“I don’t mind a reasonable amount of trouble…”
When his partner (Jerome Cowan) is murdered while doing investigation work for a beautiful, mysterious woman (Mary Astor), private detective Sam Spade (Humphrey Bogart) digs more deeply into the case, and soon finds himself caught up in a desperate search for an invaluable relic known as the Maltese Falcon.
Response to Peary’s Review:
As Peary notes, this third cinematic adaptation of Dashiell Hammett’s novel (following Roy Del Ruth’s 1931 version, and William Dieterle’s Satan Met a Lady in 1936) is a “rare imitation that was more impressive than the original”. The story itself — which remains remarkably faithful to Hammett’s vision — is rather convoluted, and requires multiple viewings to fully absorb; instead, what’s really special about this “true masterpiece” is its “incredible pacing” — accomplished “by Huston’s rapid-fire editing within scenes and dialogue that shoots back and forth” — and the “impeccable casting” choices, most notably 62-year-old Sidney Greenstreet (in his screen debut) as obese Kasper Gutman; the “incomparable Peter Lorre” as Gutman’s “neurotic, emotional, effeminate, gushy partner” (as Peary notes, “one second he’s giggling, the next he’s crying”); and, of course, Humphrey Bogart as Sam Spade, a “complex character” who’s simultaneously “witty, patient, sadistic, and cynical”. Arthur Edeson’s impressive “low-key camera work” deserves mention as well, given that it “helped make film noir the dominant style of forties detective films”. As Peary notes, this “landmark picture” — which he nominates as one of the Best Pictures of the Year in his Alternate Oscars book — “set the style and tone for hardboiled detective films”, and is most definitely worthy repeat viewing for all film fanatics.
Redeeming Qualities and Moments:
- Humphrey Bogart as Sam Spade (Peary nominates him as Best Actor of the Year in his Alternate Oscars book)
- Peter Lorre as Joel Cairo
- Mary Astor as Brigid O’Shaughnessy
- Sydney Greenstreet as Kasper Gutman
- Lee Patrick as Effie, Spade’s loyal secretary
- Elisha Cook Jr. as Gutman’s wide-eyed “gunsel”, Wilmer
- Arthur Edeson’s noirish b&w cinematography
- John Huston’s masterful directorial style
- Huston’s screenplay (by way of Dashiell Hammett’s now-classic pulp novel)
Yes. This acknowledged cult classic should be seen and enjoyed multiple times by film fanatics. Discussed at length in Peary’s Cult Movies (1981).
(Listed in 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die)