Tuesday 8 May 2007

The Falcon's Brother (1942) Stanley Logan

When George Sanders started playing the Saint he was still on the up as an actor in Hollywood. The early films of his that I've seen, like Mr Moto's Last Warning or Confessions of a Nazi Spy are often great fun but hardly the peak of Hollywood's output at the time. They tended to be B movies, though often very good examples of such. By the time Leslie Charteris axed the studio's contract prompting the instant replacement of the Saint with a stunningly similar character, the Falcon, he was featuring in A list movies, including Rebecca and Foreign Correspondent for Alfred Hitchcock. The Falcon's Brother is the fourth in the series and you wouldn't tell it from watching but Sanders was getting rapidly tired of the character and was handing over the series to the man most suited to play his screen brother Tom: his real life brother, Tom Conway.

I've seen Conway a number of times before without ever realising who he was. Taking a quick look at his career, he seems to have perennially played the most important and highest credited supporting actor, which generally put him number three on the credits behind the male and female lead, just as his brother did early on. Early on Tom Conway supported the leads in three Val Lewton horror films, including Cat People, and later on supported former stars slumming it in B movies, like Raymond Burr in Bride of the Gorilla and Chester Morris in The She-Creature. As the lead he played the Falcon nine times plus this one, in which he's far more obvious as Tom Lawrence than the real Falcon, Gay Lawrence, who is incapacitated for most of the film through being hit by a car.

There is a story here and it's a pretty good one as B movie series entries go, partly because we don't really have a clue what it's all about and have to follow the characters in their process of discovery. There are holes but they're forgiveable. Suffice it to say that people are being murdered and the Falcon is the chief suspect, but there are much bigger things afoot.

Backing up the Lawrence brothers is a stooge by the name of Lefty, played by Don Barclay because Allen Jenkins had unfortunately left the series. Barclay isn't much fun because he's half Allen Jenkins and half Eugene Pallette and not a patch on either. Tom Conway, I'm happy to say, is far better and I can easily believe that the series is in good hands with him in the lead. Cliff Clark is a fine if completely stereotypical flustered inspector and Edward Gargan is an fine if completely stereotypical dumb detective. Far more fun is Keye Luke, Charlie Chan's number one son, who obviously enjoys switching between perfect English and a far more stereotypical pidgin tongue. There are women in the film too but none of them really do anything, even the most obvious, Jane Randolph as an ambitious fashion reporter called Marcia Brooks.

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