Saturday, July 20, 2013

The Falcon’s Adventure (RKO, 1946)

by Mark Gabrish Conlan • Copyright © 2013 by Mark Gabrish Conlan • All rights reserved

This morning I watched TCM’s latest presentation of one of the Falcon-series detective films, The Falcon’s Adventure — not that the word “adventure” had any particular reference to the plot, which is a farrago of the usual nonsense. On his way to a fishing vacation with his long-suffering comic-relief companion “Goldie” Locke (Ed Brophy), Tom Lawrence, a.k.a. The Falcon (Tom Conway) sees a beautiful young woman, Louisa Braganza (Madge Meredith), kidnapped by a sinister cab driver and gives chase. Lawrence’s car gets in the way of a police vehicle that’s also chasing the girl and the baddie-cabbie, but he frees her, takes her back to her hotel in the city, and learns that she’s a Brazilian in the U.S. to help her uncle Enrico (André Charlot) negotiate the sale of a formula for making industrial diamonds. Only no sooner does Lawrence find Enrico and obtain the formula for him than the sinister cabbie crashes the hotel room, knocks Lawrence out and kills Enrico, leaving Lawrence’s wallet behind so the police will think Lawrence is the murderer. Lawrence takes Goldie to Miami, home of Enrico’s contact for the formula deal, Denison (Ian Wolfe), only on the train Lawrence hears a blonde woman, Doris Blanding (Myrna Dell), arguing with a masher who’s pushed his way into her compartment.

In the one genuinely honest and surprising (more or less) reversal in the script by Aubrey Wisberg and baseball fan Robert E. Kent), she and the “masher,” Benny (Steve Brodie), turn out to be husband and wife, and part of a criminal gang out for the formula masterminded by an industrial diamond maker named Sutton (Robert Warwick), who also hired the cab driver to kidnap Luisa and hired him to kill Enrico — and Denison as well, once again framing Our Hero for the crime. Eventually Sutton tricks Louisa into trusting him and bringing the formula on board the yacht, which is about to sail for Brazil, only the Falcon takes over (no wait, that was another film in the series), boards the yacht, kills the cabbie-gunman, and along with Goldie holds the rest of the gang at bay until the police arrive. One especially enthusiastic reviewer called this “the Casablanca of ‘B’-movies” (no, that’s Detour!); I wouldn’t go that far, but for all the familiarity of the plot (there must have been some especially interesting ballgames going on when Robert E. Kent worked on this script) there are some interesting noir-ish atmospherics in William Berke’s direction (for some reason RKO had two cinematographers working on this little “B,” and one of them was Harry J. Wild, who photographed RKO’s noir masterpiece Murder, My Sweet) and good performances by the women (though Madge Meredith is clearly struggling to fake the accent that would have come naturally to Rita Corday!) and reliable ones from Conway and Brophy. Too bad this was the last Falcon movie that RKO would make, though independent producer John Calvert bought the rights and cranked out three more (with an actor other than Conway) before the Falcon was finally laid to rest on the big screen in 1949.