The Saint, created by Leslie Charteris, hit movie theaters in 1938 with Louis Heyward in the title role. George Sanders took over in 1939 and played the Saint in five films. This Warner Archives collection collects all five films on a two DVD set.
The films, are somewhat above average B movie fare. The Saint is a figure who walks very close to the edge of the law and is as often hunted by the police as he is the hunter of criminals. Each film includes the Saint teaming up with some recently formed though not all too bright criminal.
The films really work thanks to Sander’s debonair portrayal of the Saint as well as some great supporting characters in the typical roles of police, sidekick, and leading lady. In four of the five films Jonathan Hale plays the affable and sympathetic Inspector Fernack who is often torn between his sense of duty and his friendship for the Saint and also serves as a comic foil. Paul Guifoyle plays a criminal who reforms in The Saint Takes Over and then appears as the same character who is now a house detective in The Saint in Palm Springs. Finally, Wendy Barrie plays three different female leads in the first, fourth, and fifth films.
With that said, here are my thoughts on each film>
The Saint Strikes Back: The Saint helps a female mob boss escape from the scene of a shooting, then flies back to New York to contact Inspector Fernack and get him out to San Francisco with many in San Francisco wanting Fernack to come out any way because it’s suspected the Saint’s involved in the murder. The Saint tries to ensure justice is done and to reform the female mob boss who became a crime boss after she believed her father was framed for murder. The plot’s a bit convulted but really it’s a well executed and tight story that that wraps up nicely in a little more than hour. Grade: B+
The Saint in London: The Saint returns to London, hires a pickpocket as a valet, and then is called into a case by an old friend that involves kidnapping, embezzlement, and of course, murder. This is just a very fun movie. Sally Gray is great as the adventurous female lead. David Burns is good as the Saint’s sidekick, Dugan and Gordon Macleod does very well as Inspector Claude Teal of Scotland Yard. This was just a solid film overall. Grade: A-
The Saint’s Double Trouble: Easily the weakest of Sanders’ five films as the Saint has a double who happens to be a crime boss. The film does have some good moments, but in most places the movie seems kind of forced and silly and not in a good way. Bela Lugosia can’t even save this one. In addition, the casting of the film’s heroine and sidekick were the worst of the series. Grade: C-
The Saint Takes Over: With Fernack framed for murder, the Saint once again journeys through the New York underworld but finds himself as a race against crime as potential witnesses who can save Fernack keep dying off. This film also presents the Saint with the toughest dilemma in his career and perhaps most downbeat ending in the series. Grade: A
The Saint in Palm Springs: Fernack asks the Saint to guard a $200,000 postage stamp for a friend and deliver it to Palm Springs. The friend is killed but the Saint is determined to ensure the stamp reaches the dead man’s heir. The Saint goes to Palm Springs determined to deliver the stamp and reveal the characters. Overall, this was a fun suspense story with something as tiny as a postage being the desired object, it was always a question as to where it was and who had it, as well as whodunit. The Saint shows a lot of cleverness, unfortunately he also shows a lot of stupidity as he exposes himself and others to unnecessary peril. Still, this was entertaining with a great reveal at the end. Grade: B
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Overall, this was a very enjoyable collection and a great opportunity to see George Sanders at his best. While the films aren’t perfect, they are really enjoyable.
Rating: 4.0 out of 5.0
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