Satan Met a Lady

  • Title: Satan Met a Lady
  • Director: William Dieterie
  • Date: 1936
  • Studio: Warner Bros.
  • Genre: Comedy
  • Cast: Bette Davis, Warren William
  • Format: Standard, Black and White
  • DVD Format: R1, NTSC

“Do you mind very much, Mr. Shane, taking off your hat in the presence of a lady, with a gun?” — Valerie

Satan Met a Lady was included as a bonus feature on my special edition copy of The Maltese Falcon. I didn’t have very high hopes for it, and in this case, I was right — it was awful. The description of this loose adaption of Dashiell Hammett’s classic novel The Maltese Falcon, is that it’s “light-hearted”. Well, I could tell they were trying to make a comedy, but it fails utterly. This isn’t The Black Bird, and it’s not a parody. It’s like watching a really bad high school production of The Maltese Falcon, and not even Bette Davis can save it.

The plot, vaguely reminiscent of the classic film and novel, differs in a few key points. First, the McGuffin everyone is after isn’t a Falcon, it’s a French Ram’s Horn, made of ivory and filled with jewels. Second, all the names are changed — the detectives are Ames and Shane, not Archer and Spade. The film shows us a bit more of Ames, actually it takes a while before the Ram’s Horn plot is introduced, so when Ames is killed, it should mean something. That it doesn’t is mostly down to the film just not working very well. Casper “The Fatman” Gutman is a woman in Satan Met a Lady, and her underling is called Kenneth. She’s still a mobster though, and overweight (though not grossly so). Madame is probably the most interesting character in the film. In the end, Shane does turn Valerie over to the cops for killing his partner, then he takes the train out of town with his secretary. That is a nice bookend since the film started with him taking the train into town, escaping trouble in the next town up the road.

Bette Davis puts in a good performance in some scenes but is merely average in others. Warren William is terrible as Shane, the detective. He has no personality at all. Overall, even as a bonus feature, just not very interesting. But at least it’s short, clocking in at only 74 minutes.

Recommendation:  Give it a miss.
Rating:  1
Next Film:  Serenity