The Maltese Falcon
John Huston’s 1941 film, The Maltese Falcon, starring Humphrey Bogart, Mary Astor, Peter Lorre, Gladys George and Sydney Greenstreet is a masterpiece of Film Noir genre; a true classic. I recently reviewed… another excellent film noir called The Big Sleep. Humphrey Bogart was the lead character in that movie, as well. Although, it is an excellent film, I think that The Maltese Falcon is better. At least Bogei’s acting was better. And let us not forget Adolph Deutsch’s soundtrack. It is what it is and better yet, it is what it is supposed to be: A major supporting element for the film… Kudos!
Unfortunately, this review will not be so in depth as was The Big Sleep, for one thing, because I haven’t read Dashiell Hammett’s novel. At the moment I am currently tackling Henry Miller’s brutal novel Tropic of Cancer. Perhaps someday I will get to it, but truth be told, I was quite satisfied with Huston’s film rendition. And why not, I recommend it highly. If you are into murder-mystery and are also a Film Noir aficionado, this is a must see film!
Ok, let’s get to it. The story centers on private investigator Sam Spade. Miss Wonderly, I love her name and you will see why shortly, of refined social class, comes over to see Spade about the disappearance of her sister, in San Francisco. Spade takes the case, which he and his partner Archer think is easy-street money. However, that very same evening Mr. Archer is blown away, shot dead at point blank. All Sam has to say about his partner’s death is, —Tough luck! … —Yeah, he is a sweetheart alright, is he not?
—Yes sweetheart —said Spade to his secretary as she walks in into his office, while he is fixing himself a cigarette.
—There’s a girl wants to see you. Her name’s Wonderly —said Effie, his secretary.
—I guess so. You’ll want to see her anyway… She’s a knock out!
—Shoo her in, Effie darling… shoo her in —said Spade, while putting his cigarette in his mouth and sets fire to it.
Sam’s secretary is a true darling, an old-days-used-to-be-better breath of fresh air; boy I love her silly. I wish I could have one just like her. But nowadays, with all the political correctness nonsense, someone like her would be harder to get hold of than a greased pig!
—You’re an angel … a nice rattle-brained angel Effie! —said Spade tenderly, through the smoke.
—You worry me. You always think you know what you’re doing but you’re too slick for your own good, and some day you’re going to find out —said Effie to Sam.
Sam asks Effie to break the news to his partner’s wife and to keep her at bay. He just doesn’t want to see her. He comes into his office and the widow appears. Effie cannot stop her from seeing Sam. She comes into his office and as soon as she closes the door behind her, she jumps into his arms and French-kisses him passionately and Spade doesn’t withdraw. As it turns out, he was having an affair with her and she now thinks that they are free to get it on, at last. Nice going, Sam … Ha ha ha!
Throughout some convoluted plot we find out that the whole thing is about money … What a surprise. There is a Maltese Falcon black bird statuette which is supposed to be extremely valuable and a lot of people are getting murder over it. Oh yeah, I forgot. Mrs. Wonderly is anything but wonderful. She is deceitful, a lying double-crossing snake and rotten to the core, and Sam falls for her. I guess femme fatale’s can be as addicting as heroin. Ok, I have a confession to make. Yes they are a rush! … Every bit of it and if you can survive them, you will not see a dame in the same light, again! … Bwahaha!
In the turn of events Spade meets Cairo, who is performed by wonderful actor Peter Lorre. Cairo is sleazy, slippery, refined to the point of making you think he is a homosexual and dangerous. He tries to recruit Spade to find the bird. Cairo actually works for major nasty nicknamed the “fat man.” The fat man, performed by Sydney Greenstreet, is huge but he is smart, extremely well educated, polished, someone that could easily make it in the House of Lords and yes, he is lethal. As the story develops Spade gets involved with all the scumbags; but then again, I guess he is at home with them. Lastly, the police are on Sam’s case for murder. And although they are not the brightest saps in town, they do have a legit case against him.
There is not much else that I can say about the film itself. I mean the camera angles are perfect, as is the lighting. Perhaps a little dimmer would serve me better but then again… who cares? The score, the setting, the automobile scenes and just about everything about this film is done superbly. So there you have it.
Well, my dear reader. I am quite sure I have not spoiled the movie for you. If anything you may now be more confused than ever and that would be a good thing. As is customary in my reviews the trailers follow.
Movie Trailer (1941)