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Category:    Home > Reviews > Mystery > Detective > Troubleshooter > Comedy > Superhero > Anime > Spy > Telefilm > The Falcon Mystery Movie Collection, Volume Two (1944 – 1946/Warner Archive DVDs)/Iron Man: Rise Of Technovore (2012/Marvel Comics/Sony Blu-ray)/Wonder Woman (1974 TV Movie/Pilot/Warner Archive DVD)

The Falcon Mystery Movie Collection, Volume Two (1944 – 1946/Warner Archive DVDs)/Iron Man: Rise Of Technovore (2012/Marvel Comics/Sony Blu-ray)/Wonder Woman (1974 TV Movie/Pilot/Warner Archive DVD)

 

Picture: C+/B-/C+     Sound: C+/B-/C+     Extras: D/C+/D     Main Programs: C/C+/B-

 

 

PLEASE NOTE: The Falcon and Wonder Woman DVDs are only available from Warner Bros. through their Warner Archive series and can be ordered from the links below.

 

 

We have an interesting selection of hero-driven releases that you may not have heard of, even if you have heard of the characters.

 

 

In 1938, RKO Radio Pictures started a series of films based on Leslie Charteris’ The Saint and the nine films made were successful, even if they had three different actors playing Simon Templar.  Suddenly, the series stopped and RKO started making films of The Falcon.  He was like The Saint, so much so that Charteris sued RKO claiming they switched characters to stop playing him royalties and own the case.  Still, RKO would make 10 Falcon films and The Falcon Mystery Movie Collection, Volume Two (1944 – 1946) features the last six.

 

They are all with Tom Conway as Tom Lawrence aka The Falcon and include The Falcon Out West (1944), The Falcon In Mexico (1944), The Falcon In Hollywood (1944, directed by Gordon Douglas), The Falcon In San Francisco (1945, directed by Joseph H. Lewis), The Falcon’s Alibi (1946) and The Falcon’s Adventure (1946).  Though mildly amusing, these are not great films or even fun detective series films, not even having the energy of the Monogram Charlie Chan films, so Charteris should consider that RKO did him and The Saint a favor if this is where those films would have been going.

 

They have only aged so well, are too formulaic, flat and just going through the motions.  I did not remember them and can see why.  Elisha Cook, Jr. shows up in Alibi, while Barbara Hale shows up in a few and Jason Robards even turns up in two of them.  These are curios at best, but they all could have been better.  The Falcon was always a copy of The Saint and even Bulldog Drummond, a character Conway would go on to play twice in 1948!

 

There are no extras in this Warner Archive DVD set and the first four films are also available from them in the Volume One set.

 

 

Hiroshi Hamasaki’s Iron Man: Rise Of Technovore (2012) continues the interesting side productions by Marvel Comics to have their key characters done in the Anime mode, this one coming from Madhouse, Inc. and nicely joining the several other animated rendering of the character of late that have all been watchable if not spectacular.  Here, Tony Stark and company have a new villain of the title to contend with, but we also get The Punisher, Hawkeye and Black Widow joining in in different ways and in designs that are not what we have seen before.

 

That has its advantages and disadvantages, but it is nice to have it done differently.  This will not be to everyone’s tastes, but is different enough that there is enough room for this interpretation in the ever-growing Marvel Universe and is worth a good look.

 

Extras include a Blu-ray exclusive Concept Art Gallery plus Ultraviolet Copy for PC, PC portable and iTunes capable devices and two featurettes: Tale Of Technovore and S.H.I.E.L.D.: Protecting The Marvel Universe.

 

 

Vincent McEveety is a longtime journeyman director who worked on plenty of classic Disney feature films and hit (and cult) TV shows throughout his career.  He also helmed the 1974 Wonder Woman TV movie that was to serve as a pilot for a series, but did not work out.  Why?  TV was just not ready for a female heroine on her own, but the makers of this film actually rejected Linda Carter because they wanted to do something different and in part, follow the spy storyline from the late 1960s comics where Wonder Woman becomes a spy and even gets rid of her outfit!

