The Maltese Falcon  (1941)

PopGap #02: The Maltese Falcon (1941)

 
By dorrk, February 23rd 2015
Oscar Nominees: #11 of 20

Why in the world did I come into this month's PopGap thinking that I wasn't a fan of film noir? The Maltese Falcon is widely considered the inaugural entry in the genre and it is, in my mind, a nearly perfect movie. I saw this once years ago, but had since forgotten how every scene in it crackles with energy, mystery and wit.

Humphrey Bogart stars as Sam Spade, a punchy detective who is drawn into a web of intrigue centered around a historical artifact that's been missing, off-and-on, for about 400 years. On the hunt for the the title object are several remarkable and chronically untrustworthy characters, and Spade must juggle them all as he navigates the perils of the case.

Bogart is sensational as Spade, and the entire cast meets his standard with an array of vibrant and fascinating characters. Mary Astor, Peter Lorre, Sydney Greenstreet, and Elisha Cook Jr. are indispensable, and John Huston's direction is so tight there is rarely a dull moment. the only false note in The Maltese Falcon is Spade's relationship with Astor's femme fatale. If Spade's affection for her is ever genuine, as it seems to be during the classic, shattering finale, it's not fully evident why he ever falls for her when he is so capable at keeping everyone else at a distance.

That one flaw, however, is all-too-common in movies from this period, and barely disrupts one of the purest movie-watching pleasures available.

Trailer for The Maltese Falcon (1941)



The Top 20 Movies of All-Time

#1: The Godfather Part II (1974)

#1: The Godfather Part II (1974)

Dir: Francis Ford Coppola
#2: The Godfather (1972)

#2: The Godfather (1972)

Dir: Francis Ford Coppola
#3: West Side Story (1961)

#3: West Side Story (1961)

Dir: Jerome Robbins, Robert Wise
#4: Manhattan (1979)

#4: Manhattan (1979)

Dir: Woody Allen
#5: The Graduate (1967)

#5: The Graduate (1967)

Dir: Mike Nichols
#6: Tootsie (1982)

#6: Tootsie (1982)

Dir: Sydney Pollack
#7: Apocalypse Now (1979)

#7: Apocalypse Now (1979)

Dir: Francis Ford Coppola
#8: The Empire Strikes Back (1980)

#8: The Empire Strikes Back (1980)

Dir: Irvin Kershner
#9: Star Wars (1977)

#9: Star Wars (1977)

Dir: George Lucas
#10: The Exorcist (1973)

#10: The Exorcist (1973)

Dir: William Friedkin
#11: The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001)

#11: The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001)

Dir: Peter Jackson
#12: Taxi Driver (1976)

#12: Taxi Driver (1976)

Dir: Martin Scorsese
#13: Annie Hall (1977)

#13: Annie Hall (1977)

Dir: Woody Allen
#14: Vertigo (1958)

#14: Vertigo (1958)

Dir: Alfred Hitchcock
#15: Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)

#15: Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)

Dir: Steven Spielberg
#16: Boogie Nights (1997)

#16: Boogie Nights (1997)

Dir: Paul Thomas Anderson
#17: The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974)

#17: The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974)

Dir: Tobe Hooper
#18: It's a Wonderful Life (1944)

#18: It's a Wonderful Life (1944)

Dir: Frank Capra
#19: Singin' in the Rain (1952)

#19: Singin' in the Rain (1952)

Dir: Stanley Donen, Gene Kelly
#20: Zodiac (2007)

#20: Zodiac (2007)

Dir: David Fincher