The Falcon 1
Glitz and glamour, suave gentlemen and lovely ladies that is
what you'll get with The Falcon Mystery Movie Collection Volume 1, a
set of the
first seven movies in the franchise.
detective films aren't so much about who dunnit as they are about
Falcon (George Sanders, later replaced by Tom Conway) go to night
parties and staying one step ahead of the police. It's a case where the
chase is more important
than the solution. Warner
done a great job bringing this fun and enjoyable franchise to home
RKO had a hit with their series of B-movies featuring The Saint
staring George Sanders. The
was that they had to pay royalties to the detective's creator Leslie
Charteris. Instead, the
bought a cheaper property, The Falcon,
a character created by Michael Arlen.
They changed the character around a bit to make him more like
wise-cracking Saint and voila! a new series that costs a lot less
money. (The two
characters were so similar that Leslie
Charteris sued for plagerism.)
In the films The Falcon is a suave and debonair gentleman
who is also an adventurer and amateur detective. He's famous, with women in
coming up to him and asking for his help.
(They recognize him from his frequent headlines in the
The Falcon movies aren't about reality; they're about
looking good and giving an enjoyable hour's worth of entertainment. The detective has no means
himself or his staff, in one film he admits that he doesn't have a
job, but you're
not supposed to worry about that any more than you're supposed to
his nickname means. (How
he got that
alias is never revealed. In
story that inspired the franchise, his name was Gay (short for
which explains his nickname. You
the story on-line here. http://thenostalgialeague.com/olmag/arlen-gay-falcon.html
In the movies he's Gay
makes the handle a mystery.) He's
smooth, well dressed man of adventure who's often in the papers for
George Sanders created the role and played The Falcon in the
first four films. The
actor wanted to
branch out and rise above B-grade pictures and so in the fourth
installment, The Falcon's
Brother, the detective work
gets passed on to Gay's brother, Tom Lawrence.
In a nice move RKO cast Sanders real-life brother in the role
and if anything Sanders' sibling does a better job.
The films included in this collection are:
The Gay Falcon
(1941): A title that's
cause laughter in middle school kids, this is the first filmed
Gaylord Lawrence (George Sanders), or more popularly known as The
Falcon. As the movie
opens, Gay has promised his
socialite fiancée Elinor Benford (Nina Vale billed as Anne
Hunter) that he'll
give up chasing women and "crime solutions."
He rents an office in a high rise and hangs out his shingle
as a stock
That promise doesn't last long when a beautiful woman, Helen
Reed (Wendy Barrie), appeals to The Falcon for help. Helen works for Maxine
Wood (Gladys Cooper)
who is known across New York for her parties.
The only trouble is that several prominent guests have had
stolen while attending her soirées.
She's afraid if it happens again she'll be a social pariah.
Needless to say, The Falcon can't turn down a woman in
distress and goes to the party where a woman, mistaking him for
gives him her $100,000 diamond ring.
When the lady ends up being shot 10 minutes later and Gay's
an ex-crook named 'Goldie' Locke (Allen Jenkins), is the only
witness to the
crime. The Falcon is up to his bow tie in trouble.
A fun flick, George Sanders fits well into the role which is
no surprise since it's very reminiscent of the Saint movies. This first Falcon outing
doesn't quite have
the zip of the Saint movies however.
isn't quite as confident as Simon Templar but he makes up for it by
women with a lot of vigor.
Nina Vale, who plays The Falcon's fiancée, only appeared in
three movies if the IMDB is correct, and it's clear to see why from
performance. The women
that The Falcon
attaches himself to in these films are always jealous and wary of
eye, but Vale makes her character seem bossy and domineering rather
trying to keep her man. Every
on screen I would scratch my head and wonder what Gay saw in her and
shouted "Run away!"
The same can't be said of the rest of the supporting
cast. Wendy Barrie is
stunningly gorgeous but also fun and light.
Allen Jenkins adds a nice touch of comedy as Gay's recently
A Date with the
Falcon (1942): In
adventure Gay is now engaged to Helen Reed (Wendy Barrie), the women
distress from the last movie. (That's
nice bit of continuity... there are several small things like that
series.) The pair are
about to take a
plane to meet her parents when a mystery pops up. The inventor of a
synthetic diamond formula
has been kidnapped, and a beautiful woman contacts The Falcon about
technique. There's no
way that Gay can
leave the city with something like that going on, there's too much
show up Inspector O'Hara (James Gleason) and his bumbling right-hand
Detective Brody (Edward Gargan).
George Sanders feels more at ease in the role in this film,
and Wendy Barrie is delightful again, this time as the jealous
finance. This film also
sees the introduction of Edward
Gargan as the not-too-bright Detective Brody.
He'll play the role in the following five films in this set
only actor who does so. He's
comic relief and a thorn in the captain's side (no matter who plays
role). His introduction
sets the tone for
the character. He's
assigned to guard
the scientist who created the synthetic diamond formula, dr.
Sampsom, but the
man isn't in his lab when he arrives.
calls headquarters and informs them, and tells the captain that
have lost something and been in a hurry since he torn his lab apart
the item. Oh, and he's
he obviously forgot the combination to his safe and so he blew it
open. Brody is used
sparingly, but effectively
through the rest of the movies in this collection.
The Falcon Takes Over
(1942): This time The
is off on a trip so he's left to his own devices, which naturally
pretty woman and a mystery. An
convict, Moose Malloy (Ward Bond), goes to a fancy club looking for
girl friend Velma. He
gets into a fight
and kills the manager with his bare hands, then sets off in search
of his girl,
hijacking Goldie who is waiting for The Falcon in his car. This piques Gay's interest
and while he's
investigating discovers that the crimes don't stop there.
