William Clemens | 65 mins | download | 4:3 | USA / English | PG
In American colloquial language, “coed” or “co-ed” is used to refer to a mixed school… As a noun, the word “coed” is used to refer to a female student in a mixed gender school.
I Wikipedia’d that just to check, because in his fourth outing as the Falcon, Tom Conway investigates a mystery at an all-girls school.
Minor oddnesses aside, The Falcon and the Co-eds is one of the series’ better entries. I suppose these days the plot would only sustain a TV murder mystery rather than a theatrical release, but it’s a solid whodunnit — not something these Saint and Falcon films can always claim. Here, the students of a remote girls’ school are suspicious that the death of a teacher wasn’t sudden heart failure as the faculty claim, and one who previously had a dalliance with our titular hero calls on him to investigate. Mystery and intrigue ensue, with a plot that thickens and an array of potential suspects.
Alongside this is the series’ trademark humour. Here it’s served by both the college girls’ infatuation with our suave English hero, and a trio of younger lasses who are part Greek chorus and part sidekick team. The series’ regular comic relief, Inspector Donovan and Detective Bates, are on hand too, thankfully without their grating catchphrase. It’s not all light, though: the film was cut on its original UK release, presumably for the things noted in its 2012 classification: “references to suicide and a drugs overdose”.
In fact, the worst thing about the film is purely a result of its age, and that’s the occasional bout of misogyny. Let’s face it, the girls going all giggly over the Falcon is pretty defensible (look at modern-day reactions to the likes of One Direction, Justin Bieber, or even Benedict Cumberbatch), but the bit where he picks a twenty-something girl up to smack her bottom is a bit much. Still, it opens with a great bit: the Falcon parks his car, a girl immediately runs up to it: “Mr Lawrence?” “Yes?” She jumps in, instantly kisses him full on the lips, and when she pulls away all he can say, with a slightly surprised look, is, “Nice!” You could put that in something today and it’d still work.
The Falcon’s high point to date was surely the previous film, The Falcon in Danger, which was also directed by Clemens and featured two of the same leading ladies — I guess RKO didn’t think anyone would notice, even when the films were released just a few months apart. Co-eds perhaps doesn’t reach quite that level, though it makes a good fist of it. The twisty plot is engrossing and the humour entertaining, though I felt more could have been made of the potentially atmospheric remote cliff-top setting. It’s the kind of film where I began imagining how it might be remade to even greater effect. That may sound like a criticism but, when it comes to B-movies of this vintage, such thoughts always endear them to me.
I often find star ratings a bit useless on these long-running series. They all fall into roughly the same bracket in the grand scheme of movie-watching, but within the series there are distinct highs and lows. In Danger is the only one so far I’ve seen fit to give a whole 4 stars too, but Co-eds sits right behind it.