(Dir. John Huston) (1941)
Best film noir ever – even the colourised version seems shot in glorious black and white – the morality of the characters, on the other hand, reflect all 50 shades of grey. Humphrey Bogart is tough, wily, cynical detective Sam Spade, engaged by Mary Astor, pretending to be a damsel in distress.
Spade is being circled meanwhile, by an unholy trinity: Joel Cairo (Peter Lorre), Kaspar Gutman (Sydney Greenstreet) and Gutman’s henchman Wilmer (Elisha Cook Jr). They are all interested in an artefact originally chosen by the Knights Templar as a gift for King Phillip of Spain, known as the Maltese Falcon.
A brilliant script by John Huston (from the Dashiell Hammett novel) gives the main players full scope to emote to the hilt. Gutman says “I’ll tell you right out I’m a man who likes talking to a man who likes to talk.” Cairo wishes Spade to ‘recover’ the item for him: in ‘an honest, lawful way’ “if possible, but in any case, with discretion.”
So do yourself a favour and see this asap. But now, if you’ll forgive us, “there is no hurry, it’s getting quite late, and…”