Seen A Great Package I've Ever Got
The Other To Are Pretty Good....more info
- THIS'LL PUT YOU IN SOLID WITH YOUR BOSS
POOR ELISHA COOK JR, HE NEVER KNEW WHAT HIT HIM. AFTER NEARLY FIFTY YEARS OF WATCHING THIS FILM IN THE MOVIES AND ON TV, I STILL DON'T KNOW WHAT HIT ME. MANY OTHER FILMS TRIED TO COP ITS SOUL AND, GENERALLY, FAILED. IT'S INDIANA JONES BIOLOGICAL FATHER. BY THE WAY, WHO WAS ELISHA COOK SR.?...more info
- A Fast-Paced Detective Story
This film was my initial introduction to Humphry Bogart. In this film he plays the cool and calculating Sam Spade. Spade gets involved in a complicated twisted plot so full of double-crosses that the viewer has to pay attention to every single word and scene, or get hopelessly lost in the amazingly complex yet fascinating story.
The film is extremely fast-paced and there is so much that is unknown about the characters and their shady relationships to each other, that I must admit to confusion as to what was unfolding. Each scene is packed with bits of information, like individual puzzle pieces, which one must mentally assemble to keep up with the unfolding plot. For me, the film gave too little time to sort out the puzzle pieces, and even at the end of the film, I confess to not being able to tie up all the loose ends or fully comprehend the film's plot. Despite the somewhat confusing and confounding plot twists, the film held my interest as I just had to find out what was the secret of the mysterious Maltese Falcon, the intense focus of all the character's attention.
I found it helpful to read Wikapedia's summary of the story after viewing the film, as this explained all the details I missed. I will certainly watch the film again to pick up on the plot twists I missed the first time.
Bogart is magnificent as the unshakable Sam Spade. Mary Astor is fascinating as the woman who will use any means possible to get her hands on the falcon. Sidney Greenstreet and Peter Lorre fill out the fine cast as the eccentric duo who are desperate to capture the priceless falcon.
This is not a film that the kids will enjoy watching. Shot in black and white, and with a pace as fast as a roller-coaster, kids will quickly loose interest. I recommend you watch the film with no interuptions, and listen carefully to every word, as the diaglogue is as fast-paced as the plot. Certaining an intriging movie, it is sparce in character developement, and has little to "say" in terms of a lesson for the viewer. It is purely a detective who-done-it filmed for entertainment value alone.
I've certainly seen better films, but this one is worth a watch, if only to see some of the best film actors of the black and white era.
JIm 'Koendog" Koenig
- THE STUFF THAT DREAMS ARE MADE OF
In literature and film there have been no lack of private detective-types depicted from the urbane Nick Charles (also a Hammett creation) to Mickey Spillane's rough and tumble Mike Hammer but the classic model for all modern ones is Dashiell Hammett's Sam Spade (the Humphrey Bogart role in the film) in Maltese Falcon. Some may argue Raymond Chandler's Phillip Marlowe and may have a point but as for film adaptation Spade wins hands down. Compare, if you will, Bogart's performance in Maltese Falcon with the Big Sleep. Get my point. But enough of that. What make's Spade the classic is his intrepidness, his orneriness, his dauntless dedication to the task at hand, his sense of irony, his incorruptibility, his willingness to take an inordinate amount of bumps and bruises for paltry fees and his off-hand manner with the ladies and a gun. And in Maltese Falcon he needs all of these qualities and then some.
And for what? It is the bird, stupid. You know, the stuff that dreams are made of. This modern tale of greed and desire gets nicely worked with a cast of adventurers, including Sam's love interest, who are serious, inept, and ultimately dangerous. There is a certain amount of off-handed humor as is warranted by some of the situations thrown in to boot. Sam is well up to handling everything thrown at him by is male adversaries. But, the dame (played by Mary Astor in the film), that is a different question. She is as greedy (if not more so) than the rest but she is ready to use her feminine wiles on even the incorruptible Spade in order to get that damn bird. That, dear friends, puts her beyond the pale and she will have many a lonely night in prison to think that through. In the end Sam's honor and the honor of his profession is intact, and that's what counts in his world.
- Like Vintage Wine
A month's salary for a vintage wine is a bargain for many -- but one evening and it's gone. This is a vintage flick -- which can be enjoyed one special night a year for decades to come without losing its bouquet!
Perfect? No! A movie can't be. You must decide which set of weaknesses you accept in a most perfect film. At first I didn't like the combo J. Huston & Co. give us, but "they grow on you." Perhaps that -- which cannot be gauged at first -- is its' greatest strength.
