When the Knights of Malta sent off a solid gold jewel-encrusted falcon as a gift to their sixteenth century over-lord, Charles V of Spain, they could hardly have imagined the complications that would ensue when it cast its shadow over the lives of an English gentleman of leisure, an oriental scoundrel, an adventuress, and a San Francisco private detective. And when the spectator sees the quartet assembled in the detective's apartment for the denouemeut, he has hardly more idea of what comes next than when he hears the first shot ring out and sees the victim crumple up and roll down the embankment.
It may be confusing, but "Maltese Falcon" is one of the most exciting pictures that's come out of Hollywood in years. Add Humphrey Bogart, Mary Astor, Peter Lorre, add a superb job on photography, whether it's heightening the tension of a midnight phone-call, or vivifying the nickname of "The Fat Man," and you have a nearly perfect thriller. It is marred only by the ending. We may be grateful for the absence of sentimentality, but even a detective's romance should not meet so brusque a fate.
The also-ran "Unexpected Uncle" might just as well have stayed home.