It's been many years since I last watched John Huston's legendary private eye movie, The Maltese Falcon, so when I came across it again on TV recently, I thought it was worth giving it another go and see how it's standing up to scrutiny after all these years. The short answer is: very well.
Dashiell Hammett's novel, on which the film is based, first appeared in 1930. The film came out eleven years later, and was, in fact, by then the third movie version. It was nominated for three Academy Awards, and I suppose it's best remembered for the performance of Humphrey Bogart as shamus Sam Spade. But there are equally splendid performances from Sydney Greenstreet, as Kasper Guttmann, and Peter Lorre as Joel Cairo - two of the most distinctive villains to have appeared on the big screen, it's safe to say.
The story begins, as so many private eye stories do, with an attractive woman (played by Mary Astor in this case) coming to the P.I.'s office and seeking his help. As usual, the woman in question - who calls herself Miss Wonderly - has something to hide. She wants a man called Thursby followed, for trumped-up reasons, but when Spade's partner Miles Archer goes out to do the job that night, he is shot. For good measure, Thursby is killed too.
The pace doesn't slacken as Spade finds himself caught up in a tangle that involves Archer's wife (with whom he's having an affair) and a small group of bad guys who are in search of the legendary Maltese Falcon. Miss Wonderly, whose real name is Brigid O'Shaughnessy, is evidently also mixed up in the business, somehow. Even if you're not a paid-up member of the Bogart Fan Club, there's enough here to keep you entertained on more than one viewing. Great stuff.