A Date with the Falcon (1942)

2012 #69
Irving Reis | 60 mins | TV | 4:3 | USA / USA | PG*

A Date with the FalconThe second Falcon film sees George Sanders’ gentlemen detective investigate the disappearance of a scientist.

Though there’s certainly a detective mystery there — involving gangsters, doubles, diamonds and more — A Date with the Falcon is more of a comedy than a thriller. It’s of a broadly slapstick variety too, rather than the Saint’s more subtle dialogue-based levity. The plot, though not a bad concoction, is fairly secondary to antics with the incompetent police or the Saint’s hounding fiancée — not the same one as last time, incidentally, but now Wendy Barrie, in the same role as last time. This almost sets up an interesting kind of girl-relay, where the engaged Falcon’s eye is distracted by a new girl, only to find him engaged to her in the next film, only to find his eye distracted by a new girl, only to find him engaged to her… etc. I don’t know if that was deliberate — I mention it because the method sort of resurfaces in a couple of films’ time, but other than that and this, it doesn’t seem to come off. Which is a shame, because I like it as an idea.

The best bit is a sequence at a hotel, where the Falcon has tracked a mysterious criminal lady. Here we find Hans Conried’s knowing hotel desk clerk. Conried, who has a larger but less entertaining part in the next Falcon film and was apparently in the first too, would go on to be the voice of Captain Hook in Disney’s Peter Pan. Which is neither here nor there, but still. Trouble girl, girl troubleAnyway, aside from him there’s a ‘suicide’ bid and the crowd below’s reaction to it. Again it’s mostly comedy, but unlike some of the series’ DOA running gags it’s actually funny.

Watching A Date with the Falcon, it feels like the series has found its own tone a bit more. It’s still vaguely Saint-ish, still aiming for an adventure-thriller-with-humour vibe, but the comedy is of a slightly different kind, and the Falcon himself isn’t the smooth operator that the Saint was. Rather than the Woman of the Week fall for him effortlessly, he gets incessant flack from his (always new) fiancée, and he’s not quite as adapt at wriggling his way out of things when it comes to a sticky situation. I prefer the (good) Saint films, but this is fun in places.

3 out of 5

* As with many films of this era, apparently, A Date with the Falcon hasn’t been passed by the BBFC since its original release. Nonetheless, it’s available on DVD, rated PG. ^

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