Monday, March 20, 2017

Movie #394: The Maltese Falcon

The Maltese Falcon is a detective/noir film starring Humphrey Bogart, Mary Astor, Peter Lorre, Sydney Greenstreet, Elisha Cook, Jr., Barton MacLaine, and Lee Patrick. It's one of those movies that if you haven't seen it, you've seen homages to it.

Sam Spade (Bogart), a private dick (lol), takes a job watching out for a mysterious femme fatale later revealed to be named Brigid O'Shaughnessy (Astor, and, fun fact, when Liza Minelli guest-starred on The Muppet Show they did a spoofy on a murder mystery, and her character was named Liza O'Shaughnessy). His partner Miles (Jerome Cowan) winds up getting shot shortly before the dude that shot him gets shot, the chief of detectives (MacLaine) is all over Spade to figure this out, and what exactly is Brigid's deal?

Well, it turns out that she stole a MacGuffin priceless statue of a falcon, which other interested parties, including a wealthy criminal named Gutman (Greenstreet) and a gun for hire named Cairo (Lorre) are after. And after all is said and done, the damn thing is fake, Gutman and Cairo leave to go and find the real one (though it's implied they'll be arrested), Brigid gets sent down for Archer's murder, and Spade goes back to his office.

In a rare show of literacy, I actually have read the novel by Dashiell Hammett on which this is based (I took a class called "The Detective Story" in college), and I note that some of the changes might make for a more period-appropriate movie, but they feel a little out of place. Witness the constant declarations of love been Astor and Bogart (it comes up in the novel, but I don't remember it being mentioned as frequently, though I admit it's been a while). Actually, I sort of feel like with Falcon is more consistent and makes more sense, The Big Sleep is the better movie and definitely the better example of noir. Falcon approaches it when Spade insists that "when a man's partner is killed, he's supposed to do something about it."

Lorre and Greenstreet are, for my money, the best parts of this films, and Cook Jr. also turns in a really subtle performance as Wilmer Cook, Gutman's "gunzel". All in all it's a classic for a reason, even if it is a remake.

My grade: A-
Rewatch value: Medium-low

Next up: Mama Mia!