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SAINT STRIKES BACK, THE (director: John Farrow; screenwriters: John Twist/based on the novel Angels of Doom by Leslie Charteris; cinematographer: Frank Redman; editor: Jack Hively; music: Roy Webb; cast: George Sanders (Simon Templar, aka The Saint), Wendy Barrie (Val Travers), Jonathan Hale (Inspector Henry Fernack), Jerome Cowan (Cullis), Barry Fitzgerald (Zipper Dyson), Neil Hamilton (Allan Breck), Robert Elliott (Chief Inspector Webster), Russell Hopton (Harry Donnell), Robert Strange (Police Commissioner), Gilbert Emery (Martin Eastman); Runtime: 67; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Robert Sisk; RKO; 1939)
“Nothing special, but the minor detective yarn is satisfactory in its workmanlike way of handling things.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

The second in the series of films featuring Simon Templar, The Saint, following the popular opening of “The Saint in New York” starring Louis Hayward. He turned down a chance to continue in the series because he didn’t want to get permanently associated with the project. RKO brought in George Sanders as his replacement, but had to buy half his contract from 20th Century Fox. Sanders brought an air of sophistication to the role and played in the continuing popular series for the next five episodes for RKO. John Farrow (“Calcutta”/”Five Came Back”/”Hondo”) directs this dense crime story programmer with moderate skill; it’s based on the novel Angels of Doom by Leslie Charteris (born Leslie Yin in Singapore, the son of a wealthy Chinese surgeon and his English wife) and the twisty screenplay is by the aptly named John Twist.

The intricate plot is set in San Francisco. There’s a gang murder at the Colony Club on New Year’s Eve and The Saint (George Sanders) spots Val Travis (Wendy Barrie) leaving the place alone even though she entered the club with two escorts–the murdered man and her lawyer friend Allan Breck (Neil Hamilton)–and ushers her away from the police, thereby gaining her reluctant trust. Secretly The Saint has been called in by the police commissioner (Robert Strange) to get involved in a local investigation of a crime ring headed by the elusive Waldeman, someone not identified by the police. Also called in is New York police inspector from New York, Henry Fernack (Jonathan Hale), who worked successfully with The Saint before. Cullis (Jerome Cowan), the department’s chief criminologist, believes that The Saint might be Waldeman and others in on the investigation also begin to have doubts about The Saint.

Val is the daughter of a disgraced New York police inspector, who committed suicide when it was reported he was associated with crime boss Waldeman. The loyal daughter believes dad was framed and believes she can through a stolen $80,000 from a bank, in the hands of a front man, clear her father’s name, and gets unexpected help from The Saint in ferreting out the real crooks who framed her father. In the process, they also nab the front man for the crime ring and a high police officer who actually framed her father by using his skills as a magician.

Nothing special, but the minor detective yarn is satisfactory in its workmanlike way of handling things.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”