Monday, January 28, 2013

Tonight's Movie: The Falcon in Mexico (1944)

THE FALCON IN MEXICO has a promising start, with the opening credits featuring jaunty music and stock footage of Mexico, followed by the Falcon romancing his latest ladylove, Isabel (Greta Christensen), and promising to settle down to be a stockbroker and stop solving mysteries.

Overall, the quality of the FALCON series has been quite consistent, but this entry proves to be on the tired side, though it does have its moments. Tom Lawrence (Tom Conway), aka the Falcon, quickly forgets all about Isabel when he becomes involved in a mystery involving a new painting by a long-dead artist and the murder of an art gallery owner. Tom ends up flying to Mexico with the artist's daughter Barbara (Martha Vickers of THE BIG SLEEP, billed as Martha MacVicar) in search of answers about the painting and her father.

There are mysterious characters floating about, including Barbara's exotic stepmother (Mona Maris, last seen in LAW OF THE TROPICS), an art collector (Emory Parnell), and a bumbling taxi driver (Nestor Paiva).

The film's biggest flaw is its overly extensive use of process shots, which get to be distracting. The process photography is used in shots even if not much of the background is seen, such as when characters are standing next to a taxi, and it gives the film a strange look at times. It's hard to believe it was easier and more acceptable to the filmmakers to use back projections than to shoot simple backgrounds somewhere on the studio lot. The straight stock footage, when it's not being used as a background to the action, is more attractive. Leonard Maltin rumors that the footage of Mexico came from the unfinished Orson Welles film IT'S ALL TRUE.

On the plus side, Martha Vickers is lovely, there's a neat twist with the taxi driver, and the music is pleasant. Singers Ruth Alvarez and Nita Hunter, who entertain diners at the hotel, also appeared in THE FALCON AND THE CO-EDS (1943); Hunter was billed as Juanita Alvarez in that film.

The movie was directed by William Berke and filmed in black and white by Frank Redman. It runs 70 minutes.

THE FALCON IN MEXICO is available in Europe on a Region 2 DVD. It is not yet on DVD in the U.S., but George Feltenstein of the Warner Archive said in an interview that it will be releasing those FALCON films not already out later this year.

February 2013 Update: THE FALCON IN MEXICO is now available from the Warner Archive as part of The Falcon Mystery Movie Collection, Vol. 2.

In the meantime, the movie has been shown on Turner Classic Movies.

Reviews of the earlier films in the series: THE GAY FALCON (1941), A DATE WITH THE FALCON (1942), THE FALCON TAKES OVER (1942), THE FALCON'S BROTHER (1942), THE FALCON STRIKES BACK (1943), THE FALCON IN DANGER (1943), THE FALCON AND THE CO-EDS (1943), and THE FALCON OUT WEST (1944).


Blogger Yvette said...

Love the Falcon movies although in my dim memory they all swirl together as one. I do remember that thing about the backgrounds in THE FALCON IN MEXICO though. Very annoying.

But I love Tom Conway.

Didn't his brother George Sanders begin the series? Or was that something else.

10:21 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

You're correct about Sanders, Yvette! He was in the first four films in the series. That fourth film, THE FALCON'S BROTHER, introduced Conway, who continued the series through many more entries.

Best wishes,

10:31 AM  

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