182: The Maltese Falcon

The Maltese Falcon (PG) - 1941 - Runtime: 101 minutes
Starring: Humphrey Bogart, Mary Astor, Peter Lorre
Director: John Huston

Another classic down! The Maltese Falcon has been hailed as one of the greatest of all time and considered to be the first of many, many film noir movies Hollywood would pump out in the next decade. And for what it's worth, I did enjoy the movie, I just don't think it's as great as everyone seems to think it is.

Humphrey Bogart plays Sam Spade, a private investigator who finds himself mixed up with a bunch of aspiring treasure hunters, including the femme fatale, Brigid (Mary Astor). As Sam delves deeper and deeper into the mystery, he finds out that he cannot trust anybody. I guess this movie pretty much set up the construct of the normal film noir: the private detective living by his own rules, the femme fatale with a mysterious background, and, of course, murder. I enjoyed the story - it never reveals too much to spoil the rest of the movie, but always keeping you invested as to what may happen next. There's some great dialogue and Sam Spade pretty much sets the benchmark for wise-cracking, rebellious detectives. As for Mary Astor, I think the femme fatale role was yet to be perfected. I didn't really buy her performance, nor the character. We're supposed to believe that Sam Spade and her are falling for each other, but I found no chemistry between the two. Maybe there really wasn't supposed to be love - Sam Spade is a crudely selfish and independent man, it's hard to believe he would fall for anyone. Up for debate - so I guess this movie got a bit better in my mind now!

As for the rest of the cast - I thought they were all terrific. Peter Lorre and Sydney Greenstreet give wonderful performances as the "bad guys." I say that in quotation marks because I never truly felt that there was any sense of danger in the movie. Yes, a few people are murdered, but the characters in the movie wield these guns as if they're toys. I never once felt Sam was being threatened - at one point Peter Lorre pulls a gun out and tries to persuade Sam to tell him where the falcon is. But Sam quickly moves in and disarms him, knocking him out. But the next minute, Peter Lorre is up and talking and asks for his gun back, which Sam gives back! What the hell?!? And of course, Lorre uses that to his advantage. But the whole time, I was thinking Sam wasn't in danger. In fact, later on in the movie, they talk to each other as if they've been acquaintances for a long time. The relationships developed in this movie seemed a bit strange and out of touch with reality. As for the ending, it was good, but way too much was revealed through a monologue by Greenstreet about what really happened to the falcon and who deceived who. It's not quite a big deal as I think it should have been, so the movie ends a bit anti-climatically.

Despite the flaws, the movie was good and it's worth seeing for Bogart's and Greenstreet's performances alone. I don't understand why people think this is the best film noir movie out there - I believe that belongs to Double Indemnity, but I digress - it's the first of its kind, but surely that doesn't make it the best. The film has a good story with some great actors and definitely worth a rental!

Rating: Rent It!

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