Rage in Heaven

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Rage in Heaven (1941)

Rage in Heaven (1941)

Rage in Heaven has the distinction of a stellar cast and a clever and enticing plot, but it stops short of being a terrific movie merely by virtue of the time it puts into telling its story. It is not that the film feels rushed by any means, but it could have packed a bigger punch for audience members if it had drawn out the action and put more time into letting the narrative sink in. At around 85 minutes in run time, the picture definitely could have elongated its duration.

The story opens at a French mental asylum where a patient named Ward Andrews –whom we do not see– escapes. He suffers from a personality disorder that makes him emotionally detached and potentially capable of murder. In the next scene, we see one Ward Andrews, played by George Sanders, encounter his childhood and longtime best friend Philip Monrell, played by Robert Montgomery. The two reignite a friendship and Monrell invites his pal to his mother’s English estate where he is returning after some time in Paris, from where Andrews is also returning.

Upon arrival at Mrs. Monrell’s (Lucile Watson) home, Philip first encounters is mother’s new companion/secretary Stella Bergen, played by Ingrid Bergman. He is immediately captivated by her. The scene also alludes that Mrs. Monrell is anything but well. She convinces her son that he must finally take a role in the family-owned steel mill.

During the brief time Ward spends at the Monrell home, Stella becomes quite enthralled by him but declines to indicate any willingness to enter a relationship. When Ward leaves, followed by Mrs. Monrell’s retreat to a better climate, Philip works to convince Stella to marry him.

The couple are quite happy at first, but Philip becomes apparently upset by any creature that siphons away any affection Stella could instead shower upon him. He kills a kitten given to her by Ward, making it look like an accident but flying into a rage at the slightest suggestion by household staff that the circumstances seem odd.

At some point during the story it becomes plain that Philip was in fact the man in the French asylum, who assumed his friend’s name while there. His dispassionate personality and growing jealousy about his wife’s relationships –particularly her fondness for Ward– play out to an increasingly frightening degree. Philip invites Ward to visit and offers him a job as his chief engineer at the steel mill, only to attempt to kill him. The danger escalates for Ward and Stella and the plot takes an unexpected turn that puts Ward on death row.

Rage in Heaven does a great job of gradually revealing Philip’s insanity. What it does not do is draw out the suspense and drama associated with the twist in plot, which I am loathe to discuss here and spoil for those unfamiliar with the story. Suffice it to say, the movie would have been an excellent one if the last quarter of the film had been elongated.

Montgomery does a fantastic job; however, for those unfamiliar with his work, he might come off as a boring actor. Montgomery –who made a plethora of movies in the roll of wealthy playboy– is certainly cast against type here and pulls off his role by playing with a completely flat personality. The upbeat and sometimes zany performances we usually get out of the man are absent here as he works to play the emotionally bereft psychopath. So to the unknowing viewer, Montgomery’s performance might seem lackluster next to the typically stellar Bergman and Sanders.

At the close of Rage in Heaven, I could not help but think it would make an excellent remake. The story could be translated into modern times; however, there is a certain haste about the end of the story and the attempts to save Ward from his death that would be lost given modern technology. Still, a new version set in the 1940s would make for a delightful rendition, given certain changes to heighten the drama.

The Saint’s Double Trouble

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The Saint's Double Trouble (1940)

The Saint’s Double Trouble (1940)

RKO had three films based on Leslie Charteris’ The Saint books by 1940 and had found a great leading man for the role of Simon Templar in George Sanders. Charteris had come to Hollywood to help make the movies about the rogue detective, former crook and although he would contribute to the story of The Saint’s Double Trouble it was the first movie to not be based on one of the novels.

Perhaps for that reason, the story seems a bit out of joint with the other eight movies RKO ultimately made about Simon Templar. To its credit, however, the story starts out seeming straight forward, becomes confusing, and then reveals its plot ploy: a Saint look-alike.

Templar is in Philadelphia to pick up an item smuggled to recipient and long-time friend Professor Bitts (Thomas Ross). A pouch of jewels were hidden in a mummy delivered to the scientist that the reformed thief pockets easily enough. While at his friend’s home, he encounters the host’s lovely daughter Anne (Helene Whitney), who returns to Simon a ring he once gave her with his initials: S.T.

