Smarts is ultimately what separates Bogart's Sam Spade as clearly from the rest of the characters in Maltese Falcon just as it separates the film itself from most of its inferior imitators. Spade is the eagle-eyed watcher, a calloused and borderline morally indifferent student of humanity who seems to get his kicks tossing verbal banana peels out for the more dim-witted to trip themselves up on. He has plenty of opportunity for such sparrings, dropped as he is into a mess of scam-artists and treasure hunters violently turning San Francisco upside down as they hunt for a long-lost jewel-studded falcon supposedly once given by the crusading Knights Hospitaller to the Holy Roman Emperor in exchange for the island of Malta. The world around Spade -- a sort of aloof knight errant in fedora and sharp suit -- is one of manipulation and lies, stupidity, and the occasional cleverness dulled by unlimited greed.
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Corny, but I guess that's what Jules Verne wrote back in the mid-1800s. The hot-foot dance hadn't become a cliche yet.
Continue reading: 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea Review
Essentially a revision of a dozen or so Bogie movies, all mashed together, Beat the Devil follows a group of miscreant adventurers on a quest to secure a parcel of land in Africa which is rich in uranium. Naturally, events and foes conspire against them, culminating in their arrest.
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The "M" stands for "murderer" in either language, and the film is loosely based on the actual case of a Düsseldorf child killer named Peter Kurten. (His name was later borrowed for Copycat.) The plot of M echoes the fascination with shadowy syndicates and underworld figures that Lang exhibited in earlier films such as the Dr. Mabuse pieces and Spies: When a police dragnet for the child murderer upsets normal criminal activities, the criminals themselves organize and track the suspect down, labeling him, without his being aware of it, with a chalk "M" on the back of his coat.
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A new double-disc DVD of Casablanca enhances the film for novelists and cineastes alike. I rarely do this, but I listened to Roger Ebert's entire commentary track, which he uses to discuss the film's curious shortcomings (what good would letters of transit signed by Charles de Gaulle be in getting you out of Morocco?), Bogart's past and rise to fame (this being his first starring role), Bergman and her foibles, endless points about the film's dozen or so famous lines, and extended commentary on the lighting, special effects (if you can call them that), and camerawork.
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