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Falcon Mystery Movie Collection, Volume 2, The

Warner Archive // Unrated // February 21, 2013
List Price: $35.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by John Sinnott | posted March 30, 2013 | E-mail the Author
The Movies:
A bit over a year after releasing the first seven Falcon films, Warner Archives have put out the last six movies that RKO made in the series.  These are pretty good B-Films, each one featuring a mystery, some fabulous 40's fashions, and some witty banter.  With more hits than misses, this set is well worth picking up.
George Sanders first played Gaylord Lawrence, amateur detective and man-about-town known as The Falcon in The Gay Falcon (1941).  After three outings as the character, Sanders turned the role over to his brother, both figuratively and literally.  In The Falcon's Brother (1942) the detective work gets passed on to Gay's brother, Tom Lawrence, played by George Sanders real-life brother Tom Conway.  It was a nice move, and Conway does a good job in the role, equal if not superior to his brother's.  This collection feature that last six movie with Tom Conway in the role.
The films included in this collection are:  
The Falcon Out West (1944):
When a wealth ranch owner gets fatally bitten by a rattlesnake in the middle of a New York club, the Falcon gets interested in discovering exactly what happened.  Could he have been killed by his jealous ex-wife, the business partner with whom he had a stormy relation, or his fiancĂ©, who would have inherited his whole fortune if they had been married first?  To settle the matter Tom travels out west where he encounters surly ranch hands, quite, inscrutable Indians, and a couple of additional murders.
For some reason they decided to take The Falcon out of his native habitat, the glitz and glamour of New York night clubs filled with beautiful women, and transplant him into a western setting.  It doesn't work well.  The mystery isn't that engaging, I never really cared who killed the rancher, and having two New York detectives fly out also to act as The Falcon's foils just seems forced.  Tom's faithful manservant Goldie is missing from this picture too, which doesn't help things. It's not a bad film, but just a so-so entry.
The Falcon in Mexico (1944):
Once again the powers-that-be tried to boost interest in the franchise by making The Falcon a world traveler.  When Tom encounters a young, attractive lady trying to break into an art dealer's showroom, he does the noble thing and helps her.  She claims that to be an artist and that the dealer refuses to return one of her works, but when they break in he finds that the painting was actually done by an artist who died in Mexico years and years ago, and it's an image of the woman that Tom's assisting.  Not only that, but the proprietor has been killed.  The police arrive and figure that Tom is the killer so The Falcon nabs the picture of interest and heads off to Mexico (with the daughter of the long-dead artist) to see just what's going on. 
This was a bit better than the last film, but still not one of the shining examples of the series.  Goldie is still missing, but in his place is a Mexican taxi driver and his son who provide a lot of comic relief.  This mystery is also has more twists and turns, which was enjoyable.  The resolution felt a bit contrived, but that's nothing new to the world of B-picture mysteries.
The Falcon in Hollywood (1944):
After the last two films, I didn't have much hope of the series.  Fortunately this is one of the best installments of the franchise.  While on vacation in Hollywood, The Falcon stumbles onto a soundstage and finds a dead body.  It's a movie star who has a long list of people who would like to see him dead.  It's up to The Falcon to find the killer before he ends up as the next victim.
I have a soft spot for movies about movie making (I love to see how Hollywood portrays itself) and this was great for that.  The cast includes an irritable German director, a vain and pompous actress (who wears some outrageous outfits) and an intellectual producer who goes around quoting Shakespeare and is working his way to an ulcer.  Not only that, the mystery is pretty good too. What makes the film though is The Falcon's sidekick for this film, a brassy female cab driver named Billie (Veda Ann Borg).  She steals every scene she's in and is a great comic relief/ partner for The Falcon.  It's only too bad that she wasn't allowed to continue the role in the rest of the Falcon films.  
