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Friday, January 21, 2011


John Huston made his directorial debut and Sydney Greenstreet his acting debut in 1941's THE MALTESE FALCON based on a story by Dashiell Hammet which had been filmed twice before this one.

The previous attempts prove conclusively that story alone does not make a perfect film, instead it's a combination of directing, casting, acting and story that come together to make a great film.

THE MALTESE FALCON is a great film.

Film Noir devotees often argue that since it was made in 1941 it doesn't qualify since the French Film Critiques didn't coin the term until after WWII-- but I would argue strongly that if any film fits the category this one does.

Humphrey Bogart plays Sam Spade, a jaded detective who is hired by a young woman to help her find her missing sister.  When his partner is killed on the job it leads Spade into a downward spiral of murder, mystery and a centuries old treasure.

In the supporting cast are Sidney Greenstreet, Peter Lorre and Elisha Cook Jr-- giving the film a great lift everytime any of the them are on the screen.  Spade's interaction with two tough city police detectives include some priceless lines:

When asked about his current working situation by one of the detectives, Spade calmly looks at the other one in the room and replies:  "What's your boyfriend getting at?"

The story takes several twists and turns and features one of the darkest endings in cinema history.

The Maltese Falcon may not qualify 100% as Film Noir but it's a great place to start.