Tuesday, March 18, 2008

The Maltese Falcon

St. Helens has one of the older theatres still operating. When The Maltese Falcon (1941) was a new release it played in St. Helens. A couple weeks ago it did so again. And there was still at least one patron there who had seen it in new release! That was impressive. Even more impressive, they somehow made it into the balcony.

Anyhow, Maltese is a classic movie. It shows a good size stable of character actors at their most effective...Peter Lorre and Sydney Greenstreet in particular...and has Humphrey Bogart in one of his more notable roles. As an example of film noir it is a must-see. The lines are cheesy, many of the characterizations weak, but it really stands out in the plot. The twists and turns are often unforeseen for the first time viewer and you want to see the Falcon, to find out what happened to it. And the ending leaves it wide open for a sequel, something along The Third Man (1949) line where the criminals are the heroes.

The story follows Sam Spade (Bogart) as he tries to solve the murder of his partner Miles Archer (Jerome Cowan) while dodging the police and also dealing with 3 groups trying to access the Maltese Falcon; the gang of Kasper Gutman (Greenstreet) and Wilmer Cook (Elisha Cook Jr.) on one side, Joel Cairo (Lorre) on another, and femme fatale Brigid O' Shaughnessy (Mary Astor) on yet another with Spade being hired by Brigid.

Throughout the movie they spout one-liners ("When you are slapped you will take it and like it" snarls Spade to Wilmer), have melodramatic love scenes, and get to the bottom of a tangled web. If you prefer the acting of today you will not like it, but if you take it at face value it provides an entertaining hour and a half or so with a great finish that really shows why Bogart, Greenstreet and Lorre got so much work.

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