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Overall Rating

Worth A Look: 12.24%
Average: 4.08%
Pretty Bad: 4.08%
Total Crap: 4.08%

3 reviews, 31 user ratings

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Maltese Falcon, The
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by MP Bartley

"The Stuff Dreams Are Made Of..."
5 stars

There are certain genres that could only be made in certain times. The pain of Vietnam, for example, could only be explored in the 70's and the 80's. Fears of a nuclear war or alien invasion were best represented in the 1950's. And for a film noir/private detective/crime thriller it's just got to be the 1940's we take a trip to.

Humphrey Bogart is Sam Spade, a private detective with a problem. His partner has been killed protecting the frightened Brigid O'Shaughnessy (Mary Astor), and he's the prime suspect. It's got something to do with a priceless antique, the titular Maltese Falcon, and Spade's not the only one looking for it. There's the nervy but dangerous gunman Joel Cairo (Peter Lorre), and the extremely dangerous, but jolly crimelord, Kasper Gutman (Sidney Greenstreet). But thems the tough breaks baby.

'The Maltese Falcon' may surprise those who go in expecting a crime thriller, full of car chases and gunfights, because they are nowhere to be found here. Instead you have a thriller which thrills, simply because writer/director John Huston is intent on taking you on a journey where you you really don't know the destination. Dead ends and sharp u-turns appear out of nowhere, and more than once you'll wonder if the person driving you should really be in control here. But that's what's so invigorating about this journey - the unpredictability of it. This is a film where you do need to pay attention very carefully, because every line of dialogue is vital, every minor action important to the plot. Do not check your brain out on the door here, because Huston and co-writer Dashiell Hammett want you to use it.

And besides, ignore the complexities of the plot if you wish, and just feel the iconography. There's just so much enjoyment to be had watching the creation of an entire genre unfold before your very eyes. The smoky office illuminated by the light coming through the blinds, the sharp suits, the sharper dialogue, the casual brandishing of a gun...everything you'd want in a film-noir detective thriller is here. Including a script so razor-sharp, so memorable, and so funny, that a thousand William Goldman's couldn't write it.

Add to that the most iconic of actors and you have heaven for true movie buffs. Is there a more iconic image than Bogie with a smouldering cigarette, kissing a dame and then donning a trilby and raincoat? I'd say no, and Bogart (virtually in every frame here) dominates and is magnificent throughout as a man just as likely to slug a dame on the jaw as kiss her, who'll shoot you in the back if need be, but do it with a charming quip, and who is constantly thinking three steps ahead of everybody else, but do it all with an unruffled sense of cool. The true greats are the true originals, and no-one has come anywhere close to looking like Bogart or sounding like Bogart.

He's backed up with two superb performances in the villains. Lorre is terrific as the near-maniacal Cairo, who alternates between hissing villainous threats and bouts of tears as the situation gets out of his control. It's a perfect illustration of how to do comic relief in a dramatic situation without ruining the suspense. And Greenstreet matches Bogart for presence as the villian of the piece, who's jolly exterior is just hiding a sociopathic streak as wide as his belly. His near-constant giggling may make him seem like a cheery uncle, but you understand that what he's giggling at is probably the thought of what he'd like to do to you, if he had you tied up in a room with a knife in his hand.

It's tough work acting against those three, but Mary Astor holds her own as the woman in trouble while Lee Patrick creates her own mini-icon as Sam's tough secretary.

In truth, 'The Maltese Falcon' is probably not the pinnacle of 40's noir/detective thrillers - see 'To Have and Have Not' and 'The Big Sleep' for those. But for a film to be this great and only be third means that this is a special genre, and a special film indeed. And who couldn't love a film like this, where practically every line is quotable? Let's just say: "When you're slapped, you'll take it and like it!"

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originally posted: 04/12/05 23:44:18
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User Comments

11/05/16 David Hollingsworth A timeless film noir masterpiece on every level! 5 stars
1/03/12 internet marketing belgium nice very nice post 5 stars
9/02/09 good fella Gets better with each viewing. Not a dull moment 5 stars
4/02/09 action movie fan king kong is a real classic this is a bore even bogart can,t save it 2 stars
11/19/06 rudy excellent,acting, and entertaining, with peter lorrie, and sidney greenstreet as superb cha 4 stars
10/24/06 Veritas A film classic of the highest order. 5 stars
4/10/06 Ron Newbold Great film and an excellent choice to introduce film noir to someone 5 stars
7/25/05 Eric Rollins Bogart was America's best actor and this is one of his best films. 5 stars
7/07/05 John MacKendrick Superb supporting cast and sparkling dialogue make this a winner. 5 stars
6/07/05 Darcy given the era, quite good 4 stars
5/22/05 Cham Not as classic as it's reputation, but great nonetheless. 4 stars
4/19/05 Al Guy Hollywood used to know how to make good movies. 5 stars
1/15/05 Leanne A perfect 10/10 satisfying, entertaining, deeply amusing movie 5 stars
10/13/04 Shit Head sucks asssssss 1 stars
2/11/04 yes, bogart is great, but this film is not--see dead end instead king of cool 1 stars
10/08/03 Lesterwink23 Immortal film noir that has never been equaled. 5 stars
9/13/03 Brennan Tomallo Very Interesting well produced film 4 stars
4/18/03 Jon "Thumb the Toad" Lyrik A cinematic gem. 5 stars
3/14/03 Russell One of the Hard-Boiled Best 5 stars
2/23/03 Al Jones Interesting film suited to the crime genre 4 stars
12/19/02 rue the whirl see "the big sleep" instead 3 stars
11/22/02 ad it's good 4 stars
10/29/02 Charles Tatum I found it a little slow 3 stars
7/30/02 Michael and the Argonauts Yes sir, fucking awesome. Humphrey Bogart may be the cinema's finest thespian 5 stars
12/19/01 Asshole No one could sell that role like Bogart. Movie is pure noir. Awesome 5 stars
10/08/01 Adam One of my favourite all time movies.An absolute classic. Best of class absolute clasic 5 stars
10/05/01 anders foged christensen A real Film Noir classic 5 stars
2/28/01 R.W. Welch Top notch cast doing intriguing story. Best of the genre. 5 stars
3/27/99 little jerry Like Citizen Kane,this film will always stay fresh.Vastly superior to Hawks' The Big Sleep. 5 stars
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  18-Oct-1941 (PG)
  DVD: 05-Oct-2010


  02-Feb-1943 (PG)

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