Also coincidentally in Philadelphia at the same time is New York’s Inspector Fernak, played by Jonathan Hale who repeatedly reprised this role in the RKO pictures. So when Professor Bitts ends up dead outside his home with the Saint’s ring on his finger and a note with Templar’s caricature on it, Fernack’s resistance to intervene is easily whittled away.

Meanwhile, Simon enters the basement room of a bar that is the secret hangout of a gang of jewel thieves/smugglers. The Saint informs his men he will go meet their guest –The Partner, played by Bela Lugosi– at the airport. Not too much later, the Saint returns and inquires of his mugs about the Partner’s arrival, causing great confusion for the men. It is at this point that we start to realize there is more than one Saint in this picture.

The remainder of the plot is an action-packed back and forth battle of wits and fists between Simon and his double, Boss Duke Bates. Anne naturally comes within harm’s way and is saved by our hero, who is captured and escapes from the gang multiple times.

Putting two George Sanderses on the screen at the same time was not accomplished with the same ease technology allows today. Only a few scenes feature the doubles together and are confined to the basement office of Boss Duke Bates. While Bates sits in the background at his desk, Templar is able to stand in front of it with the other two hoodlums. The latter three actors are performing in front of a screen on which the Boss’s image has been back projected. The trick is an obvious one as the background looks fainter and grainier than the real-life actors in front of it. In other instances, a body double is used to duplicate Sanders’ from behind.

The best part of the The Saint’s Double Trouble is the story’s main element, which frankly I did not see coming (despite having watched this movie years ago). Once it hits the viewer that there is more than one Sanders character in the scenario, it forces him to look back at the preceding scenes and try to determine whether the hero or the villain was in play. Perhaps the story is a silly one. The Boss does not realize the Saint is in town even though he is pinning a murder on the man, so it falls to coincidence that Simon is in town at the same time. But there is no coincidence in the stories of the Saint, so we must conclude that Simon has been aware of the smuggling and been following the case all along; however, this story point is not made evident.

Although The Saint’s Double Trouble has no source material in Charteris’ novels, it does tip its hat to one of the books via a newspaper headline reading: The Saint Wanted for Murder. It might not be the best in the Saint cannon of movies, but it is still full of fun with Sanders’ ever astute delivery of the witty dialogue for which Simon Templar is so famous.

The Saint in New York

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The Saint in New York (1938)

By 1938, the Saint had been alive in the novels of Leslie Charteris for 10 years, and although Simon Templar’s adventures largely take place overseas, Hollywood clearly could not resist the opportunity to make the first film adaptation set in its own country. The Saint in New York, RKO’s first of nine flicks based on the Saint, largely did justice to the book of the same title, in some ways seeming to draw the action directly off the pages of the novel.

Simon Templar, played by Louis Hayward, has arrived in New York after being approached abroad by William Valcross (Frederick Burton) who asks him to help clean up the corrupt city, led by cop-killing gangsters. It is that murderer who becomes Simon’s first victim. Jake Erboll intimidates witnesses into getting his case dismissed but does not get far before the Saint, dressed as a nun concerned for the man’s gunshot wound, takes him out. The proximity to the victim his get-up allows, gives Simon the opportunity to place his signature stick-figure drawing in Erboll’s hand.

Erboll was the first on a list of individuals Valcross has asked him to eliminate as a means to clean up the city. Simon will next visit Erboll’s attorney (in the book it was the judge on the case) Vincent Nather (Charles Halton) where, in a scene straight out of the novel, he will employ his ever-so-cool demeanor and abscond with $20,000, which comes with the name Papinoff (Ben Welden). The Saint also listens in on a phone call for Nather from a woman named Fay whose voice instantly enraptures the sleuth. She informs Nather the “Big Fellow” says to stay home tonight. Simon adds this mysterious man to his list.

