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The Maltese Falcon
Crime, Drama, Thriller, Mystery, Film-Noir
IMDB rating:
John Huston
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
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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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.
The Maltese Falcon, (1941)
John Huston (director of The Maltese Falcon) did an amazing job by keeping the viewers on their feet. By the two murders, the guy who follows Sam everywhere, and how Joel Cairo and Sam have their problems. For example, when Cairo comes into Sam's office and threatens him, I thought that scene was great for keeping the viewers interested. Also, another scene like that is when Sam sets up a meeting for Cairo and Brigid and the cops intrude. I loved the drama in the film. Huston used some close-up shots to display the items or scenes that you needed to be focused on. He also uses low-angle shots looking up at Gutman when Sam and Gutman have their meeting and a "drink" about the falcon. I also love how everything ends up in the end, you never know what's going to happen.
When I slap you, you'll take it and like it
Tough and gritty, the film noir classic The Maltese Falcon from 1941 has a fantastic cast, led by Humphrey Bogart in the role of hardboiled detective Sam Spade. A dame played by, whoops, a woman played by Mary Astor shows up in his office looking for a guy, but for reasons she's not being truthful about. A couple of murders later, Bogart comes to understand she and others are searching for a priceless antique, a statue of a falcon (from Malta, naturally). Bogart must navigate the waters between the police, who suspect him, the various tough guys, one of whom is the fantastic Peter Lorrie, and Mary Astor's character, who he's attracted to, but knows he cannot trust. Along the way, he'll blow smoke in a guy's face, take and give punches, and deliver several good lines, my favorites of which were "When I slap you, you'll take it and like it", and of course, the last one, in response to being asked what the falcon statue was, saying it's "the stuff dreams are made of". It's regarded as a classic, but for me it's good-not-great. I think one of the issues is the connection to Astor, I didn't see any real chemistry between the two of them, rendering a couple of the scenes false. It's certainly worth watching though.
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.
A Statuette To Die For
"The Maltese Falcon" is the unforgettable, groundbreaking crime drama which is regarded by many as the first film noir of the classic period. Its significance in Hollywood history is enormous as it provided John Huston with his directorial debut and Humphrey Bogart with the role which made him into a major star. Huston's screenplay famously remained very faithful to the style of dialogue used in Dashiell Hammett's book and in so doing provided some wonderfully economic and incisive lines, particularly for Bogart's character.

Bogart's role also had a broader significance because as Sam Spade, he brought to the screen a new type of hard boiled detective who was destined to become the template for a whole succession of others who would appear in numerous films noirs particularly in the 1940s and 1950s. These men would be morally ambiguous , fast talking tough guys who had a cynical attitude to the world and who lived by their own set of principles.

Sam Spade is no one's idea of nice guy. He keeps his emotions armour plated and when his business partner is suddenly murdered shows no concern of any sort. He had also been having an affair with his partner's wife but in his dealings with her, he also seems rather cold and offhand. Despite these characteristics and his obviously jaundiced attitude to life and people, his character is redeemed to some extent by a subtle quality which Bogart's innate charisma brings to the part.

In "The Maltese Falcon" Spade is hired by a Miss Wonderley (Mary Astor) to find her sister. This job leads to the death of his partner Miles Archer (Jerome Cowan) and shortly after, to the murder of the alleged seducer of Miss Wonderley's sister. Miss Wonderley then contacts Spade and tells him that her real name is Brigid O'Shaughnessy and that the story about her sister had been as false as the name she'd given him and she then pays him to find out who was responsible for the two murders.

Spade's subsequent investigations bring him into contact with Joel Cairo (Peter Lorre), the "Fat Man" Kasper Gutman (Sydney Greenstreet) and his henchman Wilmer (Elisha Cook Jnr.) and it becomes apparent that they are all on a ruthless quest to locate the priceless statuette called "The Maltese Falcon". Furthermore, he discovers that O'Shaughnessy's earlier subterfuge had been linked to the fact that she also had been trying to find the "Falcon". Spade eventually identifies the murderer and informs the police who go on to arrest the culprit.

Brigid O'Shaughnessy had acted naive, timid and vulnerable when she had first encountered Spade but his natural scepticism prevented him from being taken in by her. Joel Cairo was a small, nervy, effeminate man and Wlmer was generally a silent presence during Spade's conversations with the "Fat Man". Gutman was sophisticated, good humoured and friendly on the surface but was also extremely dangerous and untrustworthy. He also delivers some amusing and eccentric lines such as when speaking to Spade he says "Now Sir, we'll talk if you like and I'll tell you right out that I'm a man who likes talking to a man that likes to talk".

