The Falcon and the Co-eds
Time Out saysDespite the off-putting title, an attractive little thriller in which the Falcon investigates murder in a girl's school, where an atmosphere of fear and loathing centres on a girl with second sight, while she herself is driven to suicidal despair by her predictions of murder. Scripted by Ardel Wray, who worked regularly with Val Lewton (I Walked with a Zombie, Leopard Man, Isle of the Dead), it is beautifully characterised and has some vividly eerie touches (better exploited in Roy Hunt's camerawork than by Clemens' direction). It's one of the best in a series which took over from The Saint after RKO tired of paying Leslie Charteris for rights, and turned instead to a Michael Arlen story (The Gay Falcon, retained as the title of the first film in 194l). George Sanders, with five appearances as the Saint behind him, was clearly bored playing virtually the same character (less ruthless, more honest); and after three appearances, he was killed off by Nazi assassins in The Falcon's Brother (1942), leaving his real-life brother Conway to succeed him. Of the four Sanders films, The Falcon Takes Over (1942) is distinguished as the first adaptation of a Raymond Chandler novel: a breathless scurry through the plot of Farewell My Lovely with an excellent performance from Ward Bond as the moronically lovelorn Moose Malloy, it finds the suave Sanders distinctly anomalous in Chandler territory. Conway, bringing a lighter touch to the series (which managed its comic relief better than most), starred in nine films after The Falcon's Brother, most of them deft and surprisingly enjoyable. The Falcon Strikes Back (1943), for instance, though saddled with a dull plot about missing war bonds, is directed by Edward Dmytryk with strikingly elliptical economy, and has the bonus of Edgar Kennedy as a mad puppeteer villain. The Falcon in Hollywood (1944) is a lively studio murder mystery directed by Gordon Douglas, with RKO itself serving as the set. The Falcon in San Francisco, vividly directed by Joseph H Lewis (particularly the opening sequence with the little girl on the train), makes excellent use of locations. The Falcon in Mexico enlivens a stock plot with some elaborate location footage clearly not shot on a B movie budget: could it possibly be errant footage from Welles' abortive It's All True?