Before he departs the lawyer’s home, the Saint and Nather are joined by Inspector Fernak, played expertly by Jonathan Hale. In relaying the telephone message, Simon causes the cop to become quite enraged at the attorney as he deduces Nather is under the thumb of the top hoodlum. The Saint joins Fernak in his car for their first tete-a-tete on his mission and gathers information about his next destination –as well as overhear a radio call about the kidnapping of the daughter of a wealthy New Yorker.

A guarded nightclub is where Simon seeks Papinoff, who will apprehend the Saint and deliver him to the next man up the ladder, Morrie Yule, who is holed up in a New Jersey house where the kidnapped girl is being kept. Showing his deft physical skills, the Saint kills one of the three men in the room with the knife they failed to discover was strapped to his forearm –a weapon the Saint always carries. In the now-darkened room, he is handed a gun by a woman he assumes to be Fay (Kay Sutton) and by the time he leaves the premises has killed another man and rescued the girl.

Although quite climactic, the scene is far from the end of the story. Simon will go on to meet the remaining men on his list and at one point be delivered to his execution only to be saved by a woman. The identity of the Big Fellow becomes the leading question of the story and his identity is definitely a surprise.

I appreciate that The Saint in New York sticks pretty closely with the book, making only minor alterations to the names of some characters and combining two gangsters into one. The book is so wonderfully suspenseful, however, that it is hard to appreciate the film version when you know more details about each scene than the screen tells you. It is nevertheless a great story, nicely complicated and entertaining.

Hayward does a good job portraying the Saint. He has the coolness of personality required, but probably no actor could portray just as physically skilled a man as Simon is meant to be. I will likely forever prefer George Sanders as the Saint, and had a hard time fully accepting Hayward. Part of this hurdle is because when reading the books I envision Simon as a tanner, blue-eyed Sanders. The character is meant to be particularly tall –as Sanders is– and is British (an accent Hayward lacked) and as witty as only Sanders can convey. Charteris would later say that he thought Sanders and Hayward were “hopelessly miscast” as his hero.

Lastly, Hale as Fernak is a great bit of casting. He is utterly calm and trusting in the Saint, whom he knows by reputation but has just met. The character is the same in the book, one of the cops Simon partners with and always manages to evade when he might actually be tapped for a crime. Hale went on to play Fernak in the George Sanders’ Saint movies that take place in New York –always the on-the-sidelines ally of Simon Templar.

Source: LeslieCharteris.com

Assignment–Paris

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Assignment–Paris (1952)

If we are to believe old movies, the occupation of a reporter was essentially synonymous with that of a detective. It’s the whole investigative journalist angle that often landed newspapermen in a heap of trouble trying to snare a story a.k.a. find the culprit. In Assignment–Paris, however, reporters go one step farther and become, in a word, spies.

George Sanders leads the pack of reporters in a story that if I hadn’t told you their occupation, you would think the characters are government agents. The paper in question is the New York Herald-Tribune’s Paris edition. Sanders as the editor in chief Nick Strang is finding out his new import is a bit of a wildcard but a great reporter. This Jimmy Race (Dana Andrews) tries to secure an interview with the Hungarian Ambassador at the same time the lovely Jeanne Moray (Marta Toren) is doing the same. Race is unaware she works for the same new outfit.

Race opts to romantically pursue Jeanne, who has declined to answer a proposal from Nick, but that is not what this story is about. Jeanne is a Hungarian who has just returned from Budapest on Nick’s request, but she leaves before she could get her hands on a photograph that is the only proof of a meeting between Hungarian Prime Minister Andreas Ordy and Yugoslavia’s President Tito. Jeanne is being followed by Hungarian agents, however, who suspect she has such evidence.

The plot also surrounds the spy trial of an American named Anderson, who is convicted and recorded admitting his crime in Hungary. Race is sent to Budapest to investigate further, and through clandestine means, ascertains that Anderson is dead. He cannot freely relay information back to Nick and instead telephones a coded story with the news. Race also manages to get his hands on the damning photograph. He is arrested by Hungarian authorities and tormented in days-long interviews. His words are recorded and edited to make it sound like he admits to being a spy.

