Adapting Dashiell Hammett's novel -- and staying as close to the original story as the Production Code allowed -- first-time director John Huston turned The Maltese Falcon into a movie often considered the first film noir. In his star-making performance as Sam Spade, Humphrey Bogart embodied the coolly ruthless private eye who recognizes the dark side of humanity, in all its greedy perversity, and who feels its temptations, especially when they are embodied by a woman. While Huston's mostly straightforward visual approach renders The Maltese Falcon an instance of early noir more in its hardboiled attitude than in the chiaroscuro style common to other films noirs, the collection of venal characters, colorfully played by Sydney Greenstreet, Peter Lorre, and Elisha Cook, Jr.; Mary Astor's femme fatale; and Bogart's morally relativistic Spade pointed the way to the mid-1940s flowering of noir in Billy Wilder's Double Indemnity (1944), Otto Preminger's Laura (1944), and Howard Hawks's The Big Sleep (1946). A critical as well as popular success, The Maltese Falcon was nominated for three Oscars, including Best Picture and Best Screenplay, establishing Huston as a formidable dual talent and Bogart as the archetypal detective antihero.
by Lucia Bozzola review