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The Maltese Falcon


DVD review of John Huston’s production of The Maltese Falcon — starring Humphrey Bogart, Mary Astor, Sidney Greenstreet, Peter Lorre

Editorial review of The Maltese Falcon -€“ Humphrey Bogart, courtesy of Amazon.com

Still the tightest, sharpest, and most cynical of Hollywood’s official deathless classics, bracingly tough even by post-Tarantino standards. Humphrey Bogart is Dashiell Hammett’s definitive private eye, Sam Spade, struggling to keep his hard-boiled cool as the double-crosses pile up around his ankles. The plot, which dances all around the stolen Middle Eastern statuette of the title, is too baroque to try to follow, and it doesn’t make a bit of difference. The dialogue, much of it lifted straight from Hammett, is delivered with whip-crack speed and sneering ferocity, as Bogie faces off against Peter Lorre and Sydney Greenstreet, fends off the duplicitous advances of Mary Astor, and roughs up a cringing “gunsel” played by Elisha Cook Jr. It’s an action movie of sorts, at least by implication: the characters always seem keyed up, right on the verge of erupting into violence. This is a turning-point picture in several respects: John Huston (The African Queen) made his directorial debut here in 1941, and Bogart, who had mostly played bad guys, was a last-minute substitution for George Raft, who must have been kicking himself for years afterward. This is the role that made Bogart a star and established his trend-setting (and still influential) antihero persona. — €”David Chute

On the DVD

This handsome transfer of John Huston’s 1941 masterpiece gets the usual mix of bonus features, with a couple of major additions: the two previous film versions of Dashiell Hammett’s landmark detective novel. Neither gets it right, although both are fun examples of everyday Warner Bros. fare. The 1931 Maltese Falcon, starring Ricardo Cortez as gumshoe Sam Spade, has plenty of cheek but precious little magic — €“although it’s fascinating to hear some of the same verbatim Hammett dialogue later enshrined in Huston’s classic. The 1936 Satan Met a Lady pitches the story as a screwball comedy, with Warren William and Bette Davis playing it as though they wandered in from a Thin Man picture.

Other goodies include a historically minded commentary track from Bogart biographer Eric Lax. Three different radio versions of the Falcon are here, two starring Bogart and one with Edward G. Robinson, and a useful half-hour documentary, The Maltese Falcon: One Magnificent Bird. Turner Classics host Robert Osborne presents a fun 44 minutes’ worth of Bogie coming-attractions trailers. An uncensored collection of bloopers, Breakdowns of 1941, has some hysterical gaffes. Shorts include two Oscar nominees: the cartoon — €Hiawatha’s Rabbit Hunt, — € with Bugs Bunny intruding on the famous poem; and — €The Gay Parisian, — € a colorful and historically valuable performance by the fabled Ballets Russe de Monte Carlo. (Although what Sam Spade would’ve thought of such a thing can only be imagined.) A humorous cartoon war-effort short, — €Meet John Doughboy, — € gives good flavor of the mood of the era. — €”Robert Horton

movie quotes from The Maltese Falcon starring Humphrey Bogart

Sam Spade (Humphrey Bogart): I don’t mind a reasonable amount of trouble.

Joel Cairo (Peter Lorre): Look what you did to my shirt.

Brigid O’Shaughnessy (Mary Astor): I haven’t lived a good life. I’ve been bad, worse than you could know.
Sam Spade (Humphrey Bogart): You know, that’s good, because if you actually were as innocent as you pretend to be, we’d never get anywhere.

Wilmer Cook (Elisha Cook Jr.): Keep on riding me and they’re gonna be picking iron out of your liver.
Sam Spade (Humphrey Bogart): The cheaper the crook, the gaudier the patter.

Sam Spade (Humphrey Bogart): Ten thousand? We were talking about a lot more money than this.
Kasper Gutman (Sydney Greenstreet): Yes, sir, we were, but this is genuine coin of the realm. With a dollar of this, you can buy ten dollars of talk.

Kasper Gutman (Sydney Greenstreet): I couldn’t be fonder of you if you were my own son. But, well, if you lose a son, it’s possible to get another. There’s only one Maltese Falcon.