The Hungarian authorities are also after a man in hiding in Paris, Gabor Chechi (Sandro Giglio), an escaped Hungarian national. In order to save Race, Gabor Chechi and the newspaper must make sacrifices.

Assignment–Paris is quite the exciting plot. It can be on the convoluted side, but keeping track of all the mentioned and actual characters is not as difficult as it might sound. As in most of these reporter-as-detective stories, both Jeanne and Race act like their duties come as no surprise and don’t differ from their usual activities. Being something close to a spy comes easily to Race as he finds a way to relay the photograph back to Paris.

The story is a bit much if we are to believe we are watching newspapermen. Sanders behaves as a top government official would, ordering his agents here and there to do more than objectively discover the truth, but to root it out to the ruin of a nation’s leaders. I’m not sure we ever see an actual newspaper with Race or Jeanne’s stories in it, further diluting their roles as reporters. I am not complaining, though. The high-stakes story is enthralling and goes miles beyond what reporters do today, not that I am advocating for their integral involvement in international politics.

The performances are excellent. Andrews is probably less sexy than some of this other roles, but he is still a great performer. Sanders is his usual, professional type character, but Toren brings the spice. This Ingrid Bergman-like exotic is gorgeous and captivating and does a great job as both a strong professional and a desirable woman. TCM has her listed as only appearing in a dozen movies, this being her third to last, which is too bad; she was quite a treat to watch.

The Gay Falcon

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The Gay Falcon (1941)

Despite the middle-of-the-road rating I feel compelled to give The Gay Falcon, the movie about retired freelance sleuth Gay Lawrence is far from dull. George Sanders brings a fun liveliness to the lead character who is comically rude to the women in his life and amusingly insulting to those around him.

The Gay Falcon was the first of four movies about the crime solver known as The Falcon that would star George Sanders (The later nine movies would start Tom Conway, Sanders’ brother, as Tom Lawrence, The Falcon’s brother.) But the origin of The Falcon character is suspiciously linked to Leslie Charteris’ The Saint. This movie was made after Sanders made five films as Simon Templar aka The Saint, who was a rogue crime solver who although on the side of the law, worked independently of the police. The story about Gay Lawrence not only featured Sanders and costar Wendy Barrie again but also the same writing crew at RKO that was responsible to the Sanders Saint movies. Charteris sued RKO claiming it had stolen his character. The final disposition in the suit has not be discovered.

But onto the story. Sanders’ Gay Lawrence is attempting to hold down a legitimate office job to appease his fiancée Elinor (Anne Hunter). When the duo go to a party, however, Lawrence is drawn into a case involving jewelry thefts all occurring during parties hosted by Maxine Wood (Gladys Cooper). While dancing with everyone but his fiancée, Lawrence is slipped a large diamond ring from Mrs. Gardiner (Lucile Gleason) and told to protect it from criminals who wish to nab it. Shortly thereafter, Mrs. Gardiner is killed.

Helping Lawrence on the case is Maxine’s secretary Helen (Barrie), who is more interested in nabbing the Falcon as a romantic partner than in accomplishing anything. Her continual presence at Lawrence’s apartment and her answering of the phone there, drives Elinor into a constant furry, and she chums up with a Manuel Retana (Turhan Bey) to make her beau jealous.

Meanwhile, The Falcon’s sidekick Goldie Locke, played by Allen Jenkins, is arrested for the first murder for being the only witness on the scene, and for the later killing of one of the suspects. Lawrence also gets himself on bad terms with the police and eliminates his snazzy manner of dress in exchange for a slobbish disguise. The Falcon will solve the case and make his choice of a female partner.

The Gay Falcon brings all the usual elements we expect in a detective (or in this case non-detective) story, but adds a great degree of humor. Although probably not as witty as The Saint, The Falcon sure knows how to toy with women. Barrie is extremely amusing as the sort-of-dumb and definitely worthless partner ever at Lawrence’s heels. Much of the dialogue is outright laughable, but in a good way. Compared to Sanders’ The Saint movies, I would say The Gay Falcon is far less serious, with Sanders having more fun in the role. I will still always prefer his Simon Templar pictures as being of just overall higher quality in terms of plot and performance.

