The Maltese Falcon (1931 Version) & Satan Met a Lady (1936)
The Maltese Falcon (1931 Version)
This first of three film adaptations of Dashiel Hammett's The Maltese Falcon plays at times like the road-company version of the more famous 1941 John Huston/Humphrey Bogart adaptation. Ricardo Cortez stars as a slick, rogueish edition of Sam Spade, using his office as a trysting place for his various amours. Bebe Daniels plays the Brigid O'Shaughnessy character, here rechristened Ruth Wonderly. Ruth hires Spade and his partner Miles Archer (Walter Long) to locate her missing sister. Archer is killed while on duty, confirming Spade's suspicion that Ruth's lost-sister story was a subterfuge. In fact, Ruth is one of several disreputable types in search of a valuable falcon statuette encrusted with jewels. Others mixed up in the quest for the "black bird" are portly Casper Gutman (Dudley Digges), Gutman's neurotic gunsel Wilmer (Dwight Frye, better known as Renfield from Dracula) and effeminate Joel Cairo (Otto Matiesen). It is giving nothing away at this stage of the game to note that, after all the various intrigues concerning the falcon have come and gone, Spade turns Ruth over to the cops as the murderer of Archer. As would be the case with the 1941 version, the 1931 Maltese Falcon does not use Hammett's original ending, in which Spade callously resumes his affair with Archer's widow (Thelma Todd). Instead, we are offered a jailhouse coda, where a suddenly compassionate Spade asks the matron to treat the incarcerated Ruth gently during her 20-year stay. When Maltese Falcon was due for a reissue in 1936, it was denied a Production Code approval on the basis of one single line: Archer's widow, spotting Ruth Wonderly in Spade's bedroom, exclaims "Who's that dame in my kimono?" In between the 1931 and 1941 versions of Maltese Falcon, there would be a heavily disguised reworking of the Hammett novel, Satan Met a Lady (1936), starring Warren William and Bette Davis. To avoid confusion with the 1941 remake, the 1931 Maltese Falcon has been retitled Dangerous Female for television. ~ Hal Erickson, All Movie Guide
Satan Met a Lady (1936)
While John Huston's screen adaptation of Dashiell Hammett's The Maltese Falcon is widely regarded as a screen classic, it wasn't the first time Hammett's novel had been brought to the screen, and this comedy-drama offers a decidedly different spin on the same story. Detective Ted Shayne (Warren William) is hired by a woman named Valerie Purvis (Bette David) to find a woman named Mme. Barrabas (Alison Skipworth). Valerie, however, won't tell Ted what she wants from her, and as he tries to track down Barrabas, Barrabas's people come to him, in search of Valerie. When Ted and Barrabas finally meet, she claims Valerie has a valuable piece of her property -- a jewel-encrusted ram's horn -- and she'll gladly pay Ted to return it to her. Certain Valerie hasn't been on the level with him, Ted asks his partner to trail him, but when Valerie discovers she's being watched, she kills the second detective. Unaware that she's killed Ted's partner, Valerie asks that Ted pick up a package for her from a ship arriving from Asia the next day, which %Ted realizes is the precious horn which has caused all the trouble. Satan Met A Lady was actually the second feature film based on The Maltese Falcon; the first, also called The Maltese Falcon, was released in 1931. ~ Mark Deming, All Movie Guide
The Maltese Falcon (Special Edition) (1941)
After two previous film versions of Dashiell Hammett's detective classic The Maltese Falcon, Warner Bros. finally got it right in 1941--or, rather, John Huston, a long-established screenwriter making his directorial debut, got it right, simply by adhering as closely as possible to the original. Taking over from a recalcitrant George Raft, Humphrey Bogart achieved true stardom as Sam Spade, a hard-boiled San Francisco private eye who can be as unscrupulous as the next guy but also adheres to his own personal code of honor. Into the offices of the Spade & Archer detective agency sweeps a Miss Wonderly (Mary Astor), who offers a large retainer to Sam and his partner Miles Archer (Jerome Cowan) if they'll protect her from someone named Floyd Thursby. The detectives believe neither Miss Wonderly nor her story, but they believe her money. Since Archer saw her first, he takes the case -- and later that evening he is shot to death, as is the mysterious Thursby. Miss Wonderly's real name turns out to be Brigid O'Shaughnessey, and, as the story continues, Sam is also introduced to the effeminate Joel Cairo (Peter Lorre) and the fat, erudite Kasper Gutman (Sydney Greenstreet, in his film debut). It turns out that Brigid, Cairo and Gutman are all international scoundrels, all involved in the search for a foot-high, jewel-encrusted statuette in the shape of a falcon. Though both Cairo and Gutman offer Spade small fortunes to find the "black bird," they are obviously willing to commit mayhem and murder towards that goal: Gutman, for example, drugs Spade and allows his "gunsel" Wilmer (Elisha Cook Jr.) to kick and beat the unconscious detective. This classic film noir detective yarn gets better with each viewing, which is more than can be said for the first two Maltese Falcons and the ill-advised 1975 "sequel" The Black Bird. ~ Hal Erickson, All Movie Guide
The Maltese Falcon (Special Edition) (Bonus Disc) (1941)
Bonus Disc includes:
New Documentary "The Maltese Falcon: One Magnificent Bird"
The Trailers of Humphrey Bogart
Breakdowns of 1941: Studio Blooper Reel
Audio-only bonus: 3 radio show adaptations including a version starring Edward G. Robinson
The Maltese Falcon comes back to DVD in a packed 3-disc special edition ($19.93) - packed because it not only contains a restored print of the famous version directed by John Huston and starring Humphrey Bogart, but also two other editions, one from 1931 and a more comedic 1936 film ("Satan Met a Lady"). A must for film buffs and Dashiell Hammett-philes.