Note: This Week in the Box is a year-long series where Sam works through the entire Warner Brothers 50 Film Collection box set. To find reviews of the other films in the series and see the complete list, click here.
Things I knew about The Maltese Falcon before watching it:
- It is a classic example of the MacGuffin
- It is film noir, whatever that means
What that apparently means is that Humphrey Bogart is smarmy and annoying, there’s a woman in a lot of trouble, and several people get killed. Also, it’s in black and white. But plenty of other movies I’ve seen from this time period have also been in black and white, so that isn’t as notable.
Honestly, I had a hard time following the movie. Everyone talks in a tight-lipped kind of way and quite quickly, so it’s easy to miss the important parts (compare and contrast with His Girl Friday, which has just as much dialogue, but is so clear and snappy you don’t miss a thing). The whole thing feels flat. I fell asleep watching it the first time I tried (which is not really a knock on the movie; I can fall asleep standing up on request) and even though I started it over from the beginning on the second attempt, I still didn’t feel like I got it any better.
Reading the Wikipedia article on the movie to see all the things that went over my head, I am not at all surprised to have missed that “With its low-key lighting and inventive and arresting angles, the work of Director of Photography Arthur Edeson is one of the film’s great assets.” Turns out I’m worse than I thought at noticing camerawork and lighting.
The one and only thing I’m sure about from this movie is that Humphrey Bogart is so self-assured I would very like to have smacked him. He’s got this knowing, superior grin that he deploys mostly at women. Argh. So smug. So smackable.
Things I knew about The Maltese Falcon after watching it:
- Humphrey Bogart is annoying
- Watching old movies is enhanced by an inflation calculator. Not that a $25,000 reward is anything to sneeze at now, but knowing that it’s equivalent to just under $400,000 gives the offer the weight it was intended to have.
- Film noir might not be my thing.
Neither Recommended nor Not Recommended. This is probably a fine movie, but I clearly didn’t get it.
Edit: After watching more films in this series, I totally reversed my opinion on Humphrey Bogart.