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49 of 50 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Stuff That Dreams Are Made Of
Seldom has any novel been so successfully interpreted on screen: in approaching Dashiell Hammett's seminal private-eye novel, director John Huston not only stayed meticulously true to the plot, he also lifted great chunks on the novel's dialogue directly into the script--and then styled the pace, cinematography, and performances to reflect Hammett's stripped-for-action...
Published on 28 Dec 2002 by Gary F. Taylor

versus
1.0 out of 5 stars Hopeless
Very poor quality sound. Had it right up to volume 50-60 & STILL couldn't hear it properly. Voices came & went in volume & clarity. I know old movies are not always great but this copy was pointless in watching as it was so bad.
Published 27 days ago by ej


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49 of 50 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Stuff That Dreams Are Made Of, 28 Dec 2002
By 
Gary F. Taylor "GFT" (Biloxi, MS USA) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
Seldom has any novel been so successfully interpreted on screen: in approaching Dashiell Hammett's seminal private-eye novel, director John Huston not only stayed meticulously true to the plot, he also lifted great chunks on the novel's dialogue directly into the script--and then styled the pace, cinematography, and performances to reflect Hammett's stripped-for-action tone. And the result, to borrow a phrase from the film, is "the stuff that dreams are made of." THE MALTESE FALCON is a iconographic landmark in twentieth century cinema.
The story is well known. San Francisco Private eyes Sam Spade and Miles Archer are employed by an attractive but decidedly questionable Brigid O'Shaughnessy to track down a man named Thursby--but within hours of taking the case both Miles Archer and Thursby are shot dead, and Spade finds himself embroiled in a search for a legendary lost treasure: the figure of a falcon, encrusted with jewels.
The cast is remarkable. Humphrey Bogart made a name for himself first on the stage and then in films with a series of memorable gangster roles, and was fresh from his great success in HIGH SIERRA; Sam Spade, which offered a new twist on his already established persona, was an inspired bit of casting. Mary Astor had been a great star in silent film, but the late twenties and early thirties found her dogged by scandal; perhaps deliberately playing on those memories, she brought a remarkable mixture of toughness, tarnish, and absolute believability to the role of the very, very dangerous Brigid. And the chemistry between Bogart and Astor is a remarkable thing, a simmering sexuality that more glossy casting could have never achieved.
The supporting cast is equally fine. Although a great star in Europe and the star of a number of 1930s films, Peter Lorre was still something of an unknown quanity in American film; Sidney Greenstreet was a minor stage actor with no screen experience; Elisha Cook was a well-liked but neglected character actor. But THE MALTESE FALCON would fix all three firmly in the public mind, and to some extent all three would continue to play variations of their FALCON roles for the rest of their lives.
FALCON is particularly noted as one of several films that craftily circumvented the notorious "Production Code" by effectively implying but never directly stating the various sexual relations between the characters. Spade has clearly had an affair with Archer's wife, Iva; Archer is clearly a man on the sexual make, and leaps at the chance to tail Brigid. Lorre's lines effectively expose Brigid as man-hungry, and the script and situations do everything but flatly state that Lorre's character is homosexual. Perhaps most startling is the implied sexual relationship between Sidney Greenstreet and the hoodlum Elisha Cook, and the concluding implication that Lorre may well replace Cook in Greenstreet's affections. Just as the plotlines swirl and twist, so do the layers of innuendo and the tangles of sexual uncertainty--all of it adding to the film's feel of uneasy decadence and grittiness.
The DVD bonuses are enjoyable but slight--two film trailers and a documentary that uses trailers to show how Warner Bros. marketed Bogart during the 1930s and 1940s. But even if it came without any bonuses the DVD would still be greatly welcomed: although it has not been restored in a computer-corrected sense, this is the finest print I have ever seen of the film, far superior to anything available on VHS. A great film, a true essential, and strongly, strongly recommended.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The birth of Hollywood's original noir anti-hero., 4 Mar 2004
By 
Themis-Athena (from somewhere between California and Germany) - See all my reviews