Sam Spade (Humphrey Bogart): Haven’t you tried to buy my loyalty with money and nothing else?
Brigid O’Shaughnessy (Mary Astor): What else is there I can buy you with?

Kasper Gutman (Sydney Greenstreet): Here’s to plain speaking and clear understanding.

Sam Spade (Humphrey Bogart): When a man’s partner is killed, he’s supposed to do something about it. It doesn’t make any difference what you thought of him. He was your partner and you’re supposed to do something about it. And it happens we’re in the detective business. Well, when one of your organization gets killed, it’s-it’s bad business to let the killer get away with it, bad all around, bad for every detective everywhere.

Sam Spade (Humphrey Bogart): We didn’t exactly believe your story, Miss O’Shaughnessy. We believed your 200 dollars. I mean, you paid us more than if you had been telling us the truth, and enough more to make it all right.

Bryan (John Hamilton): Who killed Thursby?
Sam Spade (Humphrey Bogart): I don’t know.
Bryan (John Hamilton): Perhaps you don’t, but you could make an excellent guess.
Sam Spade (Humphrey Bogart): My guess might be excellent or it might be crummy, but Mrs. Spade didn’t raise any children dippy enough to make guesses in front of a district attorney, and an assistant district attorney and a stenographer.
Bryan (John Hamilton): Why shouldn’t you, if you have nothing to conceal?
Sam Spade (Humphrey Bogart): Everybody has something to conceal.
Bryan (John Hamilton): I’m a sworn officer of the law, 24 hours a day, and neither formality nor informality justifies you withholding evidence of crime from me. Except, of course, on constitutional grounds.
Sam Spade (Humphrey Bogart): [ranting] Now, both you and the police have as much as accused me of being mixed up in the other night’s murders. Well, I’ve had trouble with both of you before. And as far as I can see my best chance of clearing myself of the trouble you’re trying to make for me, is by bringing in the murderers all tied up. And the only chance I’ve got of catching them, and tying them up, and bringing them in, is by staying as far away as possible from you and the police, because you’d only gum up the works.
[turns to stenographer]
Sam Spade (Humphrey Bogart): You getting this all right, son, or am I goin’ too fast for ya?
Stenographer: No, sir, I’m getting it all right.
Sam Spade (Humphrey Bogart): Good work.

Kasper Gutman (Sydney Greenstreet): You’re a close-mouthed man?
Sam Spade (Humphrey Bogart): Nah, I like to talk.
Kasper Gutman (Sydney Greenstreet): Better and better. I distrust a close-mouthed man. He generally picks the wrong time to talk and says the wrong things. Talking’s something you can’t do judiciously, unless you keep in practice.
[sits back]
Kasper Gutman (Sydney Greenstreet): Now, sir. We’ll talk, if you like. I’ll tell you right out, I am a man who likes talking to a man who likes to talk.
Sam Spade (Humphrey Bogart): Swell. Will we talk about the black bird?

Sam Spade (Humphrey Bogart): [impatiently] Now, let’s *talk* about the black bird.
Kasper Gutman (Sydney Greenstreet): Let’s. Mr. Spade, have you any conception of how much money can be got for that black bird?
Sam Spade (Humphrey Bogart): No.
Kasper Gutman (Sydney Greenstreet): Well, sir, if I told you… If I told you *half*… you’d call me a liar.
Sam Spade (Humphrey Bogart): No, not even if I thought so.

Sam Spade (Humphrey Bogart): If you kill me, how are you gonna get the bird? And if I know you can’t afford to kill me, how are you gonna scare me into giving it to you?

Sam Spade (Humphrey Bogart): When you’re slapped, you’ll take it and like it.

Joel Cairo (Peter Lorre): You always have a very smooth explanation…
Sam Spade (Humphrey Bogart): What do you want me to do, learn to stutter?

Kasper Gutman (Sydney Greenstreet): I distrust a man who says “when.” If he’s got to be careful not to drink too much, it’s because he’s not to be trusted when he does.

Sam Spade (Humphrey Bogart): You’re good. You’re very good.