Whatever! For those with a particular palate, this is vintage indeed....more info
- The Matlese Falcon is made out of PEOPLE ... PEOPLE ...
Quick - as a young, energetic, inexperienced director you must make a final decision. As this director, one must either decide to show the audience the famed jeweled bird that has nearly taken up an hour and forty minutes of time, or transform a rather talking ending into a glorified public service announcement. The decision is a difficult one, but one must remember to reward the audience for their patience and time. Alas, that is not the case with this director in his first film "The Maltese Falcon". We are speaking of John Huston and his directorial debut with this live-action version of Dashiell Hammett's famed voice. It is a caper of sorts, a classic "who-done-it" which forces the audience to listen for clues and make their own judgment upon a vast array of cinematic icons. There is the first time introduction to the cultish detective Sam Spade, an early view of Chiklis' Vic Makey from "The Shield", in which Spade is held by no bonds and answers to nobody higher. There is the dame, Brigid O'Shaughnessy, who is the quintessential wild-card of the group, holding nothing but betting all, she sparks where there should be a flame. Peter Lorre's classic Joel Cairo leaves plenty for parody for the next several decades, while Sidney Greenstreet plays the clich¨¦ British crime lord willing to believe he is the smartest in the bunch. So we have a beginning - Huston inventing a formula that will be copies, used, abused, and overplayed throughout Hollywood for the rest of days - so ... why doesn't this original feel original?
With our players in place, Hammett's voice spoken with ease, and Huston behind the wheel - this should have felt like a country drive with tension building at the right parts, the take arriving sooner than expected, and Spade proving himself the victor unconditionally. Yet, this wasn't the track "The Maltese Falcon" took. Instead, we begin with a jumbled jigsaw puzzle of facts, relics, and the unknown that makes you feel that you have 5000 pieces and only an hour to complete. Huston begins our story with grace, giving us early indication of our characters and brute honesty that seemed unexplored for the time, but just as we believe we understand the overall plot, he throws in more, on top of more, on top of more to thicken the plot, when in fact he is fully pulling us away from the illustrious "Falcon". This movie is about a bird. It is a rare statuette that promises wealth and power to whoever holds it. It is this bird that scatters our characters all over the place, but ultimately takes them nowhere. Without giving any overbearing plot points away, Spade early on looses his partner uncaringly. Spade, a womanizer with his partner's wife, seems to care less about the death and is literally scraping his name away from the window the next day. I understood Spade to be a loner, a troubled detective whose brains foiled his heart, but this seemed a bit too cold for a character that we were to care about. Huston gives us nothing with Spade - any history that is begun is immediately dropped as a new plot devise is introduced. Bogart lisps his way through the performance, proving that he is just as cold as the criminals, but never quite connects with the audience. Huston will not give us the bird, so instead he detracts our focus away from the statue to Spade, which again, doesn't have enough to build on.
My point is that our characters give us nothing. They may be enjoyable to view on screen, but they are as bland and thin as the paper I write this on. Over the years, they have been unjustly transformed into iconic characters, but I needed to know more about Spade - what made him tick and a bit more detail on his slight idiosyncrasies. While I may have enjoyed watching Lorre's portrayal of Cairo, his usefulness became obsolete by the end. These characters were there, but why? This is a question the inexperienced Huston forgot to include, but Hammett does in detail throughout his book. This is a talking caper, one that doesn't use fancy car chases or large shoot-outs to make their connections, but instead it uses words to guide our characters from A to B. With this said, the words were in place to tell a great story - but Huston could not get his characters to give varied emotions to give us characters. Am I too needy when it comes to early films of this nature? How could "The Thin Man" successfully do this, and entertainingly make me laugh, while as the time moved I cared less and less about this falcon that was supposed to carry this film? Huston just seemed to be missing a big element that should have connected our characters to this bird - we needed something to keep our motives in motion.
Finally, without giving anything dynamic away, the ending was pitiful and unexciting. Finally, we have exactly what we need, the chess pieces are ready to be victorious, but then nothing happens. Huston builds tension, but provides no conclusion. Instead of being an "Indiana Jones" our heroines become sputterer's of life lessons. One doesn't need a lesson, we need a conclusion. The final image of the bird in the light sent shivers down my spine because of the time devoted to this slap-happy mystery. There was no mystery, only a warning about greed. Even with the non-caring Spade, this film didn't mind that it sucked the suspense dry, from both Hammett and the viewers.