Like few other actors, Humphrey Bogart ruled the Hollywood of the 1940s and 1950s - epitome of the handsome, cynical and oh-so lonesome wolf and looking unbeatably cool in his fedora and trenchcoat, a cigarette dangling from the corner of his mouth; endowed with a legendary aura several times larger than his real life stature, and still admired by scores of women wishing they had been born 50+ years earlier, preferably somewhere in California and to parents connected with the movie business, so as to have at least a marginal chance of meeting him. The American Film Institute recently elected him the No. 1 film legend of the 20th century; and looking back, indeed no other actor seems to have been surrounded by the same kind of darkly magical aura as the one surrounding Bogart.
"The Maltese Falcon" (1941), directed by John Huston, based on Dashiell Hammett's 1930 like-named novel and itself also ranking in the top quarter of the AFI's list of the 100 best 20th century movies, laid the groundwork for Bogart's lasting image, by transforming his on-screen persona from the tough, often two-dimensional gangsters he had portrayed before; beginning with the 1936 adaptation of Robert Sherwood's "Petrified Forest" where, like in its 1934 stage production, Bogart had starred opposite Leslie Howard, with Bette Davis as the female lead. Now imbuing his tough guy shell with a softer core, in "The Maltese Falcon" Bogart became not only Hammett's Sam Spade but, moreover, the film noir anti-hero per se; a role that stayed with him throughout the rest of his career, and in which he still remains virtually unparalleled.
The movie's long-famous story centers around the mysterious statute of a falcon made from solid gold, diamonds and other precious stones; the 16th century Maltese Knights' immeasurably precious gift of thanks to Emperor Charles V for the protection he had granted them. Stolen by pirates, blackened on the outside in order to conceal its true value and passed on through the centuries by a number of unsuspecting possessors, it finally attracts the attention of two rivaling pairs of equally cunning, ruthless and high-flying scoundrels, who chase each other and the statue halfway around the world and finally end up in Sam Spade's San Francisco office - not without getting both Spade's partner Miles Archer (Jerome Cowan) and one of their own killed in the process; thus also causing additional grief for Spade, whom the police soon suspect of being behind the murders himself - or at least behind that of Archer - in order to make off with Archer's widow Iva (Gladys George). And of course, it doesn't exactly help that he has had his office sign changed from "Spade & Archer" to "Samuel Spade" within mere hours of his partner's death.
Looking at the movie and its stars' almost mythical fame, it is difficult to imagine that, produced at the height of the studio system era, this was originally just one of the roughly 50 films released by Warner Brothers over the course of one year. But mass production didn't equal low quality; on the contrary, the great care given to all production values, from script-writing to camera work, editing, score and the stars' presentation in the movie itself and in its trailer, was as responsible for its lasting success as were Humphrey Bogart and his outstanding costars; first and foremost Mary Astor as the double-crossing and now partner-less Brigid O'Shaughnessy, Peter Lorre and Sydney Greenstreet (in their first of several appearances opposite Bogart) as Joel Cairo and Kaspar Guttman, O'Shaughnessy/Astor's competitors for possession of the precious statue, and Elisha Cook, Jr., as Guttman's rough but inept bodyguard Wilmer Cook. Genre-defining and the first truly giant highlight of Bogart's career, "The Maltese Falcon" is an unmissable piece of Hollywood history, captivating you from the first moment you spend in Sam Spade's office all the way to its cynical conclusion, and a thrill to watch over and over again.
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48 of 50 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars the falcon flies high..., 31 Aug 2007
By 
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At least for two reasons, "The Maltese Falcon" is a milestone in the evolution of American genre cinema. First, this is one of the very first pictures that ushered the era of classic film noir. Its bizarre characterizations, twisty plot and cliché-drenched events serve as a perfect template that has been utilized in countless films through six decades after its making. Second, this is the movie that catapulted Humphrey Bogart's career into stardom. He had been a strong supporting character, mostly playing villains (as in "High Sierra" & "The Petrified Forest"). After his performance as hard-boiled private eye Sam Spade, he became a major star.

The movie represents a complex study of human psyche, especially taking a dismal look at human greed and pursuit of self-interest at whatever cost. All characters are well-drawn and well-acted. From cynical, quick-thinking and fast-talking Spade to prissy, gardenia-scented but psychopathic Cairo, there are no righteous, clean or likeable character. Everyone is either honestly abhorrent or has numerous ulterior motives hidden behind their masks, but all converge at haunt for wealth.

