Friday, April 19, 2013

The Essentials- The Maltese Falcon (1941)

The Essentials- #1

The Maltese Falcon 

"The Essentials" is a special column that will feature some of my favorite films of all time and films that I personally feel are classics. The movies featured in "The Essentials" are films that I could not imagine living without. I hope to open you up to new, wonderful experiences.

So why not start with my favorite film of all time.

I watch this movie at least twice a year! This movie recharges my love and passion for film. It works every single time I sit down to watch it. This special film is none other than "The Maltese Falcon." 

The film stars Humphrey Bogart, famous for "Casablanca". Bogart is still to this date my favorite actor of all time. I am convinced that anything is better with Bogart. I consider this film his crowning achievement. A film of great mystery packed with lots of twists and turns.

The film centers around Sam Spade (Humphrey Bogart) a private detective with his own agency along with his partner, Miles Archer (Jerome Cowan). At the beginning of the film, the pair is hired by a mysterious woman named Brigid O'Shaughnessy (Mary Astor) to shadow a man who is trying to hurt her sister. Archer personally looks after her and ends up with a bullet in his chest...

Ahh...didn't see that coming so soon did you?

If you think I ruined the film, I didn't. There is a lot to this little film and what is important isn't who dies, but who does what and why. You could guess though that Spade gets pinned for the murder and that Ms. O'Shaughnessy isn't who she appears to be. She is, in fact, part in a criminal plot to retrieve an old, lost piece of treasure...a falcon stature made entirely out of jewels.

These types of characteristics were quite common in film noir. "The Maltese Falcon" is historically the very first film noir. A period in Hollywood where our nation became obsessed with crime dramas. Filmmakers began to use stylish ways to make their movies. Film Noirs always revolved around a  private eye, hard-boiled policeman, or an ordinary guy lured into crime. What I like about the genre is that they weren't packed with typical female characters. The women that populated these tales were dangerous and seductive. Too many times in Hollywood women are non-characters. They were, and still today can be, very cliche (the damsels-in-distress types). In film noirs, however, women could be thieves or murderers...OR both!

So with that style in mind, the cinematography for the film is great. The stylish camera angles are lucrative. The acting is all genuinely superb. Actors also featured in the film are Sydney Greenstreet and Peter Lorre (from "Casablanca"). I sincerely felt that I was on a wild ride throughout the entire film! The crazy, mysterious adventure Sam Spade goes through as the film progresses is a huge delight. These are all even just few reasons why "The Maltese Falcon" is my favorite film of all time.

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