The Maltese Falcon

The Maltese Falcon

Humphrey Bogart
Director: John Huston Cast: Humphrey Bogart
Humphrey Bogart
, Mary Astor
Mary Astor
, Peter Lorre
Peter Lorre
John Huston

Blu-ray (Full Frame)

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After two previous film versions of Dashiell Hammett's detective classic The Maltese Falcon, Warner Bros. finally got it right in 1941-- or, rather, John Huston, a long-established screenwriter making his directorial debut, got it right, simply by adhering as closely as possible to the original. Taking over from a recalcitrant George Raft, Humphrey Bogart achieved true stardom as Sam Spade, a hard-boiled San Francisco private eye who can be as unscrupulous as the next guy but also adheres to his own personal code of honor. Into the offices of the Spade & Archer detective agency sweeps a Miss Wonderly (Mary Astor), who offers a large retainer to Sam and his partner Miles Archer (Jerome Cowan) if they'll protect her from someone named Floyd Thursby. The detectives believe neither Miss Wonderly nor her story, but they believe her money. Since Archer saw her first, he takes the case -- and later that evening he is shot to death, as is the mysterious Thursby. Miss Wonderly's real name turns out to be Brigid O'Shaughnessey, and, as the story continues, Sam is also introduced to the effeminate Joel Cairo (Peter Lorre) and the fat, erudite Kasper Gutman (Sydney Greenstreet, in his film debut). It turns out that Brigid, Cairo and Gutman are all international scoundrels, all involved in the search for a foot-high, jewel-encrusted statuette in the shape of a falcon. Though both Cairo and Gutman offer Spade small fortunes to find the "black bird," they are obviously willing to commit mayhem and murder towards that goal: Gutman, for example, drugs Spade and allows his "gunsel" Wilmer (Elisha Cook Jr.) to kick and beat the unconscious detective. This classic film noir detective yarn gets better with each viewing, which is more than can be said for the first two Maltese Falcons and the ill-advised 1975 "sequel" The Black Bird.

Editorial Reviews

Barnes & Noble - Steve Futterman

Brilliantly written, perfectly cast, handsomely shot and edited, The Maltese Falcon (1940) refuses to grow old. Director John Huston's startling debut film served as a blueprint for the countless hard-boiled films noir that would follow it after World War II. This saga of greed, intrigue, and deception surrounding the search for a valuable statue owes much to the pungent, acidly witty dialogue and colorful characterizations lifted from author Dashiell Hammett's 1930 novel. But the film is also driven by Humphrey Bogart's defining performance as private detective Sam Spade -- a character so past the point of basic cynicism that he actually relishes the spectacle of human depravity. The supporting cast is no less dazzling. Sydney Greenstreet's obese gentleman crook, Peter Lorre's effete scoundrel, Mary Astor's scheming femme fatale, and even Elisha Cook Jr.'s punk gunman are flawlessly etched film portraits. Huston's direction is so economical and efficient that despite the often byzantine intricacies of the plot, the film never bogs down in narrative exposition. (Watch how fast Huston has Bogart rattle off pertinent information at the film's climax.) Although Huston went on to an acclaimed and influential directorial career that saw him make The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, The African Queen, and many other films, The Maltese Falcon remains his masterpiece.

All Movie Guide - Lucia Bozzola

Adapting Dashiell Hammett's novel -- and staying as close to the original story as the Production Code allowed -- first-time director John Huston turned The Maltese Falcon into a movie often considered the first film noir. In his star-making performance as Sam Spade, Humphrey Bogart embodied the coolly ruthless private eye who recognizes the dark side of humanity, in all its greedy perversity, and who feels its temptations, especially when they are embodied by a woman. While Huston's mostly straightforward visual approach renders The Maltese Falcon an instance of early noir more in its hardboiled attitude than in the chiaroscuro style common to other films noirs, the collection of venal characters, colorfully played by Sydney Greenstreet, Peter Lorre, and Elisha Cook, Jr.; Mary Astor's femme fatale; and Bogart's morally relativistic Spade pointed the way to the mid-1940s flowering of noir in Billy Wilder's Double Indemnity (1944), Otto Preminger's Laura (1944), and Howard Hawks's The Big Sleep (1946). A critical as well as popular success, The Maltese Falcon was nominated for three Oscars, including Best Picture and Best Screenplay, establishing Huston as a formidable dual talent and Bogart as the archetypal detective antihero.

Product Details

Release Date: 10/05/2010
UPC: 0883929118250
Original Release: 1941
Rating: NR
Source: Warner Home Video
Presentation: [Full Frame]
Time: 1:40:00
Sales rank: 4,109

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