60/60 Review #42: The Maltese Falcon.

I have somewhat of a history with this film. Even as a youngin (like, prior to the double digits), I somehow knew of this movie. I don't know where I'd heard of it, but I knew it was one of the classic greats. In essence, this is the one film that has sat in the back of my mind as one of the most quintessential films of all time. And it's only taken me this long to finally get around to seeing it. Of course, it came at an incredibly inopportune time. Usually I have my Netflix films in advance. But my flicks were delivered a day late. And then, on top of that, I was one movie short when they were finally delivered. And that missing film? The original film needing to be reviewed today. Because of this, I had to skip ahead and check out the next film on my list, which I did happen to have in my possession. However, this is also coming during my first week back to work/school, and I'm both completely physically and mentally exhausted. All of that out of the way, what did I think of the film? Well, let's just start with the plot.

Private Eye Sam Spade (Humphrey Bogart) and his partner, Miles (Jerome Cowan), are hired by Brigid (Mary Astor) to follow a man. But after his partner is killed, Spade gets caught up in a deeper conspiracy that ties him with criminals Joel Cairo (Peter Lorre) and Kaspar Gutman (Sydney Greenstreet) in search for the long-lost Maltese Falcon.

The first thing I noticed is that this movie moves very fast. And I don't just mean the dialogue. In the first 15-20 minutes alone, almost more happens than in most full-length features these days. And I know I've complained about slow starts in other films recently, but this was too fast. It threw me off with everything going on, and it took me too long to get caught up with my tired brain and deal with it. And it wasn't hard to follow whatsoever. It was just a mix of seemingly way too much happening with way too little soul behind it way too quickly.

Besides that, I was initially put off from Bogart's character. I couldn't wrap my head around why he seemed to uncaring about his partner's death. I mean, you don't see them buddy-buddy or anything before his fate, but you would imagine they had some kind of history in order to start a business that put both their names on a window. And then the guy dies and he shows no signs of any emotion. All I could think about for 20 minutes was how much of an ass Spade was and why he would react like he was, and it was distracting me from really focusing on the rest of the film.

Two things saved this movie for me, however. The second Peter Lorre showed up, the film caught my interest again. His acting and his character are fun. Every scene he was in was a hoot. Strangely, the other thing was actually Spade. After a while, I got into his character and appreciated him. I think what finally got me were moments where he snaps and yells at people; then, when he leaves the room, he's smiling at himself showing that he's just messing with everybody in a childlike fashion. He's not your typical do-gooder. He's selfish and just out to help himself and do what makes things better for himself. If it means for him to go a little crooked, he'll do it. Once I got him pegged, I got into it a bit more.

Still, I didn't get into the movie as much as I wish I would have. Again, it was just bad timing. There were parts that were definitely well written, particularly in the third act. But I was a bit too out of it to focus too whole-heartedly on the overall product. I wouldn't mind seeing it again someday to get a better grasp on it and fully take in why I latched onto it as a youngster. But as for now, it'll have to remain in the back of my mind, and continue to be one of those childhood fancies, the stuff dreams are made of.

I Am McLovin!


  1. Can't really argue with you on this one. I'm not a big fan, and your reasons are sound. I also think Mary Astor is pretty bland as the femme fatale and sort of painful to watch at times.

  2. I'll agree that Mary Astor doesn't do much for the film. For me, this one is all about Bogart being Bogart.

  3. Yeah, I'm in on the complaints about Mary Astor. Someone needed to put a bell on her or something so we could find her through the haze of awesome coming off of Bogey.

  4. The first time I watched this I was a bit put off by it. I think having gone in just after listening to Leonard Maltin rave about it for a good 20 minutes was my first mistake, but all the same I didn't buy into the hype so much. It was the second viewing, which I partook in earlier this year that I really enjoyed it. Granted the second time I was in good company, where as the first one was a lone viewing. Still, I'd agree with many of the points you make. Though I think the Peter Lorre factor is true for almost all of his films :)

  5. Everyone: Yeah, Mary Astor wasn't the most exciting femme fatale in the world.

    As for Bogart, I like the guy's voice and style, but I just can't get over that mouth. Same thing happened in Casablanca. For the longest time, I just focus on his teeth.

  6. I liked this one much more the second time.

    Oddly, I thought it was too slow on the front end.

    I agree that it's the characters that make this film I love Lorrie and Bogart is being his typical stoic and awesome self.

    It's not one of my favorite noirs, but it's one I enjoy and appreciate a lot.


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