The Maltese Falcon (1941 )

Directed by John Huston
Cinematography Arthur Edeson
A private detective takes on a case that involves him with three eccentric criminals, a gorgeous liar, and their quest for a priceless statuette.
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With its low-key lighting and inventive and arresting angles, the work of Director of Photography Arthur Edeson is one of the film’s great assets. Unusual camera angles—sometimes low to the ground, revealing the ceilings of rooms (a technique also used by Orson Welles and his cinematograher Gregg Toland on Citizen Kane)—are utilized to emphasize the nature of the characters and their actions. Some of the most technically striking scenes involve Gutman, especially the scene where he explains the history of the Falcon to Spade, purposely drawing out his story so that the knockout drops he has slipped into Spade’s drink will take effect. Meta Wilde, Huston’s longtime script supervisor, remarked of this scene:

One of the Most Entertaining Films of Its Kind

21 September 2001 | by Snow Leopard (Ohio) – See all my reviews

With a fine combination of cast, characters, story, and atmosphere, this classic is one of the most entertaining films of its kind, enjoyable even after several viewings. It gets you right into the action and introduces you to a list of interesting personalities, who mesh together nicely and who are also matched well with the cast members. Beyond that, it’s also effective as a character study involving greed, trust and distrust, and conflicting ethics.

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Sam Spade is an ideal role for Bogart, giving him plenty to work with and some very good dialogue as well. Peter Lorre and Sydney Greenstreet are very entertaining, providing suitable foils for Bogart, and they really take the film up a notch. The rest of the cast also works well (worth mentioning is Elisha Cook, Jr., whose character doesn’t do a lot, but who provides Bogart with some very amusing moments at his expense). The story is nicely adapted from the novel, and each scene is constructed well, with everything moving along nicely from start to finish.

If you are a fan of either film noir or mysteries, make this a must-see. There are very few films that work as well as “The Maltese Falcon”.

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Top notch mystery that kicked off the film noir genre of the 1940s

Author: back2wsoc from Chicago, Illinois
1 December 2002

“The Maltese Falcon”, scripted and directed by Hollywood first-timer John Huston (from Dashiell Hammett’s novel), would go on to become an American film classic. Humphrey Bogart chews the scenery in his star-making turn as acid-tongued private eye Sam Spade, whose association with the beautiful and aloof Brigid O’Shaughnessy (Mary Astor), neurotic Joel Cairo (Peter Lorre), and morbidly obese Kasper Gutman (Sydney Greenstreet, in his Oscar-nominated screen debut) over the recovery of the title object, sets in motion a movie experience that is as much crackling as it is dazzling. While much of the action and dialogue is considerably dated by modern standards, the film’s essential power to mystify and entrance remains undiminished despite its age.

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While this was the third adaptation of Hammett’s story (the first was made in 1931 and the second was “Satan Met a Lady” (1936)), this is also the best remembered and most praised, due largely in part to Bogart’s seemingly effortless portrayal of the tough but softhearted, world-weary hero. Mary Astor and Lee Patrick were, respectively, the definitive femme fatale and girl Friday, and the villianous roles of Cairo, Gutman and Wilmer (Elisha Cook Jr.) were equally remarkable. What may not be wholly obvious is the fact that these three men have homosexual tendencies (as given in the novel), but just look at what’s given: Cairo’s delicate speech and manner, Wilmer’s questionable quick tempered attitude towards Spade (could this be covering up the fact that he finds Spade attractive?) and Gutman’s clutching of Spade’s arm when Sam arrives at his hotel room. A polished film noir that gave rise to Bogart’s mounting popularity. (Sidenote: The character of Sam Spade was originally offered to George Raft, who turned it down. Raft also turned down “Casablanca” (1942), “High Sierra” (1941) and William Wyler’s “Dead End” (1937), all of which went to Bogart and helped to boost his star status. Bogart had Raft to thank for his enduring popularity.) A must-see masterpiece. ****

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The Fat Man Cometh

Author: Lechuguilla from Dallas, Texas
4 November 2007

Considered by many film historians as the very first noir film, “The Maltese Falcon” is cinematically important also for making Humphrey Bogart into a Hollywood star, and for being the debut of John Huston as film Director.

The film’s story is complex and convoluted, typical of detective films of that era, and involves a valuable statuette. The plot stalls and meanders throughout most of the film, as we encounter an assortment of strange characters and side issues. But this is not a plot-driven film. It is character-driven.

