The Maltese Falcon is a film that is even older than the original Godzilla. It’s definitely known as a classic at this point and with good reason. It’s a film that definitely holds up pretty well against the test of time. It’s nice and confusing without necessarily cheating the audience as it goes along. You have opportunities to try and piece together what is up amist all of the trickery that is afoot.
The main character is a guy named Sam Spade. He is a detective and one day a lady comes into his office asking him to tail someone. This guy may be dangerous so she wants them to proceed with caution. Sam has his partner tail the guy, but he ends up getting knocked off. This just got personal for Sam and he knows that the lady knows more. Other wrinkles quickly develop in the plot as an organization led by the Fat Man enters the picture along with a shady fellow representing another organization. What ties all of these individuals together is their desire to obtain the Maltese Falcon.
It’s definitely a pretty fun mystery as you watch Sam try to piece it all together. He definitely has no help since none of the characters want to be honest with him. He handles the whole thing pretty well for the most part although he does get knocked out once or twice. Sam is still human so I suppose he’s entitled to a few mistakes. One area where he didn’t look good was how he would let Brigid get to him even though he knew that she was pretty shady. By the end he makes the right call, but he should have kept the whole thing a little more business like anyway since he knew that it wouldn’t work out. As a detective, he’s definitely one of the best in the biz. He doesn’t back down from the cops or from gangsters. Sam just seems pretty fearless and we know that he isn’t, but his tough facade is a hard one to break down. He’s also a pretty talented fighter as he disarms several villains in the film.
Brigid is the main heroine and she constantly tells Sam lie after lie. It’s a good thing that he’s got a lot of experience at detecting those because she would have had him trapped otherwise. She got herself into this mess so it’s hard to feel sorry for her. She’s just as guilty as the other villains in pursuit of the Falcon so it’s hard to know which group to root for from the big 3. Regardless, she is typically on the defensive since she usually doesn’t carry a gun. She wasn’t my kind of villain.
Cairo is the kind of villain who acts really polite even when he is doing something sinister. He doesn’t look too impressive in his first fight with Sam, but he manages to do all right by the end. He is treated like a punching bag compared to the other villains though and you never get the feeling that his group will end up winning. He’s pretty brave and a quick thinker sometimes. Cairo’s a fun villain to watch, but one that you don’t expect to go very far.
Poor Wilmer is the main subordinate of the “Fat Man” and he always has a gun yet he is never really able to win. He’s constantly outmatched against Sam and the humiliations never stop for him. For a while you start to think that the “Fat Man” might just off him for being so inneffective as a hit man. Wilmer manages to escape that fate, but let’s just say that things aren’t all well and good for him by the time everything’s over. He does get more character than the “Fat Man” though. The boss talks tough, but he’s the kind of guy who really needs a bodyguard since he wouldn’t last very long on his own. He was a pretty fun villain and he also likes to act polite, but he enters the party pretty late. His final trick was a doozy though.
As with most of the old (Pre 60’s) films that I’ve seen, The Maltese Falcon has exceptional writing. If films still used the dialogue of the old days it would make for some pretty thrilling moments. There’s just something about the lines that makes all of the characters seem reasonably smart. It’s pretty neat and it’s probably one of the reasons why I like the feel of these films. The adventures are always very interesting and even if you manage to get lost in the shuffle of plot twists at some point, you’ll have had fun.
The ending was definitely a little unexpected, but in a good way. It was good to see a certain character get the last laugh after such a complicated endeavor. This character never actually gets to appear, but we begin to realize his brilliance once the final plot twist pops up. Trust me, it’s a doozy! It was a satisfying way to end the film and while we could in theory get a sequel, it can stand up on its own. The solid writing and good cast of characters definitely make the mystery entertaining. There is no soundtrack to be found here, but I suppose that I can overlook that this time…..I suppose.
Overall, The Maltese Falcon lives up to its reputation of being one of the best films of its time. It holds up well to the Hitchcock films or the other Bogart titles where he starred in a similar role. You may have some trouble keeping up with the names at first, but once you’ve go them down you’re all set to start deciphering the clues. Sam does let his feelings overwhelm him at times, but for at least 90% of the film, he’s the intense main character that we had been waiting for. I highly recommend checking this out if you like a good mystery.