The Maltese Falcon (John Huston, 1941)

02Sep10

Humphrey Bogart (Sam Spade), Mary Astor (Bridget O’Shaughnessy), Peter Lorre (Joel Cairo), Sydney Greenstreet (Kasper Gutman). Screenplay by John Huston. Directed by John Huston. Rating: PG. Running time: 101 minutes.

With hindsight, then, it is apparently here where it all most evidently began: noir and the femme fatale, mysterious MacGuffins, and even Bogart as the cigar smoking suave man he ended up making a career out of. You can see that it was the guy he played here that Breathless‘ Michel Poiccard modelled himself so strongly on, and rightly so. Sam Spade is as hard but cool as his name sounds: a private investigator stoical about the mysterious deaths of almost anyone around him, able to wow a lady without any warning of a forthcoming embrace and kiss, and perfectly capable of knocking a guy unconscious with one simple punt of the clenched fist in a way modern movies a la Salt would nowadays have us believe was impossible. Spade guides us through The Maltese Falcon‘s ludicrously elusive plot without not once looking unstylish: for some reason some guys are after a really old statue of a bird deemed to be of extreme value. The explanation of its worth runs back to the 15th Century in a way which would be reminiscent of Indiana Jones were it not for the city setting and hat-wearing serious men, all of which are on a constant tip-off trail to, ultimately, make a lot of money whilst perhaps threatening a few people with guns along the way. Revelatory stuff at the time, I’m sure, and perhaps in all fairness still pretty damn classy to this day. Having seen this type of thing done a million times since though, it’s hard to appreciate it for the classic it grew to be revered as, even if it were the original. If there’s any chance you’re going to see it in that way, though, it’s Bogart that will make it possible.

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One Response to “The Maltese Falcon (John Huston, 1941)”


  1. 1 Casablanca (Michael Curtiz, 1942) « jacob williamson | thoughts on film

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