Monday, 14 April 2014
The Maltese Falcon (1941)
For all the Blood Manias and other schlock I watch, I do make an occasional foray into the realm of well-regarded movies. This, obviously, is one of those times.
Either an early noir film or a proto-noir, depending on your specific definitions, the film begins with the PI firm of Spade & Archer being contracted to find a woman's missing sister. Archer ends up with a bullet in him and it's up to Sam Spade to find out who killed his partner and why.
In the course of his investigation, Spade will have plenty of opportunity to display both his quick wits and his quick fists. Almost nothing he and Archer were told is true, and there are plenty of people willing to do a whole lot more to Spade than lie to him, in order to get their way. And that's to say nothing of the police, who figure Spade as a good suspect for Archer's murder, or failing that, the murder of a man who might have killed Archer.
Unfortunately for everyone looking to cross Sam Spade, they're facing off with one magnificent bastard, and he's up to their challenge. A little too up to it, for my tastes. While there are a (very) few occasions where he's outmanoeuvered, it's never for long and never really feels like he's in much danger.
So there's a certain lack of tension that I feel hurts the movie if you watch it as a thriller, but if you watch it just to see Sam Spade being a Class A jerk to everyone around him and for the superlative performances - Bogart is great, while Peter Lorre and Sydney Greenstreet are even better - then you'll have a fine time.