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 clichés 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.