In this spoof of the story The Maltese Falcon (1941) is based on, a double-crossing woman, the two-timing P.I. she hired, the corpulent "empress of crime", and a gentleman thief are all after a legendary priceless eighth-century ram's horn.
After Police Captain Dan McLaren becomes police commissioner former detective Johnny Blake knocks him down convincing rackets boss Al Kruger that Blake is sincere in his effort to join the ... See full summary »
Edward G. Robinson,
Sam Spade is quite the womanizer. When his secretary tells him the new customer waiting outside his office is a knockout, he wastes no time before seeing her. It turns out she's a knockout with money. And she wants to spend it on his services as a private detective. She has some story about wanting to protect her sister. Neither he nor his partner, Miles Archer, believes it. But with the money she's paying, who cares? The job proves to be more dangerous than either of them expected. It involves not just the lovely dame with the dangerous lies, but also the sweaty Casper Gutman, the fey Joel Cairo, and the thuggish young Wilmer Cook. Three crooks, and all of them are looking for the statuette of a black bird they call the Maltese Falcon.Written by
Practically the 1941 version throughout much of the film!
This film, like the 1941 version of the same movie, is about a group of rogues searching for a famed gold and jewel encrusted statue. Along the way, greed resulted in the murders of several people and the police suspect Sam Spade (Ricardo Cortez) for the murders--or at least thinking he knows far more than he's admitting.
While the 1941 version of THE MALTESE FALCON has become a classic, this original version from 1931 is oddly forgotten. While I could understand a little of this (after all, Bogart was better as Sam Spade), it's not fair that the 1931 be given its just due. That's because much of this 1931 film is copied word-for-word in 1941--making the 1941 a rather by the numbers remake. Sure, there are improvements here and there, but nothing essentially ground-breaking or significantly different.
So how is the original better and worse than the 1941 film? Well, it's better because Spade is grittier and more amoral--much more like you'd think a real private eye might be. Plus, since it is original, I usually feel that original's are best and deserve to be seen. On the negative side, the 1931 film is lacking much of the wonderful incidental music. This was common for films in 1931, but the 1941 movie sounds better and this makes the film come alive. The pace is also much better in 1941--as the film is less rushed and hence unfolds better. Also, Bogart was a bit better in the lead--a bit more rugged and bigger than life. Finally, the tacked on ending in the 1931 film was unnecessary and actually blunted the impact on the final confrontation scene.
Now one way they are VERY different but which is neither better nor worse is that the 1931 film was made before the strengthened Production Code was enforced. This allowed Spade to be much more of a sexual Lothario and there was a scene where it strongly implied that he'd had sex with Bebe Daniels' character--something that did NOT happen in the later film.
Overall, this is a terrific film--especially since it was so much better than the average fare of the day. While not quite as good as the 1941 version, it's so close that frankly it's almost a toss up as to which is best. Despite all the hype, the 1931 FALCON is a great film and one not to be missed by film historians and lovers of Pre-Code cinema.
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