Even the "good guy" Spade's morality is questionable. Although he has a strong sense of idealism; his morality shakes wildly when things go awry. Spade might be considered as just crafty as other villains, but he adheres strictly to some kind of robust moral code and old-fashioned common sense that he tries to find the way out in the dark maze of confusion, deception and lies. At the end, he overcomes all obstacles and defeats bad guys, even at the cost of losing a love affair.

Good characterization, tight direction, strong performances and wonderful plot make "The Maltese Falcon" still an interesting & entertaining picture albeit more than six decades have passed after its making.

The DVD transfer is quite good. Black & white tones are crisp and clear, contrasts are satisfactorily strong, audio is all right. Bonus DVD has some interesting extras. 45-minutes non-film featurette (Becoming Attractions: The Trailers of Humphrey Bogart) hosted by Robert Osborne is a nice trailer collection of 12 Bogart films, from "The Petrified Forest" of 1936 to "The Treasure of the Sierra Madre" of 1948. 32-minutes documentary (The Maltese Falcon: One Magnificent Bird) deals with book, Hammett and the earlier film versions. Also it has interviews with Robert Osbourne, Michael Madsen, Frank Miller and Bogart biographer Eric Lax.

This 2-disc special edition is a must-have for Huston & Bogart fans, as well as it's a good start to enter the film noir world.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars "...The Cheaper The Crook...The Gaudier The Patter..." - The Maltese Falcon on BLU RAY., 9 Mar 2014
By 
Mark Barry "Mark Barry" - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (HALL OF FAME REVIEWER)    (TOP 50 REVIEWER)   
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This review is from: The Maltese Falcon Steelbook (Blu-ray + UV Copy) [1941] [Region Free] (Blu-ray)
If I'm truthful - I've always admired John Huston's "The Maltese Falcon" more than I actually like it - and have owned the Warners Brothers/Turner Classics DVD of the 1941 Black and White classic for years now ("The Big Sleep" is so much better).

This January 2013 Warner Brothers BLU RAY reissue in a 'Steelbook' (Barcode 5000152858) uses the same restored film elements the Turner Classics DVD did and carries the same crazy extras (see below). It's quite rightly defaulted to its original 1.37:1 aspect ratio which makes it look like a box in the centre of the screen with black bars to the left and right. No amount of screen changing with your remote will change this.

The 'Steelbook' cleverly uses the "A Story As Explosive As His Blazing Guns" artwork of the original poster on the front with a page of info loosely glued to the rear (I'd suggest putting it in a 7" single plastic to protect the whole easily damageable lot). This reissue also includes a code page inside for a downloadable Ultraviolet Copy to mobile devices (redemption deadline 27/01/2015 - exclusions for the UV code are iTunes, Ireland, The Channel Islands and The Isle of Man). There's no booklet - nor art card (mores the pity) and you'd have to say that the period look is very evocative. But it's nice rather than great - when with a bit of effort - it could have been very special indeed. (As of March 2014 it's reduced in price to eight quid from an original of over thirteen).

The print is very clean throughout with only small amounts of grain and blocking showing. At times it looks 'noir' and quite beautiful in a way that only black and white can. There's a scene where Bogart as gumshoe Sam Spade answers the phone in his San Francisco apartment at one am - a voce tells him that his partner Miles Archer has been shot. The camera doesn't show Bogey's face - it just stays on the phone as he talks - the curtain blowing in the window in the background. It's expertly framed and is a clever way of filling a potentially dead scene with intrigue and menace.

This is a world where women are 'dames' and 'broads', where men wear a tilted Trilby as they stand in doorways carrying something in their long coat pockets that isn't a `Have A Nice Day' bumper sticker. Bullets are 'slugs', two-faced squelchers 'squawk' - and when our Sam smacks some schmuck in the kisser he says - "When you're slapped, you'll take it and like it..." In fact the pump-action dialogue and convoluted plot line with everyone double-crossing everyone else is part of the fun. There's the pleading ladies (Mary Astor and Gladys George) who may not be so Mom's Apple Pie, the 'square' assistant with a heart of gold who believes in her boss (Lee Patrick) and the sensational Peter Lorrie as Joel Cairo slinking about like a well-dressed rat with a cigarette case - intent on getting back an ancient and uber-valuable gold and jewel-encrusted falcon statue hidden inside black metal casing. All this and Elisha Carthy, Jr and Sydney Greenstreet as greedy criminals - both shining as the puppet and the puppeteer.

