Review: The Maltese Falcon (1941)


That’s a pretty dopey looking falcon if you ask me!

Screenplay By: John Huston
Directed By: John Huston

The Maltese Falcon is fast moving from the get go and it never lets up. It moves briskly, no, not briskly, it moves at an almost manic pace. It is witty and full of fast talk, loose morals and complex situations. The Maltese Falcon is a very compelling whodunit; who is who and whose side is who on. But, it is all of these things to make up for the fact that it has very little actual plot to speak of. Some movies are good enough to overcome a lack of plot, while some movies aren’t even centered on a plot and therefore a good plot isn’t necessary. The Maltese Falcon attempts to land in the middle, to be witty and smart to hide the lack of a plot and to also seem important enough that a great plot isn’t needed. For as good as it is, The Maltese Falcon isn’t good enough to overcome its plot deficiencies.

As I said above, I was a fan of the continuous witty banter and the constant back and forth between the characters. Watching Sam web a weave around a gaggle of characters that thought they were smarter than he was provided much amusement. I did find Mary Astor a bit too weak as the femme fatale, I never really bought her as any sort of killer, criminal, or deviant mastermind of any sort. I didn’t even buy her as some sort of base manipulator, and that was sort of essential for her part.

Being one of the first, maybe thee first, noir means that in The Maltese Falcon you will find an excellent use of lighting and shadows to create mood and atmosphere. Unfortunately, The Maltese Falcon suffered from some bad editing. There were a few different instances where a stock shot was used of someone, a conversation would take place, and then the same stock shot would be used again. There were also a few cases where the editing was obvious because a character would abruptly be sitting differently or facing in a different direction. For a film with this much star power and power behind the lens it was full of too many technical errors.

The Maltese Falcon was a decent enough film, and it kept me entertained for the most part. It is a must see for any Humphrey Bogart fan or for anyone who wants to see John Huston’s first directorial job. I can’t recommend The Maltese Falcon as a must see film on its own merits however, it just isn’t that good. But, it is a compelling film with lots of wit that won’t disappoint too much if you do find yourself watching it someday.



Bill Thompson

5 responses to “Review: The Maltese Falcon (1941)

  1. Saw this movie for the first time in it’s entirety today. It was good. I agree totally with your review of this movie. I have read others and they make this movie more than what it really is. I have enjoyed classics most my life. I really expected something better.

  2. To be fair, this is a movie that I plan on revisiting at some point because I feel all the elements are in place for me to like it more. Maybe I won’t, but we’ll possibly see in the future.

  3. I agree that this film has a lot of continuity mistakes in editing. I also agree that Mary Astor was miscast as the femme fatale. But I can’t agree that the plot was weak. It’s the original “MacGuffin” story, written by the greatest detective novelist of all time. A bunch of unforgettable characters search, lie, cheat, screw, and kill for an object they think will fulfill all their dreams. Take another look.

  4. That’s okay, I mean I’m not saying no, but there are quite a few films out there I have yet to discover that I would rather spend my time discovering.

  5. Pingback: Review: High Sierra (1941) | Bill's Movie Emporium

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s