Tuesday, 5 April 2022

The Falcon Strikes Back

She Done Him Bond

The Falcon Strikes Back
USA 1943
Directed by Edward Dmytryk
RKO/Warner Archive
DVD Region 1

Warning: Some big spoilers.

It was all change over at RKO for The Falcon series with The Falcon Strikes Back, which was managing to not only keep going but flourish after George Sanders had left the franchise. If you’ll remember, Sanders had relinquished the role in the previous film, The Falcon’s Brother (reviewed here) when his real life brother, Tom Conway, came to help out as The Falcon’s brother, Tom Lawrence. The Falcon was shot dead in an act of heroic self sacrifice in the final minutes of that last movie and his brother became the new Falcon.

Interestingly, two of the actors who were in the last film, including The Falcon’s regular sidekick from the previous movies, were not retained for the next adventure. However, in a bizarre choice, the studio decided that the characters themselves would keep going with different actors. Personally, since The Falcon is not the same character as his dead brother, they could have changed the characters too but... well, anyway, long standing sidekick character Goldie is now played by Cliff Edwards and the oriental houseboy, played by the famous Keye Luke in The Falcon’s Brother, is now played by Richard Loo.

To give the series some kind of continuity from the last one, in Conway’s first solo Falcon movie, we have Jane Randolph reprising her role as Marcia Brooks, the reporter from the previous film. We also have Inspector Donovan played once again played by Cliff Clark in his second Falcon movie (contrary to what the IMDB might tell you... they really need some fact checkers there) and Edward Gargan playing the Inspector’s sidekick, the fifth time so far in the series that he has played the ‘dumb detective’ role.

Although the Nazi lead in from the ending of the previous film is totally ignored... it seems to be a thing now where a new adventure is teased at the end and then completely ignored in the next movie (including the ending of this one)... it still has a plot lightly dealing with the subject of the Second World War, which was now playing out in the US as an ever present worry. This time around The Falcon is knocked unconscious and framed for the theft of a huge sum of War Bonds (just what he would do with them is not made clear). He escapes police custody and, with the aid of Goldie, his houseboy and the reporter, gets caught up in two completely different mysteries which converge at a hotel resort, a mystery involving both a ‘war bonds’ swindler named The Duchess and a murderer who is, actually, killing off the criminals with a gun rigged with a silencer (or suppressor if you like... I understand that these weren’t that good or useable at the time, or for many decades for that matter, if they ever were but, as usual, they work perfectly well in the movies).

It’s a pleasant romp of a mystery ticking all the right boxes and, like his brother, The Falcon only has to kiss an objecting woman for her to do an about face, swoon and then help him as much as she possibly can (ahh... those were the days). Now, I have to say that, back in the 1940s, it probably wasn’t a huge surprise as to who the murderer was in this film but I didn’t see it coming until about ten minutes before the reveal on this one. The reason is very simple... I’m not used to seeing the comedian Edgar Kennedy in diverse roles...

Edgar Kennedy was a comic whose theatrical comedy shorts I used to watch on TV in repeats during the 1970s as a kid. I was also used to him from numerous appearances in Laurel And Hardy shorts and, later on, when I saw him opposite The Marx Brothers in Duck Soup. However, I think in the 1940s, audiences would have been more used to him indulging in straighter, more sinister roles than I’ve ever seen him in and so, they would have had the advantage over me I think. So it came as a surprise, somewhat, when I figured out he was pretty much the only other person the killer could be by the end of the movie. He even falls to his death from a rooftop, being chased by The Falcon at the end.

There are a couple of other things in this movie which I think are worthy of note. One is that, at the start of the film, the sound of accompanying imagery such as speeding trains, ships, a pneumatic drill and a large hammer on a building site, are used as a visual metaphor to explain the state of The Falcon’s hangover as he is trying to sleep it off, in his introductory scene at the start of the picture. Which is a nice touch.

The other thing is when Edgar Kennedy, who is a puppeteer (using the credited ‘Velma Dawson Puppets’), brings in a puppet of Goofy and does an impersonation of him. The first thing I thought of when I saw this was... copyright and legal suit coming the way of RKO studios, surely? However, further research shows that Walt Disney was indeed still releasing films through RKO at the time, so I can only assume that this was above board (or RKO would have been in a lot of trouble, I guess).

And that’s that. The series was continuing to be popular and Conway would go on to portray The Falcon (or rather his brother) for another eight movies after The Falcon Strikes Back... all of which I hope to review for this blog soonest.

No comments:

Post a Comment