Wednesday, 3 May 2017

The Maltese Falcon (1941)

Fig 1 - The Maltese Falcon Poster
Directed by John Huston, The Maltese Falcon (based on the novel of the same name) follows the story of a private detective caught up in the recent murder of his partner and the subsequent search for a priceless statue. When Brigid (Mary Astor) walks into the offices of Archer & Spade, she requests that the duo tail a man by the name of Thursby. Samuel Spade (Humphrey Bogart) is the fast-talking no-nonsense detective in question whom, upon discovering the murder of his partner that very night, becomes an immediate suspect. Thursby is also killed, which leads Spade down a rabbit hole the likes of which he could have scarcely imagine. Meanwhile, a man named Joel Cairo (Peter Lorre) visits Spade's office and confronts him about the retrieval of an age-old artifact known as the Maltese Falcon. When it becomes clear that Brigid and Cairo have already met, things begin to spiral out of control in search of the valuable bird...

Of all the films on the IMDB 'Top 250' list I have reviewed so far, I am quite certain that none have tested my patience as much as The Maltese Falcon. By no means am I in pursuit of explosive thrills or dazzling special effects. I simply want to invest myself in characters. However, despite some decent performances, I found everyone in the film to be profoundly void of likability. That said, this isn't a true detriment to the film, as it's convoluted and ultimately uninspired plot gives the characters very little to engross themselves in. The story seems to juggle the murder and the falcon retrieval in a very unbalanced way, often shifting tonally with bursts of joyful music right after a tense moment. It's poster and trailer both boast "explosive" storytelling in the gripping tale of a lost relic, but it all essentially amounts to scene after scene of monotonous dialogue. When made interesting with well-rounded characters, dialogue-heavy films can be enthralling. Take for instance 12 Angry Men (1957) or Reservoir Dogs (1992), which prove that great scripts and characters can turn a stagnant situation into a captivating one. Sadly enough, this just isn't the case here.

Fig 2 - Sam Spade
Humphrey Bogart as Sam Spade was by far the least appealing character of the film which from the beginning, as he was the lead, did not give me high hopes for the remainder. He appears to the world a man tinged with misogyny in his every action and lets loose his fits of rage in random uncontrolled moments. I may have mistaken his charm for arrogant sleaze, but for the most-part I just didn't understand his motivations. Either that, or I just didn't care.

The film may have been a cornerstone in the 'detective noir' genre, but overall I just found it a tedious watch. So much so that I could hardly find anything constructive to write, positive or negative, as I was frankly bored for the most-part. As a lover of cinema I can appreciate the use of contrast and some interesting cinematography, but overall I could only recommend this as a low-budget Bond knock-off.


Fig. 1 The Maltese Falcon Poster (1941) From: The Maltese Falcon - Directed by: John Huston

Fig. 2 The Maltese Falcon Poster (1941) From: The Maltese Falcon - Directed by: John Huston

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