Sunday, November 27, 2011

Tonight's Movie: The Falcon Takes Over (1942)

THE FALCON TAKES OVER is a strong third entry in George Sanders' FALCON series, following THE GAY FALCON (1941) and A DATE WITH THE FALCON (1942).

THE FALCON TAKES OVER is somewhat improbably based on Raymond Chandler's Philip Marlowe mystery FAREWELL, MY LOVELY. FAREWELL, MY LOVELY was more famously filmed by the same studio, RKO, just two years later, when Dick Powell starred as Marlowe in MURDER MY SWEET (1944).

Lynn Root and Frank Fenton adapted the Chandler novel into a fast-paced 65-minute Falcon story. Needless to say, with the Falcon (Sanders) and his righthand man Goldie (Allen Jenkins) on the case, THE FALCON TAKES OVER is a more jovial affair than the later film of the story. There's no sign of Philip Marlowe in the Falcon film, but viewers familiar with MURDER, MY SWEET will recognize characters such as Velma and Moose Malloy. Malloy is superbly portrayed here by a memorably creepy Ward Bond.

The Falcon's fiancee is out of town, and he takes advantage of the opportunity to become mixed up in a new murder mystery involving a big man named Moose (Bond) who is looking for a woman named Velma. Moose seems to leave bodies behind everywhere he goes.

Despite his engagement, the Falcon is still an incorrigible flirt, and while working on the case he enjoys spending time with both reporter Ann Riordan (Lynn Bari) and glamorous Diana Kenyon (Helen Gilbert).

Bari here plays a character somewhat similar to the reporter she played the previous year in 20th Century-Fox's Michael Shayne mystery, SLEEPERS WEST (1941). The main difference is here her reporter is a little less experienced and worldly. It's a nice part, and there's some excellent interplay between the Falcon and Ann.

Helen Gilbert, as Diana, is a very striking blonde who makes quite an impression. Gilbert had 18 film and TV credits spread over an 18-year period. Her private life appears to have been somewhat tumultuous, as she had half a dozen husbands, including the infamous Johnny Stompanato, who was later killed by Lana Turner's daughter.

James Gleason and Edward Gargan return in this film as perennially exasperated Inspector O'Hara and dimwitted Detective Bates. Anne Revere, Hans Conreid, and Turhan Bey are also in the cast.

This film was directed by Irving Reis. It was photographed in black and white by George Robinson.

THE FALCON TAKES OVER is available on DVD-R from the Warner Archive in The Falcon Mystery Movie Collection, Volume 1.

It's also available on Region 2 DVD, along with several other FALCON films.

THE FALCON TAKES OVER can also be seen on Turner Classic Movies.


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