"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 (1975), they were doing flicks that channeled the detective films of the 1930s and 1940s. 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 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".
This movie's MacGuffin are some stolen papers, documents, plans, and ledgers, which are owned by Abner Procane (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. Charles Bronson's mission in this picture is to recover these papers, his charge being a kind of "paper chase" in a sense.
The children of Charles Bronson apparently brought a lawsuit against Warner Brothers for allegedly failing to declare profit points from the DVD and cable sales of this film, as they were entitled to residuals for their father's work. The matter is believed to have been settled out of court.
The film shares the same title of an unrelated unfinished 1897 novel by Robert Louis Stevenson, which has also been filmed about five times, including at least three versions for television. It's full title is "St. Ives: Being The Adventures of a French Prisoner in England".
One of two Charles Bronson movies that have a title, which is also the name of a work of literature, but is unrelated to that literary property. Hard Times (1975) is also the name of a 1854 Charles Dickens novel called "Hard Times", and St. Ives (1976) is also the name of a 1897 Robert Louis Stevenson short story named "St. Ives". The latter's full title is "St. Ives: Being The Adventures of a French Prisoner in England".
"The Overlook Film Encyclopedia: The Gangster Film" book states that Swedish auteur Director Ingmar Bergman visited the set during production, and apparently exclaimed that the movie's star Charles Bronson was "scandalously underestimated".
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.
The movie had several working titles, including "The Last Score", "St. Ives' Big Score", "St. Ives' Last Score", and "The Procane Chronicle", with the latter also being the name of the film's source novel by Ross Thomas (Oliver Bleeck).
Charles Bronson plays a "Denver Tribune" crime reporter in Messenger of Death (1988), evoking the crime writer character of Raymond St. Ives he played in this movie. Both films were directed by J. Lee Thompson.