|The Black Falcon goes into action!|
FLYING G-MEN (15 chapter Columbia serial/1939). Directors: James W. Horne; Ray Taylor.
Four famous sky hawks have now become G-Men, working for the Air Division of the FBI/Department of Justice. Their assignment is to track down the members of a deadly espionage ring and discover who its leader is. When their friend Ed McKay (William Lalley), who's invented a remote control pilot-less bomber, is killed, they vow to track down his murderer with the aid of his young son, Billy (Sammy McKim), and grown sister, Babs (Lorna Gray). The sky hawks decide that one of them should take on the costumed identity of the Black Falcon, so that he can sort of operate outside the law and really get the goods on the bad guys. One of the foursome is killed off in the first chapter, leaving Hal (Robert Paige), Bart (Richard Fiske), and John (James Craig) to become the Falcon. [Hiding the identity of the hero as opposed to the villain had been done the year before in The Lone Ranger, and later in The Masked Marvel.] It is hard not to notice the resemblance between the Black Falcon and comic books' Blackhawk, but the latter character did not actually appear until 1941 [Republic did a serial version of Blackhawk in 1952], meaning the Black Falcon came first. Although the individual cliffhangers tend to be nothing special, Flying G-Men is still a very fast-paced and highly entertaining serial, with lots of lively fist-fights and some exciting aerial action as well. Paige makes an appealing protagonist, and Fiske and Craig are stalwart enough as his colleagues. Lorna Gray would have to wait three years until Perils of Nyoka to make an impression as the evil Vultura; in this she isn't given enough to do. An uncredited Tom Steele has some dialogue passages early in the serial as a bad guy, and Nestor Paiva turns up as one of the saboteurs. Sidney Cutner's rousing music complements the action beautifully. Paige was in Blonde Ice and Son of Dracula; Fiske did The Spider's Web and Perils of the Royal Mounted; and James Craig was in everything from Winners of the West to The Cyclops. Young McKim was also in Dick Tracy's G-Men.
Verdict: Punch-fests and action galore! ***.