The Definitive Film Noir
11 August 2006
Warning: Spoilers
The Maltese Falcon (1941)

The 1941 gem, the The Maltese Falcon is considered to be the first if not the definitive Film Noir film. The use of strong lighting, camera angles, deep twisting story and great performances. The Maltese Falcon starts off pretty slowly, starts as the standard detective story of follow this woman, then a murder, the main character is accused of the murder and must clear his name. The plot thickens quickly with whispers of a statue, a legendary statue. The plot undertow is quickly exposed as the main drive for all of the characters, including Sam Spade is greed. All five main characters are seeking this strange statue, bribing, betraying and even killing for it. Sam and Bridge betraying the love they have for each other. Kasper betraying and selling out the man who he treats as a son, his young assistant, perhaps sexual partner, Wilmer. The greed hits a fevered pitch when the statue is finally shown and all the characters get an evil look in their face thanks to an up shot. This kind of greed is also the fuel for other movies where vast riches are at stake, such as Rat Race(2001) or Resident Evil 2(video game,1998). The greed is also the reason behind the famous last line, "The, uh, stuff that dreams are made of." Since dreams often drive people. The greediest character is of course Kasper Gutman, who's shown as a large man. Often the camera is lowered to make Kasper appear bigger then he actually is, interestingly enough, Sydney Greenstreet, who played Kasper Gutman, was the largest actor the studio had at that point. There are two hints of the sexuality of Wilmer in the Maltese Falcon, in one line, Sam Spade calls Wilmer a "gunsel", which is slang for a young man kept by an older man for favors, also, Cairo tries to comfort Wilmer by rubbing his shoulders when Wilmer is set up to be the fall guy. The Maltese Falcon is considered to be the first film noir, but many people disagree. Many point to M as the first film noir, except it's missing a femme fetale. Others consider Strangers on the Third Floor to be the first true film noir. But most consider the Maltese Falcon to be a definitive film noir. The falcon's influence can be felt in several other film noirs, and can even be felt in recent movies such as Sin City, the archetype of James Bond can be traced to Humphrey Bogart's portrayal of Sam Spade. The film has been spoofed in several different ways but mainly in the from of the characterization of Cairo. Peter Lorre's appearance and mannerisms from Bugs Bunny cartoons to the Simpson's to the cartoon version of Megaman. The Maltese Falcon continues to intrigue movie watches because it's film noir qualities of murder, a femme fetale , double crossing, greed , style, and crime to name a few. The driven performance of Humphrey Bogart and memorable performance of Peter Lorre, while the plot draws the viewer in and wonders who really has the prized statue and what will people do for it.
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