What to Watch Saturday: The Saint Strikes Back

The Saint Strikes Back (1939)

I was quite thrilled to find one of the Saint movies airing on TCM this weekend and was thrown back into memories of a couple years ago when I watched probably all of the films in the series. The Saint Strikes Back is the either the first or second in a series of five films (The Saint in London was released the same year) George Sanders did about Simon Templar, a rogue detective who goes by the nickname “the saint”.

Sanders does a superb job as our charming and witty sleuth. In a similar vein as the Thin Man movies, the Saint is a somewhat reluctant detective. He is an amateur in the profession –though you wouldn’t know it from his attitude– but is often roped into participating in cases. Nevertheless he will end up working with and against the police in each of these films, usually getting himself incriminated in the murders along the way.

I guess Templar, who was created in the novels of Leslie Charteris, was called the Saint because his initials are ST. He also has a logo of sorts seen to the left that he draws and leaves behind in various places along his detecting. Although his origin is generally unknown, it seems he probably has a criminal past that allows him superior skills in solving cases.

Sanders also did a number of Gay Falcon movies playing Gay Lawrence, a detective known as, you guessed it, “the falcon”. These were similar to the Saint stories but of a lower quality. In both series, Sanders’ characters are either dating or engaged to a girl throughout but manage to entangle themselves with other women along their mystery-solving way.

The actor made a fine detective, especially one not restricted by lawful employment. He is highly believable as the smart, sexy sleuth and one can’t but wish he was poking around in her affairs today. The stories are also very funny and Sanders delivers the dialogue well.

Sanders was far from the only actor to play the Saint, however. Sixteen films were produced in the U.S., France and Australia, most recently with Val Kilmer in 1997′s The Saint. Needless to say, I’ll never be seeing THAT one, thank you.

Tragically, neither the Saint movies nor the Falcon ones are available on DVD. The novels too for the Saint are not readily available through a mainstream retailer, from what I can tell. So, the best we can do is watch The Saint Strikes Back and hope TCM comes through with some more.

  • The Saint Strikes Back is set for 6 a.m. Saturday July 16 on TCM.

One Response

  1. Rachel, I’ve been meaning to tell you how much I enjoyed your post about THE SAINT STRIKES BACK (TSSB), so I’m doing it now before I get distracted by Heaven-knows-what! How cool that TSSB was directed by John Farrow, one of my favorite directors! By the way, this was the first SAINT movie starring George Sanders, a.k.a. Team Bartilucci’s King of Suave. :-) Louis Hayward played Simon Templar first, but I believe Sanders played him the longest. And what a great cast! In addition the witty, wily Sanders, there was the delightful Barry Fitzgerald as spur-of-the-moment partner in crime (well, more like crime prevention with a playful touch); Jerome Cowan, better known to fans of the awesome 1941 version of THE MALTESE FALCON as the ill-fated Miles Archer; and BATMAN’s Neil Hamilton (young!) as the fellow who’s sweet on vengeful Wendy Barrie (who played Sanders’ leading lady in several SAINT films, though never as the same character, for some reason).

    With Barrie playing Val Travers, I felt a little sorry for her. Along with everything else she must contend with, she even ends up getting involved with murder on New Year’s Eve! Better she should have celebrated her San Francisco New Year at The Lychee Club in AFTER THE THIN MAN instead of The Colony Club; murderers always spoil even the best parties! :-) And then there’s poor Inspector Fernack (Jonathan Hale), whose seafood sensitivity lays him low long enough for Simon and Val to run out on him. Now if he’d had a full-tilt food allergy instead, Fernack would have been in serious trouble! (Can you tell we have food allergies in our family? :-)) Anyway, nice post, Rachel!

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