Blu-ray Review HTF BLU-RAY REVIEW: The Maltese Falcon

Discussion in 'Blu-ray and UHD' started by Cameron Yee, Sep 30, 2010.

  1. Cameron Yee

    Cameron Yee Executive Producer
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    The Maltese Falcon

    Release Date: October 5, 2010
    Studio: Warner Home Video
    Packaging/Materials: Single-disc Blu-ray "ECO-BOX"
    Year: 1941
    Rating: NR
    Running Time: 1:40:00
    MSRP: $24.98







    THE FEATURE

    SPECIAL FEATURES



    Video

    1080p high definition 1.33:1

    High and standard definition



    Audio

    DTS-HD Master Audio: English 1.0 / Dolby Digital: German 1.0, Spanish 1.0, Portuguese 1.0

    Variable



    Subtitles

    English SDH, French, German SDH, Spanish, Portuguese, Danish, Finnish, Hebrew, Norwegian, Swedish

    Variable






    The Feature: 5/5
    A beautiful woman calling herself Miss Wonderly (Mary Astor) hires private detectives Miles Archer (Jerome Cowan) and Sam Spade (Humphrey Bogart) to track down a man with whom her sister ran away. The night Archer starts the assignment, he's immediately shot dead in the chest, and the man he was hired to follow turns up murdered not long after. Now working alone - and even a suspect in the two men's murders - Spade must sort out the real motivation behind Wonderly's seemingly routine job. A visit from the shifty Joel Cairo (Peter Lorre) sheds some light on the mystery -- interested parties, among them Cairo, Wonderly, and the ruthless Kasper Gutman (Sydney Greenstreet), are after a statue - the Maltese Falcon, a valuable artifact from 16th Century Spain. The collective lust after the object is so powerful even Spade gets caught in its wake as he joins in the mad scramble to obtain it. Eventually it will fall into one of their hands, but despite its legendary value it remains to be seen if everyone's scheming and deception will be worth all the trouble.

    When viewing a classic, quintessential film like John Huston's "The Maltese Falcon," it's hard not to notice things that over time have becomes tropes and clich├ęs of a genre. The beautiful but duplicitous femme fatale, the hard-boiled and morally ambiguous private eye, and the money-grubbing villain and his incompetent lackeys - they're all well-worn elements of film noir, but "The Maltese Falcon" stands as the seminal film, popularizing and exemplifying the genre. It's no surprise, considering the 1930 Dashiell Hammett novel from which it was adapted was itself a defining work in private detective fiction (though the 1941 film stands as the second, actually successful, attempt at an adaptation). With 70 years under its belt, it's impressive how much the film holds up - while certainly a work of its time with references to now outmoded social norms and sexual politics, it's timeless for its well-paced storytelling, intriguing character motivations and still-relevant moral about the fruitlessness of greed. Since the film's success, it has been parodied, paid tribute to, and outright imitated but, like the film's titular object of desire, it remains both untarnished and sought after by collectors. Fortunately, thanks to Warner Home Video, possessing the film is a significantly simpler endeavor.

    Video Quality: 4.5/5

    The film is accurately framed at 1.33:1 and presented in 1080p with the VC-1 codec. Black levels are generally deep and inky, with only a few moments when the image looks a little too opened up. Contrast displays the full range of values with excellent shadow delineation and no signs of compression throughout the spectrum. Overall sharpness and fine object detail are equally impressive, revealing a healthy level of grain and showing great definition in the numerous high contrast images, though there are about a handful of moments when the image looks a touch soft or hazy; however they could also be issues inherent to the source. Finally, the image is devoid of physical blemishes and signs of excessive digital tinkering. All in all, Warner Home Video has provided an impressive video presentation for this 70-year old film noir classic.



    Audio Quality: 4/5
    The 1.0 DTS-HD Master Audio features clear, undistorted dialogue and satisfying dynamic range. Though not likely to test the limits of the surround sound system, it's a more than suitable complement to the high quality visuals.

    Special Features: 4.5/5
    The set of extras offers a nice balance between feature-related material and contextual pieces that give a look at Hollywood during the era. The only downside is there aren't more items presented in high definition, though that certainly would have affected the amount of material that could be included. As it is, the package is both highly entertaining and informative.

    Commentary by Bogart Biographer Eric Lax: Lax is obviously reading from notes through most of the commentary, which makes for a through, if frequently stuffy, presentation. If a viewer has the patience to sit through the track, they'll get plenty of history, trivia and anecdotes about the production and the cast and crew.

