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[personal profile] alexxkay
Well, now I have seen all three film versions of The Maltese Falcon. The 1941 is, of course, a classic. The 1931 was, as I posted earlier, good and interesting. The 1936, however, turns out to be nearly a complete waste of time. Bah.

Remember how I said that in the 1931, the lead seemed to think he was in a comedy, despite everyone else being in a crime film? In this version, they have just decided to straight up make it a comedy. I don’t think that this decision was necessarily fatal; one could tell a successful humorous version of this story. But it definitely went poorly for them that they decided to throw away the Gift of Hammett’s timeless dialogue and substitute their own “wit”. Only a few lines are recognizable from the source material, and the replacements are neither funny nor memorable.

I had high hopes for Bette Davis, but she had no real hope of saving the picture. Despite having top billing, her role is relatively small. And really, with this script and this director, no actors could have rescued it.

While the plot is clearly recognizable, they changed all the names and the identity of the MacGuffin. Perhaps Warner Brothers felt a little shame at remaking the film so soon, and sought to make it a little less obvious. But, as much as I like the Matter of France, Roland’s Horn is just not as interesting a MacGuffin as the Falcon. The protagonist’s secretary is ditzy well beyond the point of annoying. There was one change that I thought had a chance of being interesting; the Gutman analogue was a gray-haired, matronly crime boss with a kitten. Sadly, in the execution, she was as dull as the rest.

Strongly dis-recommended. If you want to see an interesting variant, stick with the 1931 version.
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Alexx Kay

September 2017

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