As a dedicated reader of mysteries, not to mention someone who loved Casablanca, I’m going to be right up front and say something I never expected to say: The movie version of the Maltese Falcon was very well done, and clever, and the acting was excellent – and I hated it. Oh so much. I didn’t watch that movie so much as endure it, at some points literally counting down the minutes until I could escape.
And it all has to do with the main character.
If you look at the outcome of the Maltese Falcon, in the end Sam Spade does the right thing and turns over a murderer – and the Black Bird – to the law. But all the rest of it, from beginning to end? He’s slept with his partner’s wife, has the door redone the day after his partner dies to take Archer’s name off, throws around naked aggression, lies, and insults at the drop of a hat, and (it’s implied) knows damn well he’s working with (possibly even slept with) a murderer. I’ve run into worse, but usually I throw the book across the room and stalk off before I get even halfway through. Because ugh.
Sad thing is that I love mysteries, and Mickey Spillane, and the whole hardboiled detective genre. But I like my detectives to be at least trying to do the right thing most of the time. More like Jim Rockford, or Hannibal King (vampire detective before those were cool). They may have a loose relationship with the law, and a lot of friends on the wrong side of it, but they try to do something decent with their lives.
Sam Spade… doesn’t have friends. Just people he works with, and hasn’t thoroughly screwed over, yet.
When a guy makes Genjyo Sanzo look upright, the pillar of moral character, and kind, friendly, and compassionate….
…I’m not writing main characters like Sam Spade. No way, no how.
The only character in that movie I could identify with at all was Sam’s secretary. Oy.
Scratch that off my list of movies to watch on a deserted island!