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And the main character, of course, is PI Sam Spade (Bogart). He’s not a particularly nice guy. He comes across as overconfident and egotistic. He smirks a lot. But he’s tough as nails. And he knows how to nail the bad guys. A big part of the film is Spade’s relationship to femme fatale Brigid (Mary Astor). They engage each other in a battle of wits. And there’s more than a hint of romantic involvement between the two. But Brigid is the one who propels Spade into the deceiving and double-crossing world of bad guys who yearn with greed for the priceless Maltese Falcon.

Enter Kasper Gutman, that thoroughly rotund and intimidating (in a gentlemanly sort of way) king of greed, portrayed with verve and panache by the inimitable Sydney Greenstreet. Gutman, AKA the “Fat Man”, is nothing if not erudite and self-assured. In one scene, Sam Spade makes a bold offer. Gutman responds articulately: “That’s an attitude sir that calls for the most delicate judgment on both sides, because as you know sir, in the heat of action, men are likely to forget where their best interests lie …”.

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And Peter Lorre is a hoot as Gutman’s mischievous elf, Joel Cairo, who tries, without success, to threaten Sam Spade, but only succeeds at getting on Sam’s nerves.

The film’s high contrast B&W lighting renders an effective noir look and feel, one that would be copied in films for years to come. Acting varies from very good to overly melodramatic. The script is very talky. For the most part, the film is just a series of conversations that take place in interior sets.

Stylistic and cinematically innovative, “The Maltese Falcon” has endured as a film classic. I suspect the main reason for its continued popularity is the continued popularity of Bogart. But I personally prefer the performance of Sydney Greenstreet, the enticing fat man. Yet, together they would reappear in later films, one of which would follow, in 1942, as the classic of all classics.

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A classic with good reason

10/10
Author: Surecure from Canada
21 March 2006

While there are films that are considered classic for their technical achievements and classics that resound with audiences for a feel-good emotion, The Maltese Falcon stands in that group that is a classic for every aspect of its creative makeup. With a brilliant script, talented direction and some outstanding performances, The Maltese Falcon stands up today as well as it did upon release.

When Sam Spade — played brilliantly by Humphrey Bogart — and his partner Archer are hired to tail a rich eccentric by a woman who claims her sister is being unwittingly kept separated from her by the rich eccentric, it seems like just another case. But when Archer and the eccentric are gunned down and all fingers point to Sam Spade for conflicting yet damning reasons, Spade is thrown into a whirlwind of deceptions that all point in one direction: a Maltese statue of a falcon.

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Bogart demonstrates clearly why he is one of the great classic actors of the 20th century, and indeed one of the most natural screen actors ever. His charisma, charm and intense masculine looks give him a presence that simply dominates the screen. With a host of other great talents to fill the screen, there is not a moment of wasted performance. The direction is tight and driving and the pacing never lets up. And the script demonstrates why there are less and less truly great films being released in present day: the writers and directors of the golden age of cinema knew that subtlety works ten times more effectively than the modern in-your-face all-the-time works.

The Maltese Falcon is a timeless work that deserves its place in the list of greatest films ever made.

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cant say much for it

6/10
Author: alwaysdubbin91 from upstate New York
10 December 2012
*** This review may contain spoilers ***

i wont say it was an awful movie, but i was not terribly impressed. i guess the story was kinda cool with Spade being a somewhat crooked private detective, if you give him enough money he’ll really do anything. it was a fairly fast paced movie, but that definitely does not mean it was exciting. there was a whole lot of word games, some of which became a little too confusing for me at points, you really have to be paying your full attention to keep pace with some of the conversations. as for the photography, i thought it was really pretty good. the use of light was pretty clever in a few different shots. there was also one pretty darn long take at one point, very subtle though. as the rating reflects i didn’t like the film as much as most people, but to each their own.

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3rd and most famous film version

7/10
Author: disdressed12 from Canada
30 March 2010

i enjoyed this most famous version of the story.it’s as good as the previous two.Humphrey Bogart plays the Sam Spade role and is good,there’s no question there.but the real standout to me is Peter Lorre as Joel Cairo.Lorre exudes menace from every pore.he owns the movie in my opinion.i also liked Sydney Greenstreet as Kasper Gutman.overall,this third version is comparable to the other two.i can’t say it’s any better or worse.i think the reason it’s so acclaimed is because it’s directed by John Huston and Stars Humphrey Bogart,which doesn’t automatically make it a better movie.don’t get me wrong.it’s a good film but i wonder how many people have actually watched the two previous version of this story first,and would this version bee rated as high if more people had seen the other versions first?anyway,for me, this third version of The Maltese Falcon is a 7/10

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