The Final RKO Saint Films
7 - 9
The Saint's Vacation (1941) - 6.0
After The Saint in Palm Springs, RKO decided to produce the next two Saint
films in England in order to take advantage of some tax credits. George Sanders
decided not to go along with it. This being 1941, one can understand his
decision. Sanders went on to appear in The Falcon series, which was The Saint
by another name. Taking over for Sanders is the spindly debonair mustached
Hugh Sinclair having a slightly different take on Simon Templar. Gone is
the smug, smirkey superior attitude that Sanders brought to it - something
he was very good at - as Sinclair plays him fairly straight, classy, very
low key, a step ahead of everyone but not at all smug about it. He plays
Templar in both films.
This is actually not bad at all - I wasn't expecting it to be up to Saint
standards but it is. It is snappy, well-plotted, good characters, quick as
a jack rabbit at 61 minutes, has a touch of The Lady Vanishes about it but
best for me was the interplay between The Saint and the Villain (Cecil Parker)
in which the McGuffin becomes a test of will and quick thinking - but as
polite as an English game of cricket with guns. Parker had a velvety disdainful
voice and often got to play upper class snakes - but always with the style
befitting a gentleman. They match off well. The only drag on the film is
what so many of these series films did at the time - they pair Simon off
with an absolute idiot sidekick (Arthur MacRae) who is also a coward. You
just want to kick him in the pants. Late in the film after the sidekick is
captured by the gang, Parker says to him "Stop putting on this act. No one
could be that stupid". No act.
Templar goes off on a vacation with this idiot friend to Europe - which strikes
me as a strange thing to do in 1941 and a female reporter (Sally Gray) chases
after him in hopes of a big story. But there is no story. Templar really
is on vacation. That is until he sees a woman he knows who says she doesn't
know who Templar is and then he witnesses her hand something to another man
who drives off and who is quickly followed by Rudolph (Parker) and his gang.
From that point on it is a series of everyone trying to steal a box which
no one seems to even know what it is. In the end Teal shows up from Scotland
Yard played by Gordon McLeod, who also played Teal in the earlier The Saint
in London from two years before. Nice to see some continuity.
The Saint Meets the Tiger (1943) - 6.0
Following quickly on the heels of The Saint's Vacation (produced in 1941
but not released till 1943) is this one again starring Hugh Sinclair as the
Saint. This one is actually a throwback to the very first book in the Saint
series by Leslie Charteris titled Meet the Tiger. At the time Charteris was
only 20 years old and later criticized his first novel as being quite awful.
But it was a success and created a character that is still well-known today
- though I expect mainly from the TV show with Roger Moore. These two films
with Sinclair are part of the RKO series but not so well-known. There was
one more later Saint film that was distributed by RKO but they did not produce
it. It is The Saint Returns aka The Saint's Girl Friday made in 1953 starring
Louis Hayward. Hayward was in fact the very first Saint in his only other
appearance as the character in the 1938, The Saint in New York. Many Saint
fans like this one the best as the Saint was a cold blooded killer but once
George Sanders took over for the next film, the character was softened considerably.
I have come across a few comments in which viewers find Sinclair rather a
dull fellow but I like him fine. These two films feel much more British than
the ones made in Hollywood and it reflects that in his clipped proper English
and an understated performance. Think of actors like Donat or Colman as models.
Though this has more than a few clichés - the dying man at the doorway,
the man about to tell Templar the truth is murdered, the bad guys have Templar
a few times but don't kill him - but the film fights through these tried
and tired plot lines to be fairly enjoyable and fast moving.
A man calls Templar and tells him he has $1 million in gold and would Templar
like a cut. Sure. Come on over. He does but is dying from a shot and only
has time to say a few words - the tiger and Baycomb, a small seaside village.
Templar and his manservant Horace (Wylie Watson) take a cottage and begin
to nose around. He also runs into a local girl, Patricia Holm (Jean Gillie).
who was to become a regular character in the books but not in the films.
Scotland Yard is also investigating and Inspector Teal (Gordon McLeod) and
the Saint team up - sort of since the Saint always has an angle. Lots of
skullduggery going on in the town all to do with gold. 70 minutes.
The Saint's Girl Friday (1953) - 5.0
AKA - The Saint's Return
Though this Saint film was released ten years after the last one, The Saint
Meets the Tiger, it is still often unofficially thrown in as part of the
RKO series that ran from 1938 to 1943. This one wasn't produced by RKO but
they did distribute it and it stars Louis Hayward who appeared in the first
Saint film, The Saint in New York, fifteen years before. Hayward was no long
the baby-faced adventurer he was back then - the years seemed to have left
a strain on him. He had spent four years in the war in a photography unit
- but it apparently changed him - he was married to Ida Lupino but she said
he wasn't the same when he came back and they soon divorced. This is an English
production and the film takes place there with Teal still in the police force
and still harassing Templar. It is not as smooth or witty as the Saint films
could be - rougher, darker - times were changing.
Templar gets a telegraph from a friend that she needs his help and he takes
a flight to England only to find out that she died in a car accident - that
we know was not an accident. He discovers that she was deep in debt to some
gambling casino and investigates. Knocking some heads along the way. The
highlight comes in the form of Diana Dors in a towel. The blonde English
sex bomb is only on the screen for a few minutes but that will probably be
all I remember in a month. IMDB says it is 73 minutes long but my version
ran about 10 minutes shorter so it was probably an edited TV version. I hope
it wasn't Dors they edited out. It is ok - a bit too pat - and the bad guys
aren't very good at what they do.
There wasn't to be another legit English speaking Saint film until 1997 with
Val Kilmer, that I vaguely recall not liking that much, even with Elisabeth
Shue in it. There were a couple French Saint films in the 60s and of course
the TV show with Roger Moore.