Sources: Ben Mankiewicz, TCM.com

Weekend’s Best Bet Continued…

In running through TCM’s lineup for this weekend, I came across far too many good flicks to list in my regular viewing recommendations in the left column. Not only are there a number of gems showing this weekend, but I have already written about a few them. So click on the links below to learn more about the movies and consider checking them out yourself this weekend. P.S. All times are Eastern Standard Time and on the U.S. programming schedule.

The Public Enemy
6 am Saturday on TCM
James Cagney, Jean Harlow

The Saint Strikes Back
noon Saturday on TCM
George Sanders, Wendy Barrie

Dinner at Eight 
8 pm Saturday on TCM
John Barrymore, Marie Dressler

The Thin Man
10 pm Saturday on TCM
William Powell, Myrna Loy

Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner 
2 am Sunday on TCM
Katharine Hepburn, Spencer Tracy

 San Francisco
8 am Sunday on TCM
Clark Gable, Jeanette MacDonald

A Day at the Races
10 am Sunday on TCM
The Marx Brothers

Witness for the Prosecution
noon Sunday on TCM
Marlene Dietrich, Tyrone Power

I Walked with a Zombie

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I Walked with a Zombie (1943)

     Sometimes the best films result from the most undesirable circumstances. One could say this is true of Alfred Hitchcock‘s many films that were created under the restrictions of a tight Production Code and producer oversight. That can also be said of I Walked with a Zombie. Director Jacques Tourneur and Producer Val Lewton had this title forced on them and had it poorly supported with a low budget and tight filming schedule. Somehow, the men created a fantastic and unique thriller.

 
     The term “unique” can not often be used to refer to a movie about a “zombie”, yet the word works for I Walked with a Zombie because this fantastic half-alive, half-dead creature is not how we normally conceive it. Betsy Connell (Frances Dee) finds herself whisked away to the Caribbean Isle of St. Sebastian where she will fill a job as personal nurse. Before she even meets her patient, Betsy is startled in the night by some crying. As she seeks to find the source, she ends up climbing the winding stairs of an abandoned stone tower and is followed by a strange woman in white. When this woman draws near, Betsy screams and is rescued by her boss, Paul Holland (Tom Conway). This eerie female is her patient, Mrs. Holland (Christine Gordon), only the nurse had not realized she was a “mental case.” You see, Mrs. Holland is a “zombie” as the doctor says. She had a tropical fever that burned away her brain stem and she now can do nothing more than obey basic commands and otherwise exists without any life behind her eyes.
 
     There is some native intrigue surrounding Mrs. Holland and the events leading up to her mental state that involves her husband’s half-brother Wesley Rand (James Ellison). Both this man and the husband seem to be putting the moves on the young, new nurse but she ends up inexplicably falling for Paul so severely that she wants to cure his wife to make him happy. Betsy has been learning about voodoo from the house staff and the town doctor, who happens to be Paul and Wesley’s mother (Edith Barrett). When she gets the notion that this alternative medicine might be able to cure Mrs. Holland, she leads the woman on a frightening journey to the “home fort” of these people. The circumstances of Mrs. Holland’s ailment become more and more bizarre as we start to question whether or not she actually died during her illness and was reanimated.
 
     One will likely never see a movie depict a zombie as beautifully as I Walked with a Zombie. Although Gordon utters not a word nor looks anyone in the eye, her face and hair are beautifully set and her willowy pale gowns flutter in the wind as she wanders about. Just because the film’s intended “monster” is not frightening, however, does not mean it is free of freaky faces. A voodoo man who guards the road leading to the home fort is used to his cinematic best. He is incredibly tall with bulging eyes and he, too, says not a thing.

Which would you say is a zombie?

     I Walked with a Zombie was meant as a B horror movie, but after Lewton’s success with Cat People, this picture was sent to theaters under the price arrangement of an A film. I think, however, that this flick stands miles above the bizarrely conceived story of a woman who might be a wild cat and is bolstered by a stronger cast. Dee is fantastic in conveying both beauty and strength as someone out of her element physically, professionally and philosophically. She really shines above her costars who do not do a bad job: Conway as a George Sanders knock off and Ellison as an angst-filled drunkard. Barrett offers a fine performances but she is cast in one of those roles that has the mother looking only a few years older than her offspring and is in fact three years younger than Conway.

