Movie Critique - The Saint Strikes Back

Stars: 3 / 5

Recommendation: It is certainly a twisted and confusing plot but solved very neatly in the end. A good Saint movie, worth watching once.

The Saint Strikes Back is a 1939 American crime mystery film directed by John Farrow, produced by Robert Sisk and released by RKO Radio Pictures. The film has George Sanders, Wendy Barrie, Jonathan Hale, Barry Fitzgerald, Neil Hamilton and Jerome Cowan among others in the cast. 

At a New Year's party The Saint foils the plans for Valerie Travers' (portrayed by Wendy Barrie) gang of assassinating someone. And then The Saint inserts himself in the investigation with the assurance that he would assist Inspector Henry Fernack (portrayed by Jonathan Hale) and at the same time help Valerie in her cause. What leads up to is a twisted and complicated plot of murder and mystery. 

This is the second of the nine RKO movies featuring Leslie Charteris' Robin Hood like character Simon Templar aka The Saint. He was first introduced to the readers in Charteris' 1928 novel Meet the Tiger. He appeared in radio shows, TV, comic strips and movies apart from the novels that Charteris created him in. The first person to play The Saint on film was Louis Hayward in the first film, the 1938 American crime mystery film The Saint in New York. George Sanders played the role in this film and four more of the nine. 

The film plot was based on Charteris' 1931 novel She was a Lady. Although the book was set in England, the screenwriter John Twist set it in San Francisco. Interestingly enough The Saint was not the primary lead character when the book was published a year earlier in magazine form. When it was novelized Charteris' changed that. In this film however, the novel that is credited is titled Angels of Doom. 

This is also the first film in the series to have used the signature The Saint whistle tune. The opening credits have the main characters with their live photo, name and character name below. Again the entire cast are listed as "The Players" in the credits.

After filming five films in the series, Sanders moved on to The Falcon series of which we saw one film recently, the 1942 America crime drama The Falcon's Brother. The Saint was famously portrayed by Vincent Price on radio among others.

The Saint seems to be a tailor-made role for George Sanders on screen. He is suave, debonair and at the same time mysterious and dangerous. Sanders natural persona fits seamlessly into the mold of The Saint. And oh, don’t forget his voice.

Wendy Barrie is hard and cynical Valerie Travers, who is out to prover her father's innocence. But ends up being surrounded by gangsters and hoods. Lucky for her Saint comes to her rescue. Sadly that reduces her femme fatale portion of characterization and makes her just another damsel in distress.

It is certainly a twisted and confusing plot but solved very neatly in the end. A good Saint movie, worth watching once.

Spoiler Alerts:

1) Movie Trivia:

a. Wendy Barrie is also seen in two other Saint films in different roles.

b. Sanders worked on this film and the 1939 British crime film The Saint in London, also released by RKO Radio Pictures, simultaneously.

c. This is the debut film of Tristram Coffin who plays the part of a newscaster. He goes on to become a very famous actor from the 30s to the 70s, mostly in the Western B-movies.

d. Barry Fitzgerald who portrayed the role of Zipper Dyson reminded me of Popeye, the Sailor Man cartoon character. Doesn’t he look like one?

2) Grammatical / Historical / Location / Character Errors:

a. The baggage cart that is wheeled back into the terminal building at Fort Worth, TX has the name "American Airlines" in reverse alluding to the fact that the negative was reversed.


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