Sam Spade: "When a man's partner is killed, he's supposed to do something about it."

First, what I'm not going to talk about: the novel, written by Dashiell Hammett. Don't get me wrong. I enjoy the novel, but I don't love it the way I do the movie. If you love the novel, add a writeup.

The classic film noir was released in 1941 and directed by John Huston. It was written by Hammett and Huston. It's pretty astoundingly faithful to the novel. It starred Humphrey Bogart as Sam Spade, Mary Astor as Brigid O'Shaughnessy, Sydney Greenstreet as Kaspar Gutman, Peter Lorre as Joel Cairo, Elisha Cook, Jr. as Wilmer Cook, and Jerome Cowan as Miles Archer.

The private eye firm of Spade and Archer take on a simple snoop case, but Archer gets killed, and someone's trying to make Spade the patsy. While trying to find Archer's killer, Spade gets mixed up with a bunch of treasure hunters trying to track down the legendary Maltese Falcon, a falcon statue encrusted with priceless jewels. Spade has to discover Archer's murderer, find the Falcon, keep from getting killed by the treasure hunters, and avoid taking the rap for Archer's death. That's a tall order for a cheap gumshoe.

Beside being one of the best examples of film noir, this is also one of the best films ever made. The directing, the acting, the story are all first-rate, and the dialogue -- Oh God, the dialogue -- there are not many movies out there with as much snap in the patter as "Maltese Falcon".

This is one of those movies that gets better and better and better every time you watch it. If you haven't seen it yet -- and yeah, I'm afraid I'm going to have to require all of you to see this -- run out and rent it. Yes, tonight. Go.

Detective Polhaus: "What is it?"
Spade: "The, uh, stuff that dreams are made of."

The Maltese Falcon (1941), John Huston’s directorial debut is widely regarded as the first film noir. This film established the rules for the genre - the tough detective, the damsel in distress and the possibility of romance between the lead characters have all become cinematic cliches. Featuring a great performance by Humphrey Bogart, with supporting roles from Peter Lorre, Mary Astor and Sydney Greenstreet in supporting roles and highlighted by sharp dialogue, skillful direction, The Maltese Falcon soon became a classic.

In the 1930s, there were two ways to make a succesful film - mystery and Humphrey Bogart. It therefore seemed obvious to bring the two together, since although Bogart had made himself into a star playing gangsters, it was obvious to his studio that if he was going to capitalise on his popularity, he would have to play a new role. However, Bogart could not be believeable as a charming, witty, urbane detective, he would have to be an anti-hero; someone who was essentially good, but was not above performing questionable acts if necessary. Sam Spade made an intriguing protagonist - a mystery to the audience throughout the film whose essential good intentions seem overlaid with a certain callousness.

The film centres around the falcon itself: a gold statue encrusted with jewels that was stolen from a ship in the Mediterranean. Sam Spade, consulted over what seems to be a simple familial case is soon caught up in a web of deceit and double-crossing as each character tries their utmost to obtain this priceless statue. The tension in the storyline alone makes the film fascinating, but the stunning black and white photography, with its use of shadows and smoke evokes the seedy underground world which the protagonists inhabit and makes it something special.


CAST
 

Humphrey Bogart ........ Sam Spade Mary Astor ..................... Brigid O'Shaughnessy / Miss Wonderly / Miss LaBlanc Gladys George ............. Iva Archer Peter Lorre ................... Joel Cairo Barton MacLane .......... Detective Lieutenant Dundy Lee Patrick ................... Effie Perine Sydney Greenstreet .... Kasper Gutman Ward Bond ................... Detective Sergeant Tom Polhaus Jerome Cowan ........... Miles Archer Elisha Cook Jr. ............ Wilmer Cook James Burke ............... Luke, House Detective Hotel Belvedere Murray Alper ................. Frank Richman, Driver John Hamilton ............. District Attorney Bryan

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