1931 Original - This grinning Sam Spade and sweaty, uncharismatic Gutman really don't work for me, and the story is too severely abridged. We don't get to spend enough time with the characters to find most of them interesting, the argument about sacrificing Wilmer to the police is hard to care about when Wilmer isn't a character in any meaningful sense. Then there's the amusing bit where Jacobi staggers into Spade's office and dies and they never explain what he and Effie do about the fact that they have a murdered corpse laying on the their floor. This also suffers from the drawbacks of alot of early sound films. On the plus side it's pre-code and has most of the sex they had to cut out of the Bogart version, although the homosexuality is left out.
There are a couple big changes to the end, one of which is really weird. There's also a sequence where Cairo and Gutman talk about their plot, giving us information Spade doesn't overhear but will figure out in the next scene, which seems to violate the movies' basic narrative strategy.
Overall this one isn't too good.
Satan Met a Lady - This is a parody, which has Hammett's name int he credits but doesn't identify the novel. It's not very faithful, and all the character's names are changed, but it's recognizable (and has stuff from the novel not in the earlier version). It isn't creaky and choppy like the '31 version but I liked it even less. It's "whacky" dated 1930's humor that is not in the vein of classic screwball comedies. There are only a few really good jokes, the best one coming at the very end.
Oh, and the Gutman character is a woman (I guess I like this idea well enough) and instead of a falcon it's a rams horn from The Song of Roland.
Classic Bogey Version - It's fast moving and has a great cast, it was a huge influence, it deserves its classic status. I don't have alot more to say, but here are a few notable differences from the novel:
- Effie still seems to have a brother/sister relationship with Spade, but here she seems older rather than younger.
- The classic final line is original to the movie.
- Unlike the other two versions we don't have the scene were Spade searches O'Shaugnessy's apartment while she's sleeping in his apartment, because that would have violated the Hayes Code.
- Maybe I'm just having trouble keeping track after having digested 4 versions in a few days, but we don't learn Gutman's fate in this one, do we?
- Despite the code this is the only version with any hint of the homosexual elements, but it's pretty subdued. Spade class Wilmer a "Gunsel" which is Yiddish for a gay prostitute (literally "little goose), although it became slang for a gun toting crook, I think because of this movie.
-The opening text (which is unnecessary) says that the falcon was made by the "Templars of Malta," in the movie (and book, and 1931 movie) they just call them the Knights of St. John. The Templars and the Knights of St. John (called the Hospitallers) were different orders and the Hospitaller's were the ones who ruled Malta. So go back to school, title card guy.