Time: 101 mins.
Rating: Not Rated
Genre: Film Noir
Academy Award nominations for Best Supporting Actor (Greenstreet), Best Screenplay and Best Picture.
BOTTOM LINE: One of the first and best film noirs to ever come out of Hollywood. Bogart finally gets the star treatment as street smart detective Sam Spade, a man caught in a sticky web of lies, betrayal and murder. He's drawn into the desperate search for the Maltese Falcon a priceless 400-year-old, jewel-encrusted statue by a lovely woman, played by Mary Astor, who does nothing but lie to him from the moment they meet. Despite this, he allows her to use him because he's amused by her behavior and wants to see where her stories lead.
The men she's battling for possession of the statue are extremely dangerous, but they don't scare Spade. He's not considered a threat by them because for most of the film, he has no idea what they're actually looking for. However, Sam's no chump. He's only being amenable in order to be included in the final discovery. Especially if it really is a jewel encrusted statue. One really has to pay attention to the proceedings since everybody double-crosses everyone else at least once and sometimes twice. The film ends as it should, with the bad guys getting exactly what they deserve, which shouldn't surprise anybody, but is still extremely satisfying.
The reason this film is considered a classic is because of the snappy, clever dialogue, colorful characters, brilliant cinematography and intriguing story. Lorre and Greenstreet are two of the best character actors to ever come out of Hollywood and they prove why here. They are always on the wrong side of the law, but never merely one-note criminals. They bring wit and class to every film they're in and make me smile whenever they appear onscreen. Astor is bad to the bone, but gives the usual vamp role class and intelligence. She's clearly having a lot of fun. Bogart moves up to the A-list with this performance. He has an ugly mug, but no one plays hard-boiled with a heart of gold better. He's more charming than he should be and comes across as the only person with any clue what's really going on. He makes this film one worth seeking out.