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The Maltese Falcon (4K Ultra HD Blu-ray Review)


The Film
The Video (Overall)
HDR Effect
The Audio
The Supplements


A hard-boiled detective in San Francisco gets caught up in a case involving the search for an ancient artifact from Malta, which brings out the greediest, most dangerous people willing to do anything to find it.

Estimated reading time: 6 minutes

The Maltese Falcon 4K Ultra HD Combo (Warner Bros.)
The Maltese Falcon 4K Ultra HD Combo (Warner Bros.)

Arguably the greatest film noir ever produced, director John Huston’s vision of Dashiell Hammett’s The Maltese Falcon stars Humphrey Bogart as hardboiled San Francisco private detective Sam Spade who gets caught up in a convoluted mystery surrounding a coveted, bejeweled artifact from ancient Malta. It was the third Hollywood adaptation of the Hammett novel and the most successful of the three.

Spade’s partner Archer (Jerome Cowan) agrees to take on a case protecting Miss Wonderly (Mary Astor) from a mysterious character named Thursby and ends up shot dead. Suspicion at once falls on Spade for killing his partner, but he also is drawn further into a strange mystery involving a search for an artifact, the Maltese Falcon, that people seem willing lie, cheat, steal, and even kill for. Spade is no chump, he knows when he is being taken for a ride and he’s willing to go right up to the line and even cross it, getting into the muck with the unscrupulous people he has involved himself with. But there is a method to his madness. To clear himself of murder charges and get the dough for helping to find “the black bird,” Spade devises a twisting plan he figures will get the criminals to reveal themselves.

Bogart shot to superstardom with his rough and tumble, sardonic portrayal of Hammett’s private eye in this edgy yet very much post-Hayes code era version of The Maltese Falcon. A 1931 version of the film starring Ricardo Cortez was deemed too lewd to be re-released in 1936. Huston’s version keeps the grit mostly as subtext, such as a suggestion that Spade is having an affair with is partner’s wife, the homoerotic portrayal of Peter Lore as Joel Cairo, or the restrained violence.

This film both visually and in its subject matter helped lay the groundwork for many of the films in the film noir genre that was to come, from the high contrast chiaroscuro to the plot revolving around the dangerous and dripping with sexuality femme fatale.

  • Humphrey Bogart and Mary Astor in The Maltese Falcon (1941)
  • Peter Lorre in The Maltese Falcon (1941)
  • Humphrey Bogart, Mary Astor, Ward Bond, and Barton MacLane in The Maltese Falcon (1941)
  • Humphrey Bogart in The Maltese Falcon (1941)
  • Mary Astor in The Maltese Falcon (1941)
  • Humphrey Bogart in The Maltese Falcon (1941)
  • The Maltese Falcon 4K Ultra HD Combo (Warner Bros.)
  • The Maltese Falcon 4K Ultra HD Combo (Warner Bros.)

The Video

Warner Bros. does notprovide any information on the preparation of this new 4K release of The Maltese Falcon as far as a new restoration or remastering. The film is provided on 4K Ultra HD in a 1.37:1 HEVC 2160p (4K UHD) HDR10 encodement. HDR10 metadata shows a MaxLL of 843 nits and MaxFALL of 28 nits.

Most of the film certainly looks like it was taken from a primary source (i.e., original camera negative) or close to it given the amount of detail, fine granularity, and depth of field that presents on the 4K disc. Adding to the image quality is the superbly applied HDR10 coding with grants excellent levels of contrast to this film noir production, so we get bright ‘pop’ in the lamplight on Sam Spade’s desk against the inky black shadows, a glistening sheen from the specular highlights of light reflecting off the leather chair or wooden desk. Furthermore, the nighttime scenes of store signs coming through windows in the background also supply excellent ‘pop.’

The Audio

The original mono mix for The Maltese Falcon is included in DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0. Several dubs in Dolby Digital 1.0 are also included. The apart from the unavoidable sibilance on dialogue, the sound is as good as can be for a monaural track from 1941. The dialogue is intelligible and there is reasonable balance between the dialogue, sound effects, and score.

The Supplements

The special features included with The Maltese Falcon 4K Ultra HD release have all been previously released by Warner Bros. Only the audio commentary appears on both the 4K and included Blu-ray Disc.

  • Commentary by Bogart Biographer Eric Lax
  • Blu-ray with Feature Film and Previously Released Bonus Features
  • Movies Anywhere Digital Code

Blu-ray Special Features:

  • Behind the Story:
    • Commentary by Eric Lax
    • The Maltese Falcon: One Magnificent Bird (SD; 00:32:05)
  • Warner Night at the Movies:
    • Sergeant York Theatrical Trailer (SD; 00:02:00)
    • Newsreel (SD; 00:01:25)
    • The Gay Parisian (SD; 00:20:02)
    • Hiawatha’s Rabbit Hunt (SD; 00:07:47)
    • Meet John Doughboy (1080p; 00:07:00)
  • Extras:
    • Becoming Attractions: The Trailers of Humphrey Bogart (SD; 00:44:45)
    • Breakdowns of 1941 (SD; 00:12:53)
    • Makeup Tests (SD; 00:01:16)
  • Audio Vault:
    • 2/8/1943 – Lux Radio Broadcast (00:57:39)
    • 9/20/1943 – Screen Guild Theater Broadcast (00:28:46)
    • 7/3/1946 – Academy Award Theater Broadcast (00:27:34)
  • Trailers:
    • Satan Met a Lady (1936) (SD; 00:02:30)
    • The Maltese Falcon (1941) (SD; 00:02:44)

The Final Assessment

Truly a classic, immeasurably rewatchable and hard biting early film noir with Humphrey Bogart, Peter Lore, and other greats looks stunning on 4K Ultra HD. Highly recommended.

The Maltese Falcon is out on 4K Ultra HD Combo April 4, 2023, from Warner Bros. Home Entertainment.

  • Rating Certificate: Passed
  • Studios & Distributors: Warner Bros. | Warner Bros. Home Entertainment
  • Director: John Huston
  • Written By: John Huston | Dashiell Hammett
  • Run Time: 100 Mins.
  • Street Date: 4 April 2023
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.37:1
  • Video Format: HEVC 2160p (4K UHD)
  • HDR Format: HDR10
  • HDR Metadata:
    • MaxLL: 843 nits
    • MaxFALL: 28 nits
  • Primary Audio: English DTS-HD MA 2.0 Mono
  • Secondary Audio: German DD 1.0 | Italian DD 1.0 | Spanish (Castilian) DD 1.0 | Spanish (Latin American) DD 1.0
  • Subtitles: English SDH | French | German SDH | Italian SDH | Spanish (Castilian) | Dutch | Spanish (Latin American)

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A hard-boiled detective in San Francisco gets caught up in a case involving the search for an ancient artifact from Malta, which brings out the greediest, most dangerous people willing to do anything to find it.The Maltese Falcon (4K Ultra HD Blu-ray Review)