- The Maltese Falcon review by Steve Mason
For this third version of of Dashiell Hammett's classic novel, first time director John Huston just filmed the book. All the dialogue was Hammett's and there were no embellishment with the plot. Former Pinkerton Agent Hammett knew what he was writing about, and in Sam Spade, he gave us cinema's first authentic PI. And Humphrey Bogart's first signature role.
But the rest of the story is actually quite theatrical, with the elaborate McGuffin of the Knight Templars' falcon, and the band of colourful crooks in it's pursuit. That the three male conspirers were obviously gay, seems a remarkable detail now, given that the Hay's Commission was in full swing.
Where The Maltese Falcon really scores, is in its casting. Bogart is great as the morally ambiguous, fast talking Spade. Mary Astor is the deliciously duplicitous femme fatale, Brigid O' Shaughnessy, a legendary character for fans of Film Noir. Elisha Cook and Peter Lorre are treasurable as the henchmen, Wilmer, and Joel Cairo. But perhaps best of all, Sidney Greenstreet as the huge, loquacious, dangerous Kaspar Gutman.
The Maltese Falcon is a fascinating thriller, with its cast of totally unreliable criminals, and a hero you are never sure of. It is stuffed with fantastic dialogue, particularly in the wonderful final scene. Arguably it is the first Film Noir. And it seems to get better with each passing year.
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