The Maltese Falcon 1941

PODCAST WARNING: Lani and Jenny found it hard to discuss this movie as professionally as they should have; therefore if you’re interested in a serious discussion of The Maltese Falcon, you’ll probably want to skip this one.  If you want to hear two women laughing hysterically about a noir classic, tune in.

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Story: A private detective searches for his partner’s killer and the statue of a black bird, accompanied by a beautiful woman who lies to him a lot.

Sam Spade, the most famous hard-boiled detective ever.

Release Date: October 18, 1941

Writer: John Huston, Dashiell Hammett

Source: The novel of the same name by Dashiell Hammett.

Mystery Analysis:
Detective as protagonist?

Jenny: Yep.  First character on the scene, owns the whole movie.
Lani: Yes, the first thing you see is Sam, it’s him all the way through.

Murderer as antagonist?
Jenny: Yep.  Shows up in the first scene, drives the protagonist crazy for the whole movie.
Lani: Also there right from the start, coordinating everything.

Conflict created by murder?
Jenny: It doesn’t seem so at first, but it does become evident at the end.
Lani: As soon as the murder happens, yes. Before that, it’s created by the fact that he doesn’t believe a word she says, right from the beginning. Which was good to discover, because neither did I.

Fair play with all the clues given?
Jenny: All the clues are given, but I think Sam makes a big deductive leap at the end, and there’s no way the police have enough evidence to prosecute.  Of course, it was shot in 1941; maybe back then you didn’t need much evidence.
Lani: I give a qualified yes. Some things Sam came to were based upon his deep knowledge of Miles Archer, and I’m not sure we got that knowledge as well in the first couple of seconds before Miles was plot meat.

Solved using deduction, not luck?
Jenny: Yep.  Spade’s a real detective, digging constantly.
Lani: Absolutely. The entire movie is him picking at people for clues. He’s a great example of an active protagonist.

Story Analysis & Ratings:

Jenny says: 5 Pops: Solid mystery, well told.  The romance gets a 1 because that was sex, honey, not love, but then The Maltese Falcon isn’t a romance, so who cares?  The comedy, though: It’s not supposed to be funny but we were on the floor.  We NEED a gif of Brigid kicking Joel Cairo.
Mystery: 4, Craft: 5, Suspense: 4, Romance: 1, Comedy: 5

Lani says: 5 Pops – As a mystery, it’s a five. It does all the things a mystery is supposed to do. The ridiculous things we laughed hysterically about didn’t take away from that, so neither will I. I do have to say, it hasn’t aged well, in that I was laughing at a lot of things I don’t think they intended to be funny. On the other hand, it’s a movie I would absolutely watch again, if for nothing more than the moment he takes the gun away from Cairo, only to give it back loaded. And then, when he does it again with Wilmer. It’s the again that makes it funny.
Mystery: 5, Craft: 4, Suspense: 3 (I was laughing too hard and didn’t give a rat’s ass about any of them), Romance: 1, Comedy: 5


7 responses to “The Maltese Falcon 1941”

  1. This is yet another one of those super awesome classics that everyone but me loves. Instead it made me think, “Um…why is this so awesome again? Because Humphrey Bogart is in it sending his evil girlfriend to jail…I guess?” Also, uh, who cares about the dead partner, or his wife, and why the hell are you giving people guns…?

    And yeah, why would she want him after 20 years of jail? I’m glad you “won’t play the sap” for her, but don’t give that stupid speech about how much you love her as you’re sending her to jail, please.

  2. I’ve never thought of this as having aged badly, but I’ve been watching movies from this period my whole life, so I think I’m used to the dated language and action scenes. I need to watch this again before I comment anymore on the movie, because it’s been a while since I saw it.

    As far as the confusing love and sex thing is concerned, that’s not limited to this. It’s pretty much every noir I’ve ever seen. At least from the classic ’40s period. The neo-noir may do better in that respect. I can see why the noir “romances” would bother you guys. The femme fatale character’s ability to actually do damage to the hero depends partly on the fact that he is so easily blinded by sexual attraction. It’s not just about her being manipulative, it’s about him being weak. It is never about love, despite the fact that he always thinks it is. I don’t think any noir really has telling a romance as a goal, so it never bothers me that they don’t succeed in that. Although there are exceptions to that rule. Makes me kind of worried about how you guys are going to like Laura if you do it with the romantic mysteries. I love it but it, but it’s definitely noir. Need to watch it again and see how the romance holds up.

  3. @RJL – I can’t get it through iTunes either.

    @Jenny – This is off topic, but I’m wondering if the noir movies feel different after writing Fast Women?

  4. You all should be able to get it through iTunes now; refresh and see what happens. If that doesn’t work, unsubscribe and re-subscribe. Let us know if it works!

  5. It showed up for me finally. I think iTunes hates the podcasts I love – this wasn’t the only one that showed up late this week.

  6. I’m sorry, I thought I’d answered this.

    Fast Women showed me that Feminist Noir is an oxymoron. The minute the women became protagonists who were verbal, smart, and active, the whole noir world crumbled because there was balance. I think noir is based on the idea of imbalance, that the world is out of whack universally (and not just in this one example of a singular crime), and in the noir/hardboiled detective story, there is only one good, isolated man striving against all odds to right that balance, so when you have smart, good women to balance the smart, good male, the world goes back into balance, the noir guy is no longer isolated because of his inherent goodness in a bad world, and the whole hopeless bit goes out the window. Add to that the improvement in the romance–he doesn’t just think he’s in love because he wants her body, he’s in love with her as a person–and it’s just too positive an approach to ever really work as noir. I think Kiss Kiss Bang Bang comes close, but I also think the romance in Kiss, Kiss, Bang, Bang should have been between Harry and Perry because that where the real spark was. But that would have runined the noir, too, because Harry and Perry wouldn’t have been emotionally isolated at the end even though they’re still working together.

    So to get back to your question, what I learned about noir writing Fast Women is that I can’t write noir.