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Crime, Drama, Thriller, Mystery, Film-Noir
IMDB rating:
John Huston


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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
The Maltese Falcon 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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Good movie but not as intense as the book.
This is a very good movie but it is at best a watered-down version of the book. This movie does not even come close to capturing the cynicism that permeates throughout the book. Also, Humphrey Bogart is miscast as Sam Spade. In the book, Spade is six-feet tall, is muscular and has blond hair. He crosses the line separating the client from the detective so many times that it is clear that he has joined the gang that he ostensibly had been hired to investigate. He literally becomes one of the thieves, and they are thieves and murderers. Furthermore, Spade obstructs the police who are trying to investigate the case which is involves multiple murders, is not above shaking down people and beating people up and ultimately violates the rights of his client by gaining her confidence and then using the information derived to turn her in to the police, this after he had slept with, stripped her and humiliated her. True, the lady is a murderer, but with extenuating circumstances. Further, Spade is cold-hearted and brutal. He is not above have an affair with his partner's wife and when she comes by for support, brushes her off, this while she is in mourning no less. Now, the question is: why would anyone want to write a such a story? Of course, the answer to that question is purely speculative, but from judging from the nature of the story, the author has a cynical view of American society and questions the honesty and integrity of those institutions that are supposed to protect society. The depiction of the police as being little more than nuisances is a case in point. Two police detectives are investigating a double-homicide, which is serious business, and Spade is refusing to cooperate in the investigation, which, of course, raises suspicions as to his culpability in the crimes. There us nothing about Sam Spade that is heroic, genuine or worthy of emulation. He listens to lies for money and when he learns that the thieves are chasing down something that may be worth a lot of money, he joins the chase, abusing his client's right to confidentiality to extract information, not to help his client but to help himself. The movie depicts Spade in a different light. Here his is cynical but not as overtly brutal. He is not shown sleeping with the woman nor of stripping her naked. He is also shown as having a certain code of conduct which he follows while in the book the code of conduct is discarded in favor of crass expediency. Mary Astor is wonderful in the movie, but she too is miscast. The young lady, Brigid O'Shaughnessy, is a whore who is running with a rough crowd and then steals something from a group of thieves, from which the story evolves. She came to Spade for protection and Spade took her money, thus becoming her employee, and confederate. Now, the question of love between Spade and Brigid comes up in the story. Spade repeatedly evades that question, yet his actions speak louder than words, thus showing that he cannot be honest with himself. His actions show that he cares for her: he has the key to her apartment, he sleeps with her, he kisses her, her caresses her, and intercedes on her behalf when another man, Cairo, attempts to molest her. She has no shame with him. In short, she loves Spade, and in return, Spade informs on her because he doesn't want to become one of her saps, which he had already become the money he took her money. Now, does this mean the movie should not be watched. Of course not, it is a classic and is entertaining. But don't expect to find it as intense as the book, because it is not.
A story led by characters
The film had a great mystery (Which I wasn't spoiled on!) and a really diverse and interesting set of characters. Usually movies of this variety use their main character as a moral center; I really enjoyed that the Maltese Falcon didn't quite do that. Sure, Sam was our protagonist, but he was rough around the ages and put his feelings before those around him. That being said, my favorite relationship in the film was between him and his girl Friday, Effie. They worked against each other seamlessly and I would have gladly watched an entire movie about them.

As film noir goes, this is up there for me in favorites.
cant say much for it
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.
"The stuff that dreams are made of"
Among the movies we not only love but treasure, "The Maltese Falcon" stands as one of those films. Consider what was true after its release in 1941 and was not true before:

(1) The movie defined Humphrey Bogart's performances for the rest of his life; his hard-boiled Sam Spade rescued him from a decade of middling roles in B gangster movies and positioned him for "Casablanca," "Treasure of the Sierra Madre," "The African Queen" and his other classics. (2) It was the first film directed by John Huston, who for more than 40 years would be a prolific maker of movies that were muscular, stylish and daring. (3) It contained the first screen appearance of Sydney Greenstreet, who went on, in "Casablanca" and many other films, to become one of the most striking character actors in movie history. (4) It was the first pairing of Greenstreet and Peter Lorre, and so well did they work together that they made nine other movies, including "Casablanca" in 1942 and "The Mask of Dimitrios" (1944), in which they were not supporting actors but actually the stars. (5) And some film histories consider "The Maltese Falcon" the first film noir.

