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John Huston
Humphrey Bogart, Mary Astor, Peter Lorre
Writing Credits:
John Huston

San Francisco private detective Sam Spade takes on a case that involves him with three eccentric criminals, a gorgeous liar and their quest for a priceless statuette, with the stakes rising after his partner is murdered.

Rated NR.

Aspect Ratio: 1.37:1
English DTS-HD MA Monaural
German Dolby Monaural
Spanish Dolby Monaural
Castillian Dolby Monaural
Italian Dolby Monaural
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 100 min.
Price: $33.99
Release Date: 4/4/2023

• Audio Commentary with Biographer Eric Lax
• “Warner Night At the Movies”
• “One Magnificent Bird” Documentary
• “Becoming Attractions: The Trailers of Humphrey Bogart” Feature
• “Breakdowns of 1941” Blooper Reel
• Makeup Tests
• 3 Radio Show Adaptations
• Trailers
• Blu-ray Copy


-LG OLED65C6P 65-Inch 4K Ultra HD Smart OLED TV
-Marantz SR7010 9.2 Channel Full 4K Ultra HD AV Surround Receiver
-Sony UBP-X700 4K Ultra HD Dolby Vision Blu-ray Player
-Chane A2.4 Speakers
-SVS SB12-NSD 12" 400-watt Sealed Box Subwoofer


The Maltese Falcon [4K UHD] (1941)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (March 29, 2023)

At 23rd on the AFI’s list of the top 100 films - or 31st on the chart’s 2007 update - 1941’s The Maltese Falcon ranks as its second-highest rated film noir after 1974’s Chinatown at #19/21. Actually, the AFI chart includes only a few flicks in that genre, so Falcon doesn’t have much competition there.

I originally checked out the DVD of Falcon simply to review it for our AFI 100 page. I first saw Falcon back in college, and it didn’t do much for me at all. >{> I don’t know what my problem was back then, because on subsequent viewings, I’ve realized how off base I was. Contrary to my teenaged opinion, Falcon provides a tight and intriguing mystery drama.

In San Francisco, private detective Sam Spade (Humphrey Bogart) meets a client named Miss Wonderly (Mary Astor). She entreats Spade to find her missing sister Corinne.

Spade’s partner Miles Archer (Jerome Cowan) takes a shine to Miss Wonderly, so he agrees to tail Thursby and talk some sense into him. Archer ends up dead, and this leads Spade down a winding road that revolves around a valuable totem called the “Maltese Falcon”.

A rather cynical film, Falcon’s hard-bitten tone comes naturally and doesn’t feel like coldness just for its own sake. Spade seems distinctly rough and bitter, though in an interesting twist, he’s the only one who displays any genuine emotion during the film.

Spade clearly falls hard for Wonderly, who may or may not return his affections. She remains a distinctly slippery character throughout the movie. Does she care for Sam or does she simply use him for her own gain?

We never really get a hold on that, though I lean toward the latter interpretation. Most of the conflicts in Falcon occur due to her machinations, and she doesn’t really seem to care about anyone but herself.

Granted, the males also come across as quite self-concerned and mercenary, but at least they appear upfront about it. Wonderly’s deceit and dishonesty make her the film’s most treacherous character.

Wonderly is also probably the weakest link in regard to its actors. Astor does a decent job in the part but she feels somewhat drab at times, which makes it somewhat hard to see why Spade becomes so nuts about her. She’s not that attractive, and she lacks a lot of personality to allow her to appear more enticing.

The various male actors do much better. Bogart grounds the piece nicely and seems appropriately tough and convincing.

Lorre appears typically sniveling and shady, while Greenstreet makes Gutman a surprisingly engaging character. “The Fat Man” features a bounce and lightness that offer an interesting twist on a role that could have been little more than a typical movie heavy.

However, when necessary, Greenstreet lends the part the genuine malice at times. It’s a great turn among many fine portrayals.

