johnlink ranks THE MALTESE FALCON (1941)

I’ve long considered Bogart to be one of my favorite actors. His delivery, his attitude, his anti-pretty boy demeanor all represent a long gone era of black-and-white noir. Of course, he has CASABLANCA, which is a sort of half-noir, half-romance, mixed with thriller. I love CASABLANCA. Some days I would put it above THE MALTESE FALCON, other days I put the latter first. But it had been a few years since I saw the movie which is widely considered to have launched the noir genre, so I sat down to it last night.

THE MALTESE FALCON tells the story of a detective trying to piece together a murder, several betrayals, and a bird.

I watched THE MALTESE FALCON (1941) on 9.13.09. It was my fifth viewing of the film.

NOTE: THIS RANKING UTILIZES THIS SITE’S ORIGINAL SYSTEMIC ARTICLE WRITING METHOD. THE METHOD BY WHICH THE RANKINGS WERE ARRIVED AT, HOWEVER, REMAINS THE SAME.

FILM

So why is this film considered one of the originators of film noir? For one we have the antihero. Sam Spade (Bogart) is solving his partner’s murder more out of a sense of duty and curiosity than because he liked him. He slaps around Peter Lorre because he is a homosexual. He sleeps with Mary Astor because, well, he can. He is a different kind of hero, one who doesn’t always do the right thing and has no problem admitting such.

It is also noir in its visual style. When we see prison like bars of shadow across the killer’s face, it suggests confinement. When Peter Lorre strokes his phallic cane, it suggests deviance. We get Spade working often in the nighttime, a concept which quickly spread through noir films to the point where the world did not seem to have daytime at all. Certainly, this movie is not mature in some of its suggestions when compared to later films of its genre, but it certainly started a trend. SCORE: 8

MOVIE

I cannot get enough of this film. I could watch it monthly and not get bored. Any of the scenes between Bogart and Lorre, or Bogart and Sydney Greenstreet are (to quote the film’s famous last line) “The stuff that dreams are made of.” Bogart would later find a stronger female foil in Lauren Bacall, but his chemistry with Mary Astor in this film is nothing to be ashamed of. I love the way Spade improvs his way through life. He’s never too concerned with what will happen later, because he is too busy working out what will happen now. There are a couple moments wherein scenes end, and I want to see what happens next (like when Lorre pulls a gun on him the second time), but I also understand that less can be more. This movie never gets old or dull to me. SCORE: 9

ACTING

Bogart is my favorite from the black and white era. I love Chaplin and Keaton and Flynn, but Bogart is it for me. Anytime you put him with Greenstreet and Lorre (their paths crossed often), you get solid, fun acting. We have our stereotypical cop in this film, we have our stereotypical secretary (Gladys George) who is just fine until she has to emote. But this movie is about it’s stars (budding star in Bogart’s case), and they all deliver solidly. SCORE: 8

WRITING

I miss when people talked like they did in noir films. It is such a unique style, machine-gun delivery, no sense of political correctness. The dialogue in this film is gold. The story is purposely convoluted, but solves itself eventually. To be sure, this is a movie about its characters rather than its plot. And the characters are memorable and iconic. SCORE: 9

FINAL TALLY

FILM: 8; MOVIE: 9; ACTING: 8; WRITING: 9

8+9+8+9+0= 34

FINAL SCORE: 8.5

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~ by johnlink00 on September 14, 2009.

One Response to “johnlink ranks THE MALTESE FALCON (1941)”

  1. […] THE MALTESE FALCON (1941) […]

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