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|Index||31 reviews in total|
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Of the three versions of Dashiell Hammett's "The Maltese Falcon", it is
ironic that it is the third version that has become the classic, and
the archetype for private eye mysteries. The first version (made under
the original title starring Ricardo Cortez and Bebe Daniels, but
re-titled "Dangerous Female" after the third version to avoid
confusion) was actually pretty good, with its pre-code elements quite
thrilling. But the heat of that version was defused for this version,
which actually focuses on the search for a mysteriously cursed musical
instrument, a trumpet (sometimes referred to as a saxophone or a french
horn to cause some confusion) that has caused some of its owners to die
mysteriously. Involved in the search for it is a mysterious blonde
(Bette Davis) and a heavyset con-artists (Alison Skipworth) who mystify
private investigator Warren William and his dumb bunny secretary (Marie
Wilson) as to their desire to have it.
Why this film fails has nothing to do with the writing or the structuring, but mostly for the performance of the usually entertaining Warren William. He plays the private investigator as if he was making fun of the whole idea. In fact, the film seems like it was made as some sort of prank, like it was not meant for public view but simply a clowning exercise for some of Warner Brothers' top talent to show at a studio party as a practical joke. Fortunately, Bette Davis and Alison Skipworth take their roles (somewhat) seriously, although Wilson (with the bizarre last name of Murgatroyd), Arthur Treacher (as a really idiotic Englishman interested in the trumpet), and Maynard Holmes in what would become the Peter Lorre role of Joel Cairo in the third version, all seem to be drilling for oil with their tongue in cheek. This destroys the impact of some of the most clever lines and the result is a disaster. The third version remains the best because of its impact on the future of a certain genre called film noir.
this 2nd version of the original 1931 film is a remake of sorts.the story is similar,but there's more going on.it's more complicated.the characters are quite similar to the original,with a few minor differences.the names are all different.and the biggest difference is the object of everybody's attention.there's no Falcon,Maltese or otherwise,in this version.instead it's something else that everybody wants.i can't say i liked or disliked this version more than the 1931 version.they both have their merits.i will say though that i preferred Ricardo Cortez as Sam Spade to Warren William as Ted Shane(the Sam Spade Character).i also thought the part of Shane's was a bit too stereotypical of how women were portrayed back.they made her seem weak and ditsy.in the original,her character was stronger,in my opinion.on the plus side,i was really impressed with how great an actress Bette Davis was.so i guess it evens out in the wash.for me,Satan Met a Lady is a 7/10
Satan Met a Lady is a fascinating adaptation of Dashiell Hammett's
novel The Maltese Falcon into an unusual mixture of mystery and comedy
and actually has several funny moments but veers so far from the source
material that its effect is dissipated. In comparison to some recent
comedy thrillers the film could be seen as ahead of its time. If John
Huston had never made the quintessential Film Noir adaption of Hammet's
novel The Maltese Falcon with Humphrey Bogart in the lead, Satan Met a
Lady may have gained an entirely different stature.
The film does have some funny moments as when Valerie Purvis catches Shayne searching her room and pulls a gun on him with the line "Do you mind very much, Mr. Shayne, taking off your hat in the presence of a lady with a gun?" There is also some very funny stuff with Warren William playing against Arthur Treacher's British character Anthony Travers. When Travers says he'll give Shayne 500 dollars for information and hands him a bill, the detective walks over to a lamp inspects the bill and summarily tears it up, getting a gentlemanly response from the Brit in an "Sorry" as he hands him another bill which the private dick inspects and pockets- it's a bit of visual business that is perfectly timed by the actors.
Second film version of The Maltese Falcon is worth a look but pales by comparison to either the 1931 version or the 1941 classic. The problem is they cut so much of what makes the story great, particularly most of Dashiell Hammett's great dialogue. They also add a lot of unfunny comedy to things. Warren William is Ted Shane (not Sam Spade) and he spends the whole movie trying to be as annoying as possible. I think he was supposed to be roguishly charming but it just came across as smug and irritating. Marie Wilson, who I normally like, also gets on my nerves here. Worth seeing for the curiosity factor, as well as Bette Davis, who looks great and is the most interesting part of the movie.