    Warner Night at the Movies 1941: The collection of short pieces was put together to replicate the movie going experience of the era, which included a newsreel, trailers, and cartoons.

    • "Sgt. York" Trailer (2:00, SD)

    • Newsreel (1:25, SD): Documents the Winston Churchill "meeting at sea" parley with Franklin D. Roosevelt.

    • "The Gay Parisian" (20:02, SD): Romantic dance piece featuring the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo.

    • "Hiawatha's Rabbit Hunt" (7:47, SD): Bugs Bunny encounters Hiawatha in the forest.

    • "Meet John Doughboy" (7:00, HD): Porky Pig prepares for military service.



    The Maltese Falcon: One Magnificent Bird (32:05, SD): Provides background on the novel's publication, analysis of the film's contribution to film noir, and analysis of the film's major characters. Includes interviews with director Peter Bogdanovich, actor James Cromwell, and cinematographer Roger Deakins, among others. Though there's no credit for the narrator, he sounds remarkably like Mike Rowe of "Dirty Jobs," which is actually kind of distracting.

    Becoming Attractions: The Trailers of Humphrey Bogart (44:45, SD): TCM's series hosted by Robert Osborne looks at how movie trailers positioned and sold an actor to audiences. In the Bogart episode, it begins with 1936's "The Petrified Forest" and ends with 1948's "Treasure of the Sierra Madre." Never having seen the series before, I found it to be a fantastic premise and the Bogart episode proves to be a fascinating look at Bogart's career and the marketing endeavors of Warner Brothers Studio.

    Breakdowns of 1941 (12:53, SD): Warner Brother's reel of bloopers from its year of productions shows numerous golden age celebrities in rare, unguarded moments. Though we're used to such humanizing glimpses with current celebrities, I didn't realize until watching this piece how unusual that is to see with film legends. It's not unlike seeing your dear old grandmother make an off-color joke.

    Makeup Tests (1:16, SD): Features Mary Astor in three different screen tests.

    Audio Vault: Three radio show adaptations of the "Maltese Falcon," presented in two-channel audio at 192 kbps.

    • February 8, 1943: Lux Radio (57:39): Stars Edward G. Robinson, Gail Patrick and Laird Cregar.

    • September 20, 1943: Screen Guild Theater Broadcast (28:46): Stars Humphrey Bogart, Mary Astor, Sydney Greenstreet and Peter Lorre.

    • July 3, 1943: Academy Awards Theater Broadcast (27:34): Stars Humphrey Bogart, Mary Astor, and Sydney Greenstreet.



    "Satan Met A Lady" Trailer (2:30, SD)



    Original Theatrical Trailer (2:44, SD)

    Recap
    The Feature: 5/5
    Video Quality: 4.5/5
    Audio Quality: 4/5
    Special Features: 4.5/5
    Overall Score (not an average): 4.5/5

    Warner Home Video turns in a fantastic technical presentation of John Huston's quintessential and trend setting film noir. The special features includes some highly re-watchable pieces that are both entertaining and highly informative. Owners of the DVD will find the Blu-ray release a tempting upgrade given the right price point, and first time buyers will see it as an obvious addition to their collections.
     
  2. BethHarrison

    BethHarrison Second Unit

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    This sounds great, but I'm going to skip it and wait for The Big Sleep to appear on Blu. I already have the original and 3 disc reissue of The Maltese Falcon. From memory The Big Sleep was only released on DVD once, so it deserves a new transfer.
     
  3. Scott Merryfield

    Scott Merryfield Executive Producer
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    Thanks for the review, Cameron. Glad to read that the transfer was well done. I have this, as well as Treasure of the Sierra Madre, on pre-order, and am really looking forward to seeing more Bogey in HD!
     
  4. Frank Ha

    Frank Ha Second Unit

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    Good review, Cameron. Thanks. I have had this pre-ordered for $17.50 at Amazon since July, but I may cancel it and wait for it to go on sale since I have the previously released DVD. It's hard to imagine when it will be cheaper than $17.50 though.
     
  5. Adam Gregorich

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    Thanks for the review Cameron. Now that it has your blessing its time to get it pre-ordered. I don't see it going below the current price for some time to come. Warner is to be commended for not just releasing classic titles, but for doing it with great video quality and lossless audio.
     
