‘The Maltese Falcon’ 75th Anniversary Retro Review
I was recently lucky enough to catch one of my all time favorite films presented on the big screen for its 75th anniversary, the John Huston classic the Maltese Falcon. This adaptation of Dashiell Hammett’s novel was groundbreaking masterpiece which is worth the esteem cinephiles hold it in. Every motion picture which followed that featured; a world weary private eye, a dangerous femme fatale, or a hedonistic crime boss, owes the Maltese Falcon a debt of gratitude for paving the way and creating the film noir genre.
Leading this picture was Humphrey Bogart in the role that made him one of the biggest stars in the world as the antihero Sam Spade. Spade is a simple private investigator who’s partner is murdered while on a case, now Spade has to find the culprit otherwise its simply bad for business. Making things a lot more complicated is the fact that the woman at the center of it all gets the hard-boiled detective embroiled in her search for the legendary Maltese Falcon. Throughout the unfolding drama, Bogart remains the cool charismatic protagonist who captivates the audience with the power of his performance.Backing up Bogart is a fantastic ensemble cast of character actors; Mary Astor, Peter Lorre, Elisha Cook Jr., and in his first screen appearance Sydney Greenstreet. The chemistry this cast shares is unbelievable as they trade fast paced dialogue and play off each other with great ease. Character actor, Sydney Greenstreet did not waste his cinematic debut and crafted villainous character who served as the perfect antithesis to Spade. He was a civilized and intelligent man, who was addicted to the finer things in life, being in complete opposition to everything Sam Spade represented.
Despite this being the first film John Huston ever directed, he takes to leading this picture like a pro as everything falls flawlessly into place. Huston brought Hammett’s vision to life in a shadow covered city which somehow seems perfectly capable of having dark alleys and posh hotels equally. The storytelling element which Huston employed was perfectly described by the legendary Roger Ebert described this movie perfectly by saying it was “a series of conversations punctuated by brief violent interludes”. This method allowed for the plot to unfold naturally as the gifted cast members were allowed to fully embody their roles. The success of this film paved the way for Huston to go on to make such classics as; The African Queen, Treasure of the Sierra Madre, Night of the Iguana, and the Man Who Would Be King.
The Maltese Falcon blazed the trail which all other film noir and detective flicks have followed ever since and boosted the careers of many Hollywood legends. After 75 years this picture is one that has proven its power time and time again.
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