Movie #327 2020: The Maltese Falcon (1941)

Some classics are classics for good reason. Rear Window is one of my favourite new watches this year (which I’m sure you’ll know, because I’m always barking on about it), and that’s a perfect example of how sometimes the old ones really are the best. But this one? I’m not so sure.

Led by the ever-brilliant Hollywood heartthrob Humphrey Bogart, The Maltese Falcon is a strange kind of story. Based on a 1930 novel, it’s the tale of a private detective named Sam Spade, who takes on the case of a missing statuette. The name of the statue? ‘The Maltese Falcon.’ Of course, this is Old Hollywood, so Spade gets entangled with criminals and a beautiful woman along the way as he tries everything possible to get his hands on the priceless figurine.

Is it just me, or does that synopsis sound really quite boring? It’s not just me: it’s the truth. Unfortunately, unlike my beloved Rear Window, this has really not aged very well at all. Nevertheless, John Huston was so masterful, even back in 1941. The establishing shots of San Francisco, the way he creates a sense of heroism of his lead actor by shooting him from below… Brilliant. There are clear hints here as to why people label Huston a pioneer of modern cinema.

You don’t need me to tell you that the handsome Humphrey Bogart is great – you’ve heard it all before. His 40s voice is at full gusto in this classic neo-noir detective movie, and his charm shines like a beacon through the black & white façade. That’s not to say that the plot itself is anything to write home about however, and I’m pretty sure this movie would not be as well remembered were it not for its leading man.

There are many online reviews of The Maltese Falcon that have the same gripe: it’s too much of a slow burn. My experience was quite different, because I’m sure it got into the nitty of gritty things pretty much immediately. The first 5 minutes alone tell you all you need to know about Sam and then there’s an actual murder! Not sure how much quicker you can move than that… But hey ho, can’t win them all.

Over-dramatic and exaggerated? Sure it is! It was the 1940s! It’s not always the most thrilling thing to watch, but in its day I bet this was the height of excitement and a good means of escaping the realities of the Second World War. I won’t lie though, I didn’t pay attention the entire time, but the parts I followed were very well done for the time period at least. Does that make it any more enjoyable in today’s modern era? Sadly, no.

Aside from the good quality filmmaking, it’s inherently obvious why this movie is not generally labelled as “timeless”. To a modern audience, it’s certainly just okay. Tedious at times and not surprising in its plot twist, but at least fairly interesting to watch from a classic filmmaking standpoint.

However, don’t bother with it unless you’re a film student or aspiring filmmaker or actor. It’s really not worth your time otherwise.

The Maltese Falcon is available to rent on Amazon, the Google Play Store and Apple TV for £3.49.

TQR Category Ratings:

Costume & Set Design: 
Overall Enjoyability Rating: 

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s