This adventure was a notch or two above the previous entries
in the series. The
plotting is tighter
and the mystery more interesting, and that's because the movie is
based on the
book "Farewell, My Lovely." Added
is an appearance by Ward Bond, supporting actor in a lot of John
who brings an air of menace to the villain.
The lack of a fiancée constantly nagging The Falcon,
though it's often
amusing, also makes for a darker film.
The Falcon's Brother
(1942): The hat gets
passed to a new
amateur detective in this film. When
steals the identity of The Falcon's brother, Tom Lawrence, then ends
getting killed, Gay is determined to find out what happened, aided
by the real
Tom (played by George Sanders real-life brother Tom Conway). The Falcon gets a little
too close however
and the criminals run Gay over with a car, leaving him in a coma. Though the doctor assures
Tom Gay will be
right as rain in a couple of days, Tom starts investigating just who
the attack. He starts
by wooing a
reporter, Marcia Brooks (Jane Randolph), and eventually uncovers a
operating in the US. Meanwhile
recovers and stumbles upon the same group of enemy agents and both
discover an insidious plot that has to be stopped.
This film did a great job of padding the baton to a new
actor. Both characters
had a good amount
of screen time allowing viewers to warm to the new Falcon while
the presence of the original. The
actually took me by surprise, and worked much better than I thought
would. While it's
neither the best
written nor the most puzzling mystery in this collection, it is my
The Falcon Strikes
Back (1943): In
Tom Conway's first
solo outing as The Falcon, the detective helps yet another woman in
much to the dismay of his finance, Marcia Brooks (Jane Randolph the
from the last film). No
good deed goes
unpunished and Tom gets knocked out as soon as the investigation
starts. He wakes up in
his car, in the middle of
nowhere, and soon discovers that he's been identified as the man who
banker and stole thousands of dollars worth of war bonds. Taking Goldie with him,
The Falcon hides out
at an old rustic lodge, where he discovers the woman who framed him. Before he can get any
answers out of her, she
ends up dead too, leaving The Falcon in quite a mess.
Tom Conway does an excellent job as The Falcon. Truth be told, he's better
at it than his
brother. Conway is just
a bit better
looking, making it more believable when he kisses a girl and she
he's more care-free. He
role in the same manner that Sanders did, but The Falcon is smoother
debonair with Conway.
There are some great supporting actors in this film to help
the newcomer out. Harriet
Hilliard (of The Adventures
of Ozzie & Harriet
fame) manages to turn The Falcon's head and Edgar Kennedy plays an
The Falcon in Danger
(1943): This is one of
the most unusual
mysteries included in this collection.
The adventure starts when a place carrying a rich
industrialist and his
assistant who is carrying $100,000 worth of bonds crashes upon
landing in New
York. When the rescue
crew arrives they
discover that the plane is empty.
industrialist, no pilot. The
daughter of the missing tycoon Nancy Palmer (Elaine Shepard)
received a ransom
note telling her not to go to the police so she turns to The Falcon...
the dismay of his current fiancée, Texas heiress Bonnie
Caldwell (Amelita Ward
who puts on an atrocious southern accent).
There are fewer gags in this film, but the mystery is quite
compelling. It plays
out more like an
episode of Banacek than a B-movie.
are a number of suspects and some red herrings too. Overall it's a solid entry
in the series.
The Falcon and the
Co-eds (1943): The
Falcon ends up at
an elite finishing school surrounded by young, attractive ladies in
film in this collection. When
Harris (Amelita Ward again, this time without the accent) travels to
and tracks down
The Falcon, he's not really interested in her case. It seems that a teacher at
and though the cause of
death was ruled 'heart failure' a psychic student at Bluecliff,
Serena (Rita Corday) not only predicted the death, but says it was
murder. Tom doesn't
have time for such kid games, but
when Jane steals his car and drives back to Bluecliff, The Falcon
has no option
but to follow her. Once
there, he sees
that the young lady might be right, and when more teachers start
knows he's got a mystery on his hands.
This film strays away from the formula a bit. There is no
over-protective fiancée and no
amusing sidekick for The Falcon.
are fewer jokes and it was a little odd seeing the female leads from
the previous movie in this film too but playing different characters
(especially since they'd carried over The Falcon's love interests
from on film to the next previously.) It's still a fun,
enjoyable film... for the most
part. My only real
complaint is that the
director, William Clemens, was trying to make something more than a
his stylistic touches didn't work. He starts the film off with waves
majestically crashing against rocks, and includes a similar seen
(that goes on
for too long) near the climax of the film.
He also tries some fancy editing that's just distracting,
like when The
Falcon in talking to a room full of suspects and he makes rapid
cuts, less than
a second each, showing all of their faces.
Luckily these flairs were few and far between.
These seven movies are contained on three single-sided DVDs
which are housed in a single-width triple keepcase.
The mono soundtrack is provided and it sounds fine. There's nothing really
exceptionally good or
bad about it.
The full frame image looks very good.
These movies haven't been restored but they
come from very nice prints with minimal damage.
Yeah, there are occasional spots or flecks of dirt, but
contrast is good and so
is the level of detail.
The only complaint I have is that there is some edge
enhancement in some scenes. It
always there, but there were a couple of spots where it was very
me, though my wife didn't notice it at all.
These are light, fun B-movies.
Both George Sanders and his brother Tom
Conway do a wonderful job in the role of The Falcon, and the
supporting cast is
always good. Each of
these run about an
hour, and watching them is an enjoyable way to spend part of an
afternoon. The Warner
Archives MOD discs look very good
too. Well worth picking
up, this set
gets a strong Recommendation.