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Suspenseful, labyrinthine, and brilliantly cast, The Maltese Falcon is one of the most influential noirs -- as well as a showcase for Humphrey Bogart at his finest.
All Critics (53)
| Top Critics (9)
| Fresh (53)
| Rotten (0)
| DVD (11)
On a number of accounts it is distinguished celluloid entertainment, but it is of great interest to the trade because it reveals, in startling terms, the unheralded talent of topflight scenarist, John Huston.
The Maltese Falcon is the first crime melodrama with finish, speed and bang to come along in what seems ages.
Frighteningly good evidence that the British (Alfred Hitchcock, Carol Reed, et al.) have no monopoly on the technique of making mystery films.
The Maltese Falcon is among the most important and influential movies to emerge from the Hollywood system -- as significant in some ways as its contemporary, Citizen Kane.
This is one of the best examples of actionful and suspenseful melodramatic story telling in cinematic form.
Who can argue with Bogart's glower or Mary Astor in her ratty fur?
There's two competing frames of reference throughout: the narrative itself, then a meta-narrative with the characters continually voicing the etiquette of their genre scenario
It is a film that somehow started Film Noir and yet was also its peak. It is a film that should be beloved by all, not just Film Studies tutors.
The Maltese Falcon feels evergreen, not so much in style or attitude but in mood.
Arguably the best detective movie ever made in Hollywood.
...both great in itself and influential in the course of movie history
John Huston's first whirlpool of seekers and patsies
beneath the slick, fast talking and hard-boiled mystery story, and behind the many shady and diverse characters, is an interestingly told dilemma for our protagonist that's as modern today as it always has been, namely: how to stay true to myself, keep my own moral code, in this morass of selfishness that is life in society. by the end of the story we see the self assured star actually has been covering up a torment of conflicting emotion, and is as human as the rest of us. Director/writer john Huston surely turns in a exemplary work of drama, lust, greed, corruption, backstabbing, and all the usual standbys of life on planet earth, with a sure hand and eye.
Bogart is perfect as an arrogant detective who tries (along with us) to make heads and tails of an extremely intricate and dizzy affair, and the best thing is that it has an incredibly well-constructed plot in which all of the pieces fit in the end leaving no loose ends.
The Maltese Falcon is highlighted by a character study of contrasting personality types. People wrestle with greed, deception, and loyalty. Humphrey Bogart is conflicted by darker desires. He's more of an antihero as the lead. Cynical and hard-hearted - he doesn't seem overly troubled by his partner's death, removing his fellow associate's name on the business door while the body is still warm. Nevertheless Bogart exemplifies cool collected style as the self-assured gumshoe. Mary Astor is captivating as the requisite femme fatale. She initially appears fragile, but looks can be deceiving.
Then there's a colorful trio of shady individuals. 61 year old stage actor Sidney Greenstreet surprisingly making his feature debut here as "The Fat Man". He was Oscar nominated for his supporting role. Yet Peter Lorre is just as iconic as the effete Joel Cairo. Joel is no match for Spade. "When you're slapped, you'll take it and like it," Spade rebukes him. Elisha Cook, Jr. is the lightest heavy of the three. He provides some much appreciated comedic relief. At times, the set-bound action almost resembles a play. The movie is talky to say the least. Scenes are inundated with words, overstuffed even. But oh what dialogue! John Huston's Oscar nominated screenplay is so meticulously composed, you'll marvel at its construction. It demands repeat viewings to take it all in, but it only gets better with age.
It is uneven, and dips in energy mid-way through, however the mystery and well-delivered one-liners make The Maltese Falcon a mostly enjoyable watch.
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