RARA-AVIS: RE: Maltese Falcons on DVD

From: Dick Lochte ( dlochte@gmail.com)
Date: 02 Feb 2006

Though I don't disagree with Brian Thornton's appraisal of the acting in the Ricardo Cortez version, there is something to be said about seeing the story set in the period in which the book was written. When I first read the novel, Bogart and Greenstreet and Lorre were the images I had in mind, and I assumed the book had been written in the Forties. Certainly not in the Twenties. I guess I've read the novel a half dozen times since then and, even though I know better, it always stays in the wrong period. So, seeing Cortez' oily hair and sleazy lounge lizard manner is something of a revelation, because that's probably closer to the way Hammett saw Spade than Bogart was. Yes, I know Hammett preferred the Huston version. Anybody would, especially the author. But when it comes to physically resembling the kind of guy who'd sleep with his partner's wife and whom people would assume to be more crooked than he is, Cortez has it all over Bogart.

Aside from that, the movie is almost as faithful to the novel as the Huston version. Some of the changes -- like Miles Archer being aware that Spade is having an affair with his wife -- are interesting, while others -- Spade having a romantic relationship with Effie -- not so good.

Dick Lochte
  Brian Thornton wrote:

"I don't recall much about the Ricardo Cortez version plot-wise, because I was utterly distracted by the wooden acting of the less-than-stellar cast. On the other hand, it is entertaining to watch them, knowing what the story was in store for once Huston got his hands on in, first as screenwriter, then as director."

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