Devil’s Cargo (1948)

2019 #93
John F. Link | 62 mins | digital (SD) | 4:3 | USA / English

Devil's Cargo

The history of the fictional detective known as ‘the Falcon’ is a bit complicated (if you want a full summary, try this Wikipedia article), but the short version is that, between 1941 and 1946, RKO produced a series of 13 films featuring the character, starring first George Sanders and then his brother, Tom Conway. You can find my reviews of the series collated across these four posts. (The series is also noteworthy for containing the first screen adaptation of a Raymond Chandler novel: the third film, The Falcon Takes Over, was based on Farewell, My Lovely, two years before it was more famously filmed as Murder, My Sweet.)

A couple of years after RKO’s Falcon series ended, Film Classics picked up the mantle, casting magician John Calvert as a different version of the character. Their series only lasted three films, of which this first is the most readily available, because it’s public domain. (Consequently, I’ve yet to see the next two. Writing this has reminded me that I was meant to be tracking them down…)

The plot has nothing to do with cargo, belonging to Satan or otherwise. Rather, it’s the usual murder mystery setup: a playboy has been shot to death, a crook confesses his guilt to the Falcon, certain he’ll be acquitted due to his motives being (kinda) pure, but then he’s murdered too. It all unfolds as a surprisingly decent little mystery — no great head-scratcher, but it offers enough twists and turns to keep it lively. The conclusion may stretch credibility, and our hero more chances upon the identity of the killer than actually deduces it, but it suffices for a short B-movie.

“Magic your way outta this!”

Calvert is decent as the Falcon. He’s no Sanders or Conway, and he has the slight stiffness of a non-professional having a crack at acting, but he’s just about charming enough to carry it off. I’ve definitely seen worse performances in similar roles. I have no idea how famous or acclaimed he was as a magician, so I don’t know if the film’s references to magic and inclusion of tricks is meant as an amusing nod to his original vocation, or it was required to placate the leading man’s ego. I can imagine the production meeting, though… “We want to integrate your magic tricks into the plot.” “How?” “Well, a criminal asks you to show him some tricks, so you do.” I’m not kidding, that’s literally what happens. On the bright side, he has a sidekick dog, Brain Trust, who is cute and occasionally useful.

As these ’40s detective B-series go, Devil’s Cargo is far from top-tier; but I’ve also seen worse — it’s better than it really ought to be.

3 out of 5

The Surprisingly Thorough Considering How Quickly I Dashed It Off Monthly Review of May 2019

Hello, fine readers! I’m going to have to make this quick, because I’m actually right in the middle of a house move. The palaver around that has led to regular tail-offs in posting over the past few months, and during May in particular, though it hasn’t had too much effect on my actual viewing, as you’ll soon see (June may be another story, but that’s next month’s discussion).

That’s also why there isn’t my usual header image for this post — they take a disproportionality long time to put together (whereas the post itself is still fairly lengthy because, as the famous adage alludes, it’s easier to write something long than something short). Hopefully I’ll have time to retroactively create the header next week. (In case you were wondering, the chap in the current image isn’t me — it’s some fella off YouTube. I just found it on Google Images.)


#71 Godzilla (1954), aka Gojira
#72 Eyes Wide Shut (1999)
#73 The Secret Life of Pets 3D (2016)
#74 The Eyes of Orson Welles (2018)
#75 Bad Times at the El Royale (2018)
#76 Jaws 2 (1978)
#77 The Meg 3D (2018)
#78 Ice Age: The Meltdown (2006)
#79 Everybody Wants Some!! (2016)
#80 Zatoichi Goes to the Fire Festival (1970), aka Zatôichi abare himatsuri
#81 Zombieland (2009)
#82 Godzilla, King of the Monsters! (1956)
#83 Bumblebee (2018)
#84 The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956)
#85 Cleopatra (1970), aka Kureopatora
#86 BlacKkKlansman (2018)
#87 Dracula (1931)
#88 Widows (2018)
#89 Cosmopolis (2012)
#90 The Girl in the Spider’s Web (2018)
#91 The Kennel Murder Case (1933)
#92 The Saint (2017)
#93 Devil’s Cargo (1948)
#94 Hairspray (1988)


  • So, I watched 24 new feature films in May.
  • That makes it the best month of 2019 so far, passing the average for the year to date (previously 17.5, now 18.8).
  • It’s a good all-timer too, in the top 5% of all months. It’s still not the best May ever — that was last year’s, which is also my best month ever. Therefore it brings the rolling average of the last 12 months down (from 20.1 to 19.25), even though it beats it.
  • It’s my 60th consecutive month with a tally of 10+. With all that’s going on right now, June may yet be the month to break that streak.
  • I can’t remember when I last discussed this (so apologies for the lack of link to the full background), but I’ve been tracking the days of the year on which I’ve ‘never’ seen a film, and I only have three left to tick off. One of those was May 23rd… and still is, because I missed it again. Darn.
  • This month’s WDYMYHS film is also this year’s Stanley Kubrick film (I’ve been working my way through his oeuvre at the rate of one per year, initially by coincidence but now semi-deliberately), Eyes Wide Shut.
  • This month’s Blindspot film: classic Universal horror Dracula.
  • From last month’s “failures” I watched Bad Times at the El Royale, Everybody Wants Some!!, and Widows.



