Satan Met a Lady (1936) Poster

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Easy Breezy Dramedy!
nite_raynger4 January 2003
Surprise! Satan Met a Lady is an easy breezy detective dramedy VERY LOOSELY based on the Dashiell Hammett Book, The Maltese Falcon. This book had been adapted for the film before (in 1931) and, more famously, after (1941), This version made its way to the silver screen in 1936, with Bette Davis in rare form in a comedic role. Warren William, who could be as suave as the similar and better known actor William Powell, plays it fast and loose as a detective out to settle a mystery-and maybe find himself very rich. This version of the Hammett tale has been sadly underrated due to the fact that many of its naysayers were suffering under a misapprehension concerning the tenor of the film. In their attempt to set it under the same microscope as its more famous remakes and premakes, many of the critics overlooked the simple truth that this is a light, comic bit of film fluff concocted to entertain a mid-Depression Era audience with its confection of comedy, mystery, and romance. It has none of the nihilistic brooding of the original book, nor the leering innuendo or virtuoso performances of the two other films. What it does provide is a diverting pastiche of one liners and clever story lines that keep its audience on the edge of their seat. Even if they're almost falling out of their seats for laughter, there's always a reason for the viewers to use (and not lose) their heads. I'd like to see most movies do that today (and at 76 minutes.)

The casting of the principal stars is first rate. There's always a glint of a coiled cobra in Warren Willliam's silver-tongued shamus. But most of the time he keeps his gun in his pocket and his tongue in his cheek. Even his name is a parody of the nickname for a detective. Bette Davis matches him line by line and sets the movie at its pace. she was still a young actress and everything she says and does is as real and as fresh as homebaked bread. Allison Skipworth makes a charming but sinister villianess. Arthur Treacher (hilarious as a thief with manners) and portly Porter Hall round off this mad quad of moneygrubbers all showing that not only is the love of money the root of all evil, it can also be very, very, funny. Like Arsenic and Old Lace and Beat The Devil, Satan Met a lady is one movie that was ahead of its time and, after more than 65 years, is still got plenty of zest and zing. A Thumbs up for Satan Met a Lady.
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If you wanna stump it, bump it with a trumpet
blanche-225 May 2007
Boy, once Warner Brothers bought a property, they did everything but serve it for dinner. 1936's "Satan Met a Lady" is yet another version of "The Maltese Falcon," which was finally given the classic touch by John Huston in 1941. This particular version is out of control but manages to be a lot of fun at the same time.

This time Sam Spade is named Shane, and he's played by '30s star Warren William. William was a tall, handsome man with sharp features and a refined speaking voice - by this time, he was the Warners version of William Powell, though he had started his career as an unsympathetic, precode villain. A more extroverted performer, he excelled at the William Powell-type vehicles. He even took over for Powell as Philo Vance. William was the movie Perry Mason, and if you think this is a wild "Maltese Falcon," you should see what was done to Perry before the TV series. Put it this way - Della Street wore diamonds.

In this version, the falcon is the Horn of Roland, a trumpet stuffed with jewels, and it's being sought by a young, pretty Bette Davis in the Bebe Daniels-Astor role, and now the Sydney Greenstreet character has had a sex change in the form of Madame Barrabas (Alison Skipworth). Though there's no doubt Barrabas a ruthless character. and the usual people have been murdered by the usual people, this version is pretty much played for laughs. It moves faster than the Cortez version, and while Cortez played Spade as a delightful rogue, William has a ball, laughing at the whole thing as he collects money from everyone. In the Cortez version, Spade had some feeling for Ms. Wonderly (Bebe Daniels); here, William clearly enjoys playing the field and never takes the Davis character seriously. Shane's secretary in "Satan Met a Lady" is played by Marie Wilson, whose part is quite large. She's very funny. Davis is okay, but her sincerity isn't believable - at this point in her career, she's still a little stagey.

The very tongue-in-cheek William runs this show, which is done in the style of "The Thin Man." Though it was a bomb when it was released, today it's of interest for Davis, its handling of the material, and also as a chance to see William, who died in 1948, in top form. After this film, he went into character roles.

