Run time: 101 mins
As one of the dizzying heights of the private eye genre, The Maltese Falcon is an unassailable triumph of script, casting, direction and editing.
It put John Huston on the map as a writer-director and finally furnished Humphrey Bogart with a showcase for his magnetic talent and superhuman on-screen charisma.
Bogart is private detective Sam Spade; when called in to handle a case for Mary Astor’s character, he shortly finds himself in the middle of double-crossing intrigue and several murders perpetrated by strange characters bent on obtaining possession of the famed bejeweled Maltese Falcon. Keeping just within bounds of the law, and utilising sparkling ingenuity in gathering up the loose ends and finally piecing them together, Spade is able to solve the series of crimes for the benefit of the police.
The Maltese Falcon weaves swiftly through a series of attention-holding sequences to crack through to a most unsuspecting climax. It is a film that somehow kick-started the noir genre, and yet was also its peak. And, crucially, a film that should be admired and beloved by all, not just cinephiles. (Jack Whiting)