The Maltese Falcon (or, The Big Oops)

The Maltese Falcon is one of the best-known films from the noir era, and it’s rife with such familiar characters as the Fat Man and Sam Spade, and memorable quotes like this favorite: “The cheaper the crook, the gaudier the patter.”

It’s also rife with more goofs than you can shake a stick at. The next time you’re enjoying the film, keep an eye out for these boo-boos! It’ll give you a whole new Falcon-viewing experience!

In the opening scene where Miss Wanderly meets Archer, Spade is leaning forward in the main shot as Archer is seen sitting on his desk. Then, a second later, in the shot shown over Miss Wanderly’s shoulder, Spade is seen relaxing back in his chair.

Watch for the shifting books on the file cabinet.

Watch for the shifting books on the file cabinet.

As Spade speaks to Brigid O’Shaughnessy in the first scene of the movie, there’s a file cabinet in between Miles’s and Spade’s desk. Throughout the scene, the books on top of the file cabinet move without anyone going near them.

When Dundy (Barton MacLane) and Polhaus (Ward Bond) are in Spade’s apartment, Spade serves a drink to them. When he begins to serve, Dundy is standing and Polhaus sitting. Then Polhaus stands up, on the right side of Spade. In the next shot he is in front of Spade, right next to Dundy.

In the scene with Joel Cairo and O’Shaughnessy in Spade’s apartment, Cairo lights a match with his left hand. In the next second, the lit match is in his right hand.

What room does this guy stay in?

What room does this guy stay in?

When Joel Cairo returns to his hotel after being interrogated by the police he asks for the key to Room 603 – but earlier he has told Spade that he lived at Room 635.

When Effie is on the phone with Iva as Spade enters his office, we hear her say, “No, not yet,” but her mouth is closed.

In the same scene where Effie does her ventriloquist act, Spade is not wearing any jewelry when he walks into his inner office to have a brief chat with Brigid.  But when he emerges from the inner office and sits down on the desk to chat with Effie, he is wearing a wedding band on his left hand, another ring on his right hand, and a wristwatch. When he walks back into his inner office to make a call, the rings and watch are gone.

When Sam first goes to see Gutman in 12C, as he walks down the corridor we can see that directly in front of him is a chair, a table with flowers on and a silhouette of a diamond framed window and the flowers on the wall, but when he leaves we can see two chairs either side of the table and the diamond frame silhouette is not there.

This scene features the mystery of the disappearing flowers.

This scene features the mystery of the disappearing flowers.

As Gutman and Spade talk about the black bird, there is a table to the right of the window containing a vase full of flowers. When Spade, after being drugged, rises from the sofa, the vase of flowers is gone.

After the ship’s captain delivers the Falcon to Sam Spade’s office, he collapses on the leather sofa in the foreground. Just after Effie asks, “Is he . . . ?” the shadow of someone’s head passes over the back of the sofa.

As Spade and Gutman talk about determining a “fall guy” for the murders, there is a lamp on the table to Gutman’s right. The lamp, which has two very distinct handles, rotates 45 degrees during the scene.

Keep an eye on this bundle.

Keep an eye on this bundle.

When Spade first puts the newspaper-wrapped Falcon on the table, Gutman is smoking a cigar. A second later, when Gutman starts to unwrap the bundle, there is no cigar in sight.

Gutman wildly cuts at the Maltese Falcon with his knife, but in one of the inserted close-ups of him, he’s just standing still, with his arms not moving.

As Gutman is slicing away energetically at the Maltese Falcon, his voice (“Fake . . .  it’s a phony — it’s lead!)  is clearly dubbed by another actor.

After Gutman discovers the Maltese Falcon is a fake, he puts the statue upright. He is not holding the knife. But a close-up shows his hand resting on the table, with a knife in his right hand.

Towards the end, after Brigid tells Sam she can’t look at him and tell him what really happened, she covers her face with her hands. From another angle a second later, her hands aren’t there.

Have fun spotting these and other goofs in The Maltese Falcon! And enjoy the show!

~ by shadowsandsatin on November 17, 2013.

8 Responses to “The Maltese Falcon (or, The Big Oops)”

  1. Very entertaining post! Me thinks that you have seen THE MALTESE FALCON a few times.

  2. I’ve seen the movie dozens of times, and I still don’t notice or care about continuity flubs. I’m still enjoying the story.

    • Hi, Muriel — I’ve seen it countless times, too, and love the story, the performances, the characters and the dialogue! But I have to admit, I had a lot of fun seeing these goofs!

  3. I don’t know how many times I’ve seen this film and I’ve never noticed the continuity errors. I guess it means the filmmakers did a good job!🙂 However, you can bet I’ll be keeping track of these things the next time I see it.

  4. The overdubbing during the discovery of the fake falcon always bothered me. I later read through a book of Warner Brother memos of the era – including one for Sidney Greenstreet to report for a dubbing session. I guess he never made it.

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