Overall, I must credit this film for being an original. Sam Spade's likeness has been used in nearly every detective film both symbolically and overtly. But, just because an icon rests here - it doesn't mean that the film itself is worthy of praise. Hammett's words were not voiced properly in this film, and the dedication towards nothing was outstanding. This was a film about a statue of a bird, but instead we spend more time talking about it than actually finding the bird. Our characters are paper thin, and by the end we care nothing for whomever ends up with it - either good or bad. It was as if Huston had taken all the pieces of a puzzle, bunched them together, randomly hammered them together, and then provided us with a sloppy finished product. I wanted to like this film - it is a dark classic that is honestly overplayed - but I cared nothing for what was happening. Thirty minutes in I was bored. What would Spade think of that? "The Maltese Falcon" is worth one viewing, but any more would be disastrous. The verbose ending ruined my image of Spade - how about you?
Grade: *** out of *****
- The Ace of all Sam Spades!
"The stuff that dreams are made of," or, for some, the greatest private eye movie there ever was gets the royal treatment in this "Three-Disc Special Edition." "The Maltese Falcon" has ensnared so many fans in its 65 years- so many that its been lampooned and "Looney-tuned" the world over. It's hard to know where to begin. Let's just say it's here where the whole Humphrey Bogart mystique truely takes hold in his incomparable role as Sam Spade.
Both crafty and shafty, a "hero" only in the sense that he wins the game of "the smarter crook," Bogart is riveting to watch. He's also superbly supported by a steller cast including a heart- aching turn by Mary Astor as Spade's "love interest" and a classic rouge's gallery of criminals including Sydney Greenstreet and Peter Lorre (Bogart's two "Casablanca co-stars). My fave, though is Elisha Cook Jr. as creepy man/child bodyguard, Wilmer who Bogart laughable taunts throughout.
First time director John Huston wisely did not stray from the book as Hammett's prose is fabulously tart ("Shoo her in, darling. Shoo her in.") and orchestrates the dialog and situations in such a frantic pace that you're consistantly jucied even though most of the action consist of few characters on small, dimly lit sets (add a thunderous musical score and you have the perfect example of the Warner Brothers house style).
This dvd edition is indeed historic as it finally, FINALLY, puts all in one package the original, little seen, "good-on-its-own-terms," 1931 version of "The Maltese Falcon" as well as its inferior, thinly veiled 1936 remake "Satan Met a Lady" (co-starring Bette Davis) one . Starring Ricardo Cortez as a slicker, prettier Spade, the original like its 1941 remake follows Hammett's book closely and is fascinating to watch just how much of Huston's version was actually derivative. It's just that Huston built the better mouse trap....more info
- A classic indeed
Talk about a movie that is standing the test of time. I've put off seeing this movie for I don't know how long. For some reason I had fixed in my mind that I wouldn't like it--BUT boy was I wrong. Bogart shines like the star he was. He commands every scene his in and is able to whip out this fast talking piece with convincing believability. One thing for sure, you have to pay attention or you can easily get lost. The only angle I thought that could have been cut is the whole you love me I know you do stuff. When Mary Astor start spitting that nonsense I started wondering when did anyone have time to fall in love in this movie. Great script, good direction. And all around winner in my book.
- It Aight'
I rented this movie from blockbuster the other night. I have a home theater so I like movies. This was the first Humphrey Bogart movie Ive ever seen.It starts off quick and it really kept my attention throughout.I liked it. Its not as great as everyone praises it to be, but its pretty good. Way better then most movies. Its no "raging bull" or anything. Id rent it again. I suggest watching it....more info
- Greatly Overhyped Film Noir
I've seen this movie several times over the years and it has not gotten better with age. In fact, I really do not understand how it has acquired such iconic stature. The plot is serpentine but somehow not very involving, the acting is way overdone (except for Astor, who is just downright bad), the characters are without exception slimy or at least not very admirable, and the whole thing creaky. To its credit, it is not long and the direction is pretty taut but I certainly think that I have watched it for the last time....more info
- The Stuff Dreams Are Made Of....
Hunphrey Bogart takes on the role of private detective Sam Spade in this rough, gritty black-and-white film.
The story centers around an object - a black bird, or falcon, allegedly made by the medieval knights of Malta. The bird is supposedly worth a fortune.
Quite a number of shady characters are looking for the bird. Among them is the beautiful Brigid O'Shaughnessy, played by Mary Astor. She employs Spade's firm to help her.
The cast is filled with familiar and interesting faces - including those of Sydney Greenstreet, Peter Lorre, Ward Bond, Barton MacLane and as the gunsel, Elisha Cook, Jr.