The moment that sticks out for me comes near the end, when Brigid O'Shaughnessy (Mary Astor) has been collared for murdering Spade's partner. She says she loves Spade. She asks if Sam loves her. She pleads for him to spare her from the law. And he replies, in a speech some people can quote by heart, "I hope they don't hang you, precious, by that sweet neck. . . . The chances are you'll get off with life. That means if you're a good girl, you'll be out in 20 years. I'll be waiting for you. If they hang you, I'll always remember you."

Spade is cold and hard, like his name. When he gets the news that his partner has been murdered, he doesn't blink an eye. Didn't like the guy. Kisses his widow the moment they're alone together. Beats up Joel Cairo (Lorre), loses patience with Greenstreet, throws his cigar into the fire, smashes his glass, barks out a threat, slams the door and then grins to himself in the hallway, amused by his own act.

If he didn't like his partner, Spade nevertheless observes a sort of code involving his death. "When a man's partner is killed," he tells Brigid, "he's supposed to do something about it." He doesn't like the cops, either; the only person he really seems to like is his secretary, Effie (Lee Patrick), who sits on his desk, lights his cigarettes, knows his sins and accepts them. How does Bogart make a character get away with making such a dark guy the hero of a film? Because he does his job according to the rules he lives by, and because we sense (as we always would with Bogart after this role) that the toughness conceals old wounds and broken dreams.

The plot is the last thing you think of about. The Maltese Falcon is a black bird (said to be made of gold and encrusted with jewels) has been stolen, men have been killed for it, and now Gutman (Greenstreet) has arrived with his lackeys (Lorre and Elisha Cook Jr.) to get it back. Spade gets involved because the Mary Astor character hires him to--but the plot goes around and around, and eventually we realize that the black bird is an example of Hitchcock's "MacGuffin"--it doesn't matter what it is, so long as everyone in the story wants or fears it.

To describe the plot in a linear and logical fashion is almost impossible. That doesn't matter. The movie is essentially a series of conversations punctuated by brief, violent interludes. It's all style. It isn't violence or chases, but the way the actors look, move, speak and embody their characters. Under the style is attitude: Hard men, in a hard season, in a society emerging from Depression and heading for war, are motivated by greed and capable of murder. For an hourly fee, Sam Spade will negotiate this terrain. Everything there is to know about Sam Spade is contained in the scene where Bridget asks for his help and he criticizes her performance: "You're good. It's chiefly your eyes, I think--and that throb you get in your voice when you say things like, 'be generous, Mr. Spade.'"
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.
The dawn of American film noir
John Huston jump started the "American noir" genre with this masterpiece. WB, the movie public, and of course, Bogart were lucky for sure that George Raft turned down the role. It marked the film debut of Greenstreet and the beginning of the Huston-Bogart team which reached it's zenith in 1948. That year they topped TMF with film's greatest ever, The Treasure of the Sierra Madre. Huston's incomparable talent for producing great scene after great scene is initiated here in his directorial debut. In his best films which are many there is no dead time because there is something significant happening in every scene. This movie has to be viewed at least twice to be fully appreciated because of the lightning plot speed. Bogart's unmatched screen presence is on full display as he appears in ALL BUT ONE scene and dare's the viewer to take their eyes off him. Still an all-time top ten American film.
The Stuff That Dreams are Made of
The Maltese Falcon was another great film that included Humphrey Bogart. Bogart's character in the film keeps the suspense going until the end when he states who killed Miles Archer, his partner in a San Francisco detective agency.

A lot of long takes are used in this film during scenes of conversation on matters of trying to solve a murder mystery. There are also some scenes that include short fast takes of being zoomed in on individual faces to help us connect with each to see how they are reacting to the investigation.

The dialogue of the film was creatively done to keep my interest as the film went on. The lighting on the movie was a lot of shadow and dim lighting to portray a setting of despair and unknown.

The majority of the film is based on speech rather than physical action. Which in return the audience must pay close attention to so not to miss important details. This kind of directing and writing by John Huston creates a different type of film for audience to enjoy while along with the characters trying to solve the mystery.

