THE BLACK BIRD
(director/writer: David Giler; screenwriters: story by Don M. Mankiewitz and Gordon Cotler; cinematographer: Phil Lathrop; editors: Margaret Booth/Walter Thompson/Lou Lombardo; music: Jerry Fielding; cast: George Segal (Sam Spade Jr.,), Signe Hasso (Dr. Crippen), Stéphane Audran (Anna Kemidov), Connie Kreski (Decoy Girl), Lionel Stander (Gordon Immerman), Lee Patrick (Effie Perrine), Elisha Cook Jr. (Wilmer Cook), Harry Kenoi (Hawaiian Thug), Richard B. Shull (Prizer), Felix Silla (Litvak), Vic Tayback (Warren Finley), Howard Jeffrey (Kerkorian), Ken Swofford (Brad McCormack), Titus Napoleon (Hawaiian Thug), John Abbott (DuQuai); Runtime: 98; MPAA Rating: PG; producer: Saul David; Columbia; 1975)
“Too bad it’s not funny, just sentimental crap.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
A dumb spoof of Humphrey Bogart, Dashiell Hammett and John Huston’s masterpiece “The Maltese Falcon (1941).” Too bad it’s not funny, just sentimental crap. First-time director David Giler, the writer,keeps it locked into its source material, but can’t come up with a reason for the remake. It’s based on the story byDon M. Mankiewitz and Gordon Cotler. Giler handles the witless script.
George Segal plays Sam Spade’s son, who has reluctantly inherited dad’s seedy San Francisco detective agency now in a black ghetto, and the worthless fake Maltese Falcon filed in his filing cabinet. The local blacks joke why he’s named Spade if he ain’t black. Around from dad’s time is his sarcastic unpaid secretary Effie (Lee Patrick, who was the secretary in the 1941 film). Sonny boy has also inherited the crooks pursuing the Maltese Falcon, such as the gunsel from the original story Wilmer Cook (Elisha Cook). There’s also a few evil new ones such as the Hawaiian thugs (Harry Kenoi & Titus Napoleon), a precise talking oddball character played by Signe Hasso and a crazy Nazi dwarf (Felix Silla). A disreputable right-wing client, Gordon Immerman (Lionel Stander), dressed in a green suit, hires Spade to find the bird. Also in pursuit of the bird is the General’s elegantly dressed daughter, Anna (Stéphane Audran, the French actress is miscast and her heavy accent and lack of English is a hindrance), who dwells in the basement of a Greek Orthodox church.
The Black Bird entirely misses the original film’s wry humor. But it manages one cute insider joke when Segal tries to pawn the fake bird with a pawnbroker, whose name is Kerkorian (Howard Jeffrey). The pawnbroker offers only a few bucks for it. The joke being that the pawnbroker is named after Kirk Kerkorian, who was at that time the head of MGM and was criticized for selling off in a fire sale many of the studio’s famous props.
REVIEWED ON 1/30/2015 GRADE: C https://dennisschwartzreviews.com/