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The Maltese Falcon Review


Excellent
The proof that some films are simply immune to satire or the wear and tear of time is fully contained in the sharp little diamond of cinema that is John Huston's 1941 version of The Maltese Falcon. (Dashiell Hammett's novel was actually filmed twice before, under the same title in 1931 and as Satan Met a Lady in 1936 with Bette Davis.) All the recognizable private detective flick elements are here, from the wisecracking P.I. himself to the femme fatale, scurrilous mugs who are too quick with their guns and too slow with their brains, and the McGuffin itself, a 400-year old statue of inestimable value. But even though these stock devices have become so well-worn over the intervening years with mockery or tribute, this remains a highly entertaining thing of beauty, done with skill and economy, not to mention smarts: none of which are things much in evidence today.

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.

Continue reading: The Maltese Falcon Review

Between Two Worlds Review


OK
This innovative drama earns points for originality, but bungles the execution: A group of British travelers have all been killed during World War II... and they all find themselves on a cruise ship headed... where? The catch: Some know they're dead, and some don't. The film's conflict comes from arguments between these two groups. What could have been a proto-version of The Sixth Sense instead becomes a rather dull bit of preachiness where little ends up happening. The film is based on the play Outward Bound (which will forever taint the name of the organization by the same name for me), which was a flop on Broadway.

Christmas In Connecticut (1945) Review


Very Good
If you're only familiar with the Christmas in Connecticut through the awful Arnold Schwarzenegger-directed remake, you owe it to yourself to check out the original, a funny and witty film featuring Barbara Stanwyck in one of her lightest roles on film.

The story is remarkably complex and underhanded for a) a comedy and b) something dreamed up in 1945. Stanwyck is Elizabeth Lane, a newspaper columnist who writes "Smart Housekeeping" full of recipes, homemaking, and parenting tips. Turns out, alas, she's a total fraud: She can't cook, she doesn't have a famous farm in Connecticut, and she isn't even married.

Continue reading: Christmas In Connecticut (1945) Review

Casablanca Review


Essential
"Play it again, Sam." Well, those lines aren't in Casablanca, but the words "Bogie and Bergman" rank just below "Bogie and Bacall" when it comes to famous celebrity film pairings. Sometimes a kiss isn't just a kiss -- in this case, it's forever. And it was certainly the beginning of a beautiful friendship...

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.

Continue reading: Casablanca Review

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Sydney Greenstreet Movies

The Maltese Falcon Movie Review

The Maltese Falcon Movie Review

The proof that some films are simply immune to satire or the wear and tear...

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Casablanca Movie Review

Casablanca Movie Review

"Play it again, Sam." Well, those lines aren't in Casablanca, but the words "Bogie and...

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