Sam Spade (Humphrey Bogart): I hope you’re not letting yourself be influenced by the guns these pocket-edition desperadoes are waving around, because I’ve practiced taking guns from these boys before; so we’ll have no trouble there.

Joel Cairo (Peter Lorre): You… you bungled it. You and your stupid attempt to buy it. Kemedov found out how valuable it was, no wonder we had such an easy time stealing it. You… you imbecile. You bloated idiot. You stupid fat-head you.

Sam Spade (Humphrey Bogart): You killed Miles and you’re going over for it.

[last lines]
Detective Tom Polhaus (Ward Bond): [picks up the falcon] Heavy. What is it?
Sam Spade (Humphrey Bogart): The, uh, stuff that dreams are made of.
Detective Tom Polhaus (Ward Bond): Huh?

Kasper Gutman (Sydney Greenstreet): The best goodbyes are short. Adieu.

Kasper Gutman (Sydney Greenstreet): By Gad, sir, you are a character. There’s never any telling what you’ll say or do next, except that it’s bound to be something astonishing.

Sam Spade (Humphrey Bogart): I hope they don’t hang you, precious, by that sweet neck. Yes, angel, I’m gonna send you over. The chances are you’ll get off with life. That means if you’re a good girl, you’ll be out in 20 years. I’ll be waiting for you. If they hang you, I’ll always remember you.

Kasper Gutman (Sydney Greenstreet): These are facts, historical facts, not schoolbook history, not Mr. Wells’ history, but history nevertheless.

Brigid O’Shaughnessy (Mary Astor): He has a wife and three children in England.
Sam Spade (Humphrey Bogart): They usually do, though not always in England.

Brigid O’Shaughnessy (Mary Astor): Mr. Archer was so alive yesterday, so solid and hearty…
Sam Spade (Humphrey Bogart): Stop it. He knew what he was doing. Those are the chances we take.
Brigid O’Shaughnessy (Mary Astor): Was he married?
Sam Spade (Humphrey Bogart): Yeah, with ten thousand insurance, no children, and a wife that didn’t like him.

Brigid O’Shaughnessy (Mary Astor): Help me.
Sam Spade (Humphrey Bogart): You won’t need much of anybody’s help. You’re good. Chiefly your eyes, I think, and that throb you get in your voice when you say things like ‘Be generous, Mr. Spade.’
Brigid O’Shaughnessy (Mary Astor): I deserve that. But the lie was in the way I said it, not at all in what I said. It’s my own fault if you can’t believe me now.
Sam Spade (Humphrey Bogart): Ah, now you are dangerous.

Brigid O’Shaughnessy (Mary Astor): I do know he always went heavily armed, and that he never went to sleep without covering the floor around his bed with crumpled newspapers, so that nobody could come silently into his room.
Sam Spade (Humphrey Bogart): You picked a nice sort of a playmate.
Brigid O’Shaughnessy (Mary Astor): Only that sort could have helped me, if he’d been loyal.

Joel Cairo (Peter Lorre): I am prepared to pay five thousand dollars for the figure’s return. Do you have it?
Sam Spade (Humphrey Bogart): No.
Joel Cairo (Peter Lorre): But if it isn’t here, why did you risk serious injury to prevent my searching for it?
Sam Spade (Humphrey Bogart): Why should I sit around here and let people come in and stick me up?
Joel Cairo (Peter Lorre): But certainly it is only natural that I try to save the owner such a considerable expense if possible.

Sam Spade (Humphrey Bogart): People lose teeth talking like that. If you want to hang around, you’ll be polite.

Joel Cairo (Peter Lorre): I certainly wish you would have invented a more reasonable story. I felt distinctly like an idiot repeating it.
Sam Spade (Humphrey Bogart): Don’t worry about the story’s goofiness. A sensible one would have had us all in the cooler.

Sam Spade (Humphrey Bogart): All we’ve got is that maybe you love me and maybe I love you.
Brigid O’Shaughnessy (Mary Astor): You know whether you love me or not.
Sam Spade (Humphrey Bogart): Maybe I do. I’ll have some rotten nights after I’ve sent you over, but that’ll pass.