Bogart and Huston worked well together and went on to collaborate on other major successes such as "The Treasure of the Sierra Madre" (1948), "Key Largo" (1948) and "The African Queen" (1951). "The Maltese Falcon" was also a great box office success, was well received by the critics and was also nominated for Academy Awards for Best Picture, Best Supporting Actor (Sydney Greenstreet) and Best Adapted Screenplay (John Huston).
"For twenty years, I will wait for you. If they hang you, I will always remember you."
In this case, the term "director's debut of" falling into the water. This beginning of a career for me is incomprehensibly good. I am aware that this is a film adaptation of the novel. However, this directorial beginning is rarely seen.

The story revolves around a private investigator, who gets involved with three greedy, reckless and murderous adventurers who compete with each other to get the famous statue of the falcon encrusted jewels worth millions. The story is formidable circled, accompanied by excellent „detective dialogues" and I have nothing to add. Layered story full of plot provides a true pleasure and unusual experience for film buffs, regardless of taste. The atmosphere is mesmerizing. Light, darkness and shadows cast in this film as much as those of flesh and blood. The term of Maltese Falcon is certainly mystical, but the mysteries of the statue is in relation to other elements of the film fell into the background. Humphrey Bogart (Sam Spade) with his left hand epitomized detective of all time. Ambiguous hero who is both honorable and greedy. Mary Astor as Brigid O'Shaughnessy is femme fatale. Damsel in distress or rather trouble in the girl. I think that Astor is not up to Bogart. Although I'm not sure in my statement given to the scene at the end of the film. Peter Lorre as Joel Cairo just shines. Slimy, polished and professional. He's hard to find fault with. Every phenomenon requires slap in the face, shifty is sleek and evil. Perfect. Sidney Greenstreet as extremely eloquent Kasper Gutman, the nicest character. The villain which is pleasant to look at. The dramatic declines other characters are great too.

Spade is the heart of the story. The central figure around which everything revolves. A lone wolf who knows very well for himself, has his principles, but the game is only his, but others are just assistants, agents and sources. Masterfully complicated by the action in which the dark complications transform into each other. Houston with visible ease skipped by frame to frame, draws our attention to what he wants, no matter where the rich and multifaceted actions, scenario comes to the fore, while like lightning striking quick, witty and memorable dialogues. Elegant film, such as the waltz, and in places like the fast train, leaving more than enough room for nuances, good, evil and funny The camera is a precise and captures exactly what we need to see.

THE MALTESE FALCON is a film about morality, justice, human imperfection, preferences vices from the perspective of the main character who is also a certain version of the anti-hero.
Detachment as Aura...and the way they talk!
The Maltese Falcon (1941)

What makes Bogart so cool? And what makes The Maltese Falcon with its ludicrous plot and foamcore characters so untouchable? Three things, in, uh, spades: pace, script, and archetype. All of these make for a stylized film--no gritty realism, no method acting, no penetration. No social commentary. No innovation. Nothing really but a beautiful sprint that leaves you breathless, but not tired.

The film is about style, and coolness (not to be mistaken for hipness--cool as in chilled, unflappable). It has aura, and clever detachment. Even the characters are detached. They are pulled by the events but never, except when the fat man gets out his pocket knife at the end, swept away. One by one, these really great actors get to sharpen the edges of their two- dimensional selves, and it's really amazing to watch.

This is John Huston's first film, and like that little first film by Orson Welles released just six months earlier, it has a scary mastery to it. But if Huston, like Welles, rode the talents of many studio professionals at their peak, he pulled the film away from cinematic excess into what almost feels almost like a fast, and highly distilled, adaptation of a theater production. (It's based, of course, on the detective novel by Dashiell Hammett.) The movie talks a lot because there isn't much to show--nothing physical really happens beyond a couple of fisticuffs--but such talk! When Sydney Greenstreet as Kasper Gutman first meets Bogart's Sam Spade and they share a drink, sit, and light up cigars, Greenstreet (also in his first film) bobs and feints through some fabulous wordplay, ending, with the camera low to make his size only larger: "I'll tell you right out, I'm a man who likes talking to a man who likes to talk."

Bogart says, "Swell," and he talks without giving an inch. He really is "cool" in that way Bogart, through most of his movie roles, still defines for us decades later. Huston must have felt the transcendent power of the still rising star (Casablanca was still a year away) because, ultimately, the film is a vehicle for Bogart being Bogart, in the face of three or four counterparts who are each at their archetypal best. And gosh, Bogie sure knows how to take a gun away from hapless bodyguard played by Elisha Cook, Jr.

