Friday, 19 September 2014

The Falcon in Mexico (1944)

The Falcon in Mexico is the ninth entry in RKO's Falcon series and sees a change of location/stock footage/backdrops, with pleasantly entertaining results.

As usual, our freelance crime-fighting mystery solving hero Tom Lawrence aka The Falcon (played for the sixth time by Tom Conway) gets dragged into the mystery in an amusingly implausible manner, one that us mere mortals can only dream of. Within seconds of kissing his girlfriend goodnight at her apartment, he finds himself lip-locked with a mysterious woman named Dolores in order to shield her from a passing police officer, then helping her break into an art gallery, to recover a painting that she has recently modeled for – even though the artist, Humphrey Wade, has supposedly been dead for over a decade. Dolores promptly disappears just as the Falcon finds the body of the gallery owner. Now wanted for murder, Lawrence teams up with Wade's daughter Barbara and travels to Mexico to clear his name and find out whether reports of Wade's death have been greatly exaggerated.

Conway is a suave as ever, playing the Falcon as seeming amused and bemused by events, but never fazed by them. As usual, he has a sidekick, Manuel, a stereotypical laid-back Mexican, who helps Lawrence negotiate the mean streets of a strange country, and who may not be all he seems, as his character takes on more significance later in the story (the sidekick also has a sidekick, in the shape of his son, basically a mini-Manuel)

The script saunters along at an appropriately relaxed pace, but does stick to the plot without getting sidetracked, with the exception of a few weak musical numbers. Given the brief running time of these sort of films (typically 65-70 minutes), it does leave the denouement feeling rushed, and the killer almost arbitrary. Nevertheless, there is enough entertainment along the way to make that not too much of a problem.

Interestingly, an oft repeated – and never confirmed – legend about this film concerns the stock footage, which is supposedly taken from Orson Welles' unfinished documentary about Brazil, It's All True. Whether this is true or not, what we see is very well shot and certainly a step above the usual stock footage standards.