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Who is the Saint? "Well, not the man who knows everything, just the man
who knows the important things."
George Sanders is the mysterious, charming and dangerous Simon Templar: "You're important to methat's why I know you," he explains to an annoyed Wendy Barrie, whom he has just forcibly escorted from a nightclubmoments before the cops arrive to investigate a murder.
Sanders is perfect as the Saint: a droll wit, a cad, an underdog, a shrewd tactician who is not afraid to take a risk. And that Sanders voice!
Wendy Barrie is also fine as the hard-edged daughter of a policeman. Her father was framed by a fellow cop and died in disgrace; Barrie is out to exact some revenge for her father by stirring up trouble for the department. Sanders explains her plot nicely to the investigating officers: "She thinks he got a dirty deal from the police so she's enlisted a bunch of second rate crooks to annoy you."
The Saint is on the scene as one who always takes an interest in rooting out corruption; in this case, his sense of adventure and interest in justice have brought him all the way to San Francisco.
The supporting cast includes great character actors who all do their jobs: Jerome Cowan is a cop who's obviously mixed up in the dirty business somehow; Neil Hamilton is another detective; Barry Fitzgerald is "Zipper," a small time crook impressed with Sanders' style ("I never seen such a cop").
Jonathan Hale is again on hand as Inspector Fernack, the old pro who has had dealings with Templar in the past. His relationship with the Saint is of course complicatedone minute he is sticking up for Templar's motives and methods, not much later he is (momentarily) convinced that Templar is the mastermind behind the whole San Francisco setup.
Besides the great cast, this film features a strong script and is beautifully photographeda very classy B mystery.
You have to stay wide awake to follow the plot convolutions of THE
SAINT STRIKES BACK and by the time it reaches its final scene you may
lose your way keeping track of a number of undeveloped characters whose
names are bandied about with such nonchalance that in the end it hardly
matters when you discover who the main culprit is.
The plot revolves around hard-boiled dame WENDY BARRIE who's surrounded herself with gangsters in order to avenge the death of her father. Barrie gives the kind of performance that should have made her a femme fatale in a number of B-films, but nothing more than that. She's a one note actress if ever there was one.
Fortunately, the script is graced by the presence of GEORGE SANDERS, who can deliver a crisp line with so much bite and sarcasm that it's fun to see him using his verbal wit on some unsavory characters. NEIL HAMILTON makes no impression whatsoever in a colorless role as a man supposedly in love with Barrie, but BARRY FITZGERALD turns up to put some spice into the story, at least in the last half of the film.
It's strictly formula stuff intended to entertain as a programmer in the late '30s and offers nothing very original or new to make it anything more than something of passing interest.
George Sanders makes his first appearance as the Saint in this film and all
I can think is: "Hey, It's Addison DeWitt, private eye!" Because this Saint
is nothing but snide, more prone to shoot off a cutting remark than a gun.
Did Sanders ever make a movie where you didn't get the feeling he was
slumming? Where you didn't get the feeling it pained him to be surrounded by
such fools? (Making one wonder, then, why the hell he married Zsa Zsa
Gabor.) Playing opposite as the romantic interest is Wendy Barrie, who comes
off as more hard-boiled than a two-hour egg. Then, of course, Barrie was a
pretty tough broad, having been Bugsy Siegel's girl before Virginia "I'll
put my mouth where the money is!" Hill came along. This was also the first
of Barrie's three appearances in the Saint series, although she played a
different character each time.
But what of the film itself? Well, there's not much to say--the plot is confusing the minor characters difficult to tell apart and the visuals not particularly interesting. The real enjoyment in this picture comes from Sander's deadly wit and Barrie's remarkable aura of toughness.
It's not too bad a b movie, with Sanders, Barrie, Hale, Cowen,
Hamilton, Gargan, Fitzgerald and even Willie Best we could be either
with Charlie Chan, Moto, the Falcon, Blackie, Holmes or the Saint etc.
In other words you get the chance to spend another hour in the company
of some old friends, from plain to urbane, murdering and being murdered
- always a pleasure in my book.
Barrie's a hard-boiled dame out to avenge and clear her framed and dead father, a police detective by planning and carrying out with her coterie a string of underworld assassinations. Which would surely have had the opposite effect! Sanders joins in the fun simply by dancing in the right club in the right place in the right city at the right time with the right lighting falling on both him and the first killer (at the right time!) and killing him.