The 48th Monthly Arbitrary Awards

Favourite Film of the Month
Plenty of worthy films to pick this month, whether they be critically-acclaimed awards-winners or critically-acclaimed films that were snubbed for awards, and most of those are more likely to make my year-end favourites list than what I’m going to pick now. It’s certainly not the ‘best’ film here, so maybe it’s just my current stresses making me wish for simpler entertainment, but I did have a lot of fun watching The Meg.

Least Favourite Film of the Month
When the rumour broke that Robert Pattinson was going to be the next Batman, some people on social media joked that he’d already done a great Bruce Wayne movie. Or maybe they weren’t joking, I don’t know. Anyway, the movie in question was Cosmopolis, which I’d been meaning to get round to, so I did, and I hated it. My Letterboxd comments are here.

Most Destructive Giant Monster of the Month
My May was incidentally filled with monsters of all different types: sharks from the sea, giant prehistoric sharks from the sea, giant prehistoric radioactively-enhanced dinosaur-like creatures from the sea… Also vampires, zombies, and alien robots… But worst of all was definitely the KKK in BlacKkKlansman.

Most Vivid Reminder of Stuff I Watched Years Ago of the Month
A few years back I reviewed the RKO film series starring the crime-solving character The Saint, which I continued by reviewing RKO’s follow-on series about The Falcon, and later covered the similarly-toned Thin Man series. So #91 to #93 this month brought back memories: The Kennel Club Murders stars The Thin Man’s William Powell as another murder-solving layman accompanied by his trusty dog (though neither had as much character as in the better-known series); The Saint was an attempt to reboot the character for a 2010s TV audience, later expanded into a feature-length film (and it’s as ropey as a rejected-pilot-turned-movie sounds); and Devil’s Cargo was an attempt to continue the Falcon series after a few years off, with a brand-new leading man and no continuity… but while it has a pretty poor rep, I actually thought it was a solid addition to the series.

The Audience Award for Most-Viewed New Post of the Month
In terms of site views, May 2019 is far and away my biggest month ever — it individually surpassed the totals for the entirety of 2012 (the first year for which I have these stats), 2013, 2014, 2015, and 2016. The driver of that was my reviews of Game of Thrones. What I said about the finale provoked lots of comments, and the number of hits it’s received in the past 10 days would normally mean it’d not just be the month’s top post, but already a lock for the most visited post of the year. But the TV post before that, which included my thoughts on Thrones episodes three and four, had an additional 13 days to rack up visitors during a time when it seemed like everyone was talking about the series. So it’s no real surprise that The Past Month on TV #46 is this month’s victor, as well as a likely candidate for the most-visited post of the year. In fact, it received enough hits in its first week to get into, not just my top posts of the week, or month, or even year, but my all-time top ten! (It’s wound up as 4th all-time for now.)


I finally gave the directors page header image its annual update this month (it was due in January but I kept just not getting round to it). For those who don’t know, it displays the 20 directors with the most number of films I’ve reviewed.

What were this year’s changes? Woody Allen is gone, for the first time since I started the page, and Tarantino’s out too. But I had seven directors tied for the last three slots. So, David Lynch went as well, because I often like an “all change” approach; John Carpenter and Tony Scott have been on the banner before, so I ruled them out for similar reasons; and also the Coen brothers, because I wasn’t entirely sure how to fit them both in. That meant the new additions were: Stanley Kubrick (those “one per year”s finally built up!), Richard Linklater, and M. Night Shyamalan. I also changed a couple of the other photos, just to give it a bit of a refresh (specifically: Ron Howard, Christopher Nolan, and Robert Zemeckis).



This has continued apace too…

#17 The Matrix Revolutions (2003)
#18 Ghostbusters II (1989)
#19 John Wick: Chapter 2 (2017)
#20 Hairspray (2007)

I rewatched each of the Matrix movies a month apart, which would be kinda neat if I’d actually planned to do that. More thoughts at the above link. I’ll save what I thought of Ghostbusters II for when I give it the same “guide to” treatment.

I rewatched John Wick 2 ready for the third, then haven’t had a chance to see it. For some reason I felt no desire to rewatch the original as well, which is weird because, while they’re pretty equal in quality, I’d say the first one is slightly better on balance.

Finally, that’s my fourth viewing of Hairspray, which probably makes it one of my most regularly rewatched films now — it’s been four years since I last saw it, and before that the gaps between viewings were three years each time, and that’s pretty often and repeatedly by my standards!


No time for trips to the cinema again this month, so I missed the likes of John Wick: Chapter 3, the live-action remake of Aladdin, and just-released Godzilla: King of the Monsters. Maybe next week.

I’m sure Netflix have added some stuff that ought to be on my watchlist but I also haven’t had time for. And naturally my Blu-ray collection has grown (when doesn’t it?), but right now I can’t actually remember what with (normally I’d have a pile somewhere nearby, but that’s all packed).

Also on the way out is my V+ box. For the past couple of months I’ve been listing some of what’s recorded on it that I haven’t got round to, and so here’s the final batch of that: Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call – New Orleans, Camelot, Chef, Colombiana, The Counsellor, Dead of Night, The Dressmaker, Elizabeth, The Ghoul, The Innocents, Joy, The Love Witch, Only Yesterday, Rare Exports, Ruby Sparks, The Servant, Straight Outta Compton, and Supercop. Whew!


With all that’s going on in my life right now, will June be the first month since May 2014 where I watch fewer than ten new films? I need at least six to make it to #100…