The search for the Maltese Falcon Bogart is able to solve the crime while keeping the Maltese Falcon. Ending of the movie is the best part for me with the conversation between Sam Spade (Humphrey Bogart) and Brigid O'Shaughnessy (Mary Astor) and him expressing his true feelings for her but that he must do the right thing for what she has done. His dedication to his job takes over his feelings. Money being the root of evil is the main reason for all this fuss over a Falcon that had no real significance all along. The Stuff that Dreams are Made of.... can turn out to be nothing but a nightmare.
the ultimate classic noir
Sam Spade (Humphrey Bogart) and Miles Archer run a private detective agency in San Francisco. The Maltese Falcon is a golden jewel encrusted statue that the Knight Templars of Malta sent to Charles V of Spain in 1539 that was stolen by pirates. Miss Wanderly comes in to hire Sam to help recover her missing sister for $200. She is to meet Floyd Thursby that night with Miles following her. However Miles is shot dead that night and so is Thursby. Sam had been having an affair with Miles' wife Iva (Gladys George) and is a suspect for everybody. Miss Wanderly is actually Brigid O'Shaughnessy (Mary Astor) and she tells Sam that Thursby was her partner coming from HongKong. She begs him for his help but he doesn't trust her. Joel Cairo (Peter Lorre), with gardenia scented calling cards, offers to pay $5000 for the Maltese Falcon but also held a gun on him. Sam gathers Brigid and Joel Cairo together. She reveals that the 'Fat Man' is around who turns out to be Kasper Gutman (Sydney Greenstreet).

The crackling dialog comes fast and furious. It's a tough thing to get all at once. It's a great noir hard-boiled film. The character are hardnosed and classic. It's a complicated story with a lot of exposition to follow. That's its biggest weakness and its most enduring fascination. It's a story where everybody is a liar and nobody reveals the truth easily. Peter Lorre is absolutely devilishly creepy in his memorable role. He is part of what makes this a true classic.
The Maltese Falcon (1941)
Another film I've wanted to see for ages! And it didn't disappoint. I will definitely be watching this again, as it was difficult to focus on the plot and pay attention to camera and lighting work at the same time. Both of which were really lovely. There's probably some debate about this being film noir, but I think it qualifies—the lighting was just great. I love dark photography so of course film noir is a favorite. The camera angles and some of the tracking shots were particularly nice.

I really love the characters in this. Although there is a "good guy" and a "bad guy" in the usual sense, all of the characters have their flaws. I especially like the scene between Brigid and Sam near the ending. Bogart was perfect for Spade, and his performance made the film.
See Casablanca instead. . .
for Bogart, Lorre, and Greenstreet, with Ingrid Bergman instead of Mary Astor.

Many other reviews remark upon the historic significance of The Maltese Falcon, and I acknowledge the movie deserves props for Bogie's turn as Sam Spade and for snappy dialog. But I have issues with TMF as a true classic rather than a relic of the early days of film noir.

First, there's the femme fatale and alleged bombshell, Bridget O'Shaughnessy played by Mary Astor, whose performance has makeup an inch thick on it. Totally brittle from beginning to end. No chemistry that I can see between Bogie and Astor, or between Astor and anybody for that matter. Yes, Miles Archer goes gaga over her, because the script calls for him to. I haven't seen Astor in anything else, but surely she's been better elsewhere.

Similarly, Mrs. Archer doesn't come off as worthy of Spade's attentions. She's mostly there to tip us off to Spade's being morally compromised.

Second, I see many references to the menace exuded by Lorre and Greenstreet, but again I don't see it. Casablanca has Nazis in it, so L & G can do what they do well as supporting characters without having to affect stagy menace. These guys ain't exactly Robert Mitchum or Jack Palance or even Edward G Robinson; I actually got the impression that L & G are camping it up.

Third, the quest for the Maltese Falcon just doesn't seem that compelling, even as people are being killed along the way. A great treasure like the "dingus" surely should have more interesting villains than this chasing it. Instead we get cartoonish characters, none more so than the pipsqueak Elisha Cook as Greenstreet's muscle. whom he allegedly regards as like his own son or so he says.

In my opinion a movie about the stuff dreams are made of and the obsessions of those chasing those dreams shouldn't be pausing every so often for a chuckle or two. I don't think TMF ever made up its mind whether the characters should be taken seriously and tried too often to have it both ways.

In sum, I feel like TMF is being graded on the curve. It's good compared to what came before it, but it's nowhere close to being in the same league as Chinatown, where John Huston, TMF's director, conveys the menace that Lorre and Greenstreet don't.
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