"I decided the best way to crack the case was to follow the smartest man involved in it. So I did. You believe me, don't you?" "I like you, which is much more important."
The Falcon series picks up a good head of speed with 1942's The Falcon Takes Over, which ditches most of the padding and lets the plot drive the picture. And it's a good one, which isn't too surprising considering it's the first screen version of Raymond Chandler's Farewell, My Lovely, with Philip Marlowe removed and replaced by Gay Lawrence. It's not the only change: rather than being hired by giant lug Moose Malloy to find his Velma, the Falcon is on the fringe of the case, getting involved almost on a whim while Moose remains a threatening figure on the sidelines. Parts of it aren't as well developed as they could be, like the phoney psychic blackmail scam fronted by an unbilled Turhan Bey, while Velma may be fatale but she's not quite the femme she could be and is easily outshone by Lynn Bari's would-be reporter who tags along and does much of the background work on the case. The unbilled Ward Bond doesn't have the natural physical presence that Mike Mazurki or Jack O'Halloran would bring to Moose Malloy, but he's a good enough stopgap.
RKO would make amends with a much more faithful version with Dick Powell only two years later - and people complain about the fast turnaround of remakes these days! - which makes this much easier to enjoy for all but the Chandler purists (there's even more studio recycling with the reuse of the song The First Time I Saw You from the studio's 1937 flop The Toast of New York). This time the dialogue really snaps, most of the best putdowns going to James Gleason as the cop on the case, the film races along nicely and, even if it isn't a classic, it's a very respectable programmer indeed. Most of the more than decent supporting cast aren't credited for some reason, but you'll find among their ranks Anne Revere, Hans Conreid and regular Laurel and Hardy foil Charlie Hall as a waiter who gets involved in a punchup. It's not as much fun as A Date With The Falcon [DVD], but it works almost as well on its own terms.
Sadly the picture quality on Odeon's UK PAL DVD isn't great - like all the BBC-owned RKO titles, this is a dupe of variable quality (the negatives for most of them are held in the USA), slightly overexposed in places and with some print damage at the end, but just about acceptable. However, if you can find a copy at a decent price you're better off with Warner Archive's US NTSC manufactured on demand DVD-R set Falcon Mystery Movie Collection 1 [DVD]  [Region 1] [US Import] [NTSC].
A nod to Raymond Chandler here in RKO's rival Falcon series does this entry no harm at all... George Sanders' penultimate outing as the womanising crime solver skips along nicely and Allen Jenkins is just brilliant as sidekick 'Goldie' Locke.
Must be compared with "Murder my sweet" ( Dick Powell) and "Farwell my lovely" ( Robert Mitchum ) based on the same Raymond Chandler story ("Farwell..."), The Falcon version is surprisingly faithfull to the book, and well acted. It's off course not as good as "Farwell..." with is the best Philip Marlow movie of them all. Mitchum is the perfect Marlow. But the Sanders is also good in one of the most serious Falcon-movies.