 
Source: Turner Classic Movies

What to Watch — Halloween: Village of the Damned

Watch out, George Sanders! There’s something not right with those blonde kids! TCM has planned during its expanse of horror movies on Halloween, Monday, a perfectly bizarre tale of alien offspring: Village of the Damned. A British town’s female inhabitants start bearing emotionless children nine months following a strange occurrence during which all inhabitants of the locale –human and animal– pass out. The incident is investigated by people from outside the town who discover that everyone who entered the village’s perimeter during this “time out” fall unconscious. 

Village of the Damned (1960)

The 12 children are born to all child-bearing women in the town around the same time and have similar features. They are also developing at a faster-than-normal rate. Their eerie eyes often upset normal people and they begin using their collective telepathic powers to not only read minds but control them in some cases.

Like many old horror movies, Village of the Damned is not scary in the same sense that we use the word for movies today. There are no monsters jumping out from around corners or bloody axe murders. Instead the film is just disturbing by the simple suggestion that such beings could exist. The children are also unsettling in their appearance, which is also a simple aberration from the norm. Sanders is enjoyable as ever as one of the brood’s “fathers” who ultimately will save the earth from their destruction.

Just think of a brick wall to protect your thoughts.

  • Village of the Damned is set for 8 p.m. ET Oct. 31 on TCM.

The Saint Strikes Back

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The Saint Strikes
Back (1939)

     Moviegoers had no lack of detective/murder mystery movie plots to entertain them in the 1930s and 1940s and perhaps the story lines of The Saint movies offered nothing particularly unique, but George Sanders in embodying Simon Templar surely did. The Saint Strikes Back was the first of a handful of movies Sanders would do based on the novels of Leslie Charteris in which he just gets his feet wet as the sometimes-criminal, sometimes-sleuth Templar.

     A shady character is shot dead at a San Francisco night club during a New Year’s celebration just before he gets a chance to take out whomever he was aiming his gun at. Simon Templar happens to be present at that party and so naturally finds himself implicated in the crime. A New York detective, Inspector Fernack (Jonathan Hale), is called in to assist in the case because of his history with Templar, also known as The Saint (note his initials). We learn from Fernack that Templar used to work for the police department, but then also went off Robin Hooding by punishing criminals either by stealing and redistributing their wealth or perhaps by more grisly means. Templar skips  off to New York before Fernack can leave for the west coast, however, to make it seem as though he’d been in that city all along and couldn’t be involved in the murder of the mobster. He has already, however, made contact with a blonde who was part of the dead guy’s dinner party that night who is the daughter of a now-dead police officer kicked off the force for being involved with the mysterious criminal Mr. Waldeman. This dame, Val Travers (Wendy Barrie), now lives a seedy life trying to create trouble for the police as often as possible.

     Alternately eluding and collaborating with Fernack, Templar begins to investigate how this murder might be related to a possible framing of Val’s father. A wealthy philanthropist Martin Eastman (Gilbert Emery) seems to be linked to the mystery through some federal bank notes stored and stolen from his safe. Some characters will die, others live and Templar will kiss the pretty blonde. Such is the life of The Saint.

 
     The Saint movies to come would follow similar plot set ups. Always a murder, always a woman for the man to pursue, and always the on and off incrimination of Templar in the crime itself thus requiring him to both work with and escape from authorities throughout the story. I would say The Saint Strikes Back is not quite as thrilling and amusing as The Saint films to come, but it still is a great primer on possibly my favorite movie detective. Sanders brought such a coolness to his role; he was never unsettled by the possibility he could go to jail or by a gun pointed his way, and he always charmed the pants off all around him. Granted, one could say this for most Sanders characters, but I think that only highlights what an enjoyable man he was to watch on screen. He was a fine actor, always able to bring humor to the most serious roles, and his smooth voice could seduce any woman.

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.
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