U.S.A.| 1941. BLACK AND WHITE. 101 MIN

‘It has rhyme and rhythm and makes the mind ask questions.’ So said Raymond Chandler about the title of Dashiel Hammett’s novel, The Maltese Falcon, and the description could apply to this film. It certainly demonstrates Huston’s maxim that you should only remake bad films; this was the third version of the tale, completely eclipsing the first two and making any further version superfluous. The eponymous falcon is ‘the stuff that dreams are made of’, a priceless statuette pursued by a venomous femme fatale (Mary Astor), a scented sybarite (Peter Lorre), and a gentleman villain (Sydney Greenstreet) who oozes avuncular avarice. Caught up in their quest is private-eye Sam Spade (Humphrey Bogart), who has been hired by the woman on an ostensibly innocent assignment that has led to the death of his partner. With his literary sensibility and his fascination with eccentric characterisation, Huston is in his element: this is one of the cinema’s great directing debuts, and the Hamlet of film noir.—Neil Sinyard.

An 8-minute on-screen introduction to this film with Anjelica Huston will precede the screening.

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