The Maltin Falcon

February 16th, 2010 by Max Allan Collins

I’ve posted a number of links lately to reviews of THE BIG BANG, YOU CAN’T STOP ME and ANTIQUES BIZARRE, as well as older books of mine. But this week I’m happy to report that some nice write-ups appear in current issues of bigtime national newstand magazines. You know – the kind you can hold in your hand and turn the pages.

Antiques BizarreANTIQUES BIZARRE – due out next week – received a splendid four-star review in the March 2010 RT BOOK REVIEWS (RT standing for ROMANTIC TIMES). The magazine always leads off with a review followed by a spoiler-free plot summary. Among other things, RT describes the novel as “a cozy with a twist” and “hysterically funny as well as a solid mystery.” An insightful comment notes that our protagonist Brandy “has an unusually realistic life in all its messiness.”

Jon Breen leads off his Jury Box column in the March/April ELLERY QUEEN MYSTERY MAGAZINE with high praise for Hard Case Crime, singling out three books for excellent three-star reviews (Jon does not bestow 1/2 stars, a three-star review is second only to a four-star one in the Jury Box). He describes yours truly as “one of the best and most prolific and versatile crime writers currently practicing,” and QUARRY IN THE MIDDLE as a “most welcome 1980’s flashback,” and wraps up saying, “Neat plot, fine style, fast reading.” Jon – just about the best scholar in best mystery fiction, and a fine mystery novelist in his own right/write – has been a supporter of my work for decades, and to whatever degree I have a respectable reputation, he has played a major role. The first review I ever received in a national magazine was from Jon in EQMM…for one of the early Quarry novels.

And I know you will want to read the March PLAYBOY for its articles – particularly one small, snazzy one. PLAYBOY gives the forthcoming THE BIG BANG a solid write-up under the heading KILLER FICTION – HAMMER LIVES, including a full-color shot of the ‘60s pop-art front cover of the novel. Among other nice things, the review/mini-article says, “Max Allan Collins, Spillane’s collaborator and author of Road to Perdition, has expertly completed a second Spillane novel, The Big Bang, out this spring. The book will transport you back to gritty 1960s Manhattan, where Spillane’s antihero Mike Hammer drops acid and takes on the mob.” What a thrill to get such great coverage from the very magazine I used to steal out of the mailbox before my father knew it had arrived.

There are few movie reviewers that I admire or trust, but Leonard Maltin is one of them. Time for one of those “full disclosure” things: we are friends. We became friends after I did a DICK TRACY movie interview for him and ENTERTAINMENT TONIGHT back in 1990 – he called me up and dubbed me, “Mr. Sound Bite.” Our mutual obsessive love for movies, particularly of the ‘30s, ‘40s and ‘50s, fed a wonderful friendship. Yes, he has given me occasional good reviews, but he doesn’t always like what I do (he was a fan of MOMMY, for example, but didn’t think much of MOMMY’S DAY). I find myself agreeing with him more often than not, and you can follow his reviews and pop culture commentary at Leonard Maltin’s Movie Crazy.

He is also, of course, the author of the annual, indispensable LEONARD MALTIN’S MOVIE GUIDE. Five years ago, he was forced to publish a second book to include the older movies that time and space had shoved out of his regular guide – LEONARD MALTIN’S CLASSIC MOVIE GUIDE. For those of us who live by Turner Classic Movies and who spend way too much money at Warner’s Archive (at, this book is similarly indispensable. The second edition of this has just come out. If you love movies, you need both of these books stacked in a handy place in your home theater (in my case, next to my recliner in the living room).

151 Best Movies You've Never SeenAt the same time, a book that I would rank with Leonard’s best has also been published: 151 BEST MOVIES YOU’VE NEVER SEEN. I am a movie buff, pretty hardcore, but I had heard of only about half of these, and had seen only around 25. These are short – page and a half – chatty reviews in Leonard’s deceptively easygoing style, personal without being obnoxious, informative without being pedantic, one of those books that go down in wonderful handfuls, like popcorn. Most of the films are of fairly recent vintage – last ten years or so – and perhaps a third are foreign; one of the surprises is how few Golden Age era films Leonard discusses.

But one of the vintage movies he praises really made me smile – the much-maligned 1931 version of THE MALTESE FALCON. He does not make a case for it being superior to the 1941 John Huston/Bogart classic – even I wouldn’t do that – but he does sing its praises in a manner that makes you want to drop everything and watch it right now. That’s true of every essay in the book, and you – like me – will likely make a list of movies you want to find on DVD or on cable, as soon as you have finished this great book.

Musical note: Crusin’ had a capacity crowd for the Valentine’s Day dinner dance at Piazza Bella. Lovely evening. For those concerned, please know that we did not play “Pussy Whipped.”


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2 Responses to “The Maltin Falcon”

  1. Brad Schwartz says:

    I have to agree with Leonard Maltin on the 1931 MALTESE FALCON. It’s been a while since I saw it, but I remember liking it more than I expected I would. It’s usually held up as an example of the “raciness” of pre-code Hollywood, but it’s also interesting just as another interpretation of the novel. The 1941 film is such a classic it’s kind of the final word on the subject, and I certainly hope it’s never remade, and so it’s predecessors are just interesting for being different. That was the great thing about the “special edition” DVD of the 1941 film they released a few years back, it had all three versions. Now you’ve got me wanting to watch them all again…

    Either way, I suppose it goes to show Hollywood’s recent tendency to remake, reimagine, and reboot everything and anything is nothing new. They remade FALCON three times in a period of ten years, way back in the 30s and 40s!

  2. The penchant for remaking in the ’30s and ’40s (and for that matter ’20s) came from a different place than Hollywood’s current practice. Before TV (let alone VCRs and DVDs), a movie came and went, with no opportunity for the public to see it again. Occasionally very popular films would be re-released (GONE WITH THE WIND and the Universal monster movies, for example) but essentially films were ephemeral. The studios who owned these properties — like Warner Bros owned Hammett’s novel — just occasionally re-made them, for cost-saving purposes and general efficiency. Why not? Who remembered a movie from ten years ago? Or who viewing the second FALCON remake — with its sex changes and name changes and the falcon becoming a horn or something — would even notice the similarities?

    Today — and this has been true for something like 25 years — much of traditional, big-business Hollywood is lazy and bankrupt of ideas. They can’t come up with something new so they do a GILLIGAN’S ISLAND movie or some crap, thinking there’s a baby boomer resonance. This is at least better than their more common practice — just stealing material. The general idea in Hollywood is that ideas are fair game.