The story and acting's OK, the only gripe I've got is near the end with the hurried and almost laughable discovery of who the evil genius (Waldeman) was - did they almost forget about his relevance in the plot? That said, a solid entry in the series.
This is not George Sanders' best "Saint" movie by any stretch("The Saint
London" gets that honor). Instead we get an average low-budget mystery
that has very few surprises. George Sanders is introduced to us as Simon
Templar in this movie. Sanders plays him as a suave, urbane and
sophisticated hero, rarely caught off guard("not the man who knows
everything, just the man who knows the important things"). Unfortunately
script in this production lets him down. Not only is it less than
it also tends to be needlessly confusing. Wendy Barrie plays the female
lead(as she did in two other Sanders-Saint films)but she is much too
I don't have a problem with her playing the character as a tough-as-nails
femme-fatale but I think Barrie overdoes it and the result is that her
character loses credibility. Neil Hamilton (commissioner Gordon on TV's
Batman) plays one of Barrie's associates in crime like some kind of
effeminate twit. This undermines what should be a strong bond between him
and Barrie. The "surprise" ending is very, very weak and anyone who has
guessed it well in advance has obviously not been paying attention
There is one great sequence that almost makes the film worth seeing. It occurs when Inspector Fernack(Jonathan Hale) has a bout of indigestion and hallucinates about Lobsters riding trucks(!!). Salvator Dali eat your heart out.
Above mentioned sequence and Sanders are the only reasons to bother with this one (unless you want to see Wendy Barrie chewing on the scenery). I give it 5 lobsters out of 10.
"The Saint Strikes Back" (1939) is directed by a young John Farrow, who
would not only go onto to make film noir classics like "The Big Clock"
(1948), "Alias Nick Beal" (1949) and "Where Danger Lives" (1950), but
he would win an Oscar for writing the screenplay for Michael Todd's
multi-award winning "Around the World in Eighty Days" (1956). So, not
only do you have a notable director at the beginning of his career
here, but George Sanders in his first role as The Saint, eleven years
away from getting the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for "All
About Eve" (1950). Also, there are quite a few familiar faces in the
picture: Jerome Cowan, Barry Fitzgerald and Jonathan Hale, all of whom
would be active in the motion picture business in the forthcoming
decade. So, historically, quite an important film. But there's a lot
more to it than just recognisable names. The photography, by Frank
Redman, is striking, an impressively long shot at the very beginning of
the movie in particular, is a cut above the rest. The acting too, is
polished and professional.
On the other hand, the screenplay, written by John Twist, from Leslie Charteris's "She Was a Lady" (1931), credited in the film as "Angels of Doom", while it moves briskly along, is a tad confusing. For the life of me, I couldn't tell you who did what and why in this film. But this doesn't detract form the enjoyment, and in a perverse way, it enhances it. It's not the best of its kind, but this proto-noir is certainly worth a watch.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Leslie Charteris' series of novels of the adventures of the slightly
shady Simon Templar ("The Saint") was brought to the screen in the late
1930s with the up and coming George Sanders as Templar. It was a
careful choice - Sanders usually would play villains with occasional
"nice roles" (ffoliott in FOREIGN CORRESPONDENCE, the title hero in THE
STRANGE CASE OF UNCLE HARRY, the framed "best friend" of Robert
Montgomery in RAGE IN HEAVEN). Here his willingness to bend the rules
and break a law briefly fit his "heavy persona", while his good looks
and suave behavior made Templar a fit shady hero like Chester Morris'
"Boston Blackie", and (to an extent) Peter Lorre's "Mr. Moto".
The films are not the best series of movie mystery serials - but they are serviceable. Like Rathbone's Holmes series or Oland's Chan's series the show frequently had actors repeating roles or playing new ones (the anti-heroine in the film here was played by Wendy Barrie, who would show up in a second film in the series). This, and slightly familiar movie sets make the series a comfortable experience for the viewers, who hear the buzz of the dialog (always showing Sanders' braininess in keeping one step ahead of the bad guys), without noting the obvious defects of the plot. All these mysteries have defects due to the fact that even the best writers of the genre can't avoid repeating old ideas again and again and again.
