One of the best debut features in cinema history, John Huston’s superb adaptation of a twisty, cynical Dashiell Hammett mystery made Humphrey Bogart an instant star as cool San Francisco gumshoe Sam Spade, who becomes embroiled in the murderous search for a richly bejewelled statuette of a falcon. It’s hard to know who amongst the supporting ensemble is more outrageously entertaining as the miscreants all pursue the gem-heavy bird: Mary Astor as a femme fatale who cannot keep track of her own lies; Sydney Greenstreet, making his screen debut at age 61 and snacking on the scenery as the aptly named Kasper Gutman, whose girth is exceeded only by his ruthlessness; Peter Lorre, camping it up as Gutman’s fey, saturnine partner in crime who carries gardenia-scented hankies; and wild-eyed Elisha Cook, Jr. as a two-bit hoodlum who violently bridles at Spade’s smirking scorn. “A work of entertainment so skillfully constructed that after many years and many viewings it has the same brittle explosiveness — and even some of the surprises — that it had in its first run” (Pauline Kael).
- Media Partner
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