Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Brief Maltese Falcon Observation

There's not much to say about the new DVD set of The Maltese Falcon -- 1941 version great; 1931 version not as good but has Pre-Code stuff the remakes couldn't include; 1936's Satan Met a Lady very odd; making-of documentary has annoying narration. So instead of reviewing the DVD I'll make one random observation about one moment in the movie:

As you know, one of the most common movie and TV clichés is the cliché that whenever a character turns on the news, they're broadcasting the story that is directly important to that character. But another part of that cliché -- call it a sub-cliché -- is the fact that the story that personally affects the lead character will always be the number-one story in the news, even if there's no way it would actually be considered an important story. So if a character is running for City Council, he can turn on the news and somehow the City Council race will be the night's top story.

And one of my favourite examples of this comes in The Maltese Falcon, where we cut to a newspaper where the banner headline is "THURSBY, ARCHER MURDERS LINKED!" Now, I realize the murder rate was lower in 1941. But somehow I really don't think it's likely that in a major city, the number-one story in the newspaper would be the murder of a sleazy P.I. nobody cared about and a small-time hood who nobody in the city even knew. But it makes a good headline, and it sets up Joel Cairo's statement that the papers mentioned a link between the two murders, so what the heck -- it works.

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