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In the realm of cinema, THE MALTESE FALCON ($25) truly is the stuff that dreams are made of. Not only did THE MALTESE FALCON serve as the directorial debut of one of filmdom’s most celebrated directors- John Huston, this film set Humphrey Bogart’s feet on the road to becoming the cinema’s most notable leading man. John Huston adapted his screenplay for THE MALTESE FALCON from Dashiell Hammett’s novel, which had been filmed before with far less successful results. Huston obviously understood the material better than anyone else, because it allowed him to visualize THE MALTESE FALCON in such an unforgettable way that it helped shape the genre that would come to be known to as film noir. Thanks to Huston’s guiding hand, as well as an impeccable cast, THE MALTESE FALCON has since gone on to being recognized as one of the 100 greatest films of all time by the American Film Institute.

THE MALTESE FALCON is a hard-boiled detective story with Humphrey Bogart portraying the greatest of hard-boiled private detectives, Sam Spade. The film opens with a beautiful woman named Brigid O'Shaughnessy (Mary Astor) needing a detective to follow the man she claims knows the whereabouts of her missing sister. Even though Sam Spade and his partner Miles Archer (Jerome Cowan) know Miss O'Shaughnessy is hiding something, they take her case, since she willingly overpaid for their services. Unfortunately, the case turns out to be far more complicated than Spade expected, with both Archer and the man he was following turning up dead. With the police looking to pin something on him, Spade decides he better solve both crimes himself.

Since she started this unfortunate chain of events in motion, Spade becomes further involved with Miss O'Shaughnessy, who leads him into a web of lies, greed and murder. The pieces of the puzzle begin to fall into place when Spade encounters Joel Cairo (Peter Lorre) and Kasper Gutman (Sydney Greenstreet), two of Miss O'Shaughnessy’s less savory acquaintances. It seems both men are trying to recover a black enameled statue known as The Maltese Falcon, which they believe to be in Miss O'Shaughnessy’s possession. Why so much bother over the black bird? Well, you’ll have to watch THE MALTESE FALCON to discover its secrets. The cast of THE MALTESE FALCON also includes Gladys George, Barton MacLane, Lee Patrick, Ward Bond, Elisha Cook Jr., James Burke, Murray Alper, John Hamilton and a very brief cameo from Walter Huston.

Warner Home Video has made THE MALTESE FALCON available on Blu-ray Disc in a 1.37:1 aspect ratio presentation that has been encoded onto the disc with the VC-1 codec. THE MALTESE FALCON has been graced with an utterly superb 1080p black and white presentation that will leave fans leaping for joy. THE MALTESE FALCON is replete with unusual low camera angles and intricate setups that draw one into the film, and all I can say is that this presentation makes the most of Arthur Edeson’s smooth, velvety and utterly wonderful cinematography, thus allowing one to take away a new appreciation for his craftsmanship. Image sharpness and fine detail are impressive, with only a small number of shots coming across as soft- most of which contain some level of process work. The fine gained image displays exquisite texturing, with the herringbone pattern in many of the fabrics plainly standing out. Grayscale is incredible, running all the way from deep rich blacks to pure whites. Contrast does get a bit blown out on occasion, but the effect appears intentional. The elements from which THE MALTESE FALCON has been transferred appear to have been digitally scrubbed of blemishes, without compromise to the grain structure. There is a wonderful fine-grained quality to the impressive image that maintains the film’s organic quality.

THE MALTESE FALCON is presented on Blu-ray Disc with a 1 channel DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack. Considering that THE MALTESE FALCON is rapidly approaching its seventieth anniversary, I have to say the sound quality impresses for a film of this vintage. Certainly, there are decided limitations to the fidelity, especially at the top and bottom ends, but the track sounds more robust here than it has in the past. Adolph Deutsch’s music comes across rather nicely, without sounding tinny. Most signs of background hiss and noise have been cleaned up in the mastering process, which leaves a generally smooth quality to the soundtrack. Dialogue is always crystal clear and easy to understand. A Spanish Dolby Digital monaural track is also encoded onto the disc, as are English, French and Spanish subtitles.

The interactive menus allow one access to the standard scene selection and set up features, as well as the supplements, many of which have been ported over from the DVD release. Starting things off is a running Audio Commentary with Humphrey Bogart biographer Eric Lax. Next up is a Warner Night At The Movies 1941 Short Subjects Gallery featuring vintage newsreels, Technicolor musical short The Gay Parisian, classic cartoons Hiawatha's Rabbit Hunt and Meet John Doughboy, plus a Theatrical Trailer for SERGEANT YORK. Featurettes and other programs include the following: The Maltese Falcon: One Magnificent Bird (thirty two minutes), the Turner Classic Movies Program Becoming Attractions hosted by Robert Osborne featuring The Trailers Of Humphrey Bogart (forty five minutes), a Studio Blooper Reel entitled Breakdowns Of 1941, Makeup Tests and finally, the Audio Vault contains three radio adaptations of THE MALTESE FALCON including one featuring Edward G. Robinson. Trailers for THE MALTESE FALCON and SATAN MET A LADY close out the supplements.

THE MALTESE FALCON is belongs in every serious film collection. The Blu-ray presentation is a shining example of how good classic films can look in high definition. Absolutely recommended.


The Maltese Falcon [Blu-ray] (1941)


DVD & Blu-ray Disc reviews are Copyright 2010 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.
THE CINEMA LASER is written, edited and published by Derek M. Germano.



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