This film marked John Huston's debut as a director; previously he had been a screenwriter. It also helped to change the direction of Bogart's career - previously he had been playing gangsters. Here he begins to move into the second act of his movie career, playing hard-boiled but honest characters. ...more info
- One of the greatest movies ever, disappointing print
I haven't watched THE MALTESE FALCON in years. Long ago enough to forget many of the particulars while retaining a fairly accurate memory of the plot. Heck, a bunch of clips from this groundbreaking film make it onto those `classic movies' specials, anyway. So, before the latest re-watch I had this one pegged as a solid four - yeah, yeah, great movie, probably over-rated and corny, though; a little arthritic and out-of-date.
Well, color me delighted. THE MALTESE FALCON is still lean, whip-quick and fighting tough. Bogie still won't take a fall for any dame; Mary Astor is still a dame most guys would take a tumble for - just ask Archer - but only a fool would believe; Sydney Greenstreet is still the erudite and eerily bemused arch fiend; Elisha Cook still gets slapped around a lot, and Peter Lorre still soaks his handkerchief in gardenia water. Everyone is still looking for the bird.
Most movie fans have heard of THE MALTESE FALCON, and many have already seen it. That being the case there's not much point in rehashing the plot, or heaping more praise on the fine cast or the superb, propulsive, tight direction of (then) neophyte director John Huston, who herein proves that his eye for character and ear for dialogue was there from the beginning. If you haven't seen this one, and you love movies, it's essential you do so as soon as possible.
The only disappointment I experienced had to do with the quality of the print, which was certainly adequate for most movies, but much too washed out and scratchy - even missing a few feet of film in a non-critical scene - for a film that usually finds its place onto top-100 and top-25 lists. In 99 cases out of 100 adequate is okay with me, but THE MALTESE FALCON is a classic, and it deserved to be washed and de-scratched. A rare treat, a great film that has proudly withstood the test of time.
- COLORIZED version is a unique experience for old and young!
The product on this page is the COLORIZED version which is hard to find. It is an experience to watch it with a teenager that despises black and white programming. I only wish that the powers that be would colorize this onto DVD using the new technology that was used to colorize the Ray Harryhausen black and white Sci-Fi classics "Earth Vs. the Flying Saucers", It Came from Beneath the Sea" and "20 Million Miles to Earth". ...more info
- THE STUFF DREAMS ARE MADE OF & AFI'S #23 ......!!!
IN A NUTSHELL: IT IS ALL ABOUT CHARACTER
This is probably the best film noir, detective thriller of all time. It is economically-plotted, fast-paced and bubbling with cinematic chemistry. Sydney Greenstreet made a career for himself with his awesome, supporting-role performance that earned him an Oscar nomination.
WHAT IT IS: [some plot spoilers included in this FAST SYNOPSIS]
The film seems to be about a petty case for a small-time detective agency, Spade & Archer. The detectives get caught up by Mary Astor who goes by a host of aliases, who pays a $200 retainer to Spade and his partner Miles Archer (Jerome Cowan) if they'll protect her from Floyd Thursby. The detectives don't believe or care to believe in Ms. Astor's [Brigid O'Shaughnessy] story, but they believe in her $200. Later that evening, Archer is shot to death while on the job as is Thursby. Who did it and why becomes the reason for Sam Spade to get involved and therein lies the plot of this film.
The next day, Sam Spade [Bogart] is then introduced to and held at gunpoint by Joel Cairo (Peter Lorre) who mentions the "statue of a large bird" to Spade for the first time. Spade slowly discovers that Brigid is not quite the nice girl she pretends to be and that she has been involved in international intrigue over some vague-sounding, medieval treasure. It turns out that Brigid, Cairo and Gutman are all involved in the search for a foot-high, jewel-encrusted statuette in the shape of a falcon. Cairo and Gutman individually offer Spade increasing amounts of cash for delivery of the Maltese Falcon, but they demonstrate that they might just as likely kill him as pay him. Only slowly do we see that Cairo and Gutman are working together.
The climax concerns both the delivery of the bird and the delivery of the ensemble of strange, international criminals into the hands of the police. As an epilogue, Sam Spade tells Ms. O'Shaughnessy about the code of private investigators, mainly that a man is obliged to do something when his partner gets killed. When Bogart says it, it really sticks, even now after 65 years.
In the end, Sam and Brigid take separate paths down to their own Hells. Brigid takes the elevator in police custody and Sam takes the stairs of his accord.