It was very strange watching "Satan Met a Lady" immediately after
watching the 1931 "Maltese Falcon". It is very clear that Warner Bros.
was trying to remake their popular version of "Falcon" to cash in on
the popularity of MGM's "The Thin Man". The tone of "Falcon" has been
lightened to approach comedy, while the portrayal of Spade (aka Shane
in "Satan") was suaved up to try to conjure up William Powell.
Unfortunately, the attempt fails despite the star power of Warren William and Bette Davis. William looks like he's trying very hard but his lines just don't carry enough comedy to pull it off. Bette Davis has many good moments but doesn't quite demonstrate the intelligent conniver her character is supposed to be. Only Alison Skipworth (as Madame Barrabas, the film's designate for Caspar Gutman) shows any real feeling for the character. Arthur Treacher doesn't seem at all like a character that would be involved in theft and murder, while Porter Hall as Ames (also the infamous company psychologist in Miracle on 34th Street) seems more like an accountant than a private detective.
Part of the problem is the frenetic pace. The lines come so fast they almost step on each other. The pace doesn't allow anything to sink in before we're on to another scene. Another problem is the Hayes code crackdown, which means the film can't reproduce the boozy sexiness of "Thin Man" nor the explicitness of the earlier "Falcon". Hence it just falls flat.
Gotta' hand it to Warner Bros, they kept adapting Dasheill Hammett's twisted tale til they got it right. This version, shot some six years earlier than "The Maltese Falcon" can't decide whether it's a comedy or a mystery...and isn't very good as either. As detective Ted Shane, Warren William is so ludicrously blithe that his performance comes off as burlesque. I've been shot at. Ha ha. My, that was close. Isn't detecting fun? Bette Davis does somewhat better as the mystery woman who hires him to find a Saracen horn full of jewels, alternately vamping and double-crossing the private eye. Add Allison Skipworth and Arthur Treacher (yeah, the fish-and-chips guy) in roles that would eventually be better played by Sidney Greenstreet and Peter Lorre and you have a movie that pleads to be re-made. Which fortunately it was.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
True, it's based on Dashiel Hammet's "The Maltese Falcon," just like
the Bogart movie a few years later, but the basics of the plot are
about all they have in common. "Satan Met A Lady" is breezy and
whimsical. As "Ted Shane," the private eye, Warren William is always
chuckling and laughing. He finds humor in every situation and his
dialog consists of wisecracks and flirtatious double entendres. He
strides around, grinning in his long overcoat and wide-brimmed fedora.
Brings to mind an opening line of an old novel: "He was born with the
gift of laughter and a sense that the world was mad." Bette Davis as
the character who would later become Brigid O'Shaugnessy, has little to
do except respond in a pop-eyed fashion to William's antics. Joel Cairo
is gone, replaced by Arthur Treacher as a ten-foot tall Englishman. The
most interesting figure, so to speak, is the sexy blond, Marie Wilson,
who has taken the part of Effie, Sam Spade's secretary. Wilson is
dutiful but dumb. When William asks how she spells her last name,
Murgatroyd, she has to stumble through it, letter by letter, and then
jumps for joy when she gets it right.
It's not a BAD movie. It's just very different from the John Huston version. "Satan Met A Lady" fits better into the genre of fast B-level detective stories that were so common in the 30s, often as second features. God knows the plot of the novel is confusing enough, but when the characters themselves don't really care much about it, the viewer is left deserted, marooned.
I'll give one example of the difference in tone and then quit. In Huston's "The Maltese Falcon" (as in the novel), Miles Archer is lured into an alley and shot dead. Spade shows up, looks down at the body of his partner from a distance, then shrugs and moves away with no comment of importance and no display of emotion. Today, the city of San Francisco has a small brass plaque on the corner of a building that fronted the alley, memorializing the event. Bogart's behavior is entirely serious during the scene, and it adds another layer of mystery. The murdered body of his partner is lying at the foot of a hill but Bogart reveals nothing of his feelings. What's going on? In "Satan Met A Lady," William gets a phone call and shows up at the crime scene -- a cemetery this time, with his partner's legs sprawled awkwardly across a tomb stone. William shakes his head a bit, as if having discovered a hangnail, and the situation provides material for a joke: Well, at least if he's going to die, he found the most suitable place for it. The impression is not one of mystery, of feelings or thoughts withheld, but one of shallowness. William seems genuinely not to care.