Joel Cairo (Peter Lorre): Might I remind you Mr. Spade that you may have the falcon, but we certainly have you.

Sam Spade (Humphrey Bogart): You’re a good man, sister.

Sam Spade (Humphrey Bogart): Haven’t you anything better to do than to keep popping in here early every morning and asking a lot of fool questions?
Lt. Dundy: And gettin’ a lot of lyin’ answers!
Sam Spade (Humphrey Bogart): Take it easy.

Sam Spade (Humphrey Bogart): Here.
[hands him Wilmer’s guns]
Sam Spade (Humphrey Bogart): You shouldn’t let him go around with these on him, he might get himself hurt.
Kasper Gutman (Sydney Greenstreet): Well, well, what’s this?
Sam Spade (Humphrey Bogart): A crippled newsie took ‘em away from him. I made him give ‘em back.

[to Spade]
Joel Cairo (Peter Lorre): No, no. Our private conversations have not been such that I am anxious to continue them. Forgive me for speaking so bluntly, but it is the truth.

Sam Spade (Humphrey Bogart): You gotta convince me that you know what this is all about, that you aren’t just fiddling around hoping it’ll all… come out right in the end!

Sam Spade (Humphrey Bogart): [after disarming Wilmer] This’ll put you in solid with your boss.

Kasper Gutman (Sydney Greenstreet): Well, sir, what do you suggest? We stand here and shed tears and call each other names… or shall we go to Istanbul?
Joel Cairo (Peter Lorre): Are you going?
Kasper Gutman (Sydney Greenstreet): Seventeen years I’ve wanted that little item and I’ve been trying to get it. If we must spend another year on the quest… well, sir, it will be an additional expenditure in time of only… five and fifteen seventeenths percent.

Sam Spade (Humphrey Bogart): Don’t be too sure I’m as crooked as I’m supposed to be.

[first title card]
Title Card: In 1539, the Knight Templars of Malta, paid tribute to Charles V of Spain, by sending him a Golden Falcon encrusted from beak to claw with rarest jewels ~~~~~ but pirates seized the galley carrying this priceless token and the fate of the Maltese Falcon remains a mystery to this day ~~~

[first lines]
Sam Spade (Humphrey Bogart): Yes, sweetheart?
Effie Perine (Lee Patrick): There’s a girl wants to see you. Her name’s Wonderly.
Sam Spade (Humphrey Bogart): A customer?
Effie Perine (Lee Patrick): I guess so. You’ll want to see her anyway. She’s a knockout.

Kasper Gutman (Sydney Greenstreet): That’s an attitude, sir, that calls for the most delicate judgment on both sides. ‘Cause as you know, sir, in the heat of action men are likely to forget where their best interests lie and let their emotions carry them away.

Effie Perine (Lee Patrick): Look at me, Sam. You worry me. You always think you know what you’re doing, but you’re too slick for your own good. Some day you’re going to find it out.

Brigid O’Shaughnessy (Mary Astor): What would you do if I didn’t tell you? Something wild and unpredictable?
Spade: I might.

Sam Spade (Humphrey Bogart): If you kill me, how are you going get the bird? And if I know you can’t afford to kill me, how are you going to scare me into giving it to you?
Kasper Gutman (Sydney Greenstreet): Well, sir, there are other means of persuasion besides killing and threatening to kill.
Sam Spade (Humphrey Bogart): Yes, that’s… That’s true. But, there’re none of them any good unless the threat of death is behind them. You see what I mean? If you start something, I’ll make it a matter of your having to kill me or call it off.
Kasper Gutman (Sydney Greenstreet): That’s an attitude, sir, that calls for the most delicate judgment on both sides. Because, as you know, sir, in the heat of action men are likely to forget where their best interests lie and let their emotions carry them away.
Sam Spade (Humphrey Bogart): Then the trick from my angle is to make my play strong enough to tie you up, but not make you mad enough to bump me off against your better judgment.
Kasper Gutman (Sydney Greenstreet): By gad, sir, you are a character.

Sam Spade (Humphrey Bogart): You don’t have to trust me as long as you can persuade me to trust you.


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