31 – The Maltese Falcon (1941)

Kasper Gutman: This is going to be the most astounding thing you have ever heard of, sir, and I say that knowing that a man of your caliber, in your profession, must have known some astounding things in his time.
Seen before?

R: No.

F: No.

Thoughts?

R: I love the idea of film noir, but for some reason, it never quite does it for me. I had really high hopes for this, but in the end it just didn’t grip me like I wanted it to.

F: I had a similar feeling. After the first scene when Mary Astor comes to visit Humphrey Bogart I was excited. But for me it never really got going after that and I’m not sure I can put my finger on why.

R: Now we’re climbing toward the top of the list we’re hitting a lot of films that have been incredibly influential, but that influence comes with a cost. The fact so many other films have tried to build on the legacy of these old “important” films inevitably means some of their impact is lost. I said it about Snow White, I’m saying it here, and – spoiler – I’m probably going to say it about Citizen Kane too. It takes a truly extraordinary film to keep gripping audiences after 80-odd years.

F: The issue for me is that I wanted more. I wanted more twists and turns with more double crossing and people revealing secrets. But I think you’re right that I have seen too many of the films this has influenced and did build on this core idea so its what I have some to expect. This is a fairly solid thriller though.

R: Oh yeah, and I don’t want to be too down on it. Humphrey Bogart’s performance is great, and brings a lot of depth to the character. But I think you’re right that this lacks some of the twist and turns of more recent thrillers, and ultimately the revelations in the story are never all that surprising.

F: There were times I was also a bit confused as to what was going on. As you say though, ultimately the revelations just weren’t shocking enough! I liked Bogart in this but I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a bad performance from him, and this wasn’t at the heights of The Treasure Of The Sierra Madrefor me. Supporting cast were also solid, especially Sydney Greenstreet as Gutman.

R: Yes I think the acting here is about as good as anything else we’ve seen from this era. We get a real sense of internal struggle from these morally ambiguous characters. The trouble is that morally ambiguous heroes are ten a penny in 2018, and the pacing here no longer really cuts it. I’m hoping Double Indemnity (1944) will feel a bit sharper when we get to it at number 29 on the list.

F: Ooh yes I’m looking forward to that one!

Thoughts?

R: I should probably give this another try one day, but to be honest I’m not in a hurry to. It’s a no from me.

F: Sadly a no from me too.

Up next:
30 – Apocalypse Now (1979)
Previously:
32 – The Godfather Part II (1974)

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