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Take it on its own terms
priscilla-hopkins1 September 2003
I can practically recite "The Maltese Falcon" by heart, so I was intrigued by this alternate filming. I put the tape in and immediately went "What the. . . ." Then I picked up the box and saw the word "comedy." so I sat down and watched it on its own terms. It's a hoot. the trick is to never really think about the great Bogart version and just think of it as a send-up of the genre. It is much better this way. I especially the ditsy blonde secretary, and the bumbling gunsel.
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Of The Maltese Falcon's three filmings, hands down the worst
bmacv16 July 2003
Not even Bette Davis could save a lousy script. Dashiell Hammett's The Maltese Falcon might seem a surefire property, as its first version in 1931 (sometimes called Dangerous Female) and the canonical 1941 John Huston movie testify. But Satan Met A Lady misfires badly.

The problem with the script isn't so much that it's mediocre as that it's misconceived. The thinking behind it stays fairly transparent, however: The Thin Man, based on another Hammett novel, proved a big hit over at MGM. Warner Brothers hoped to work the same magic by subjecting Falcon to a blithe, tongue-in-cheek treatment. It didn't take.

The cosmetic changes applied to disguise the original story remain, at least to movie buffs, faintly amusing. Private eyes Spade and Archer become Shayne and Ames, while the falcon becomes a medieval ram's horn supposedly stuffed with gems that turn out to be sand. Involved in its pursuit are Warren Williams as Shayne, less the debonair lady-killer he presumably aimed for than a foolish old roué, and Davis as the femme fatale.

The trio of mercenary cutthroats, on their own broad terms, surprisingly remains the most memorable aspect of the movie. The Joel Cairo character becomes Prince-Charles-lookalike Arthur Treacher (whose career would later encompass playing second banana to Merv Griffin and selling his name to a string of fish-‘n'-chips franchises). The gunsel is pudgy and petulant Maynard Holmes, who went uncredited in just about every film he ever appeared in, including this one. Best of all is crusty Alison Skipworth, pinch-hitting as the Fat Man. And as Williams' dumb-blonde secretary Murgatroyd, Marie Wilson starts out irksome but ends up winsome.

But the racy comedy that was piled on falls flat (particularly as projected by Williams and Davis); there was enough irony in Hammett's prose to begin with, and it emerges in the two filmings of the book made five years earlier and five years later. This version even dispenses with the indispensable locale, for The Maltese Falcon was, and is, the quintessential San Francisco story. As a vehicle for Hammett's imagination, the best thing that can be said about Satan Met A Lady is that it's slightly more respectable than the 1979 made-for-television abomination The Dain Curse.
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The Maltese Falcon as screwball comedy
lrek-117 January 2005
Warning: Spoilers
If you can get past the fact that this is not another version of the much-loved noir classic and take it on its own terms, this film actually has a lot going for it. If you want emotional depth, look elsewhere. Here, murder, betrayal, infidelity and the mindless destruction of gorgeous deco furniture are routinely shrugged off as minor inconveniences.

The film is briskly paced and full of snappy dialog. The characters are broadly drawn and fun to watch. The acting is -- well, not full of subtle nuance but certainly appropriate to the piece. The script is by Brown Holmes, who is also credited with the original 1931 version (which I have not seen but would love to; Dwight Frye as Wilmer -- wow!).

William Warren carries the film as the confident, always one-jump-ahead Ted Shayne (and looks appropriately satanic). Bette Davis gives as good as she gets, even managing to thwart Shayne of the reward for her capture. Marie Wilson is a treasure as the ditsy Miss (Effie?) Murgatroyd, who apparently has trouble spelling her own last name but still has a lot on the ball. Alison Skipworth is fun as a female Gutman, Arthur Treacher has Peter Lorre's rather superfluous role (without the innuendos), and Maynard Holmes is the creepy gunsel who can't seem to hold onto his gun. The cops are, of course, suitably dense.

If you enjoy colorful characters exchanging breezy chatter and cracking wise, you could do worse. Give it a chance the next time it's on TCM. If you don't like it, you can always change the channel.

