Directed by John Huston.
There will be slight SPOILERS
This is without a doubt one of the most influential American classics ever made, helping create the noir genre as well as, along with High Sierra, giving Humphrey Bogart the career boost to push him into becoming an icon.
Bogart is fantastic as Sam Spade, the cool collected private eye that would soon become an archetype. He’s pessimistic, cold, but most of all, a pretty big bad ass (a scene where he disarms a wonderfully effeminate Peter Lorre is about as damn cool as anything Indiana Jones has ever done). The rest of the supporting cast is comparable in talent, such as the Peter Lorre, whose character Cairo is so unimposing and smarmy that it’s hard to imagine it being the same man from M, and Elisha Cook, Jr., who brings an impressive level of humanity to character that could’ve easily been a hollow goon character.
The true star, however, is the script. The dialogue is stylized, witty, and rapid, throwing the story at you at a merciless pace, leaving it to the viewer to keep up and figure out what’s going on. It’s a script that is as cool and smart as it’s protagonist, and in this case, that’s a very good thing.
Perhaps the biggest thing that impressed me is that typically a movie that creates a genre suffers from being the first, allowing others to improve upon it over the years, but this as good as any noir I’ve seen. Red herrings, McGuffins, morally ambiguous characters, femme fatales, and everything else that makes noir an incredible genre is right here and done fantastically.
While the influence of this film is easy to trace, especially with films like Chinatown which even put Huston IN the film, there are two filmmakers that I feel may not exist without this film are the Coen brothers. Their frequent propelling of their plots by using the hubris and misunderstanding of their protagonists seems to be birthed right here.
It is a film not only interesting as a piece of cinematic history, but quite simply a great film on its own right.
The only other Huston film I’ve seen is the African Queen, which means he’s made quite the impression on me already.
So what do you think of this film, Huston, and/or other noirs of this era?