The Maltese Falcon

A story as EXPLOSIVE as his BLAZING automatics!

Mystery Crime Thriller
100 min     7.758     1941     USA


A private detective takes on a case that involves him with three eccentric criminals, a beautiful liar, and their quest for a priceless statuette.


barrymost wrote:
This is one of the rare and shining examples of film-making at its absolute finest. As close to perfect as you can get in movies, it's a masterpiece not only of its genre, but of all genres, for all time. The ensemble cast headed by the great Humphrey Bogart is spectacular, as is the flawless direction by John Huston. If you're a classic film fanatic, or just a person who enjoys a good movie, then shame on you if you haven't seen this yet.
John Chard wrote:
The cheaper the crook, the gaudier the patter. Sam Spade is a tough private detective who gets involved in a murderous hunt for The Maltese Falcon, a legendary statuette thought to contain diamonds. What can I possibly say about this version of The Maltese Falcon that hasn't been said, written and studied by the greatest film critics and industry members before? Well nothing by way of new stuff or a differing slant on the plot, I can merely concur and hopefully jolt prospective first time viewers into believing the reputation afforded this stunning piece of cinema. First off I have to let it be known that this is far from being my favourite Bogart movie, in fact it's not even my favourite Bogart movie from 1941!, it's well trumped in my affections by "High Sierra", but few films ever get as close to being perfect as "The Maltese Falcon" clearly is. The source from Dashiell Hammett is first rate, and yet it took someone like John Huston (director and screenwriter) to bring it triumphantly together. It had been adapted for the screen twice before with less than favourable results, but Huston, working tightly from Hammett's dialogue driven astuteness, crafts a claustrophobic, shadowy classic amongst classics, that in the process laid the cornerstone for what became known as essential film noir. You will search in vain for faults here, every scene is as tight as a duck's bottom, not one filler scene is in this picture. The cast are across the board perfect in performances, Bogart (Spade) is peerless, Mary Astor, Peter Lorre, Sydney Greenstreet (film debut) and Elisha Cook Jr. stand out, but every other member of this cast also add something worthwhile. The plot (of which I'm "so" not going to summarise for you) is complex to a degree, but really it all makes sense, you do not need to be Albert Einstein to knit the twisters nicely together. Also don't be fooled into thinking this is a film devoid of humour either, it has deadly wry smirks popping up all over the place, ok so they may be the sort of smirks brought about by devilish unease of admiration, but rest assured they are valid and integral to the pic's classic standing. I could go on fawning but I really don't need too, The Academy may well have saw fit to not award this picture any awards for 1941, but time is an immeasurable force sometimes, and time now shows that The Maltese Falcon stands proud as not only a titan of cinematic entertainment, but also of technical movie brilliance. 10/10
Peter McGinn wrote:
This is a pretty good movie that ages fairly well, but I do not feel compelled to pour superlatives down over as most reviews do, both critics and regular viewers. The actors look like they are having fun with it and this classic movie is worth watching just because of that. The dialogue, which I like to think is a specialty in my own otherwise unremarkable novels, is excellent. I had trouble with how blasé Sam Spade seems to be with the bad news he received near the beginning, and how he reacted to it. (He redeemed himself a bit at the end in a passionate little speech about partners). And all the patter about love between Sam Spade and Miss O’Shaughnessey seemed silly to me, as there was never any sign they were connecting and getting closer: never mind they were also plotting each other’s downfall. Personally, Sam, I think your own assistant Effie was cuter, sweeter and a better catch. But the movie is fun to watch and the mystery solving ending by Mr. Spade is top-notch stuff. The supporting cast is fine. See if you can pick out the guy who played Bert the cabdriver in Its A Wonderful Life (“My mouth’s bleeding, Bert! My mouth’s bleeding!”). And if you look closely, you can see Humphrey Bogart curl his mouth in that way the comic impressionists always exaggerate when they impersonate him. There is only one Humphrey Bogart.
CinemaSerf wrote:
Recently re-released in glorious 4K (nope, I couldn't tell the difference, either) but, hey - any excuse to see this wonderful crime noir on a big screen again is OK with me. When "Brigid" (Mary Astor) approaches PI "Sam Spade" (Humphrey Bogart) and his partner "Archer" (Jerome Cowan) with a dodgy sounding story about her sister being kidnapped by her older lover, they don't believe a word of it - but $200 (and a bit of a shine to the lady from "Archer") gets them to go through the motions. Well: they were right about one thing - her story was riddled with holes, but not so many as "Archer" becomes, and soon "Spade" and the police are trying to track down/avoid the murderer whilst trying to establish some sort of motive. Enter the stars of the film, for me, anyway - the uber-sleazy "Joel Cairo" (Peter Lorre) and "Gutman" (Sydney Greenstreet), the avuncular gentleman who has most of the pieces of the puzzle and who is as dangerous and devious as he is charming and disarming... Will "Spade" get to the bottom of the mystery before he ends up brown bread? That's where the film falls down a bit - there is precious little jeopardy to the plot; indeed the last fifteen or twenty minutes are just a little disappointing - rushed even. Bogey is superb in the part, though - his portrayal reeks of a wonderful cynic, a seen-it-all-before ground down sort of man who takes his first drink of the day from the same glass he took his last from the day before and Astor is efficient, though not terribly engaging, as the lynchpin upon which much of the film depends. It's 80 years old now - and I still think the use of a strong score from Adolph Deutsch, some wonderfully evocative lighting and effects (it rains quite a lot!) and, of course, a strong cast with a good story, takes some beating.