(PS: The plot summary as given by the IMDb is incorrect. Shayne doesn't meet Valerie on a train, she doesn't hire him to find Barabbas, Barabbas doesn't ask him to find Valerie, and the ram's horn is not covered with precious jewels. Other than that, it's spot on.)
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A Little Hammett - A Lot Of Ham
Ron Oliver25 July 2003
A cynical private eye becomes entangled with a gang of dangerous criminals trying to find a fabled ram's horn.

SATAN MET A LADY is an alternate movie version of Dashiell Hammett's ‘Maltese Falcon' and has received much criticism because it isn't closer to the Bogart model. This is unfortunate, as the film has much going for it and should not be placed into unfair comparison with the more famous film. Here is a lighthearted, comedic take on the story, full of snappy dialogue and a few good laughs. It is quite able to stand on its own.

Although she receives top billing, Bette Davis is rather overshadowed by the over-the-top acting of her costars. Her mystery woman character gets to act suitably dangerous, but her talent is seldom really engaged. Indeed, this would be one of the films which would soon put Davis into rebellion against Warner Bros. in her demand for better roles.

Warren William plays detective Ted Shayne (no Sam Spade here) in a wonderfully sardonic manner, always ready to puncture the balloons of pomposity around him, whether they be from client, criminal or cop; here he even turns a graveyard murder site into the location for a few deadpan utterances. With his patrician profile and glib delivery, William was always enjoyable to watch; it is a shame this very fine actor is so obscure today.

British character actress Alison Skipworth steals her few scenes as the elderly Madame Barabbas, the grandmotherly criminal mastermind with the looks of a sweet old lady and the instincts of a born killer. Arthur Treacher is marvelously droll as an English gentleman crook, apologetic & polite, seeking the ram's horn.

Pert & pretty, Marie Wilson scores in her role as William's ditzy secretary. Winifred Shaw plays the glamorous widow of William's late partner. An uncredited Maynard Holmes appears as Miss Skipworth's gunsel nephew.
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Initial comedy starts to lag
Igenlode Wordsmith8 July 2005
It had never previously occurred to me that the convoluted plot of 'The Maltese Falcon' was verging on that of a farce; but in fact this reinterpretation fits with surprising success throughout most of the action of the film...

The gulf between this version of the story and the darker wartime 'Falcon' of 1941 is a jolting one, but when it is compared to the film of which it is actually a remake -- Warner Brothers' 1931 'Maltese Falcon' -- the relationship between the earlier two becomes obvious. Warren William's Ted Shane, with his womanising touch and his insolent grin, has far more in common with Ricardo Cortez' silent-style Sam Spade than with Bogart's noir version (and, to be honest, with the 'blond Satan' of Hammett's original novel).

William is well cast here as the amoral private eye playing all sides off against one another: in this film, he comes across as being in control of the situation all along, tricking information out of the gentleman crook Travers, disarming the impotent but vindictive Kenneth and driving a hard bargain with Madame Barabbas for a treasure he knows to be without value. When he induces Valerie to confess her guilt in the railway carriage, I was all but expecting him to produce a concealed police officer at the appropriate moment to bear witness! Despite the fact that everyone from his former lover to his own secretary seems to take it for granted, despite his assurances, that it was he who murdered his partner, Ted Shane -- as befits the hero of a light-hearted farce -- never leaves us in any doubt that he is destined to come out on top.

Bette Davis, despite her top billing, has relatively little to do here and demonstrates an all too apparent lack of interest. Bebe Daniels, in the equivalent 1931 part, is both more alluring and more obviously faking it; her scenes with Sam Spade often have more comedy, as her character rolls out her full seductive armoury against a complacent male target, than Davis' scenes underplayed here in what is intended to be a farce. I found the minor role of the scatty little secretary Murgatroyd -- who, in this version ends up with the hero for the requisite happy ending! -- to be the more memorable one.

But I'm afraid the ending was my main difficulty with the reinterpretation of this plot in comic vein. The mix-ups, multiple women and seemingly pointless events of the start are almost intrinsically amusing, and indeed are already played as such in the 1931 'Maltese Falcon'. The final scenes, however, with their betrayals, dirty dealing and killings for a fortune that never was, have a much more nihilistic tone, and the 'siege' sequence of the earlier version, where all the characters are locked in a room together by mutual suspicion until the morning comes, holds an edge of explosive threat. Staging the equivalent sequence on the docks under a fire-hose downpour, with Shane brandishing the valuables literally just above the villains' noses and getting paid for his trouble rather than coshed for the loot, doesn't serve to raise a laugh... but does rob the scene of most of its effectiveness.

