I finally rented and watched The Maltese Falcon this week. I really love old movies, and this is one of those on my list of “I’m surprised I haven’t ever seen it yet.” It’s supposed to be considered a classic, I guess. I enjoyed most of it, although the pace was a little fast for me at times to follow what was really going on. It wasn’t until after I watched the special features on the disc after the movie that I realized it was a film noir.
This is only the second definitive film noir movie I’ve seen, the first one was The Third Man, and in both cases I’ve been left a little confused as to what’s going on. A lot of that stems from the fact that I was expecting a drama with an interesting mystery story line, but both of those take a back seat to what really gets the spotlight: characters with interesting backgrounds and moral and social flexibility. That’s what it seems like to me, at least. The story in both of them is really about how there are these tough people, both good and bad, which are pretty hardened and can cross the line to do some pretty nasty things if pushed a little too hard. What’s still interesting though is how everyone has this prim and proper gentleman approach, which makes the movies even more fascinating to me.
After watching a few of the classics though, at this point I’d have to say the genre really isn’t in my style. I love parts of it, like the gentelman detectives, the femme fatales, and the polite crooks, but the story takes a real backdrop. I think I’d actually like pulp fiction much better would I watch it more.
In fact, my first extensive encounters with classic drama was with radio, not movies. I’ve seen a lot of old movies, but not nearly as many old time radio dramas that I’ve listened to. Neither number is very high (in the low dozens), but its radio where I got my expectations on how the movies would be. So far I haven’t seen much at all that is similar, but then again, I haven’t seen much at all to begin with.
In fact, what’s really curious is that the movie The Third Man is really much, much different than the radio drama series, which I absolutely love. In that one, Harry Lime is a fast talking scam man who doesn’t mind double crossing the crooks if the police’s reward money is slightly more. The Sam Spade radio stories, though, are probably pretty spot-on with what this movie was like though. I know I haven’t heard many of them, but mentally they’re not on my list of ones to collect, so I must have not been really impressed by them when I was first investigating all the series that are out there.
The great thing is that when it comes to old movies, there is just a whole other world to discover, with all kinds of different takes on genre, film, story, and character. That, and there are lots and lots and lots of them, with lots of original stories in settings that I never grew up in. I still have a ton of old movies in my queue to watch that I’ll get around to sooner or later, and I’m sure there’s gonna be quite a few that I enjoy. Film noir, it seems, is not for me though. No big loss, there’s still plenty to go around. :)