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Warner Bros. does it yet again.
on March 24, 2007
Again, Warner Bros. continues to rival other studios with their DVD releases of their classic movies. This time, they've pulled out all the stops for the 1941 version of The Maltese Falcon, the film that practically invented the film noir genre. Although not as packed with bonus materials like some of their other previous Special Edition, they've still put enough material on here to use THREE discs. The set contains a cardboard slipcase packaging two slim DVD cases. Disc 1 is contained in the first case, and the second case contains discs 2 and 3. I won't go into detail on the movie, because I'm here to review the product itself, not the movie.
The first disc contains the 1941 film noir classic, with a newly restored digital transfer. Digital artifacting is minimal if existent. Some film artifacting, such as occasional slight shakiness is present, but for the most part, the transfer is clean and free from flaws. The audio is presented in its glorious original mono mix, which has been cleaned up for this new transfer. An audio commentary is included, but I have yet to listen to it. Also included is a bonus called Warner Night At The Movies, which allows you to view a gallery of short subjects before The Maltese Falcon - the way you would have in 1941. The short subjects included are informative and/or entertaining and even include a couple of short cartoons. But the restored movie is, of course, the main attraction - and what an attraction!
Disc 2 contains a nice surprise - the first two film versions of The Maltese Falcon! The first one is the pre-code 1931 version starring Ricardo Cortez as Sam Spade and Bebe Daniels as Ruth Wonderly. Although this first version is very similar to the 1941 version, it contains a bit more sexual innuendo and suggestive scenes. For many years after its initial release, the film was not allowed to be shown until the late 60's, when it turned up on TV under the title Dangerous Female. The second film is a thinly veiled screwball comedy take on the story titled Satan Met A Lady, starring Warren William as Ted Shane (Sam Spade) and Bette Davis as Valerie Purvis (Ruth Wonderly/Brigid O'Shaughnessy). Despite having all of the characters' names changed and the object of desire changed to a ram's horn filled with jewels, it's obvious what the source material is. Satan Met A Lady's theatrical trailer is included, but not the trailer for the 1931 film, despite the packaging's claim that both versions' trailers are included. Having all three films on this set is a good idea, in my opinion, because it allows the viewer to decide for themself what their favorite version is. Although in my opinion, the 1941 tops both of them, I highly enjoyed the other two films too. Unlike the 1941 version, these versions have not been restored and definitely show their age, with plenty of dirts, spots, and scratches. They're unlikely to be revisited on DVD anytime soon, so this is about as good as they're going to get treated on DVD.
Disc 3 contains all of the 1941 version's bonus materials. Not as packed as most supplemental material discs in Warner's Special Editions, (In fact, a single-layer disc was used for disc 3, and holds approx. 3.5 GB of data.) the bonuses included are quite excellent and informative. Included is a new documentary on the making and impact of the movie, called One Magnificent Bird. Next is the TCM documentary Becoming Attractions: The Trailers of Humphrey Bogart, which includes theatrical trailers for many of Bogey's classics, such as High Sierra, The Maltese Falcon, Casablanca, The Petrified Forest, and Treasure Of The Sierra Madre. The idea is to show Bogart's progression from B-list bad guy to A-list movie star. Another great bonus is the Breakdowns of 1941 blooper reel, which contains some of the greatest old school actors and actresses, such as Bogart, Bette Davis, and James Cagney, blowing their lines - and often using some pretty salty language that couldn't be shown in theaters at the time. Also included are some Mary Astor makeup tests, although I personally don't see the significance. Finally, rounding out this set are three radio broadcast performances - the Lux Radio Theater performance with Edward G. Robinson, and two featuring Bogart, Mary Astor, and Sydney Greenstreet, with Peter Lorre also starring in one of the broadcasts. Approx. two hours of great old time radio to listen to.
This set may disappoint the consumer that has been spoiled by 4-Disc sets of Ben-Hur and Gone With The Wind and the 3-Disc set of The Wizard of Oz. Although I'm one of the consumers that has been spoiled with those releases, in my opinion, The Maltese Falcon's 3-Disc Special Edition stands up alongside these releases beautifully. With THREE movies and around four hours of additional bonus materials, this set truly delivers. If you love old movies, Bogey, or film noir, this is a MUST-have for your collection.