A taut and vivid mystery, The Maltese Falcon holds up very well after all these decades. The story seems absorbing and captivating, and director John Huston tells it in a nicely succinct and crisp manner. A genuine classic, film noir fans should adore this flick.

Insult to injury footnote: it’s bad enough that the sentimental How Green Was My Valley beat Citizen Kane for Best Picture from 1941. The fact that Valley also topped the wonderful Falcon makes matters worse.

The Disc Grades: Picture A/ Audio B-/ Bonus B+

The Maltese Falcon appears in an aspect ratio of 1.37:1 on this 4K UHD disc. Across the board, this was a terrific transfer.

From start to finish, sharpness seemed excellent. Nary a hint of softness ever interfered with the proceedings. The movie always looked nicely crisp and well-defined.

Jagged edges and shimmering failed to appear, and edge haloes seemed to be absent. If any digital noise reduction was used, it was used sparingly, as the movie retained a natural sense of grain.

Blacks came across as quite deep and rich. Shadow detail was top-notch throughout the movie. The low-light shots displayed good clarity and visibility. HDR added impact and range to blacks, contrast and whites.

As for print flaws, they were absent; at no time did I discern any blemishes. Put simply, this was an absolutely splendid transfer.

As for the DTS-HD MA monaural soundtrack of The Maltese Falcon, it appeared pretty good given the age of the material. Speech generally came across as reasonably concise and distinct. I noticed a little edginess at times, but I experienced no issues related to intelligibility.

Music appeared decently bright and clear, and effects also came across as clean and accurate. I discerned no significant problems related to distortion in those domains, and the mix also lacked noticeable background noise. Ultimately, you won’t use The Maltese Falcon to show off your sound system, but the audio seemed somewhat above average for a flick of this vintage.

How did this 4K UHD compare to the 2010 Blu-ray? Audio seemed the same for both releases.

As expected, the 4K provided visual improvements. It looked better defined and more dynamic than the already excellent Blu-ray.

On the 4K disc, we find an audio commentary from Bogart biographer Eric Lax. He offers a running, screen-specific chat that looks at the lives and careers of many participants, the history and development of Warner Bros., the story’s origins and move to the screen, other adaptations of Falcon, and various production notes.

Though the track starts slowly, it eventually becomes quite good. At his best, Lax gives us an interesting look at the anticipated issues.

Most commentaries from film historians examine the lives of those involved and aspects of the film’s creation, so Lax’s piece takes the usual path. The results seem rather dry at first, as Lax initially does little more than throw out general biographies.

However, as he gets more into aspects of the production, the piece grows more interesting. In the end, we get a nice look at the flick.

The remaining extras appear on the included Blu-ray copy. It literally reproduces the 2010 release.

A creative and fun addition to the set, Warner Night at the Movies attempts to replicate the cinematic experience circa 1941. This feature starts with a preview for Sergeant York.

We also get a period newsreel, two animated shorts (Hiawatha’s Rabbit Hunt and Meet John Doughboy) and a live-action musical short entitled The Gay Parisian. These are the kinds of pieces that might have preceded a theatrical showing of Falcon, so if you activate this feature, you get an attempt to duplicate a night at the cinema. I like this concept and think it’s quite clever.

Next we go to documentary called The Maltese Falcon: One Magnificent Bird. This 32-minute, five-second program offers notes from Lax, filmmakers Christopher McQuarrie, Larry Cohen, Frank Miller and Peter Bogdanovich, actors Michael Madsen and James Cromwell, Dashiell Hammett’s granddaughter Julie Rivett, biographers Stephen Youngkin and Joe Gores, authors Michael B. Druxman, Eddie Muller and Richard Layman, film historians Rudy Behlmer and Lincoln D. Hurst, musician/performer Henry Rollins, cinematographer Roger Deakins, and editor Carol Littleton.