THE CAST - PRODUCTION CREW - AWARDS
Humphrey Bogart - Sam Spade
Mary Astor - Brigid O'Shaughnessy
Peter Lorre - Joel Cairo
Sydney Greenstreet - Kasper Gutman the Fat Man
Ward Bond - Detective Tom Polhaus
Barton MacLane - Detective Lt. Dundy
Gladys George - Iva Archer
Lee Patrick - Effie Perine
John Huston - Director / Screenwriter
Dashiell Hammett - Book Author
Arthur Edeson - Cinematographer
Adolph Deutsch - Composer (Music Score)
Leo F. Forbstein - Musical Direction/Supervision
Tom Richards - Editor
Hal B. Wallis - Production Designer
Robert M. Haas - Art Director
Best Picture (nom) 1941 Academy
Best Screenplay (nom) John Huston 1941 Academy
Best Supporting Actor (nom) Sydney Greenstreet 1941 Academy
Best Acting (win) Humphrey Bogart 1941 National Board of Review
Best Acting (win) Mary Astor 1941 National Board of Review
U.S. National Film Registry (win) 1988 Library of Congress
100 Greatest American Movies (win) 1998 American Film Institute
ABOUT THE DVD:
This is a less-than-wonderful transfer with some audio glitches, especially in the last part of the film. Video quality was very good, but not up to the standard of the "Criterion" restorations. Nevertheless, this DVD plays at least as well as any of the many video releases of this film. Also, I found it impossible to utilize all the features on the menu as have some other Amazon reviewers. Specifically, the filmography only worked for Bogart but none of the other actors.
The featurette, "Documentary: Becoming Attractions: The Trailers of Humphrey Bogart", were interesting but not specifically relevant to this film as much to Bogart's transition from supporting actor to leading man.
Available Subtitles: English, French
Available Audio Tracks: English (Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono)
Documentary: Becoming Attractions: The Trailers of Humphrey Bogart, a documentary look at Bogart's Warner Bros. career through trailers of his films, hosted by Turner Classic Movies' On-Air Personality Robert Osborne
2 Theatrical Trailers
A History of Mystery Essay
BOTTOM LINE: A CRUCIBLE OF TEMPTATION AND CHARACTER - A POTENT DUO
Yes, it is all about character. Cairo and Gutman offer increasing amounts of cold, hard cash while femme fatale Brigid, offers hot, soft love, and more love to tempt Spade, but in exchange for WHAT? HIS SOUL PERHAPS?! In any event, tempt this cheap detective as they may, he isn't joining in and their numbers are all up -- literally because of Spade's character, which stands up to several kinds of severe temptation. This gem is thought by many to be the greatest detective mystery of all time and the first real film noir....more info
- John Huston's directorial debut
After working as a screenwriter, John Huston was finally allowed to direct a film in 1941 when Warner Brothers chose him to adapt Dashiell Hammett's classic detective novel "The Maltese Falcon." Actually, Warners had already filmed the story before, with rather mixed results. It is a tribute to Huston's abilities that he was able to produce the definitive film version of the story and establish Humphrey Bogart as a major star.
Bogart had, of course, already been steadily growing as an actor, particularly due to his work as gangsters in the legendary "The Petrified Forest" and "High Sierra." In "The Maltese Falcon" Bogart played a private detective and brought a combination of sarcasm and menace to the role. His portrayal of Sam Spade became one of the greatest roles of his career and established his versatility, even if he sometimes complained about being forced to play parts he didn't like (the fate of other major Warners stars such as Bette Davis and Olivia DeHavilland).
It's delightful, however, to watch Bogart's detective matching wits with the likes of Gladys George, Mary Astor, Sidney Greenstreet (in his screen debut at age 61!), Peter Lorre, Elisha Cook, Ward Bond, etc. Huston clearly had a very good cast and he used them well, even challenging the censors with Peter Lorre's prissy Joel Cairo. The onscreen relationships are all rather unusual and remarkable for a 1941 film.
The pacing of the film is also quite good, through skillful use of the camera and careful editing. Huston was innovative in using sets that appear to have real ceilings, something that Orson Welles also did that same year in "Citizen Kane." Although filmed on the Warners lot in Burbank, Huston was able to use some second unit shots of San Francisco and clever intercutting with duplicates of San Francisco scenes to create the illusion that the film was actually filmed entirely in San Francisco. Huston also accurately represented key elements of "the City," as local residents called it, whether it be the use of actual street names or buildings much like those found in San Francisco.
For the first time Huston even utilized his own father, Walter, in a brief but key scene in which the actual statue of the falcon is delivered. Years later, of course, Walter Huston had a major role, again with Bogart, in "The Treasure of the Sierra Madre."
Perhaps the bird in the story is much like Alfred Hitchcock's "MacGuffin" in so many of his films. While the falcon is supposedly found, only to prove a fake, the really important thing is learning who was responsible for the three murders in the story. As with the original story, Huston manages to keep us guessing, not revealing the final truths until almost the end of the film. Little wonder that many consider this the greatest detective film ever made....more info