Sunday 6 May 2007

A Date with the Falcon (1941) Irving Reis

In a storyline that only predates reality by sixty or so years, a scientist named Waldo Sampson has developed a process to create synthetic diamonds, indistinguishable from the real thing and cheap to produce. He intends them for the defense industry which is in dire need of commercial grade diamonds for drillbits and so on, a highly laudable concept but completely unrealistic. Even before we discover what he's doing, the criminal element is firmly interested for its own reasons.

I'm still deciding what to think about the Falcon movies, this being the second. I felt that George Sanders was fine as the Saint but there was an air of invulnerability that spoiled the films for me. AsGay Lawrence, the Falcon, he is just as capable but is equally capable of getting into trouble, usually at the hands of whatever character Wendy Barrie happens to be playing. He gets slapped, threatened, kidnapped, you name it, and has to find his way back out again before solving whatever crime needs solving. He gets far more character into the role and obviously relishes the opportunity.

There are priceless scenes like the one where he gets to upset passing police officers to get arrested and thus out of the car he's been kidnapped in or the one where he hides from discovery on a fifth floor balcony only for his fiancee to arrive at ground level and blow his cover by trying to stop him jumping. These are just so much more fun! Unfortunately the adding of so much fun and character means that there really isn't much room in a 63 minute movie for a plot, so if you're looking for a deep and complex storyline that you have to concentrate to fathom you're in the wrong place. My OK rating is an average of Good to Excellent for the fun and Poor to Bad for the plot.

This is all about a bunch of actors strutting their stuff for our enjoyment, within the vague restraints of a crime series B movie. Usually that's a really bad thing but not when you have the supporting cast that this one can boast. Allen Jenkins is back as the Falcon's right hand man and he has more screen time too. Wendy Barrie and Hans Conreid try hard to steal every scene they're in, as does another of my favourite supporting actors of the era, James Gleason, as the police chief. In a small uncredited part as Girl on Plane is Elizabeth Russell, sister of Rosalind Russell and a regular in Val Lewton movies.

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