THE MALTESE FALCON
MOVIE: **** (out of 5)
BLU-RAY EXPERIENCE: **** (out of 5)
BY KEVIN CARR
WHAT IT’S ABOUT
When a beautiful femme fatale comes into detective Sam Spade’s office one day, he never suspects this will lead him into a dangerous world of greed, murder and corruption. Originally hired to find a missing person, Spade soon finds himself searching for a jewel-encrusted falcon that is being smuggled into the country. John Huston directs this classic tale about the deadly sin of avarice.
WHAT I LIKED
I’ve always been drawn to the film noir genre, especially since so many other films of the 1940s have a more friendly and light-hearted tone to them. “The Maltese Falcon” is such an influential film in this aspect that it’s hard to even watch it without finding a full appreciation for how it handles the elements of film noir.
The strongest part of this film is the cast, starting with Humphrey Bogart in a career-making performance. Having always played smaller parts in the past, it’s almost surprising that this was the first time he really got a chance to shine as the lead. And even so, he plays the character of Spade in many shades of gray. Also fantastic in the film is Peter Lorre as one of the men trying to get his hands on the falcon.
As is explained in the saturated special features on the Blu-ray, “The Maltese Falcon” was committed to the screen twice before, and this was the only one that was a huge hit. It’s one of those exceptionally crafted films that could have easily not been made, and the story behind the making of the movie is just as interesting as the film itself.
WHAT I DIDN’T LIKE
I know this might be stepping on some toes, but I wasn’t wild about Mary Astor in the film. As an actress, she just doesn’t do it for me, as I really don’t find her attractive or compelling. I know a lot of people love her in this film, and that’s great for them. However, I was very soft on her performance. Fortunately, she’s surrounded by plenty of strong actors to really carry the film.
Again, I know that’s not the popular view, so apologies to all the Mary Astor fans out there.
Along with “The Treasure of the Sierra Madre,” “The Maltese Falcon” has been released with a full slate of bonus features on the Blu-ray. There’s a commentary track with Bogart biographer Eric Lax as well as three radio show adaptations of “The Maltese Falcon,” playable from the menu. The featurette “The Maltese Falcon: One Magnificent Bird” tells the story of the film, and the featurette “Becoming Attractions: The Trailers of Humphrey Bogart” give a snapshot of Bogey’s career through advertising. Additional features include make-up tests and a blooper reel from Warner Bros. in 1941.
One of the neatest things about the Warner Bros. library is that the DVDs and Blu-rays often come with the “Warner Night at the Movies,” which includes a slate of short subjects before the feature. This disc includes a newsreel, the musical short “The Gay Parisian,” two Looney Tunes cartoons and a selection of movie trailers.
WHO’S GOING TO LIKE THIS MOVIE
People who love film noir and Humphrey Bogart.