Sunday, February 22, 2015

The Stuff That Dreams Are Made Of!

I did not know that Dashiell Hammett's great 1929 detective yarn The Maltese Falcon had been adapted to comic book form until I chanced across this cover of Feature Book #48 from 1946 by the David McKay Comics company. Reports I can find are that the comic itself is pretty weak, but if the cover is any indication, it might have some of the vintage Golden Age energy which percolated up in many of those vintage comics. I'd love to read it sometime.

I consider 1941's The Maltese Falcon directed by John Huston and starring Humphrey Bogart and a delicious ensemble cast of morally bankrupt characters to perhaps be the perfect movie. I can watch it over and over without tiring of it. I compare it to great music which always carries you along with changes of intensity and tempo but never losing you and never wearing you thin. The Maltese Falcon is like that, a story that slithers along with fantastic pace but still is possessed of fascinating quiet scenes and character bits which delight but never fail to further the larger story.

I haven't read the novel is some years. I got a class set many years ago when teaching film as literature was momentarily in vogue in schools, but alas never got the opportunity to teach the book. I've since changed schools and had to leave the novels behind for someone else to perhaps make good use of. It strikes me just now I need to get funding and set up a unit for my current classes.

I bought the dvd above some years ago and have enjoyed it several times since. It's loaded with behind-the-scenes stuff as well as other extras.

Not the least of which are the two earlier 1930's adaptations of the Hammett novel, one titled simply The Maltese Falcon from 1931 and the other Satan Met a Lady from 1936

Sam Spade himself had quite a life beyond the novel's ending, even ending up on radio, television and in these delightful Wildroot ads. My dad was a devotee of Wildroot, and the very name of the product evokes great memories.

This is probably my favorite cover for the novel which sadly often gets covers of limited merit (to not suggest it might have actual pulp action in it I guess).

I picked this up a few years ago largely because it had the original story as it ran in serial form in Black Mask magazine in 1929. I've got it set for reading this spring hopefully.

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  1. The Bogart movie is one of my favorites too. I love how everyone is double and triple dealing. No one ever tells the truth in that movie.

  2. The earlier movie has virtually the same dialog in most scenes (lifted directly from Hammett, who couldn't be improved upon, though I bet today's filmmakers would try anyway), but the Bogart remake has so much more impact and resonance because of the strong performances. It was such a hit that it launched a new acting career for Sidney Greenstreet, and generated more movies with many of the same cast members. Casablanca, of course, had Greenstreet, Lorre and Bogie...and Lorre and Greenstreet were the leads in half a dozen or so suspense films during the 40s. It's a pleasure to watch any of these guys in action.


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