“When you’re slapped, you’ll take it and like it.”
Aw, man. Bogie beatin’ on poor little Peter Lorre. Worth the price of admission alone.
And, once I get past the disappointment I feel every time Mary Astor walks into the room to meet Bogie for the first time—there’s just not enough femme in that fatale—I find myself loving the heck out of this proto-noir. Bogie, Astor, Lorre and Sydney Greenstreet in his Oscar-nominated film debut. John Huston’s directorial debut. And I loved the book.
Also, it’s one of Bogey’s best performances. He’s positively sadistic at times—but then you realize virtually everyone is lying to him, except the cops, and they’re harassing him.
Meanwhile—and The Flower was quick to point this out—Astor’s performance, looks aside, is pitch perfect in a rather challenging role. Yeah, I would’ve liked to see Veronica Lake walk into that office, but could she have pulled off the near sociopathic melodramatics Astor did? Maybe not.
Mmmm. Veronica Lake.
Interestingly enough, circumstances necessitated that The Boy see it on a different day from The Flower and I (he took his girl), and the convoluted proto-noir plot lost him at a couple of points. Particularly when Captain Jacoby shows up with the Falcon moments before his death. Who is he? Why did he show up at Spade’s place? Etc.
Well, we just don’t know, dude. That’s actually not resolved until the final act, which is only a about 10-15 minutes off, but it is a kind of WTF moment. Such moments ended up being fundamental to noir, as in The Big Sleep where Hawks removes all the explanation and there’s one guy nobody (even Raymond Chandler) could figure out who killed (although I hear the original release, shown only overseas, had an explanation for that).
The story, if you don’t know it, is that a woman shows up at the Spade and Archer detective agency looking for her lost sister. Archer goes on a stakeout and winds up dead. Then it’s discovered that the woman was lying, and she and several others are actually in pursuit of a 17th century gold statuette (Hello, Oscar!) that the woman has (tenuous) possession of. Spade embarks on a quest to find the dingus (as he calls it) and discover what happened to his partner.
The Flower actually objected to Ben Mankiewicz’ reveal—i.e., that The Maltese Falcon is about, y’know, the Maltese Falcon and not a wandering daughter case—but, that seems a mite precious. I dunno.
The third filmed version of this book in the decade after it was written (in 1929) in case you thought Hollywood hashing over the same ideas again and again was a new thing. Sydney Greenstreet’s first role, and (obviously therefore) the first teaming up of Bogie, Greenstreet and Lorre. (The next team-up would be Casablanca.)
Frequently listed in “Top N Film” lists, as the book (sort of surprisingly, given how pulpy it is) is in “Top 20th Century Novel” lists.