“Bird” covers the story’s author and origins, the book’s success and first two moves to the big screen, and how it got a third chance as a movie. We hear about how John Huston got a shot as a director, casting of Falcon and performances, and shooting details. Finally, the program deals with the production schedule and pressures, critical reactions and its influential elements, cinematography and characters, and the movie’s legacy.

My main complaint about “Bird” comes from the oodles of praise that shows up in it. The program comes across more as a general appreciation than as a view of the production.

Nonetheless, we get a reasonable amount of good information here. Some of this repeats from Lax’s commentary, but the addition of various archival pieces helps, and the show adds up to a decent little history of the movie.

Becoming Attractions: The Trailers of Humphrey Bogart offers one of the oddest documentaries I’ve seen. Hosted by Robert Osborne, this 44-minute, 45-second program indeed showcases the ads used to promote Bogart’s flicks. Created for the Turner Classic Movies channel in 1997, the show features promos for 12 Bogart efforts.

Of course, Falcon appears in there, and we also find trailers for famous efforts like Casablanca and The Treasure of the Sierra Madre. Osborne offers some useful historical notes for this unusual but entertaining program.

Breakdowns of 1941 presents a 12-minute, 53-second blooper reel. It features goof-ups and wackiness behind the scenes on the year’s Warner flicks.

We find names like James Cagney, Edward G. Robinson, Humphrey Bogart, Bette Davis, Ronald Reagan and James Stewart on display. The clips are just the same as modern bloopers, but the presence of so many legends makes this reel a little more interesting.

One minute, 16 seconds of silent Makeup Tests come next, and we see Mary Astor as she gesticulates for the camera. These aren’t terribly interesting, to be honest.

Under the banner of “Audio Vault”, we find three components. First comes a 2/8/1943 Lux Radio Broadcast.

This 57-minute, 39-second adaptation of Falcon features Edward G. Robinson as Sam Spade and Gail Patrick as Wonderly. This one hews pretty closely to the movie, though it takes a few liberties. For instance, it opens with Archer’s death and relates Spade’s first encounter with Wonderly as a flashback.

The adaptation works pretty well. Robinson’s not as good as Bogart, but he holds his own, and most of the others and fine too. Laird Cregar lacks Greenstreet’s wonderful jocularity, though, and some of the scenes lose a little punch without visuals. Still, this is a fairly entertaining radio show.

Next we find a 9/20/1943 Screen Guild Theater Broadcast. It lasts 28 minutes, 46 seconds as it does another take on Falcon.

Unlike the prior edition, this one uses the main cast from the movie. We get Bogart, Astor, Greenstreet and Lorre in their original roles. That’s a nice factor, though the extremely abbreviated take on the story hurts.

The limited running time means that we zoom through the tale and lose an awful lot of material – this becomes a really bare-bones version. It’s fun to hear since it includes so much of the movie’s cast, and at least it minimizes ads so much of the 28 minutes gets devoted to the show.

For the final audio element, we get a 7/3/1946 Academy Award Theater Broadcast. In this 27-minute, 34-second piece, Bogart, Astor and Greenstreet all return for yet another iteration of Falcon, but Lorre fails to reappear.

This one adds narration from Bogart to take care of all the missing material. This works okay, though it feels like the clumsy device that it is.

At least that method helps keep in more information than we find in the 9/20/43 edition. Otherwise this is an interesting curiosity but not a particularly memorable version of the story.

Two trailers finish the set. We get promos for 1936’s Satan Met a Lady - a precursor to Falcon - and the 1941 Falcon.

Despite my teenage dislike of the film, as an adult I find The Maltese Falcon to provide a tight and intriguing story. The movie tells its tale in a vibrant and concise manner and seemed to deserve its reputation as a classic. The 4K UHD delivers excellent picture and good extras as well as audio that feels more than satisfying. This becomes the strongest presentation of the film to date.

To rate this film, visit the DVD review of MALTESE FALCON

Review Archive:  # | A-C | D-F | G-I | J-L | M-O | P-R | S-U | V-Z | Viewer Ratings | Main