Likewise, Valerie's admission of murder and her railing at Shane after he hands her over to the police are not only not funny -- although at least in the latter case, they're clearly intended that way -- but they have no emotional impact either. The result was an unsatisfactory resolution without any resonance to speak of; and Valerie's parting shot, while being dragged off to pay the penalty for murder, where she predicts for Shane the dire fate of... marriage, falls flat as almost embarrassingly inappropriate.

'Satan Met a Lady' actually starts off by looking quite promising and at the outset is genuinely funny: but a lacklustre part for the leading lady, plus a growing incongruity between the hard-boiled subject matter and its delivery, serve to undermine this favourable first impression. I enjoyed Warren William's performance, but in the end I felt the film didn't really work.
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Satan MET A LADY Plays MALTESE FALCON for Laughs This Time
Warning: Spoilers
Perhaps because Dashiell Hammett's movie cachet was enhanced by the success of the THIN MAN comedy/mystery movies in the 1930s and '40s, the folks behind Satan MET A LADY (SMaL) reworked Hammett's MALTESE FALCON (TMF) into the 1936 screwball comedy Satan MET A LADY (SMaL). Directed by William Dieterle and scripted by Brown Holmes, SMaL gave director of photography Arthur Edeson practice for his future stint as D.P. of the now-classic 1941 version. For that matter, it turns out SMaL and the early Ricardo Cortez/Bebe Daniels version of TMF have more in common than being inspired (however loosely) by the same novel. Cortez as Sam Spade is replaced in SMaL by Warren William as Ted Shane (or Shayne—the filmmakers can't seem to decide how to spell it), and Cortez and William each played Perry Mason in the movies! But it's a fresh young Bette Davis who gets top billing here as wily Valerie Purvis, who could be Brigid O'Shaughnessy's witty, bantering sister.