But the movie belongs to the everyman of cinema - Humphrey Bogart. If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery - watching "The Maltese Falcon" tells you why. The street punk voice, the shuffling mannerisms, the wiseass remarks ("people loose teeth talking like that"), the knowing chuckles, the cigarette permanently in hand, the crumpled suits, the private eye's office one step away from repossession - everything about the Sam Spade character became a virtual Private Eye template for decades to come. And no matter how deep our honest gumshoe gets into the dirt - he always seems to be one foxy dame ahead of the pack.

The extras supposedly represent what cinemagoers would have seen on the night - but they've nothing to do with the movie and are more bizarre than they're entertaining:

1. A Trailer to Gary Cooper's "Sergeant York"
2. World War II Newsreel footage of Churchill and Roosevelt meeting on board a transatlantic liner
3. An early colour short of a dancing musical called "The Gay Parisian"
4. An early Bugs Bunny colour cartoon called "Hiawatha's Rabbit Hunt"
5. A Looney Tunes Black And White cartoon with Porky Pig called "Meet John Doughboy"

Better than all of the odd above is the ERIC LAX feature-length Commentary -which is dry but full of details.

"The Maltese Falcon" was nominated for 3 Academy Awards - and its not surprising that the fast-talking script and tight Direction launched John Huston into the pantheon of the greats while cementing Bogey as a genuine star. Just a few years later Humphrey would meet a 19-year old leggy starlet with a mouth and attitude to match his on-screen own (Lauren Bacall) and the rest as they say is the stuff that dreams are made of. Next time he would say "hey dreamboat" to a woman - he would mean it.

Recommended.

PS: Titles in this Region-Free Warner Brothers BLU RAY 'Steelbook' series so far include:

1. Ben Hur (1959)
2. Casablanca (1942)
3. Doctor Zhivago (1965)
4. Gone With The Wind (1939)
5. Grand Hotel (1932)
6. The Jazz Singer (1927)
7. The Maltese Falcon (1941)
8. North By Northwest (1959)
9. A Streetcar Named Desire (1951)
10. The Treasure Of The Sierra Madre (1948)
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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars 'The stuff that dreams are made of', 25 Sep 2000
By 
T. J. Turner "Northerner" (Manchester) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (REAL NAME)   
Featuring what is probably Humphrey Bogart's best performance, this gleaming DVD of 'The Maltese Falcon' is an all but essential purchase for anyone building a collection. The performances are harsh, self-contained and steely (except poor Elisha Cook), the direction is sinuous and brilliantly paced, and the dialogue sparkles like a polished blade. It's about the only adequate cinematic adaptation of a Dashiell Hammett novel, a perfect showcase for Bogart's brand of jaded anti-heroism, and a damn good thriller.
The story circles around a group of people conspiring against each other for possession of the Maltese Falcon, a priceless antique, and concerns the involvement of Sam Spade, an ultra-cynical San Francisco private detective. Despite being restricted almost entirely to two or three locations, it's a hugely exciting film, where words and schemes count more than brute force. Made just before the dark sexy world of film noir took over, this is a tense, gripping piece of work which all fans of Hollywood classics should own.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Well, it's just brilliant cinema is all., 30 July 2012
By 
Spike Owen "John Rouse Merriott Chard" (Birmingham, England.) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
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This review is from: The Maltese Falcon [1941] [DVD] (DVD)
Sam Spade, a tough private detective gets involved in a murderous hunt for The Maltese Falcon, a legendary statuette thought to contain diamonds.

What can I possibly say that hasn't been said, written and studied by the greatest film critics and industry members, about The Maltese Falcon before? Well nothing by way of new stuff or a differing slant on the plot, I can merely concur and hopefully jolt prospective first time viewers into believing the reputation afforded this stunning piece of cinema.