Here the moment when that happened was when one of the cast admitted his affection for Barrie, which she was long aware of. Shortly after he tries to protect her from the police. But as the film dealt with the identity of a criminal mastermind, it became obvious that this person was made so slightly noble as to merit being the mysterious mastermind (i.e., the script disguised him as the least likely suspect).
Barrie is after the proof that her father (who died in prison) was framed by the real criminals in a robbery gang. She has several people assisting her - mugs like William Gargan - and she gets advice from the mastermind on planning embarrassing burglaries that can't be pinned on her. The D.A. who got her father convicted (Jerome Cowan) is determined to get Barrie and her gang. The only detective who seems to have a chance to solve the case is Jonathan Hale, who is shadowing Sanders but reluctantly working with him.
The cast has some nice moments in the script - Hale (currently on a special diet) is tempted to eat a rich lobster dinner made for Sanders by Willie Best. He gets a serious upset stomach as a result, enabling Sanders and Barrie to flee Sanders' apartment. Best has to remind him (when he feels better) to head for a location that Sanders told him to go to at a certain time.
There is also an interesting role for Gilbert Emery. Usually playing decent people (like the brow-beaten husband in BETWEEN TWO WORLDS) he plays a socially prominent weakling here - whose demise is reminiscent of that of a character in a Bogart movie.
On the whole a well made film for the second half of a movie house billing in 1939. It will entertain you even if it does not remain in your memory.
I've just seen The Saint Strikes Back for the first time and found it
quite good. This was George Sanders's first appearance as the Saint,
where he replaces Louis Hayward.
In this one, the Saint is sent to San Francisco to investigate a shooting at a night club. With the help of his acquaintance Inspector Fernack who has come down from New York, they help a daughter of a crime boss.
Joining Sanders in the cast are Wendy Barrie and Jonathan Hale.
Not a bad Saint movie. Worth seeing.
Rating: 3 stars out of 5.
When Simon Templar (aka The Saint) helps self-styled crime boss and
daughter of a disgraced cop Val Travers to get away from a nightclub
after they were both involved in a shooting. The police connect Templar
to the shooting and call in Inspector Fernack from New York to bring
him in. Meanwhile Templar gets on the wrong side of Travers and earns
her vengeance while also trying to get to the bottom of the mystery
surrounding her father's fall from grace at the hands of an internal
Following on from the hard edge and anti-hero approach of The Saint when he was in New York, this film cannot help but feel like much more of a sedentary affair with a more liberal approach perhaps befitting the San Francisco setting. That said the film still has a nice feel to it that makes it just a shade better than the b-movie series generally achieved from this point onwards. Much of the credit should probably lie with Farrow's direction because he does give it quite a professional and gritty atmosphere. The story is quite good although not anywhere near as engaging as it should have been and I must admit that at times I drifted away as it lacked a consistent hook to keep me watching.
Coming in to replace Hayward, Sanders was never really going to do it for me as I already knew him to be all about the smoothness and the suaveness and it didn't surprised me when his criminal edge was played down to almost nothing and he turned in the sort of performance that made him vastly inferior to the original Saint (in my mind anyway). Support is pretty good from Val Travers not quite a femme fatale perhaps but certainly a tough woman when required. Hale is OK while people like Elliot, Fitzgerald etc all fill in around the edges.
Overall a well-directed film that is a reasonable stab at continuing the series but, for reasons that are perhaps obvious, scaling down the mean edge the original had. Problem is that I liked this about the original film and found this film lacking teeth for being smooth without the savage. Sanders is a nice lead but he cannot lift the material and the end result is a standard b-movie that will please fans of The Saint and The Falcon.
I love B-detective series films like Charlie Chan, Sherlock Holmes and The Falcon. Sure, they are mighty predictable, but there is also a certain charm and sense of fun about them that is hard to beat. While the Saint series is not my favorite, I have always enjoyed them because I love seeing George Sanders so gracefully navigate himself through the mystery--he was the epitome of cool and sophisticated. Because of this, I often find myself watching the film for his performance but caring little for the actual mystery (so many of them seem similar). However, in this dull effort, I just couldn't get past the lifeless plot and lack of decent supporting characters. Compared to most of the other films in this series, this might just be the worst, though I did appreciate how the film made reference to the prior film (starring Louis Hayward)--giving the film a sense of continuity and context. Now this isn't to say it's bad--but unfortunately, it is only a time-passer and not a whole lot more.
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