William looks and acts like a fun-loving troublemaker and tomcat who's just had one drink too many no matter what time of day it is. William and Davis play off each other most enjoyably as they seek out, not the Maltese Falcon, but an ancient ram's horn rumored to be stuffed with jewels. They're aided and abetted by a rambunctious supporting cast. Joel Cairo has been turned into Travers, a bumbling English gentleman crook played by Arthur Treacher (yes, the one who brought the world Arthur Treacher's Fish and Chips, "the meal you cannot make at home"). Casper Gutman has gotten a name change and a sex change in the form of Alison Skipworth as sly Madame Barabbas (love her Biblical name!), who has a friendly adversary relationship with Shane (there's a funny bit where each one proves too clever to let the other one slip them a mickey). Instead of gunsel Wilmer, Mme. Barabbas' sharpshooting right-hand man is her obnoxious, buffoonish, beret-wearing nephew Kenneth (or as Auntie calls him, "Kenny Boy"), played by an unjustly uncredited Maynard Holmes. The ill-fated Miles Archer and his restless wife Iva are now Mr. and Mrs. Ames, played briefly but entertainingly by Porter Hall (best known in our household as Macaulay in THE THIN MAN and Jackson, the "Medford man" from DOUBLE INDEMNITY) and Winifred Shaw. My fave was the pre-MY FRIEND IRMA Marie Wilson redoing trusty secretary/receptionist Effie Perine as cheerful blonde Über-ditz Miss Murgatroyd. Her cute little squeak of surprise/distress cracked me up! Zesty quips abound, like Valerie's "Do you mind very much, Mr. Shane, taking off your hat in the presence of a lady with a gun?" When Ames is found murdered in a cemetery, Shane remarks, "It's the first time he ever did anything in an appropriate place." My fave was Shane's dialogue with Murgatroyd when she's about to quit on account of Ames being unable to pay her: Shane (cheerfully): "Have you finished packing all your things?...And all the things that weren't yours, but that you thought you could use?" Murgatroyd (flustered): "Yes—um, I mean, I'm all packed." SMaL is unfairly maligned and misunderstood for not being a serious TMF adaptation. It was clear to me from the start that this one's played purely for laughs. Just approach SMaL as a wacky parody of TMF, and you'll be able to enjoy the flick as a pleasant, if forgettable, piece of fluff for a lazy afternoon.
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Quite fun, actually; a nice companion piece to the 1941 masterpiece
zetes23 October 2006
The second version of Dashiell Hammett's The Maltese Falcon came in the wake of the big success of a cinematic adaptation of another of the author's novels, The Thin Man. So here we get a comic version starring a wise-cracking gentleman, Warren William (who had played Julius Caesar in DeMille's Cleopatra). The comedy is sometimes desperate. It's played WAY over the top. If they had toned in down a tad, and maybe got William Powell instead of Warren William, it would have been a great film. Which would have been terrible because then, if it had been a success, Warner Brothers wouldn't have deigned to remake it five years later. We wouldn't have the 1941 masterpiece, John Huston's career might have went an entirely different way, and film noir wouldn't have developed as we know it. Film history might look damn different just because of this goofy little adaptation! It's generally considered the worst of the three adaptations, but I really liked it. It's a heck of a lot better than the stale '31 version, and it stands as a nice little companion piece to the '41 version. A couple of the actors I really liked, notably Alison Skipworth in the Gutman role (all character names have been changed, by the way, but I'll keep to the originals), Arthur Treacher as Cairo, and Maynard Holmes as Wilmer (shockingly uncredited where several less important characters were!). The best of the best, though: Marie Wilson in the Effie role. Oh. You thought I was going to say Bette Davis. Nah. She's probably the least of the three Brigids. The secretary role is expanded a bit, and she's almost made Spade's love interest. Wilson gives a very cute comic performance. Well worth checking out.
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From A Black Bird To A French Horn
bkoganbing26 January 2009
This was the film that Bette Davis finally walked out of Warner Brothers because she'd had enough. Satan Met A Lady is a comic version of the Dashiell Hammett novel, The Maltese Falcon it in fact is the second of three versions of the story that was filmed, all by Warner Brothers. It was that third one with Humphrey Bogart and Mary Astor that is the beloved classic come down to us.

I wouldn't be surprised, but that Bette might have thought that this was a straight version of the story, that she'd be doing the part that Mary Astor made famous. Instead the version she got was something that might have worked with Joan Blondell doing the part, but Bette was clearly unhappy and just going through the motions.

As for Warren William, his Ted Shayne is far different from the laconic and cynical Humphrey Bogart. He's one unapologetic rogue just breezing through the film as he did with so many others on charm and a Barrymore light profile.

Instead of the loyal and efficient Effie that we all remember Lee Patrick for, we get the scatterbrained and clueless Marie Wilson doing her usual shtick. The parts that Peter Lorre and Sydney Greenstreet made classic were done by Arthur Treacher and Allison Skipworth. I thought Arthur was going to offer some fish and chips to William at many points during the film.

The famous Hitchcockian McGuffin is not a black bird allegedly crusted over to hide a jeweled coat, but an old ram's horn, purportedly the trumpet that French legendary hero Roland sounded as he covered Emperor Charlemagne's retreat. It too was stuffed with jewels according to legend.

At the end of the film Warren William actually got a few notes out of the French horn. It blew well and some might say the film did also.
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A "Maltese Falcon" for those who like their mysteries lighter than a feather.
mark.waltz18 August 2012
Warning: 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.
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2nd film version of The Maltese Falcon (sort of)
disdressed1227 March 2010
this 2nd version of the original 1931 film is a remake of sorts.the story is similar,but there's more going'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 the original,her character was stronger,in my opinion.on the plus side,i was really impressed with how great an actress Bette Davis i guess it evens out in the wash.for me,Satan Met a Lady is a 7/10
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Too far off the mark
spelvini18 October 2009
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.
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The Devil's Secretary
tedg24 June 2006
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 a filmmaker.

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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Underrated Version of The Maltese Falcon
mshields184 March 2003
Granted, this version of the Maltese Falcon pales in comparison to the 1941 classic, but there is still much to like here. This version plays the story with a comic tone, much like the tone of hugely popular 'The Thin Man'. If you view the film on it's own merits, and try not to compare it to the 1941 version, then this comic mystery works pretty well -- It tells the story in a breezy 75 minutes, so it doesn't overstay it's welcome.