First off I have to let it be known that The Maltese Falcon is far from being my favourite Bogart movie, in fact it's not even my favourite Bogart movie from 1941, it's well trumped in my affections by High Sierra, but few films ever get as close to being perfect as the Maltese Falcon clearly is. The source from Dashiell Hammett is first rate, yet it took someone like John Huston (director and screenwriter) to bring it triumphantly together. It had been adapted for the screen twice before with less than favourable results, but Huston, working tightly from Hammett's dialogue driven astuteness, molds a claustrophobic, shadowy classic amongst classics, that in the process laid the cornerstone for what became known as essential film noir.

You will search in vain for faults here, every scene is as tight as a Duck's bottom, not one filler scene is in this picture. The cast are across the board perfect in performances, Bogart (Spade) is peerless, Mary Astor, Peter Lorre, Sydney Greenstreet (film debut) and Elisha Cook Jr. stand out, but every other member of this cast add something good to this picture. The plot (of which I'm "so" not going to summarise for you) is complex to a degree, but really it all makes sense, you do not need to be Albert Einstein to knit the twisters nicely together. Also don't be fooled into thinking this is a film devoid of humour either, it has deadly wry smirks popping up all over the place, OK ,so they may be the sort of smirks brought about by devilish unease of admiration, but rest assured they are valid and integral to The Maltese Falcon's classic standing.

I could go on fawning but I really don't need too, the Academy may well have saw fit to not award this picture any awards for 1941, but time is an immeasurable force sometimes, and time now shows that The Maltese Falcon stands proud as not only a Titan of cinematic entertainment, but also of technical movie brilliance. 10/10
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars can this really be older than my mum?, 5 April 2002
By A Customer
Fantastic. A film not about the Middle East, or the Middle Med ... or the Knights Templar. This is about humanity: the dark and the light. Greed, love, trust, loyalty, sex, revenge, money ... 'the stuff that dreams are made of' indeed! Bogart is simply outstanding, a role to rival Rick or Marlowe. And Mary Astor is compelling, beautiful and genuinely dangerous. This was - unbelievably - Greenstreet's first major screen role, and Lorre is sleazily brilliant. If you want a rollercoaster STORY that sucks you in, then watch it. And if you love the film, then read Dashiel Hammett's novel - and feel the story come alive in your mind. A true Hollywood classic, with a superb cast, fine writing & direction - showing (as other reviewers point out) that Hollywood was never entirely about pap.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The birth of Hollywood's original noir anti-hero., 25 Feb 2004
By 
Themis-Athena (from somewhere between California and Germany) - See all my reviews
Like few other actors, Humphrey Bogart ruled the Hollywood of the 1940s and 1950s - epitome of the handsome, cynical and oh-so lonesome wolf and looking unbeatably cool in his fedora and trenchcoat, a cigarette dangling from the corner of his mouth; endowed with a legendary aura several times larger than his real life stature, and still admired by scores of women wishing they had been born 50+ years earlier, preferably somewhere in California and to parents connected with the movie business, so as to have at least a marginal chance of meeting him. The American Film Institute recently elected him the No. 1 film legend of the 20th century; and looking back, indeed no other actor seems to have been surrounded by the same kind of darkly magical aura as the one surrounding Bogart.
"The Maltese Falcon" (1941), directed by John Huston, based on Dashiell Hammett's 1930 like-named novel and itself also ranking in the top quarter of the AFI's list of the 100 best 20th century movies, laid the groundwork for Bogart's lasting image, by transforming his on-screen persona from the tough, often two-dimensional gangsters he had portrayed before; beginning with the 1936 adaptation of Robert Sherwood's "Petrified Forest" where, like in its 1934 stage production, Bogart had starred opposite Leslie Howard, with Bette Davis as the female lead. Now imbuing his tough guy shell with a softer core, in "The Maltese Falcon" Bogart became not only Hammett's Sam Spade but, moreover, the film noir anti-hero per se; a role that stayed with him throughout the rest of his career, and in which he still remains virtually unparalleled.
The movie's long-famous story centers around the mysterious statute of a falcon made from solid gold, diamonds and other precious stones; the 16th century Maltese Knights' immeasurably precious gift of thanks to Emperor Charles V for the protection he had granted them. Stolen by pirates, blackened on the outside in order to conceal its true value and passed on through the centuries by a number of unsuspecting possessors, it finally attracts the attention of two rivaling pairs of equally cunning, ruthless and high-flying scoundrels, who chase each other and the statue halfway around the world and finally end up in Sam Spade's San Francisco office - not without getting both Spade's partner Miles Archer (Jerome Cowan) and one of their own killed in the process; thus also causing additional grief for Spade, whom the police soon suspect of being behind the murders himself - or at least behind that of Archer - in order to make off with Archer's widow Iva (Gladys George). And of course, it doesn't exactly help that he has had his office sign changed from "Spade & Archer" to "Samuel Spade" within mere hours of his partner's death.
Looking at the movie and its stars' almost mythical fame, it is difficult to imagine that, produced at the height of the studio system era, this was originally just one of the roughly 50 films released by Warner Brothers over the course of one year. But mass production didn't equal low quality; on the contrary, the great care given to all production values, from script-writing to camera work, editing, score and the stars' presentation in the movie itself and in its trailer, was as responsible for its lasting success as were Humphrey Bogart and his outstanding costars; first and foremost Mary Astor as the double-crossing and now partner-less Brigid O'Shaughnessy, Peter Lorre and Sydney Greenstreet (in their first of several appearances opposite Bogart) as Joel Cairo and Kaspar Guttman, O'Shaughnessy/Astor's competitors for possession of the precious statue, and Elisha Cook, Jr., as Guttman's rough but inept bodyguard Wilmer Cook. Genre-defining and the first truly giant highlight of Bogart's career, "The Maltese Falcon" is an unmissable piece of Hollywood history, captivating you from the first moment you spend in Sam Spade's office all the way to its cynical conclusion, and a thrill to watch over and over again.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars There's only one Maltese Falcon - unless you get the US three-disc set, 6 Mar 2009
By 
Trevor Willsmer (London, England) - See all my reviews
(HALL OF FAME REVIEWER)    (TOP 100 REVIEWER)   
- in which case you'll get all three versions that Warner Bros. made of Dashiell Hammett's classic private eye novel that left its imprint on the genre forever. While the UK special edition boasts the John Huston-Humphrey Bogart version that everyone is familiar with, the two earlier versions are more interesting than they're given credit for.

