The Maltese Falcon (1941)


A story as EXPLOSIVE as his BLAZING automatics!


   So you fancy yourself a sleuth aye? Got Sherlock level detective skills that would make Batman jealous huh? Such a hardcore private eye that your completely colorblind and only see black and white and shades of grey? Is this movie about you, or are you because this movie? This is another one of those movies that you've either heard of - it's kind of a big deal from what I can tell in the mysterious black and white world - or it's probably much too old for you and you've got no idea what a maltese is, let alone a falcon. Let's find out if you should really remedy that.


   A slathering of text tells of the history of the Maltese Falcon - a gift made by knights for Spain, but lost in transit and then to time. This could be an interesting detail - however irrelevant it is that this is told to us in text, since it will come up later and be told to us anyways. At any rate, getting that out of the way, we quickly jump in to meet our main character - a detective - as a client that he's "really going to want to check out" arrives at his office. She begins to tell him a sad tale of how her sister has gone missing for all intents, having last been heard from only in letter and refusing to be seen in person. She's come down from New York to search for her sister, fearing that perhaps her man might be dangerous and the reason for which she's being kept hidden. Having lost trail after her sister didn't show for a meeting, the hotel has directed her to the best detective around.

   The partner shows up during this, and the main gets him up to speed. The client has already set up a meeting with the man, and hopes for the detectives to tail him and find her sister. The partner seem more than glad to do the legwork, and a plan is set up and payed for as the client and partner take off. We next see the partner get gunned down from close range. The police call up the main, what with it being his partner, and he hurries down to the location to check things out. He takes his leave and lets his assistant know to inform his partner's wife what happened, and then tried to contact his client who seems to have checked out. Later, it seems he's become a suspect in his partner's murder case - which now extends to the man he was tailing - when the police come by to question him about where he was after he left. Seems they think that he went and took revenge on his partner's killer - but he's not letting out anything until he figures out whats going on for himself.

   Things further get muddled when another stranger comes to his door, offering a job of finding a certain item for his employer. The two discuss payment and just how on the level the job is, until the man pulls a gun on the detective. The situation is quickly avoided with a few deft punches, and the mystery quickly turns to a far less local scale as he rifles through his would-be robber's pockets to find all matter of international currency and passports. Funnily enough, the same event happens after he returns the man's gun to him, but at this point he doesn't seem as bothered as he's figured what he wants from the man. Somehow, this all seems to be tied together, and our lead has all plans of getting to the bottom of it - and finding out who killed his partner.

  A pair of private eyes.

A pair of private eyes.

   The mystery in this one is thick enough to almost taste. For every lead given, two or three roads spin off in opposite directions, fully diverting attentions at times. Even with the multitude of threads and possibilities that keep compounding until the end however, nothing ended up being too hard to follow, or feeling like it just came out of left field. In a way, this seems almost surprising - since outside of the Maltese Falcon, we know generally as much (if not less) than the main character during the course of the movie. Still, as we learn things it doesn't feel as though they happened in impossible ways, simply because "twist!" as some movies enjoy doing to us. All of that said, it isn't impossible for people to guess good chunks of it by being watchful, just as much as it's possible for someone who isn't paying attention to find themselves completely lost in the many threads spread across the situation board.

   Acting here is well done - it's much less over-the-top than the last Bogart picture we watched. It is very much distinct in it's era - mannerisms of the characters and how they refer to each other - but doesn't have that stage-play feel about it. It's almost a treat that by watching the acting in some spots, the viewer can think "that person absolutely is not telling the truth," only to have it confirmed later on by a character in the movie who also caught the mannerisms portrayed, making them feel quite intelligent. Given that this isn't an incredibly action-heavy piece, the acting also becomes that much more important to keep you invested and keeping the pacing upbeat - which it handles nicely.

   Costumes are classy, although nothing overly elaborate as far as calling them "costumes." The lack of color helps it really get into it's genre groove and honestly doesn't detract from the movie at all. The audio score at the beginning is quite the impressive start, although I admittedly found myself not hearing music for the majority in a memorable sense - mostly because I was glued to the characters trying to figure out just who did what and if I was right all along. That said, I'm sure there was music there - in that same classical kind of sense - I just don't recall it doing anything beyond it job of helping the mood. Actor audio levels are all quite understandable - which really is a must for this movie.

  The mysterious dame.

The mysterious dame.

   I'm pretty well glad I watched this. Admittedly I'm not a huge mystery person - I enjoy the occasional brain-tickler, but for the most part rather well enjoy letting my brain turn off and watching things play out. Given that, I'd have to say that yeah, I probably would say that everyone should try and check this out at some point or another - maybe not rush out and buy it, but certainly giving it a chance to be seen at some point. It might not baffle you for years to come, but the acting is incredibly well done and the general flow and delivery of the plot and it's mystery is an enjoyable experience. I'm sure some people won't like the genre, or the lack of color, or that "classic" lingo and deliveries, but even then I still feel it's worth checking out.

@IMDB

The Maltese Falcon (1941)
Starring Humphrey Bogart, Mary Astor, Gladys George, Peter Lorre, Barton MacLane