The Falcon in San Francisco (1945):
Traveling to SF on a vacation (what does Tom Lawrence do for a living anyway, and why does he need a vacation?)  The Falcon and Goldie Locke (the character makes his first appearance in a while, having skipped the last five entries in the series... this time he's played by Ed Brophy) meet a charming little girl, Annie (Sharyn Moffett).  The tyke complains that her nurse is mean and that she'd being kept a prisoner in her own home.  When the gruff guardian takes the girl away, Tom doesn't think any more of her, but when the nurse turns up dead that evening, The Falcon knows that something suspicious is going on.
This was another very solid mystery.  There are a lot of twists and turns in the plot and some surprising developments.  It was good to see Goldie back again, this time trying to find a wife so he can deduct her from his income tax return.  Sharyn Moffett was a nice addition to the cast too.  She was cute and perky, the studio was obviously looking for more children who could be stars like Shirley Temple, and Sharyn had a lot of screen presence.  She is great in the role, and when she flirts with Tom it's funny rather than creepy, which is hard to pull off.
The Falcon's Alibi (1946):
If it's one thing The Falcon can't resist, it's a woman in distress and that's exactly what he finds in Joan Meredith (Rita Corday in her last Falcon movie... she was ultimately in six of them, playing a different role in each, including most of the ones in this set).  Joan is the secretary of a wealthy woman, Gloria Peabody, who was the victim of a robbery.  Some very valuable pearls were stolen and the insurance investigator is sure that it was an inside job and Joan is the chief suspect.  Tom and his sidekick Goldie (this time played by Vince Barnett) accept Mrs. Peabody's invitation to a party at her hotel, where he meets some of Mrs. Peabody's friends including a suspicious band leader, the gorgeous singer in the lounge (Jane Greer), and the DJ she's secretly married to, Nick (Elisha Cook).
This was the most noir-ish entry of the series, and quite good.  Most of the film was a typical Flacon movie, with nightclubs and a decent mystery, but the end of this one gets a bit darker than any of the other films.  The killer (I won't reveal who it is) does a magnificent job, being slightly goofy one minute and incredibly creepy the next.  When he pulls a girl close to kiss her, only to shoot her in the stomach while their lips are still together, it's a bit shocking, which is something I never thought I'd say about a Falcon movie.  The only real dull performance was Vince Barnett's.  He's not as amusing Goldie should be.  Even so, the movie is well worth watching.
The Falcon's Adventure (1946):
In the final RKO Falcon movie, Tom Lawrence and Goldie (played once again by Ed Brophy) are going to go fishing... that is until they see a beautiful woman being kidnapped.  Thwarting the attempt and avoiding the police (she doesn't want to involve them, though it's never made clear exactly why) the sleuth finds out that the woman, Louisa Braganza, is daughter to a scientist who has developed a method of synthesizing industrial diamonds.  A friend of the elder Braganza has arranged to sell the formula for a large amount of money, but he has to get it to Florida first.  While talking to Louisa's father, a gangster kills him and knocks out Tom, who happens to wake up just as the police bust in.  Once again on the lamb, The Falcon and Goldie have to get the formula that he's managed to acquire to Florida and sell it before someone kills them, or Louisa.
This last film is only average.  They get to the McGuffin quickly enough, but there are a few too many plot holes and contrived coincidences to be really satisfying.  The ending seems forced too and the whole mystery wraps up a bit too quickly... and involves Goldie impersonating an alligator.  That's not to say the movie is bad, it's not.  It just is one of the lesser entries in the series, and it's a shame that it's the last one.
The DVD:

These six hour-long movies are contained on two single-sided DVD-Rs which are housed in a single-width double 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 they're infrequent.  The contrast is good and so is the level of detail.
None.  I would have appreciated trailers but it's not a huge disappointment that they aren't included.
Final Thoughts:
After The Falcon's Adventure, RKO sold the rights to Poverty Row producer Film Classics.  (They made three more Falcon films with magician John Calvert in the lead role.)  Looking back, The Falcon movies are pretty good entertainment.  These are light, fun B-movies that only run around an hour each.  Tom Conway, though the second actor to play the role, really grows into it and does a wonderful job and the supporting cast is always good.  The Warner Archives MOD discs look very good too.  This set gets a strong Recommendation.
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