The Maltese Falcon
Humphrey Bogart, Peter Lorre, Sidney Greenstreet
Written and Directed by John Huston
Warner Brothers 1941
100 minutes

This is the granddaddy of all film noir and it stands the passage of time pretty well if you can forgive some of the emoting. The Maltese Falcon is the movie you absolutely must see at least once in your life if you are a fan of the hard-boiled mystery and detective movies. Sam Spade allowed Humphrey Bogart to break away from playing bad guys – although you are never too sure about Spade until the end — made John Huston as a director, and established a whole genre of filmmaking. All this based on the Dashiell Hammet novel, many lines of which are used verbatim in the movie.

As convoluted plots go, this movie certainly has one. Many people are after a jewel encrusted gold falcon that has historically kept appearing and disappearing. Amongst the villains looking for the bird are Joel Cairo (Peter Lorre), the Fat Man Kasper Gutman (Sidney Greenstreet) and Mary Astor as Brigid O’Shaughnessy. Nobody can trust anybody and this is made clear from the start when you find out Spade was having an affair with his partner’s wife.

This is the movie every filmmaker studies as part of an introductory course. There are very few exterior scenes (the only extended one, that of the discovery of Archer’s body, seems somehow fake) so the movie takes place in small rooms that seem to put everybody on edge.

The only flaw with this classic is Warner Brothers. We are talking here about a top ten mystery and all they can do as extras is a collection of Bogart trailers. There is no commentary from an expert such as Leonard Maltin or a fan such as Quentin Tarrantino.

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