Directed by John Huston
Written by John Huston and Dashiell Hammett
Starring: Humphrey Bogart, Mary Astor, Peter Lorre, Sydney Greenstreet
Private detective Sam Spade’s partner is dead, and he believes it has something to do with their newest client. Now he’s joined the hunt for a mysterious statue alongside three bizarre criminals. As the hunt continues, no one knows who can be trusted.
If you want to see the birth of a genre, look no further than The Maltese Falcon. This film opened the door for film noir to enter the American cinematic vocabulary. Two-time Oscar winner, John Huston (The African Queen) was the right man to direct a film like this. His adaptation of the novel by Dashiell Hammett (After The Thin Man) is a wonderful example of how to bring a story to life. In 1941, this film was good enough to earn Oscar nominations for Best Picture and Best Writing.
The cast for this film is one of my favorite ensembles of the era. Humphrey Bogart (Casablanca), Mary Astor (The Great Lie), Peter Lorre (M), and Sydney Greenstreet (They Died with Their Boots On) come together with an incredible amount of chemistry. Greenstreet earned an Oscar for his portrayal of the obsessed business man and crook, Kasper Gutman. Peter Lorre is equally wonderful in his role as the flamboyant and bumbling thief. Mary Astor plays her part well also, working as a character who appears in many forms. Despite all of these wonderful performances, I think Bogart comes out on top. His delivery of the dialogue set the bar for future film noir actors. His natural ease in front of the camera works to his benefit as he plays the cool and calm private eye.
The camera work for this movie is nicely done. It avoids any dramatic movement and remains unobtrusive throughout. Thankfully the film also had a great number of sets to film on. Set mainly at night, the film capitalizes on great lighting to create the shadows and the mood necessary for the story.
The pace of the film is good, and I felt like the story avoided any unnecessary moments. The mystery and intrigue pay off nicely in this classic film. If you’re into mysteries and you haven’t seen this movie, I would suggest getting a copy right away. This is an awesome movie with great visuals and a wonderful score. I would also recommend this to fans of films like Dial M for Murder or The Big Sleep. I give this one 5 out of 5 stars.