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The Maltese Falcon - Steelbook [UK] - Blu-ray Review

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Maltese Falcon - UK Steelbook blu-ray Review

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5 Stars

The anti-hero, the McGuffin, the duplicitous femme fatale, film noir, German expressionism seeping its way into film—these things have influenced movies for longer than this reviewer’s father has been alive, and they’re things that we take for granted because they’ve become old hat. But everything has a beginning, and for many of these elements we so easily recognise and enjoy today, The Maltese Falcon was where it started.

It’s easy enough in this era to picture what disinterest talk of a remake elicits from our weary hearts, with nearly everything in our multiplexes being a rehash in some form, so picture this: you are in charge of production at Warner Bros.; there have been two adaptations of Dashiell Hammett’s immortal novel within a six year period, with neither really setting the box office on fire. An unproven director gets his secretary to essentially retype Hammett’s novel in screenplay format as an experiment. No A-list actor wants to touch it. But by some miracle, you, Jack Warner, okay the film to go into production on a miniscule budget. It never happened! There was fate or luck or something unexplainable at work there.

Humphrey Bogart ensured his leading man status, enthusiastically stepping up from the token heavy and bad guy he’d been relegated to playing for so long; Sydney Greenstreet and Peter Lorre immortalised themselves, and Mary Astor (the 30s version of Lindsay Lohan, due to her rather saucy extracurricular activity) owned the part of the duplicitous femme fatale.

Sam Spade is a private detective ensnared in a web of murder and deceit when a woman hires him to tail a man. When his partner is killed, and the police start sniffing around him as a suspect, Spade must use all his wiles to get to the bottom of what really happened, and discover who the bad guy is before it’s too late.

A story that’s since been told a thousand times, right? But back then, no one had executed it with the subtext and skill that John Huston did. In a post Code era, where everything edging on morality was questioned, you have a leading man as morally ambiguous as the people his chasing. The rapid fire dialogue, the juxtaposition of their words against their true meanings, told through the subtlety of a glance or a movement—few have approached the economy and effectiveness of this film for doing it like that. Many have tried.

This was also the film that created a genre all of its own. Low angles (though Citizen Kane employed this technique for different purposes earlier), harsh highlights and inky blacks, the atmospheric use and embracing of shadow, sinister silhouettes and ominous artefacts subtly for-telling doom. The cinematography is so brilliant an entire league of films imitated its execution.

This is the blueprint gumshoe movie by which all others that have followed are measured, and none of them have matched its originality and class. It’s really no wonder that it made Humphrey Bogart a star and gave long and acclaimed careers to nearly everyone involved.

This is one classic I strongly recommend you don’t miss.

{2jtab: Film Details}

Maltese Falcon - UK Steelbook blu-ray ReviewClassification: BBFC: PG.
Runtime:
101 mins.
Director
: John Huston
Writer: John Huston
Cast:
Humphrey Bogart; Mary Astor; Gladys George; Peter Lorre; Ward Bond; Barton MacLane
Genre
: Drama | Crime | Classic
Tagline:
A guy without a conscience! A dame without a heart!
Memorable Movie Quote: "Here's to plain speaking and clear understanding."
Distributor:
Warner Bros. Pictures
Official Site:
Release Date:
October 18, 1941
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date:
January 28, 2013

Synopsis: A private detective takes on a case that involves him with three eccentric criminals, a gorgeous liar, and their quest for a priceless statuette.

{2jtab: Blu-ray Review}

Maltese Falcon - UK Steelbook blu-ray Review

Component Grades
Movie

Blu-ray Disc
5 Stars

3 Stars



Blu-ray Experience
4 stars

Blu-ray

Blu-ray Details:

The Maltese Falcon Steelbook (Blu-ray + UV Copy) [1941][Region Free]

Available on Blu-ray - January 28, 2013
Screen Formats: 1.37:1
Subtitles
: English, French, Spanish, Portuguese, German, Danish, Finnish, Greek, Norwegian, Swedish
Subtitles For The Hearing Impaired: English
Audio: English: DTS-HD Master Audio Mono (48kHz, 24-bit); German: Dolby Digital Mono; Spanish: Dolby Digital Mono; Portuguese: Dolby Digital Mono
Discs: 50GB Blu-ray Disc; Single disc (1 BD); UV digital copy
Region Encoding: Region-free

Not a picture that’s gonna floor you by any means, but a respectable VC-1 encode that delivers the clearest picture this film has ever seen on home video release. There is a little flashing and softness in the picture from time to time that a full restoration could completely eliminate without compromising detail. There are films from this era that have looked crisper; perhaps it’s the films stock or the budget of the movie that factors in there somewhere, but after some finer examples from Warner’s catalogue, it seems a missed opportunity. Sound, a lossless DTS-HD mono mix, also could have benefitted from more restoration: dialogue is as crisp as it’s ever been, but there are times when faint hissing and unwanted ambience make themselves known.

Supplements:

Commentary:

  • By Eric Lax.

Special Features:

Extras are abundant and interesting: there is a replication, through a play all feature, that gives you additional material you would see going to this movie in 1941, like a news reel, musical spot, cartoons, and so on­—very cool. Also included is a half hour featurette with some contemporaries giving their opinions on the movie. The edition this reviewer lookecod at was a reissued UK steelbook, which reproduces the 1941 theatrical poster beautifully. Other classics should take note! We love the poster art!

  • Sergeant York Theatrical Trailer - Warner Night at the Movies
  • Newsreel - Warner Night at the Movies
  • The Gay Parisian - Warner Night at the Movies
  • Hiawatha's Rabbit Hunt - Warner Night at the Movies
  • Meet John Doughboy - Warner Night at the Movies
  • The Maltese Falcon: One Magnificent Bird
  • Becoming Attractions: The Trailers of Humphrey The Trailer of Humphrey Bogart - 1997 TCM Documentary
  • Breakdowns of 1941
  • Make-up Tests
  • February 8, 1943 Lux Radio Broadcast - Audio Vault
  • September 20, 1943 Screen Guild Theater Broadcast - Audio Vault
  • March 7, 1946 Academy Award Theater Broadcast - Audio Vault
  • Satan Met a Lady (1936) - Theatrical Trailers

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