Maltese Falcon Evaluation Essay, Research Paper
The mysterious legend of the Maltese Falcon unfolds as the opening scene reveals the origin of the jewel-encrusted black statue. Its history dates back ages, and it is said to have disappeared after a struggle at sea, with its whereabouts unknown. The black and white screen slowly provides a transition into the office, and intricate life of private eye Sam Spade (Humphrey Bogart). As the dialogue starts fast and furiously, a story involving murder, greed and betrayal unfolds on screen. This movie, which spawned a whole slew of hard-boiled followers in its classic style, is still today one of the most celebrated detective tales ever.
The Maltese Falcon was the third, and most acclaimed, remake of Dasheill Hammett s fictional story. In John Huston s 1941 directorial debut, it was an instant smash hit at the time. Even more renowned today, critics agree on its importance as the beginning of the movie genre film noir, and it is considered by many to be Humphrey Bogart’s breakthrough movie. As Danny Peary of the Guide For the Film Fanatic raves, it is A true masterpiece. A landmark picture. (Turner, DVD). Even more so is the fact that it has landed on countless best-movie-of-all-time lists, including the famous American Film Institutes top 100 American Films List (Turner, DVD).
Set in the dark alleys of San Francisco, Humphrey Bogart stars as a proletarian tough guy private detective, tangled in a web of deceit as he tries to uncover the truth about the priceless statue everybody wants bad enough to kill for. Bogart plays a tough, experienced, short-tempered yet oddly likeable Sam Spade, a character both with Hammett’s real first name and old profession (Falcon FAQ, pg. 5). Although his vivid character is set on a crusade for the justice, Bogart is by no means angelic. Staying, at times, above the law puts him into various life-threatening situations along his adventure. During his encounters he must evade the hard-nosed police officers and scheming bad-guys such as the dubious Mr. Cairo (Peter Lorre) and the ruthless Guttman (Sydney Greenstreet), all while trying to figure out the double-dealing Brigid O’Shaughnessy (Mary Astor). The onscreen action is fast and furious as Bogart’s verbal vendettas, and skill in disarming assailants, is both comical and impressive. Dodging the people out to get him becomes ever so difficult as he starts to fall for Astor, leaving him in a moral dilemma. Should he give the woman he loves to be put away, or should he accept her mistakes and lie to keep her out of prison? He is put to the ultimate test of his conscious, and it is an underlying theme in the deceitful world he lives in.
It is the heightened pressure that truly shows Bogart s acting talent. One such scene is where two police officers, trying to tie Bogart with the murder of his partner, barge in on Lorre, Astor and Bogart. Using stinging repertoires and an unparalleled wit he manages to outsmart the police; they end up leaving with their tails between their legs. Even the deceitful Astor is impressed, and after the incident exclaims you must be the wildest, most unpredictable person I ve ever known (DVD). It is his talent, which makes this movie version so much better than its predecessors were.
The style that sparked the beginning of film noir was the film traditions from the 1920 s German expressionism, but more so of the society and period they grew out of. America, in the midst of a second world war, began a new literary style called hard-boiled novels. This new approach of hard-boiled fiction was highly differentiated from the earlier detective writing, both in content and style. It introduced a new twist on the realism of the characters and setting in a new darker light in tune with the recently urbanized society. The hero evolved into a more real-life character, the setting moved to dark alleys, and verbal wit peppered throughout the dialogue. The mean streets along with devious femme fatals and hardnosed stars became the central scene for any film noir and deviated from this very movie. The harsh realities of life, without its sugary coating or fairy tale ending, are trademarked in this picture. (Noir connection, Part 2) It is these traits that have been used time again, and helped the growth of a movement. Some critics cynically argue that the “Freudian dialogue” and underlying morals are ironic, even for the time. The conversations are almost always quick, sharp and cynical. Occasionally, the whole is slightly satiric, the seriousness consumed in childish escapades. Action and comedy go hand in hand, as some viewers today might call it a bit far-fetched. Still, these factors are what make the style so unique and why it is so difficult to be critical to characteristics today, after so much has changed. Yet the are certain factors which are never in question, such as Huston’s impressive dialogue or the unparalleled acting of Bogart. As his fights with crooks, makes snappy remarks and gets the ladies with his suave manner, he undoubtedly attracts all viewers, both past and present.
This movie is filled with the attributes necessary of any great detective tale. Mystery, intrigue, suspense, and great acting make this a movie a true classic. Its ability to entertain its viewers, a half-century after its production, is infallible. For today s viewer, this movie is very important in the understanding of the society in 1940s and its relevance on today’s movies. The underlying issues, such as how it “good” prevails in a “bad” world, are timeless cinematic qualities. Moreover, Bogart’s understandable character became an idol for children and adults, and paved the way for the “bad/good” guy. Actor with traits like Bogart would be copied in prospective movies and proved invaluable to the future of cinema.
Humphrey Bogart plays the triumphant role of a street-smart, persistent and determined hero, who together with a superior cast, great directing and a remarkable plot, leads to many future movies directed in this popular category of film. Being the first chapter to one of the most distinguishable movie genre ever makes this movie truly noteworthy, which is why it rightfully was nominated for three Academy Awards after its premier. Just as the keen Sam Spade sets the standard for future detectives, this movie sets the standard for future film noirs.
Works Cited and Used
Maltese Falcon, The. Dir. John Huston. Perf. Humphrey Bogart, Mary Astor, Peter Lorre and Sydney Greenstreet. 1941. DVD-editon. Turner Entertainment Co., Time Warner Company.
Maltese Falcon, The. October 25, 2000. Page 1-4. Muze, Inc. 5 November, 2000.
Mr. Cranky. 30 March, 2000. Pg. 1. ShadowCulture. 5 November, 2000.
German Way. 1998. Part 1-2, pg. 1,3,5. German-Hollywood Connection. 5 November, 2000.