There aren’t too many people in the civilized world who haven’t heard of Sam Spade, Private Eye.
The Maltese Falcon, 1941,
coming at the very beginning of the classic Film Noir era, is a movie that exhibits every aspect of the genre in perfect proportion. Indeed, many honor this flick as the first Film Noir.
Sam Spade (played by none other than Humphrey Bogart) is a cold, wise-cracking, hardened private dick with his own ideas of morality and justice. He doesn’t play by the rules, because the rules to apply to the underworld in which he moves. Throw in a couple of tough dames, con men, strong arms and plenty of guns; back-light it and shoot with high contrast film; add a score that throws you into the era the second it hits your ears and you’ve got one of the greatest movies ever projected upon the Silver Screen.
With a cast that includes Mary Astor, Gladys George, Peter Lorre and Sydney Greenstreet (his first role), this flick is packed with murder, backstabbing, and women of questionable reputation. Throw in an antique metal bird and a Nazi angle, and you’ve got yourself a sleek winner.
Why Should You Watch This Movie: Unparalleled writing in the genre, suburb acting, classy dames and very hep cars. Plus a plot that twists so many times your neck will hurt. The ending ain’t too shabby, either. It’s the movie that defined Bogart as an actor, and John Huston as a director. It opened up a whole new world where the good guys could sometimes be as bad (or worse) than the bad guys, but you root for them anyway because in the end, they get the job done with a flair that can’t be matched by today’s over-the-top characters.
Food & Booze: No fancy stuff here. Hard, straight whiskey, neat. A roast beef club on rye. Eggs and hash. Eat it fast and move on before the killers catch up with you.
My Take: I was a young kid when I first saw this flick on TV, so young that I didn’t understand half of what was going on, but I know I liked it. The men’s hats alone were enough to have me hooked. When I saw it again years later, it took me so far out I needed more…and so started watching more Bogart movies, and began reading books by Raymond Chandler and Micky Spillane etc. etc. Fast forward 30 years later…and here I am, writing to you, dressing like a gangster, writing Noir-style mystery novels myself, and sharing my take on great films, booze, women, cars et al from the past. Dig it, kats.
Here’s the original movie trailer:
-Tiki Chris reporting from the his worn out desk in the back of the dusty, brown office at Samual Spade Private Investigation Agency.
4 Replies to “The Maltese Falcon, 1941 – Noir Movie Monday”
GREAT pick! This is a fantastic movie…And a very impressive first turn for Greenstreet! I think Maltese Falcon is one of those movies that is as close to perfect as you can get.
Also, the Falcon itself? The prop used in the movie? It’s at the NRA Museum in Virginia. I almost danced a jig when I saw it there! Unfortunately, one cannot photograph it, but…it’s there. With Nick’s revolver (Thin Man) and plenty more.
Thanks Jen, without doubt this is one of the movies that influenced this retro-crazy life I’m living, including the murder mystery dinner theater I had, and the mystery books I’m writing now.
Shame you couldn’t get pix in the museum (flashbulbs are not good for antiques, as we know) but at least you’ve got that great memory.