Thursday, August 30, 2007

The Maltese Falcon

(movie review)

Another great movie! This movie was located just next to "The Big Sleep" in my video store. Since I enjoyed "The Big Sleep" so much, I thought I'd give this one a try while I was on a role.

On the surface, this movie seems almost identical to "The Big Sleep". Both are classic hard boiled private detective movies. Both star Humphry Bogart. Both take place in California. And both movies even create a similar atmosphere.

Indeed the similarities between these movies do seem to outway the differences, but there are some differences. For example "The Maltese Falcon" is not about the adventures of Philip Marlow, but of Sam Spade, a different private detective from a different series of books. I've not read any of Sam Spade's books, but the general consensus among book reviewers seems to be that Raymond Chandler (the author of the Philip Marlow series) is much superior.

That, perhaps added to the fact that this film has no William Faulkner or Leigh Brackett credited on the screen play might account for the fact that the dialogue isn't as near as good as "The Big Sleep". But dialogue aside, I actually enjoyed the general story of "The Maltese Falcon" more.

The premise of "The Maltese Falcon" itself is based on a legend about the knights templars (just like another more recent popular novel/movie combination you may have heard of.) Several different people are interested in recovering the lost Templar treasure of the maltese falcon. There are several different characters with conflicting motives, and lots of betrayals and changing alliances. It requires a certain amount of close attention to keep track of everything, but if you watch closely, everything makes perfect sense in the end. Unlike "The Big Sleep", there are no big plot holes in this movie (or at least I didn't catch any. If someone out there has a quick eye, they're welcome to point some out to me).

And there are a couple great shockers at the end. One of the them I saw coming, the other one took me by surprise. But both of them make perfect sense once you think about it.

The lighting and cinematography are superior in this movie as well, although I'm almost hesistant to bring that up because it makes it sound like I'm discussing a classic movie. From my point of view this was a really fun movie that just happens to be a classic. Like "The Big Sleep", it can hold its own against any of Hollywood's modern thrillers today.

Finally, this movie is worth seeing if for no other reason than it has a great performance by Peter Lorre. Peter Lorre was the Austrian-Hungarian actor who was famous as a great character actor. You might be thinking you don't know who he is, but actually you probably do. He usually plays the creepy characters in old movies. He's been parodied a million times by a million different people.

I've actually been on a big Peter Lorre kick recently. With this movie I also rented "20,000 Leagues Under the Sea" and "Casablanca". Both of these are movies I've seen before as a kid, but I don't think I've seen either since about 7th grade.

"20,000 Leagues" was more or less how I remembered it, although I appreciate it a little more now knowing who all the famous actors are. And it is impressive they could pull off a movie of that scope way back in 1954.

"Casablanca" completely blew me away. The last time I saw that movie I must have been too young to appreciate it, but this time around I was struck by what a wonderfully movie it was, and how well it was scripted. If, like me, you haven't seen that movie for a while, it is definately worth another viewing.

But all of this is really another subject for another post. One final note on "Casablanca" and "The Maltese Falcon" before I wrap this up though: it is interesting that both movies share 3 of the same major actors: Humphrey Bogart, Peter Lorre, and Sydney Greenstreet. All 3 of whom do a great job in both movies. In fact, according to Wikipedia, "The Maltese Falcon" was Sydney Greenstreet's film debut.

Bonus wasting time on youtube link: here are Peter Lorre and Sydney Greenstreet on a youtube video making some cameo together on some old film.

Link of the Day
New York Times Smears Peace Movement, Again: Newspaper invents Obama dig

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