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After the death of private detective Sam Spade, his son, Sam Spade Jr. (who only knew his father very briefly) is forced to inherit his San Francisco detective agency, much to his chagrin. He also must keep his father's sarcastic secretary, Effie Perrine ("Godzilla"), and must continue his father's tradition of "serving minorities". One day, an obese man named Caspar Gutman is killed just outside Spade's building, his last words being "It's black and as long as your arm". Later on, Spade is given an offer by a member of the Order of St. John's Hospital to purchase his father's useless copy of the Maltese Falcon. A right-wing thug named Gordon Immerman (Spade calls him "Andrew Jackson" after he gave Spade his "calling card", a bill), has been hired to make sure Spade delivers the bird, but he quickly warms to the detective, although the feeling is not mutual. Later on, he gets an offer from a Wilmer Cook, but before they can negotiate, he is killed. Shortly thereafter, he encounters a ... Written by
I am proud to declare that I am one of only 18 people in America who actually like this movie. My basis for that statement? There are -- were -- only 17 voters at IMDb who rate this movie at "7" or higher (out of a whopping 50 total votes). My vote of "7" now makes that 18 people who like it.
How unpopular is this movie with everyone everywhere? Very little info is available on it here at IMDb and none at all at Rotten Tomatoes. IMDb users who hate it don't even deem it worthy of the usual brickbats. Only one user has taken the trouble to slice it and dice it and feed it to the sharks (appropos to the movie's ending). Leonard Maltin calls it "DA BOMB" (no stars, not even half of one). If anyone has a complimentary word to say about this movie, I don't know whom that person is nor where he or she said it.
That's where I come in. I think this movie is funny! Well, some of the time, anyway. It's not a laugh riot but it does have a lot of funny stuff in it, especially in the first half. It does start to run out of steam in the second half and by the time they get to the end, it appears that writer-director David Giler was just looking for some way -- any way -- to end it.
George Segal plays Sam Spade, Jr., San Francisco detective and son of his notorious father played by Humphrey Bogart in the original "The Maltese Falcon." And just as in the original, Jr. is once again involved with that black bird, trying to find out who wants it and what's the best price he can get for it. As far as plot goes, except for the ending, the plots of the two movies are fairly similar. And anyone who cares to razz the plot of "The Black Bird" as being nonexistent or worse should first take a close look at the plot of "The Maltese Falcon." The latter, just like the former, has an unfathomable plot. All of which is in no way to say that there is any quality comparison between the two movies. The original is filled with timeless characters, great setups and fabulous dialogue which will live for eternity. That's why it's such a great movie, even with an impossible-to-follow plot. "The Black Bird," on the other hand, is just a fairly decent movie with a number of funny moments and scenes.
George Segal does a good job as Jr. and has a lot of funny dialogue and shtick. Stéphane Audran makes for an alluring love interest and foil for Jr., playing the equivalent to Mary Astor's role in the original. But for me, there are two people who really stand out in this cast. One is old Lionel Stander, a constant thorn in the side to Spade, Jr. The other is none other than Lee Patrick. Just as she did in the original 34 years earlier, she is back once again as Effie, still playing Jr.'s secretary just as she was to his pop. Amazingly, she is much better in this latest version than she was in the original. That's because her later version is a powerhouse character with a ton of dialogue and shtick to go with it. That's something she didn't have in the orignal. But that is the ONLY improvement on the original.
I've seen "The Black Bird" about three or four times. And I still laughed at a number of things I'd forgotten since my last viewing. But I recommend seeing it no more often than about once every 8-10 years, at the most. Any more often than that and it can easily wear thin and lose its best humor.
There is one good thing, one advantage, to being one of only 18 people in America who like a particular movie: lots of elbow room!
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