At any rate, if you're looking for a filmed version of the novel, you won't find it here. If you're looking for something that won't challenge you a great deal -- as long as you don't try following the anfractuous plot -- this may be your kind of movie.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
The back story of the substitute treasure being pursued here by all in lieu of the more famous black falcon is the historical horn of a knight named Roland. When this warrior attempted to use the fabled horn to summon reinforcements for his outnumbered band, the enemy killed him and FILLED THE HORN WITH JEWELS SO IT COULD NOT BE BLOWN AGAIN! You cannot help asking yourself, why didn't these guys just stomp the horn to pieces? Did they lug around so many jewels that they had run out of Zip-Locks in which to store them? Furthermore, since you cannot enamel such an unwieldy cornucopia, the suspense is taken out of the plot in that the horn cannot be dramatically scratched and proved to be a fake at the end, but rather turns out to be pretty ordinary and unlikely to have tricked anyone older than three. The pathos of the P.I. sending a woman he's half in love with to the gallows in the 1931 and 1941 versions turns into bathos here, as his partner's femme fatale lady of doom simply schemes at a way of cheating the P.I. of the reward money implausibly posted for the capture of the dead partner's killer. Sheesh!
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Having seen the 1941 version of The Maltese Falcon at least ten times,
it is kind of hard to swallow the story as kind of a madcap comedy.
The film stars one Warren William, who I frankly never heard of, as the private eye, here renamed Ted Shane. Bette Davis plays Valerie Purvis, the Brigid character, and in the film's most hilarious part, Arthur Treacher, playing Anthony Travers (Joel Cairo in the '41 version).
Davis, as widely reported, was given lackluster parts at this point in her career, and it definitely shows here. She does very little here and there is no indication of her being as dangerous as the character portrayed in the '41 version.
To get back to Warren William. He was probably somewhat of a big name in the 30s but it certainly doesn't show here. His character is wildly uneven when it comes to what he is supposed to be. If his character is comedic, then he isn't that funny? If his character is supposed to be a threat, he is as much a threat as Dennis was a menace.
The best parts are played by Marie Wilson as Miss Murgatroyd and the aforementioned Arthur Treacher as Anthony Travers. Wilson's "How you doing" is oddly hysterical for some reason. Don't let me explain why, and Treacher has a funny scene with William discussing the trumpet (this movie's version of the falcon).
All you can say is nice try but I totally agree with the naysayers of this version. Stick with the Bogart film.
Dash Hammett wasn't a very good writer, but he was something of a
genius in creating characters that sell. Films with his characters were
only successful when heavily filtered through the inventive context of
Hammett hated it, this messing with his tone. But the original "Falcon" was something of a disaster. Someone had the idea (possibly Van Dyke) of making the Thin Man as a comedy. It was a huge success and has in retrospect been one of the most influential films of the era. So it only made sense for us to see this similar reworking of "Falcon" shortly after the Thin Man's success.
But Van Dyke had a sense of timing and the ability to integrate that rhythm into the whole long form. This poor fellow has no such sense, so the humor is all over the place, each character driving their own bus.
So when you watch it, you have to decide which character to align your perspective with. Though I cannot recommend the picture, if you do see it, I do recommend you become the ditsy blond secretary (who cannot even spell her own name).
She's every bit capable of carrying this movie, where the detective cannot.
I don't suppose she invented the ditz, but it was this girl, here a nineteen year old Marie Wilson who combined a Betty Boop "whoop" to become the sexually available, innocent but hungry, absolutely sweet but terminally dumb blond. Its great fun watching her mouth, a great mouth, one of the era's great mouths managed by an unappreciated master.
The end of the movie is supposed to be something of a tragedy as the Bette Davis character is lost. But because our detective (something of a breezy dolt) has this ready girl to fall back on, the effect is lost.
Ted's Evaluation -- 2 of 3: Has some interesting elements.
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