Old Movie Review: The Maltese Falcon

Since this week’s book review is of a short story, we have two reviews today. No, this one is not an old review of a movie. It’s a new review of an old…ah, I give up!

I know this film has been out for a while, but at least there are no threats to bomb people who go to see it. Unless, of course, someone in Malta has decided to take offense after all these years. Just who rules Malta, anyway?

But on to our review. This old movie came on TV the other night, and we watched it just for fun. I’d seen it years ago, but I was in a nostalgic mood. I mean, these old ‘30s and ‘40s movies are good for a laugh.

Well, I’d have to say the laugh was on me.

Where I was expecting an old clunker full of hackneyed phrases and plot gimmicks, I got a smooth storyline with great reversals and a sophisticated underlying sarcasm. Bogart takes the line, “You’re really good,” and turns it into a running gag that just won’t stop.

What could never surprise anyone was good old Humphrey Bogart playing Bogart, and Peter Lorre playing Lorre. Neither of them really does anything else. The trick with directing those two was to find a character that fitted them, not the other way around. And this film fits them perfectly. The cool, rugged charm of Bogart, with that underlying intelligence and cynicism that he played so well. Lorre’s air of innocence, with that underlying sense of evil that made him so terrifying in horror films.

And the main star was the script. Even 75 years later, you can’t just sit back and laugh at the lines, because, as I may have mentioned, often the joke is on you. The film is full of surprises: for the characters and for the audience. The only one who usually isn’t surprised is Sam Spade, and I won’t be giving much away to tell you that even he gets hit for a couple of costly mistakes.

This film was on the leading edge of its time, possibly the first major example of film noir, and it still keeps that edge for the modern audience.

Highly entertaining. Five stars out of five, of course. Can’t fight history.

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