Short Ends and Leader

The Falcon Mystery Movie Collection Volume 2

Go west, young Falcon. Then south, and around.


The Falcon Mystery Movie Collection Volume 2

Director: Various
Cast: Tom Conway
Distributor: Warner Archives
Rated: Not rated
Year: 1944-46
USDVD release date: 2013-02-21

This collection, freshly on demand from Warner Archives, corrals the last of RKO's Falcon series, starring Tom Conway as the suave meddler in murder. A funny thing happens on the way from the first three films here to the last three. WWII ended, and crime films evolved from slick jokey larks to the darker, more somber tone of noir. You can see it happening.

The Falcon Out West sends our hero to a ranch for a story whose most interesting element is Barbara Hale, years before her career as Perry Mason's secretary on TV, as a self-reliant cowgirl who rides a fine horse. William Clemens here finishes his run directing the series; this sturdy toiler in B mysteries had a hand in films of Perry Mason, Nancy Drew, and Philo Vance, among others.

William Berke's The Falcon in Mexico is the most relaxed and picturesque entry, its lullabye pace punctuated by a couple of nightclub songs. In what turns out to be a nice touch, a Mexican stereotype dogs the Falcon as comic relief before dropping his accent halfway through and revealing himself as a federal cop. One of many films reflecting America's wartime "Good Neighbor Policy", this film is dotted with beautiful location shots that, according to Leonard Maltin, are rumored to be lifted from Orson Welles' aborted RKO project It's All True. They're certainly beyond this picture's budget.

The more sprightly and reasonably plotted The Falcon in Hollywood takes place (economically) in a movie studio and recasts Hale in a new role with a high-stepping dance. This entry boasts several interesting female roles, including Veda Ann Borg as a snappy cabbie (because women filled men's jobs during the war). It's directed by the prolific and eclectic Gordon Douglas, whose curious career ranged from Our Gang comedies through Them! (giant ants) to Frank Sinatra's tough detective outings of the late '60s.

These are all 1944 films, and then it's 1945, the last year of the war, and suddenly the suave, insouciant Falcon is getting beaten up right, left and center. The Falcon in San Francisco begins interestingly on a train as our hero meets a little orphan girl who lives in a ritzy semi-gothic mansion. Directed by none other than Joseph H. Lewis in the same year he helmed his first genuine noir classic, My Name Is Julia Ross, this is full of shadows, canted angles, and woozy POV shots as the Falcon comes out of his knockouts.

The noir factor in The Falcon's Alibi is the presence of Elisha Cook Jr. as a virtual psychopath in a plot that eschews the mystery by revealing his guilt right away and letting us focus on his affectless bantam persona. Berke produced this entry, taking over from series producer Maurice Geraghty, and the director is Ray McCarey, best remembered as Leo McCarey's less talented brother.

Berke's The Falcon's Adventure closes the series with an alleged trip to Florida, whose palm trees look remarkably like Los Angeles. This is produced by Herman Schlom (about to start the Dick Tracy movies) and scripted by Aubrey Wisberg, who later wrote and produced a couple of items directed by Edgar Ulmer. Don't tell anyone, but John Calvert played a differently-named Falcon in three cheaper entries made independently in 1947-48; they don't even have "Falcon" in the title, and of course they're not here.

6

To be a migrant worker in America is to relearn the basic skills of living. Imagine doing that in your 60s and 70s, when you thought you'd be retired.


Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century

Publisher: W. W. Norton
Author: Jessica Bruder
Publication date: 2017-09
Amazon

There's been much hand-wringing over the state of the American economy in recent years. After the 2008 financial crisis upended middle-class families, we now live with regular media reports of recovery and growth -- as well as rising inequality and decreased social mobility. We ponder what kind of future we're creating for our children, while generally failing to consider who has already fallen between the gaps.

Keep reading... Show less
7

Very few of their peers surpass Eurythmics in terms of artistic vision, musicianship, songwriting, and creative audacity. This is the history of the seminal new wave group

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame nominating committee's yearly announcement of the latest batch of potential inductees always generates the same reaction: a combination of sputtering outrage by fans of those deserving artists who've been shunned, and jubilation by fans of those who made the cut. The annual debate over the list of nominees is as inevitable as the announcement itself.

Keep reading... Show less

Barry Lyndon suggests that all violence—wars, duels, boxing, and the like—is nothing more than subterfuge for masculine insecurities and romantic adolescent notions, which in many ways come down to one and the same thing.

2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) crystalizes a rather nocturnal view of heterosexual, white masculinity that pervades much of Stanley Kubrick's films: after slithering from the primordial slime, we jockey for position in ceaseless turf wars over land, money, and women. Those wielding the largest bone/weapon claim the spoils. Despite our self-delusions about transcending our simian stirrings through our advanced technology and knowledge, we remain mired in our ancestral origins of brute force and domination—brilliantly condensed by Kubrick in one of the most famous cuts in cinematic history: a twirling bone ascends into the air only to cut to a graphic match of a space station. Ancient and modern technology collapse into a common denominator of possession, violence, and war.

Keep reading... Show less
10

This book offers a poignant and jarring reminder not just of the resilience of the human spirit, but also of its ability to seek solace in the materiality of one's present.

Marcelino Truong launched his autobiographical account of growing up in Saigon during the Vietnam War with the acclaimed graphic novel Such a Lovely Little War: Saigon 1961-63, originally published in French in 2012 and in English translation in 2016. That book concluded with his family's permanent relocation to London, England, as the chaos and bloodshed back home intensified.

Now Truong continues the tale with Saigon Calling: London 1963-75 (originally published in French in 2015), which follows the experiences of his family after they seek refuge in Europe. It offers a poignant illustration of what life was like for a family of refugees from the war, and from the perspective of young children (granted, Truong's family were a privileged and upper class set of refugees, well-connected with South Vietnamese and European elites). While relatives and friends struggle to survive amid the bombs and street warfare of Vietnam, the displaced narrator and his siblings find their attention consumed by the latest fashion and music trends in London. The book offers a poignant and jarring reminder not just of the resilience of the human spirit, but also of its ability to seek solace in the materiality of one's present.

Keep reading... Show less
8

Canadian soul singer Elise LeGrow shines on her impressive interpretation of Fontella Bass' classic track "Rescue Me".

Canadian soul singer Elise LeGrow pays tribute to the classic Chicago label Chess Records on her new album Playing Chess, which was produced by Steve Greenberg, Mike Mangini, and the legendary Betty Wright. Unlike many covers records, LeGrow and her team of musicians aimed to make new artistic statements with these songs as they stripped down the arrangements to feature leaner and modern interpretations. The clean and unfussy sound allows LeGrow's superb voice to have more room to roam. Meanwhile, these classic tunes take on new life when shown through LeGrow's lens.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image