Bette Davis is always worth a look. Here, in Mary Astor's 1941 role, she manages to be both comic and tough at the same time.
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"Telling you anything would be like contributing to the delinquency of a minor."
utgard1418 July 2014
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.
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A Film Made After Its Time
drgarnett18 April 2011
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.
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Pre-Make of Maltese Falcon Worth a Look
Sleepy-173 November 2000
Better than its reputation, this is a snappy mystery taken from the same Dash Hammet story as Maltese Falcon. Warren William was a great actor, but just too conceited to carry a film, and neither Bette Davis nor Marie Wilson have enough screen time to pull up the slack. Excellent acting from bad guys Alison Skipwirth and whoever plays the Peter Lorre part (I couldn't figure out who it was from the cast listing). Anything by Dieterle (Hunchback of Notre Dame)is worth seeing, but this one, while fun to watch, just doesn't add up.
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Skip this one
mitchmcc22 March 2004
To all old-movie buffs. No matter how much you like movies from the 30's and 40's, you should skip this one. Both the acting and the script are about as bad as the "golden era" could produce.

Even trying to take it as light-hearted and even intentional, as at least one user suggests, does not make this film work.

Finally, even my wife, who is a huge Bette Davis fan, agreed to turn this one off after about 20 minutes.

Better to re-watch The Maltese Falcon.
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Good detective movie
Ali Ahmad6 May 2018
A really good classic movie. I loved it. Marie wilson is beautiful. I think i can relate someone with her face.
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A great performance in a mediocre adaptation
MisterWhiplash9 December 2017
The issue with this second adaptation of The Maltese Falcon is that Warner brothers wanted to not really adapt the book; they had adapted it years before, but that was in a pre-code, early-sound era studio that was trying things out. In 1934 Hammett's The Thin Man became a big hit and clearly they saw the author name and thought they could lock in to another winning turn by, in so many words, thin-manning the Maltese Falcon.

But these are two very different modes of the author - the Thin Man is a light comedy that has some serious undertones and is commanded by Powell and Loy, and the Maltese Falcon was a hard-boiled detective story where Sam Spade has to avenge his partners murder and becomes embroiled with a host of characters - and director William Dieterle thought he could have it both ways. Certainly Warren William tried to channel Powell a lot here, and he might be good in other movies (I don't recognize him), but he's really a discount William Powell, a guy trying really hard to have that charming, sarcastic patter with everyone. The script doesn't really give the audience a break from his attitude so that when he has to play serious it doesn't stick so much.

It may be unfair at first thought to try to compare this to the Huston film since, if for no other reason, this was a world that didn't exist. The one thing that this film can possibly compare favorably is Bette Davis. It's an understatement to say she stole the show; she is having so much fun in this part and at the same time doing her darndest to uplift everyone around her. She is beaming and on fire and alive in every moment on screen and there are a few seconds where it seems like she might, might, get a spark of a connection with William. And she's in about 20 minutes of the 74 minute run time.

I think this can be judged on its own terms, and on its own it just compelling past being a typical B movie comedy-cum-thriller. All of the supporting players are trying. Sort of. But a couple of actors, like Marie Wilson as (not) Spade's secretary, are given one character trait and it is grating. The tone is all just off and it is trying to be too light when it needs some darkness or at least some commitment to the dramatics of the story. I will give one little extra point to the end of the film and again how Davis is giving an A+ barn burning performance in the middle of a C-grade production.
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Let's do it again...
MikeMagi17 July 2014
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.
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Not To Be Taken Seriously.
Robert J. Maxwell8 June 2013
Warning: 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.
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The "Horn of Roland"?!!
Hot 888 Mama23 May 2013
Warning: 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!
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On the dumb side but lotsa fun.
kayzie10718 July 2003
It's fun just to watch Marie Wilson. She's funny, cute and has great facial expressions and mannerisms. Don't expect anything on the serious side. It's all done with tongue in cheek. A fun way to spend and hour or so.
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