Re-Watching the Classics: Conflict

Conflict is a classic film noir from director Curtis Bernhardt. The original story is from novelist Alfred Neumann and the great noir director Robert Siodmak. This film maybe cashing in on the success of The Maltese Falcon with the teaming up of Humphrey Bogart and Sydney Greenstreet once again. Then again who cares! I would love to see this duo in 100 movies!

This film revolves around Richard Mason played by Bogart. He is a wealth business man who is married to Kathryn played by Rose Hobart. Greenstreet plays a family friend who is a psychiatrist. Alexis Smith plays Kathryn’s little sister and has caught the eye of Richard. After a party where we get to know the main players Richard, Kathryn and her little sister are involved in a car crash. Richard is hospitalized and now has to use a cane to get around. Richard and Kathryn’s marriage is on the rocks after Kathryn brings up the fact she can tell Richard is in love with her little sister. She decides to go up to the lodge in the woods by herself and Richard stays behind. With Richard using his injury and alibi of staying in the city, he causes Kathryn to drive off the pass in her car falling to her death. With Kathryn out of the picture will Richard win the heart of her little sister? Will anybody ever find Kathryn? Will Richard’s evil plan all come together for him or will it unravel as his web of lies start to fall apart?

This maybe one of the lesser known noir films starring Bogart, but it shouldn’t be. This is an amazing film with Bogart at his dapper best. He is pure evil in this one, but you still root for him. Greenstreet plays the smartest man in the room like no other. The cinematography in this one is well above average for a classic noir with some amazing shots and scenes that look totally original. If you are noir fan or fan of Bogart and/or Greenstreet (and who is not!) you will enjoy this film.

Favorite Tidbit: Way before Easter Eggs was even a thing, this film has two of them, both from earlier in Bogart’s career. In one scene you will see a version of The Maltese Falcon on a filling cabinet and one of the brooches worn by Kathryn is the exact same one worn by Ingrid Bergman in Casablanca.

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Review: The Mask of Dimitrios

The Mask of Dimitrios is a film noir from 1944 with the dynamic noir duo of  Peter Lorre and Sydney Greenstreet. This is the first feature film of director Jean Negulesco. Negulesco was slated to direct the Maltese Falcon in 1941, but was soon replaced by John Huston. He finally got his big break with this film and went on to a great career as a director in Hollywood. He also teamed up with Lorre and Greenstreet for a few more films. This is also the first film of Zachary Scott. This movie is based on the book A Coffin for Dimitrios by Eric Ambler.

Our story starts with a dead body washing up on shore in Turkey. This body is identified to be Dimitrios Makropoulos,a slick criminal that Colonel Haki has taken special interest in. Haki is played by Kurt Katch in this film. Colonel Haki in this film is the same character played by Orson Welles in Journey Into Fear a year earlier. I reviewed Journey Into Fear here:

https://everythingnoir.com/2015/06/26/review-journey-into-fear/

Haki tells Cornelius Leyden, played by Lorre, a time line of Dimitrios’ crimes and past locations. Leyden is an author of detective stories and is intrigued by Dimitrios’ story and decides to further investigate him for a future book. As Leyden starts his investigation at the records office in Greece we soon see Mr. Peters…or is it Mr. Peterson? played by Greenstreet following Leyden. They soon meet on a train as Mr. Peters tells Leyden where to stay at his next stop. This film also uses flashback scenes to tell Dimitrios’ story as Leyden learns more and more about him. The mystery grows as we learn more about Dimitrios’ past. Will we find the connection between Mr. Peters and Dimitrios? Will we find out how Dimitrios died and why? Will Leyden get the story he wants for his next book?

This film has a pretty interesting story and hooks you as you want to learn more. I have to say though, my favorite parts of this film are the scenes of simple conversation between the two leads. Greenstreet and Lorre are two great actors and how they deliver their lines and interact with each other are some of the best I have ever seen. I can see why they where teamed up for 9 films together.

Zachary Scott is also very good as the title character, playing a smart charming criminal and spy.

The Mask of Dinitrios is a film noir I never really heard about until TCM’s Summer of Darkness. I liked the two leads in the Maltese Falcon and other films and was intrigued. This was a big hit when it was released in 1944 and not sure why it is not talked about more these days. This film is amazing and worth seeing for any classic film lover. If you are a fan of any of the three leads, and who isn’t?, you will love this film.

Favorite Tidbit: The character Dimitrios Makropoulos is inspired by Basil Zaharoff, a Greek-born arms dealer who became one of the richest man in the world and was known as “merchant of death” and “mystery man of Europe.”

Re-watching the Classics: The Maltese Falcon

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The Maltese Falcon has a lot of firsts, firsts that would change film, film-noir, fiction and popular culture forever.  The Maltese Falcon is considered by some as the first true film-noir movie.  It is the first movie John Huston ever directed who went on to direct 46 more movies, many of them considered classics and he is considered one of the best directors in history.  This is Sydney Greenstreet’s first film, at 62 years old, he was a stage actor for 40 years before this film.  Greenstreet went on to make 24 more movies in his career, 9 more with co-star Peter Lorre.  This book on which it is based is written by Dashiell Hammett, who some consider the first writer of noir fiction, if he isn’t he certainly is one of the earliest influential writers and a master of the genre.  His work has not only influenced the noir genre greatly, but has popped up in western and samurai movies and films from all over the globe.  I read the book many years ago, and may re-read it and give it, its own review later.  I can tell you that the book is amazing as well.

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This movie has one glaring non-first, this is the third time this book has been adapted to the screen, the other two where rather lack luster attempts(I have not seen either of them).  The reason this one worked so well is John Huston wrote the script just as the book was written.  The previous attempts all had a happy ending, Huston left the original book ending in his version.

The Falcon itself may be the most famous MacGuffin in film history, it is definitely the most valuable.  There are 4 know Falcons and 2 are made of lead.  These lead versions have gone to auction and sold for well over a million dollars.  That is 3x what the original film cost to make.

We have a bunch of the common themes we will find in noir movies for the next 20 years to even today’s neo noir films.  We have the hardboiled private detective with the overcoat and fedora hat, has anybody done this better than Humphrey Bogart?  We have the femme fatale in Mary Astor.  We have an unhappy ending that maybe not what the audience wanted. We have twists and turns, sometimes us as a viewer are not sure what is going on, does our hero know what is going on?  Most of the film is from our hero’s prospective, we are learning as our hero learns. We also have some underling moral issues that are there but not spoken, do to the movie code of the time.  Is our hero having an affair with his partners wife?  Is one of our thugs actually a gay man?  Is our femme fatale using sex and lies to get what she wants?

Our story starts at Spade and Archer’s office.  Spade and Archer are partners and private detectives.  They take on a case where a man needs to be followed because he has taken our clients younger sister and will not let them see her.  When Archer is on the job, he is shot and killed.  This is where are hero Sam Spade takes over trying to find out who killed his partner and why.  Our adventure is with Spade, he is in every scene of this film, except the scene where his partner is murdered.  We don’t know who to believe and who to trust, just like Sam Spade.  If you haven’t seen The Maltese Falcon yet, do it right now!

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In film noir and noir fiction for that matter we have two writers, that are considered the best of the era.  Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammett.  The debt about who is best will live forever.  I’ve read both of them and can’t pick a winner myself.  I think the winner is us, as readers of this classic fiction.  One thing they have in common is Humphrey Bogart, the iconic star that played both Hammett’s Sam Spade and Chandler’s Marlowe.  Who is your favorite Bogie detective, Spade or Marlowe?