Retitled Dangerous Female for reissues and its TV screenings, Roy Del Ruth's 1931 version is perhaps the closest to Hammett's style of any adaptations of his work and is a terrific little movie in its own right. It's helped by the fact that the film was made before the Hollywood Production Code imposed ridiculous censorship restrictions on the major studios, with Ricardo Cortez's Sam Spade a much more convincingly seedy character than Bogart - we first meet him after a dame has left his office when he's picking up the cushions from the office floor! The plot's a lot clearer in this version than in the Bogart version, where the Falcon literally falls into his hands, while the details of how Spade goes about his work are given much more screentime (the film has perhaps the best and most thorough searching a room scene in any private eye film). What it doesn't have is the iconic casting: Dudley Digges and Otto Matieson are no match for Sidney Greenstreet and Peter Lorre, though Thelma Todd as Iva and Dwight Frye as the gunsel Wilmer aren't bad.

However, the casting becomes positively surreal for the second screen version, 1936's Satan Met a Lady. Despite being directed by the great William Dieterle, it's no triumph, with the material bowlderized in to a comedy in a failed attempt to emulate the sophisticated goofy charm of MGM's hugely successful version of The Thin Man. And it's not just the names that have been changed: while Sam Spade becomes Ted Shane, the Fat Man actually becomes the Fat Lady, with Wilmer no longer his rentboy but her son, while the Maltese Falcon itself has been replaced by a ram's horn stuffed with jewels. Throughout it feels like a film that's just trying too hard to be off the wall as it races its way along, with Warren William playing Shane as a pixilated dandy in a big hat and Bette Davis all but lost in the broader supporting performances. It's watchable, but more as a curiosity item to see just how wrong they can go with the material.

It's small wonder that after that one the studio didn't have particularly high hopes for their third version in 1941, assigning a first-time director and a quality cast that certainly weren't on the top of anybody's wishlist at the time. It's probably precisely that fact that made everyone involved put that much more effort into making the film stand out - for Bogart it was make-or-break time if he was ever to get into the big leagues as a leading man while Huston was eager to make his mark as a director rather than a writer. Whatever it was, there was certainly magic in the air that made all the ingredients come together perfectly, though it's a shame its success has so completely overshadowed the 1931 version.

