A few words about…™ The Maltese Falcon — in Blu-ray

After spending a requisite amount of time in the filmmaking trenches as screenwriter (Jezebel, High Sierra, Sergeant York, Juarez), first-time director John Huston, began his career (much like Orson Welles) by creating a masterpiece.

The Maltese Falcon is one of cinema’s greatest works, and now at 70, and arriving on Blu-ray from Warner Bros., has stood the test of time to perfection.

The mention of Mr. Welles’ Citizen Kane comes into play here as an interesting comparison. Both cinematographers began working in the silent era. Kane photographed by the great Gregg Toland (The Winning of Barbara Worth, Tugboat Annie, History is Made at Night, Dead End, Wuthering Heights, The Grapes of Wrath, The Westerner, The Little Foxes, The Best Years of Our Lives, Song of the South) and Falcon by the brilliant Arthur Edeson (The Three Musketeers, Robin Hood, The Lost World, All Quiet on the Western Front, The Big Trail, Frankenstein, Mutiny on the Bounty, Casablanca).

Take a look at the two films back to back, and you’ll realize that both make use of wide angle lenses, and both do something that was extremely unusual for the time. Ceilings.

I’ve seen The Maltese Falcon in various prints over the decades in both original 16mm as well as 35mm incarnations, and the new Blu-ray comes off beautifully. Gray scale is wide and luscious, black are solid, grain, which may have received a bit of digital aid, especially in dupes, looks very film-like. Overall a beautiful digitally cleaned image.

The requisite mono track is clean and full-bodied.

The single negative comment that I can make is that I deplore the eco cases, which don’t provide enough protection for the disc within, especially for shipping. As these cases won’t be heading for either the landfill or the melting pot, I don’t see the point of the down-grade.

One of the greatest films in the history of the cinema, and a must-own for any serious library.

Very Highly Recommended.

RAH

Published by

Kevin Collins

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37 Comments

  1. Thank you for the review sir. I also hate eco cases, and toss them as soon as i get them. The point sure isnt to be green. Somehow they save a penny when they make them. They do not protect the disc, and more than once the art has been damaged in shipping.

    But, forgetting that. I am very much looking forward to this, and Treasure of the Sierra Madera.

  2. I actually prefer the thinner cases, as I've had a few instances where the artwork (and case) was damaged in shipment because the cutouts are not puncture resistent.

    Originally Posted by Cameron Yee

    I got my first eco case of the the non-die cut, but much thinner / flimsy variety and I have to say I think the ones with all the holes cut into them are actually preferable.

  3. Originally Posted by Robert Harris

    The single negative comment that I can make is that I deplore the eco cases, which don't provide enough protection for the disc within, especially for shipping. As these cases won't be heading for either the landfill or the melting pot, I don't see the point of the down-grade.

    They can recycle the cut out pieces.

  4. Interesting note about the ECO Cases is that SONY releases their titles in an ECO Case that is just a thinner plastic that contains NO CUT OUTS at all! Which are fine by me.

    I am still hoping other studios who use the cut out eco cases will come to their senses and say hey these that SONY use will actually protect the cover art work.

    ROBERT, any chance we'll get a Few Words Review for THE EXORCIST before Tuesday? (Very interested in the Orignal Theatrical Cut quality) I wish we'd get the original WB intro logo but I would bet we still have the new logo attached that never looks good mixed with film stock like The Exorcist etc of that period.

  5. This will be mine (as one of those great classics I've never had the opp or simply haven't gotten around to seeing before)!

    And yeah, I don't like most of these eco cases either. Would be one thing if they were actually practical beyond merely being a gimmick to satisfy the green folks (not that I like to waste resources either) and maybe saving a few pennies for some studios as well, but they really are not at all and are just more likely to end up getting thrown out at some point than good quality cases.

    Anyhoo, thanks, RAH!

    _Man_

  6. My copy arrived yesterday. Picture quality was as good as I expected, but there's a real problem with the sync of the audio and video. The audio is early by almost a full frame (7/10 of a frame, to be specific). I'll check this out on some of my other equipment tonight, but it was a real problem until I was able to find the sweet spot with the delay setting. It's so bad, I'd say it is recall-worthy.

    Or it could be just me. Anyone else notice this?

    -Reagan

  7. Originally Posted by Reagan

    My copy arrived yesterday. Picture quality was as good as I expected, but there's a real problem with the sync of the audio and video. The audio is early by almost a full frame (7/10 of a frame, to be specific). I'll check this out on some of my other equipment tonight, but it was a real problem until I was able to find the sweet spot with the delay setting. It's so bad, I'd say it is recall-worthy.

