'The Video Vacuum' has said of this film: "In the wake of Chinatown (1974)'s success, Hollywood went detective crazy. When they weren't remaking movies[,] old detective movies like 'Farewell My Lovely' [See: Murder, My Sweet (1944)], they were doing flicks that channeled the detective films of the 30's and 40. St. Ives (1976) is such a film. The main character isn't exactly a detective but he's involved in a case that isn't too far removed from the sort of predicament Phillip Marlowe frequently found himself in."
The meaning and relevance of this movie's 'St. Ives' title is that it refers to the last name of the movie's central character, Raymond St. Ives, played by Charles Bronson. The main American movie poster boasted that "Charles Bronson is Ray St. Ives" in its tagline. Bronson's earlier movie, Mr. Majestyk (1974), had also featured his character's surname as its movie title, but with the courtesy title of "Mr." included. Interestingly, the French version of this movie is called 'Monsieur St. Ives', which translates into the English language as, 'Mr. St. Ives'.
Of Charles Bronson in this movie, 'The New York Times' remarked that his ". . . sagging eyes and mustache make him look more and more like Fu Manchu." In film history, Bronson never played the Fu Manchu character in motion pictures.
This movie's MacGuffin are some stolen papers, documents, plans and ledgers which are owned by Abner Procane played by John Houseman. Interestingly, a few years before this movie was made, Houseman appeared in the The Paper Chase (1973) in which he won the Best Actor in a Supporting Role Academy Award Oscar. Charles Bronson's mission in this picture is to recover these papers, his charge being a kind of "paper chase" in a sense.