The three-disc NTSC release is certainly a perfect package. While the first film has no extras and Satan Met a Lady only has a trailer, they at least have decent transfers. But there's no shortage of effort on the 1941 version: an audio commentary by Eric Lax, the original theatrical trailer introduced by Sidney Greenstreet, two 40s radio adaptations, a new documentary on the film and a whole supporting programme of shorts, cartoons and trailers for other Bogart films. Definitely recommended over the UK two-disc version!
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21 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The birth of Hollywood's original noir anti-hero., 17 Jan 2007
By 
Themis-Athena (from somewhere between California and Germany) - See all my reviews
Like few other actors, Humphrey Bogart ruled the Hollywood of the 1940s and 1950s - epitome of the handsome, cynical and oh-so lonesome wolf and looking unbeatably cool in his fedora and trenchcoat, a cigarette dangling from the corner of his mouth; endowed with a legendary aura several times larger than his real life stature, and still admired by scores of women wishing they had been born 50+ years earlier, preferably somewhere in California and to parents connected with the movie business, so as to have at least a marginal chance of meeting him. The American Film Institute recently elected him the No. 1 film legend of the 20th century; and looking back, indeed no other actor seems to have been surrounded by the same kind of darkly magical aura as the one surrounding Bogart.

"The Maltese Falcon" (1941), directed by John Huston, based on Dashiell Hammett's 1930 like-named novel and itself also ranking in the top quarter of the AFI's list of the 100 best 20th century movies, laid the groundwork for Bogart's lasting image, by transforming his on-screen persona from the tough, often two-dimensional gangsters he had portrayed before; beginning with the 1936 adaptation of Robert Sherwood's "Petrified Forest" where, like in its 1934 stage production, Bogart had starred opposite Leslie Howard, with Bette Davis as the female lead. Now imbuing his tough guy shell with a softer core, in "The Maltese Falcon" Bogart became not only Hammett's Sam Spade but, moreover, the film noir anti-hero per se; a role that stayed with him throughout the rest of his career, and in which he still remains virtually unparalleled.

The movie's long-famous story centers around the mysterious statute of a falcon made from solid gold, diamonds and other precious stones; the 16th century Maltese Knights' immeasurably precious gift of thanks to Emperor Charles V for the protection he had granted them. Stolen by pirates, blackened on the outside in order to conceal its true value and passed on through the centuries by a number of unsuspecting possessors, it finally attracts the attention of two rivaling pairs of equally cunning, ruthless and high-flying scoundrels, who chase each other and the statue halfway around the world and finally end up in Sam Spade's San Francisco office - not without getting both Spade's partner Miles Archer (Jerome Cowan) and one of their own killed in the process; thus also causing additional grief for Spade, whom the police soon suspect of being behind the murders himself - or at least behind that of Archer - in order to make off with Archer's widow Iva (Gladys George). And of course, it doesn't exactly help that he has had his office sign changed from "Spade & Archer" to "Samuel Spade" within mere hours of his partner's death.

Looking at the movie and its stars' almost mythical fame, it is difficult to imagine that, produced at the height of the studio system era, this was originally just one of the roughly 50 films released by Warner Brothers over the course of one year. But mass production didn't equal low quality; on the contrary, the great care given to all production values, from script-writing to camera work, editing, score and the stars' presentation in the movie itself and in its trailer, was as responsible for its lasting success as were Humphrey Bogart and his outstanding costars; first and foremost Mary Astor as the double-crossing and now partner-less Brigid O'Shaughnessy, Peter Lorre and Sydney Greenstreet (in their first of several appearances opposite Bogart) as Joel Cairo and Kaspar Guttman, O'Shaughnessy/Astor's competitors for possession of the precious statue, and Elisha Cook, Jr., as Guttman's rough but inept bodyguard Wilmer Cook. Genre-defining and the first truly giant highlight of Bogart's career, "The Maltese Falcon" is an unmissable piece of Hollywood history, captivating you from the first moment you spend in Sam Spade's office all the way to its cynical conclusion, and a thrill to watch over and over again.
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