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The Maltese Falcon is heading back to UK cinemas to celebrate its 80th Anniversary

The BFI marks the 80th anniversary of The Maltese Falcon with a UK-wide re-release of John Huston’s directorial debut, an adaptation of the classic crime novel. This much-loved masterpiece, full of memorable performances, made a major star of Humphrey Bogart, playing private eye Sam Spade, and helped set the template for the film noir genre.

Back on the big screen again, the film will also play on an extended run as part of BFI Southbank’s Watching the Detectives, a Big Screen Classics season running from September – November 2021 celebrating the curiosity, courage and cunning of big screen detectives.

Adapted from Dashiell Hammett’s novel about a San Francisco detective’s investigations into the murder of his business partner, Huston’s snappily witty script retains the plot’s labyrinthine complexity while revelling in colourful characterisations of the villains Spade encounters during his quest. Inspired casting included Peter Lorre (M, Casablanca) as volatile Joel Cairo, Sydney Greenstreet (Across the Pacific, Casablanca) as menacingly amiable Kasper Gutman, and Elisha Cook Jr. (The Big Sleep, The Killing) as his gunman. But it is the fraught, febrile relationship between Bogart’s Spade and Mary Astor’s femme fatale – who persuaded his partner to take on her case – that shapes the deep, dark core of desire, doubt and duplicity pervading the film from beginning to memorable end.

THE MALTESE FALCON was nominated for three Oscars; Best Picture, Best Actor in a Supporting Role (Sydney Greenstreet) and Best Writing, Screenplay (John Huston). It was one of the first 25 films selected by the US Library of Congress to be included in the National Film Registry for being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant”.

BFI Southbank’s Watching the Detectives season will feature professional private eyes, police officers, journalists and all manner of amateur sleuths in their pursuit of the truth; this month’s line-up will include films such as THE HOUND OF THE BASKERVILLES (Sidney Lanfield, 1939), CRY OF THE CITY (Robert Siodmak, 1948), THE BIG HEAT (Fritz Lang, 1953) and LAURA (Otto Preminger, 1944).

Opening at BFI Southbank, HOME Manchester, Broadway Nottingham and cinemas UK-wide on 17 September 2021.

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