    Or it could be just me. Anyone else notice this?

    -Reagan

    Nope, I didn't notice it, except a couple of frame jumps probably due to the source material.

    Crawdaddy

  8. Originally Posted by Reagan

    My copy arrived yesterday. Picture quality was as good as I expected, but there's a real problem with the sync of the audio and video. The audio is early by almost a full frame (7/10 of a frame, to be specific). I'll check this out on some of my other equipment tonight, but it was a real problem until I was able to find the sweet spot with the delay setting. It's so bad, I'd say it is recall-worthy.

    Or it could be just me. Anyone else notice this?

    -Reagan

    Just to make sure that we're on the same page, you're saying that the audio is off by about 70% of 1/30 of a second? Maybe my math is off but that would be about 2.3% of a second. Is it possible to even percieve 2% of 1 second?

  9. Originally Posted by Reagan

    My copy arrived yesterday. Picture quality was as good as I expected, but there's a real problem with the sync of the audio and video. The audio is early by almost a full frame (7/10 of a frame, to be specific). I'll check this out on some of my other equipment tonight, but it was a real problem until I was able to find the sweet spot with the delay setting. It's so bad, I'd say it is recall-worthy.

    Or it could be just me. Anyone else notice this?

    No audio sync issues whatsoever here.

  10. Originally Posted by Aaron Silverman

    .7 frames is what, around 30 milliseconds (assuming you're playing it back at 24 fps)? That seems like it'd be hard to notice while viewing (though I'm sure with instrumenation, it could be detected).

  11. Originally Posted by Reagan

    A one frame difference is huge. If you have an adjustment to delay the audio on your system, play around with it and see for yourself.

    -R

    Thought you were Douglas Shearer, Head of MGM Sound Department in the 30's & 40's. He would go around and tell people they were one sprocket hole off. To this day the editors that are still alive and there are a couple still smile at that remark. It was not that they did not want to do their job correctly, but one sprocket hole was almost impossible to detect, especially in the early days of sound when everyone was writing the rules as they went along.

    As someone who has worked with film, yes one frame can make a difference.

  12. Originally Posted by ahollis

    Thought you were Douglas Shearer, Head of MGM Sound Department in the 30's & 40's. He would go around and tell people they were one sprocket hole off. To this day the editors that are still alive and there are a couple still smile at that remark. It was not that they did not want to do their job correctly, but one sprocket hole was almost impossible to detect, especially in the early days of sound when everyone was writing the rules as they went along.

    As someone who has worked with film, yes one frame can make a difference.

    Interesting story. Thanks.

    -R

  13. Quote:

    Originally Posted by ahollis

    Thought you were Douglas Shearer, Head of MGM Sound Department in the 30's & 40's. He would go around and tell people they were one sprocket hole off. To this day the editors that are still alive and there are a couple still smile at that remark. It was not that they did not want to do their job correctly, but one sprocket hole was almost impossible to detect, especially in the early days of sound when everyone was writing the rules as they went along.

    As someone who has worked with film, yes one frame can make a difference.

    AFAIK, the only means of telling a single perf off is non-sync in the leaders. Even if it was, the "problem" would most likely be dealt with or amplified by slight mis-threading.

  14. Matt Hough

    Especially since it was Hollywood's third try at the book, and they finally got it right.

    For which, surprisingly, we have the Hays Office to thank! When the newly emboldened production code was launched in July 1934, they took the movies released prior to that and put them in three piles. The first pile was for movies that could be re-released in the new atmosphere as is, the second for movies that could be re-released but needed cuts, and the THIRD pile was for movies that needed to be locked up (think STORY OF TEMPLE DRAKE) because there was no way to redeem them for re-release. The original MALTESE FALCON was just one of those un-redeemable movies, so a remake was considered viable since the original could no longer be reissued and would remain largely unseen. Since Warner Bros. failed so miserably in trying to remake it as a "screwball" THIN MAN clone in 1936 and changed all the names, there was still enough life left in the low risk property when Huston asked that it be his promised directorial debut. What a movie!

  15. Matt Hough

    I was delighted to revisit this magnificent film today. I always have a good time with this movie, and today was no exception. One of the greatest of all mystery films, and the Blu-ray does it full justice.

    +1
    "The stuff that dreams are made of …"

  16. Scott Merryfield

    Just because they shouldn't, doesn't mean they will not. After all, did the world really need a shot for shot rema3ke of Psycho?

    Ditto for the 1978 remake of The Big Sleep (1948).

    Though i did enjoy Robert Mitchum's take on Bogie's Philip Marlowe.

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