  6. Robert Crawford

    Robert Crawford Moderator
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    I am patiently waiting for mine to ship as I bought it at that pricepoint plus I had a $25 gift certificate that knocked that price down even more, when I bought that title along with Treasure of the Sierra Madre and The Exorcist.








    Crawdaddy
     
  7. Cameron Yee

    Cameron Yee Executive Producer
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    Now that Robert Harris has also blessed it, I feel great.
     
  8. Adam Gregorich

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  9. David_B_K

    David_B_K Advanced Member

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    Great review, Cameron. I knew this was being prepared for Blu-ray. Somehow it snuck up on me that it is being released this week! I have now pre-ordered this and Sierra Madre.
     
  10. Frank Ha

    Frank Ha Second Unit

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    You know what? I not only decided to keep my order with Amazon, I also went ahead and pre-ordered Treasure of the Sierra Madre even though I just watched the DVD a couple of months ago. Two great movies at a good price. What's not to like.
     
  11. ManW_TheUncool

    ManW_TheUncool Producer

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    Thanks for the solid review and all the details, Cameron -- for a different, perfectly complementary take alongside RAH's. It's nice to see different (quality) takes from different (film-loving-and-respecting) perspectives w/ these reviews here -- certainly one very good reason to frequent HTF.


    And as I mentioned in RAH's "a few words..." thread, I very much look forward to owning (and seeing for the first time) this great classic!


    Thanks again!


    _Man_
     
  12. lukejosephchung

    lukejosephchung Screenwriter

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    Thanks to careful restoration jobs by Warner and Paramount, Humphrey Bogart/John Huston fans have an embarrassment of riches with BD releases of "The African Queen", "The Maltese Falcon" and "The Treasure Of The Sierra Madre"! Kudos and thanks to all the people involved in making this possible!!!
     
  13. John Hodson

    John Hodson Producer

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    Interesting comment on the Beaver's message board:


    A fellow Beaver member (Louis) has confirmed my earlier report that the Warner
    Region A Blu ray release of The Maltese Falcon has destroyed the worth of the
    significant extra feature on the disc (historically and artistically
    significant) of the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo performing 'Gaite Parisienne'.
    This special feature was also on the last DVD issue, and looked sensational.
    Sadly, that SD feature has not been ported across to the Blu ray. Instead, a new
    SD transfer has been made, from a print with missing frames, with the
    Technicolor image suddenly murky and fuzzy - it's a severe degradation bad
    enough to be comparatively unviewable.
    Does no-one at Warner nowadays check on what's being released before it's put on
    the marketplace? It seems unbelievable that this could happen. Do we think
    there's a chance of a new edition to replace this botched job?



    Anyone here confirm that?
     
  14. Johnny Angell

    Johnny Angell Played With Dinosaurs Member

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    Ok, I'll show my ignorance. What is the significance of having a ballet performance on this disc? Is the music used on the sound track?
     
  15. John Hodson

    John Hodson Producer

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    It's a filmed short that forms part of the 'Warner Night at The Movies' feature on the disc.
     
  16. Paul Penna

    Paul Penna Supporting Actor

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    I sure can. The version on the DVD is gorgeous and beautifully transferred. The version on the BD is... well, there's no other way to put it: simply awful. Looks like 16mm, a used and abused print that starts right off the bat with splice after splice. Not that it matters with all that, but a mediocre transfer, too. Someone somewhere along the line pulled a major, major boner here.
     
  17. Russell G

    Russell G Fake Shemp
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    Great review (other then hearing about the crap quality of the short). I still think I'm going to hold off a bit. I'm still really pleased with my previous Maltese and Sierra DVDs. Once these get even cheaper, I'll probably bite though.
     
  18. John Hodson

    John Hodson Producer

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    Quote:



    Thank you Paul; that's a real shame.
     
  19. ManW_TheUncool

    ManW_TheUncool Producer

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    Bummers about the awful quality of the short.


    I guess Warner's release plate might be getting a bit too full for them to catch every such issue. They also seem to be slipping a little bit in terms of quality results in general too as they ramp up their release schedule (though this is just my vague impression of things at the moment). Hopefully, they get these kinds of issues quickly under control as they continue to ramp up their releases...


    _Man_
     
  20. doink

    doink Auditioning

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    I must say it was fun to watch MF again.


    Certainly the AV quality is an upgrade over the DVD.

    The dialog has never been more clear.


    Sam Spade rules....
     

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