The film is no empty exercise in expertise. It creates a fictional world we can understand top to bottom because it's so simple. We enjoy all the principals so much, we happily tag along on the unfolding trail of this improbable "black bird" and its sudden arrival toward the end for the sake of soaking up the characters, as characters. And look how even Bogart at one point looks jittery compared to Greenstreet, whose ponderous ease and guffaws in the face of trauma won him an Oscar nomination. Peter Lorre, plausibly uncertain and almost tender (and who's to say whether homosexual, too, in an wan, period stereotype) in his attempt at badness, is a marvel, someone you talk about later, someone who can parody himself in Capra's 1944 Arsenic and Old Lace (which shares a screenwriter with another Lorre film, Casablanca).

Spade's cynicism, his wariness, his occasional up-and-up certitude (he gives the money back!), and his willingness to laugh at it all, above all, overcome weakness like his so-called romance with the Mary Astor femme fatale. The end actually falls a little flat because we don't believe in their love, but we're not sure he did either. And did we ever believe her? In fact, isn't that part of the trick here, not believing anyone, ever?
"I don't mind a reasonable amount of trouble"
Nobody can be trusted. In the fast-talking, winner-take-all world of private investigation, you must always have eyes at the back of your head, otherwise, you'll wind up with bullets in your back. The overweight, conversational "Fat Man" (Sidney Greenstreet) has a few nasty tricks up his sleeve; the harmless-looking Joel Cairo (Peter Lorre) is determined to complete the task at hand; the frustrated hired hoodlum Wilmer (Elisha Cook, Jr.) knows how to hold a grudge; the deceptive femme fatale Brigid O'Shaughnessy (Mary Astor) speaks naught but lies. This is the seedy world of private dick Sam Spade (the one-and-only Humphrey Bogart), a man who is used to being in control, always cocky in the face of danger, and never afraid to do what it takes to unravel a case. 'The Maltese Falcon' was the second great debut of 1941 (after Orson Welles' effort, of course), and even today remains a gripping and unpredictable thriller, with a perfect cast, intelligent dialogue and a twisted, winding storyline that will keep you guessing until the very end.

Just last night, I was fortunate enough to attend a double-bill cinema screening of 'The Maltese Falcon' and 'The Big Sleep (1946).' The screening was my second viewing for both films, and Hawks' film seemed to receive a stronger audience response. Though both pictures undoubtedly emerge from the same storytelling mould, borne from the hard-boiled fiction of Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler, respectively, there are marked differences to be found in where each director places storytelling emphasis. Whereas 'The Big Sleep' wades determinedly through swathes of seedy characters, many faceless and unseen, John Huston is considerably more concise with regard to his characters and plot. Sam Spade's investigation revolves almost entirely around five central roles, close-knit acquaintances who are continually stabbing one another in the back. This degree of intimacy works well with the story, ensuring that each character has a well-developed personality and back-story to justify their behaviour through the film, however frequently they utilise lies and deception.

'The Maltese Falcon' is often cited as the first true film noir, which isn't entirely accurate. 'Stranger on the Third Floor (1940)' and 'High Sierra (1941)' more closely exhibit the sensibilities of the style, whereas Huston's film is strongly indebted to the pulp crime films of the 1930s, such as 'The Thin Man (1934)' {not coincidentally a Dashiell Hammett creation} and its sequels. Indeed, 'The Maltese Falcon' was in fact the third adaptation of Hammett's 1930 detective novel of the same, but it is generally considered to be the best of the three. What the film did contribute, however, is Mary Astor as the archetypal femme fatale, a lying dame whose rottenness is evident from the beginning, but whose charms are such that men are putty in her hands. The notion of a strong, independent heroine had grown in popularity throughout the thirties, and here it was turned against the usual male oppressor. In the film's cruel but justified ending, Spade acknowledges being influenced by O'Shaughnessy's allure, but ultimately reasserts his dominance by condemning her to prison despite his possible love for her.
The First Real Film Noir
There is just something about a dark and gritty film that I love. When I was finally able to watch this film, it all made sense to me. Humphrey Bogart had gained my respect after I had seen Casablanca, so when I saw this, I had high expectations. Thankfully, he lived up to them, as his role of Sam Spade was excellent. I was hooked from the opening sequence, and the use of the low key lighting really sets the tone for this film. It is in the lighting where I found that grittiness that I love in a film. This film is one of the best when it comes to telling a compelling story, and especially in leaving an impact on society. That being said, how could you not want to go watch this film? It will be one of the best decisions of your day when you do.
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.
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