The Maltese Falcon (1941)

Rating: ****
Review Date: 10/28/01
Director: John Huston
Cast: Humphrey Bogart, Mary Astor, Sydney Greenstreet, Peter Lorre

Widely considered the first film of the classical film noir period. Mary Astor is a beautiful dame who comes to detective Sam Spade (Humphrey Bogart) for help. After his partner gets killed, he slowly manages to extract some information from the lying, cheating, and manipulative Astor, and reveals a plot by a group of greedy individuals to get their hands on an elusive, and extremely valuable, statue of a bird. But the bird is just a plot device, and irrelevant to the drama that plays out between the various players. In the end, Sam solves the case and gets his man, but at what cost? The film closes with Spade a bitter and broken man, clutching the bird that has shattered so many lives.

Obviously a classic film, and a great example of a hard-boiled detective thriller. The cinematography is wonderful and the film only suffers from a handful of odd and unconvincing editing cuts. The acting is delightful, and all of the characters are dark and bleak. Peter Lorre is particularly memorable, despite his goofy hairdo.