Tuesday 20 November 2007

The Falcon Takes Over (1942) Irving Reis

Given that this is the third Falcon movie and all detective series of the forties deteriorated over time, the Falcon movies turned up only as Saint subtitutes because Leslie Charteris wouldn't allow any more of them, and the Saint movies weren't that great as such series go, even with George Sanders playing the sardonic lead, this one really doesn't suggest greatness. However we're star studded here for a film like this.

The first person we see is Allen Jenkins and then we get Ward Bond talking tough to him. Bond is Moose Malloy, though he isn't credited, and he's looking for an old girlfriend who he hasn't seen for five years. I'm sure you can imagine why. Anyway he's looking for Velma and to find her he fights his way into Club 13, knocks a few folks out and apparently shoots the manager who dies of a broken neck. You have to spot these details. Inspector Mike O'Hara investigating is James Gleason and he shows up with the Falcon, George Sanders himself in tow.

This may be a B-movie but a B-movie with Gleason, Jenkins and Sanders throwing witticisms at each other is hardly a minor tableau. Sanders feigning drunkenness to avoid danger at the hands of Bond is a joy to watch, and in this company he actually acts rather than just appearing on screen and relying on charisma. I can't remember the last time I saw him this alive. This is also all before we get to Turhan Bey, the Woo Woo Girl Lynn Bari and Hans Conreid, appearing in his third Falcon as a different character each time out.

It is a B-movie, as evidenced most apparently by the overacting of Anne Revere and the bizarreness of Helen Gilbert who plays Diana Kenyon like Bette Davis pretending to be Drew Barrymore. However it's certainly a fun one, zipping along so quickly that it's impossible to get bored and nigh on impossible to blink. The weird part is that this isn't a real Falcon story at all, based on the writings of Michael Arlen, it's a Raymond Chandler novel hammered into the Falcon template like a square peg into a round hole. In fact it's the first Philip Marlowe story to be filmed, based on the novel Farewell, My Lovely, beating the classic straight version, Murder, My Sweet, onto the screen by two years.

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