 

Cathy Lee Crosby, the beautiful blonde tennis player turned actress, was cast instead to further make a difference from the iconic look of the character and because that look failed to sell a series in 1967 via a pilot film that did not work.  Diana Prince in this case is still secretary to Steve Trevor (Kaz Garas of Special Report, perfectly cast here) in a relationship that I believe hints at more than just friends.  I also believe parts of this film influenced a few scenes in Tarantino’s Kill Bill films, but that’s another essay.

 

When a serious spy case might be too much for the male agents under Trevor to handle, he gets “Di” (as he calls her) to look into it and finds secret codes and the lives of fellow agents may be in serious jeopardy.  This brings her into several deadly situations, two evil masterminds (Andrew Prine, Ricardo Montalban) behind the plot, a Paradise Island sister turned enemy (Anitra Ford) and other surprises that make this an ambitious, mature and unusual take on the character aimed at adults as much as anyone else.

 

The character was already enjoying new life on ABC though the Hanna-Barbera-produced animated megahit Superfriends! (reviewed elsewhere on this site), so it is a further mystery why at least a few episodes were not ordered just to see what would happen.  I like the approach and think it works better than it got any credit for.  The teleplay by John D. F. Black is more solid than you think if you really follow it.  He also wrote the original Shaft, Trouble Man, Carey Treatment and fine episodes of Room 222, Mission: Impossible, Star Trek, Mary Tyler Moore and Delvecchio, so he has a solid history of genre writing and much more.

 

Of course, Crosby is very beautiful, sexy and appealing throughout.  This is very good work for its time and she plays the character in part like Honey West or Diana Rigg’s Emma Peel from The Avengers, yet also gets the exotic thinking off the character correct as Carter would when she inherited the role.  I wonder if any other scripts for this version were penned?

 

Either way, this is a key piece of DC Comics and Wonder Woman history, underrated and in this new DVD version, worth going out of your way for.  There are unfortunately no extras.

 

 

The 1080p 1.78 X 1 digital High Definition image transfer on Iron is very good, but because it is in the Anime style, we get many shots of bleached white images that hold back picture fidelity overall, but this is the ay this is supposed to look and I doubt it could look any better.  The 1.33 X 1 black and white prints and images on the Falcon films look good on their respective DVDs with good Gray Scale and Video Black for the format.

 

The full color 1.33 X 1 image on Wonder Woman is the most pleasant surprise here, showing just how good the color is on the film in ways you could never see before unless you had a film print.  The Director of Photography on the telefilm was actually Joseph F. Biroc, A.S.C., whose work includes everything from It’s A Wonderful Life to Red Planet Mars to the 3D classic Bwana Devil to Donovan’s Brain to Viva Las Vegas with Elvis Presley (see the Warner Blu-ray elsewhere on this site) to the original Flight Of The Phoenix, original Longest Yard, Tony Rome and Hush… Hush, Sweet Charlotte. He gives the TV movie a distinct look and one that is consistent and has some form.  His work here is a bit underrated and color can be wider ranging than the Iron Man Blu-ray.

 

The DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) Japanese 5.1 lossless mix on Iron is the best soundtrack here as expected, especially since it is the only new and newly made release on this list, but some of the sound effects are not what they should be and the mix can sometimes favor the front speakers, but that is better than the English dub version which is worse in this respect.  The lossy Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono on the DVDs are just fine for their age and sound as good as they could in that format.

 

 

To order The Falcon or Wonder Woman, go to this link for it and many more great web-exclusive releases at:

 

http://www.warnerarchive.com/

 

and for Wonder Woman, look up “Cathy Lee Crosby” or try this link:

 

http://www.wbshop.com/product/wonder+woman+1974+1000375453.do?sortby=ourPicks&from=Search

 

 

-   Nicholas Sheffo


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