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The Maltese Falcon Reviews

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Super Reviewer

April 17, 2010
Better than "Satan Met a Lady" but not in the same league as the 1941 remake.
Byron B

Super Reviewer

April 1, 2014
Very faithful pre-code adaptation of Hammett's novel. The femme fatale, marvelously played by Bebe Daniels, sticks with the name Ruth Wonderly, rather than revealing that to be just an alias. There's also a prison scene at the end, since the romance between Ruth and Spade is played up more. Except for Dudley Digges not quite having the girth required for the character of Gutman (he looks and sounds like the model for Burgess Meredith's Penguin on the Batman TV series), I thought the cast was wonderful at bringing the characters from the book alive. Ricardo Cortez (who was Austrian and adopted this stage name during the Valentino mania of the silent era) is a suave womanizer. The subplot about Spade having an affair with his partner's wife isn't ignored like in the other adaptations and the sexual innuendo is closer to the source material than later films censored by the production code. The camera work is definitely not bland, too.

Super Reviewer

October 22, 2008
The first film adaptation of Hammett's novel, but certainly not the best. As an early "talkie," this film had practically no atmosphere, and Sam Spade is played by Cortez as a leering, lecherous playboy with a boyish smile; there is none of the "tough guy" detective that Spade deserves to be. While it's a bit more risque than the 1941 Huston film due to its being filmed before the Production Code took effect, this film is really only of interest to those who might be interested in seeing how different directors tackle the same material (and how different they turn out). If you love this story, skip this film and see the Huston masterpiece.
November 8, 2013
I have to say that I may've judged this one more harshly due to my existing familiarity with the Bogey version, but I just couldn't fully get behind this version of the film.

Rental? See for yourself?
June 13, 2013
The Maltese Falcon (1931)

It's no secret that the Bogie version is one of my all-time favorite movies, but this still holds its own. In some ways it tells the same story slightly better, and is a leaner/meaner version. Plus, I get the feeling that this Sam Spade could actually prove himself off the gallows, where Bogie's version would never hold up in court, especially with Detective Dundy gunning for him.

This is a pre-code movie, so there's a lot more skin and Ricardo Cortez is a lot more believable as the private dick on the make, despite the polkadot pajamas. Bebe Daniels is a lot more believable as the sexually manipulative Ruth Wonderly than the ultra-melodramatic Mary Astor. And, Una Merkel, as Spade's private secretary, Effie Perine is a hottie.

This is well worth a viewing.
July 9, 2008
The cooliest noir statue stealing caper ever made, twice. In this first outing, set in 1931, a detective named Sam Spade is after a stolen statue that is worth a fortune.
April 4, 2013
If Cortez were half the actor Bogart was, this movie might be half as good as that superior movie.
November 10, 2012
This was not too bad of an adaptation of the Maltese Falcon. I was not particularly happy with Cortez's take on Sam Spade. He played it in a bit more of a comical fashion than I would have preferred for a suspense movie. Overall, the Humphrey Bogart version is considerably better. Unless you really feel the need, this movie can be skipped in favor of the one made 10 years later.
November 20, 2010
Overacting is the operative word here...skip this like the plague.
September 19, 2008
The first Maltese Falcon is a pretty bad film. THe acting is pretty atrocious and direction is just as bad.
Everett Jensen
February 18, 2008
[i]The Maltese Falcon
[/i]dir. Roy Del Ruth

This original version of the Dashiell Hammett novel is a provocative, tight investigation into a world of greed, betrayal and the feminine mystique.

The story involves the search for a jeweled falcon that has a vaunted pedigree and is ostensibly worth more than $500,000. The film tracks several individuals keen on retrieving the valuable statuette for a variety of motives. Det. Sam Spade (Ricardo Cortez) becomes involved when the seductive Ruth Wonderly (Bebe Daniels) saunters into his office needing him because she claims her sister has run away with a man named Floyd Thursby. Spade's partner Miles Archer investigates and is duly murdered. Thursby is also gunned down and the police suspect that Spade committed the act to avenge his partner's death. Nothing can be proven so Spade continues to work all angles in pursuance of this mysterious bird.

There is a sense of playfulness about this film that comes through in the performances of the various women. Thelma Todd is impossibly coy and sophisticated. As the film begins she's been having an affair with Spade and isn't too terribly shaken up by her husband's murder. Bebe Daniels is a whirlwind of nervous energy as a woman perfectly capable of hiding behind a series of masks provided they serve her intentions fully. As Spade's secretary Effie Perrine, Una Merkel glides coquettishly around the office doing a terrible number with her eyes and slyly slipping out of doorways quite suggestively. All told, the women are all playthings for the cad Spade who seems to have access to more women than he knows what to do with. Cortez spends most of his time smiling madly as it is clear he is in his element with all the women who surround him. He teases Effie and treats her like a lover with intimate pats and slight come-ons.

The film is well constructed with an openness that is felt mostly through the lighting and interiors. Spade meets two other men who want the falcon and are willing to pay him handsomely for it. Caspar Gutman (Dudley Digges) offers him 25 % of the final sale price and another sniveling man named Cairo (Otto Matieson) offers him five grand. Cairo is a slippery eel with a creepy disposition that is increasingly unpleasant as the film progresses. The mood of the pic is upbeat and oft-times downright jaunty as the performers bounce off one another in various states of ease. The end is neat and almost polite as it explores the nature of betrayal when complicated with sentiments of deep affection.

Overall, this is a credible first shot at Hammett's novel. It's not as dark and claustrophobic as the remake and subsequently offers a light, intimate portrait of the great Sam Spade and his towering charm and frolicsome charisma. The women purr and cavort in several scenes that were quite salacious at the time. There is an atmosphere of license throughout this production and each actor performs with sharp timing and ceremonial zeal. Ultimately, it's a fine look into the eyes of seduction and greed and possesses an energy that renders it decisively rich and entertaining.
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