the maltese falcon
dir. john huston
A lot, though never enough, can be said of the importance of The Maltese Falcon. Regarded as the first (and in many cases the finest) film noir, each of its elements contributed to forming the genre’s specific style: from Humphrey Bogart’s hard-boiled detective character, to John Huston’s sharp script and sharper images, to Arthur Edeson’s cinematography, rooted in German Expressionism that translated itself into a new, purely Hollywood style.
The characters find themselves stepping over each other to take ownership of the famed Maltese falcon statuette, rumored to be covered in priceless jewels. After several murders and several more lies, the falcon is uncovered, and is unlike anything they had ever imagined.
“I mean, you paid us more than if you had been telling us the truth, and enough more to make it all right.”
The film features a strong supporting cast, including Peter Lorre, who has already made two appearances in Rosebud, first in M and then in The Man Who Knew Too Much, and his acting (as well as his English, noted in the review of Man) has made terrific strides. Here, he plays the pseudo-homosexual Joel Cairo, in one of the most interesting cases of a homosexual character in Code-era Hollywood.
Humphrey Bogart takes ownership of the screen whenever he’s on it; he’s slick, he’s mean, and he knows what he wants. The major character archetypes are all present, the story is intriguing, the shots are spectacular; if you want a classic Hollywood film, look no further, and if you want to take a stab at noir, you can’t beat the original.