The Saint Strikes Back (1939)

The Saint Strikes Back
The Saint Strikes Back The Saint Strikes Back (1939)

Run time: Passed | 64 min | Crime, Drama, Mystery
Director: John Farrow
Writers: John Twist, Leslie Charteris
Stars: George Sanders, Wendy Barrie, Jonathan Hale
In Sanders’ first attempt as the debonair sleuth, he helps the daughter of a disgraced policeman who’s been framed. A superior ‘B’ movie.

4 responses to “The Saint Strikes Back (1939)”

  1. tfsadmin says:

    Who is the Saint? "Well, not the man who knows everything, just the man who knows the important things."

    George Sanders is the mysterious, charming and dangerous Simon Templar: "You're important to me—that's why I know you," he explains to an annoyed Wendy Barrie, whom he has just forcibly escorted from a nightclub—moments before the cops arrive to investigate a murder.

    Sanders is perfect as the Saint: a droll wit, a cad, an underdog, a shrewd tactician who is not afraid to take a risk. And that Sanders voice!

    Wendy Barrie is also fine as the hard-edged daughter of a policeman. Her father was framed by a fellow cop and died in disgrace; Barrie is out to exact some revenge for her father by stirring up trouble for the department. Sanders explains her plot nicely to the investigating officers: "She thinks he got a dirty deal from the police so she's enlisted a bunch of second rate crooks to annoy you."

    The Saint is on the scene as one who always takes an interest in rooting out corruption; in this case, his sense of adventure and interest in justice have brought him all the way to San Francisco.

    The supporting cast includes great character actors who all do their jobs: Jerome Cowan is a cop who's obviously mixed up in the dirty business somehow; Neil Hamilton is another detective; Barry Fitzgerald is "Zipper," a small time crook impressed with Sanders' style ("I never seen such a cop").

    Jonathan Hale is again on hand as Inspector Fernack, the old pro who has had dealings with Templar in the past. His relationship with the Saint is of course complicated—one minute he is sticking up for Templar's motives and methods, not much later he is (momentarily) convinced that Templar is the mastermind behind the whole San Francisco setup.

    Besides the great cast, this film features a strong script and is beautifully photographed—a very classy B mystery.

  2. tfsadmin says:

    You have to stay wide awake to follow the plot convolutions of THE SAINT STRIKES BACK and by the time it reaches its final scene you may lose your way keeping track of a number of undeveloped characters whose names are bandied about with such nonchalance that in the end it hardly matters when you discover who the main culprit is.

    The plot revolves around hard-boiled dame WENDY BARRIE who's surrounded herself with gangsters in order to avenge the death of her father. Barrie gives the kind of performance that should have made her a femme fatale in a number of B-films, but nothing more than that. She's a one note actress if ever there was one.

    Fortunately, the script is graced by the presence of GEORGE SANDERS, who can deliver a crisp line with so much bite and sarcasm that it's fun to see him using his verbal wit on some unsavory characters. NEIL HAMILTON makes no impression whatsoever in a colorless role as a man supposedly in love with Barrie, but BARRY FITZGERALD turns up to put some spice into the story, at least in the last half of the film.

    It's strictly formula stuff intended to entertain as a programmer in the late '30s and offers nothing very original or new to make it anything more than something of passing interest.

  3. IMDBReviewer says:

    George Sanders makes his first appearance as the Saint in this film and all I can think is: "Hey, It’s Addison DeWitt, private eye!" Because this Saint is nothing but snide, more prone to shoot off a cutting remark than a gun. Did Sanders ever make a movie where you didn’t get the feeling he was slumming? Where you didn’t get the feeling it pained him to be surrounded by such fools? (Making one wonder, then, why the hell he married Zsa Zsa Gabor.) Playing opposite as the romantic interest is Wendy Barrie, who comes off as more hard-boiled than a two-hour egg. Then, of course, Barrie was a pretty tough broad, having been Bugsy Siegel’s girl before Virginia "I’ll put my mouth where the money is!" Hill came along. This was also the first of Barrie’s three appearances in the Saint series, although she played a different character each time.

    But what of the film itself? Well, there’s not much to say–the plot is confusing the minor characters difficult to tell apart and the visuals not particularly interesting. The real enjoyment in this picture comes from Sander’s deadly wit and Barrie’s remarkable aura of toughness.

  4. tfsadmin says:

    It’s not too bad a b movie, with Sanders, Barrie, Hale, Cowen, Hamilton, Gargan, Fitzgerald and even Willie Best we could be either with Charlie Chan, Moto, the Falcon, Blackie, Holmes or the Saint etc. In other words you get the chance to spend another hour in the company of some old friends, from plain to urbane, murdering and being murdered – always a pleasure in my book.

    Barrie’s a hard-boiled dame out to avenge and clear her framed and dead father, a police detective by planning and carrying out with her coterie a string of underworld assassinations. Which would surely have had the opposite effect! Sanders joins in the fun simply by dancing in the right club in the right place in the right city at the right time with the right lighting falling on both him and the first killer (at the right time!) and killing him.

    The story and acting’s OK, the only gripe I’ve got is near the end with the hurried and almost laughable discovery of who the evil genius (Waldeman) was – did they almost forget about his relevance in the plot? That said, a solid entry in the series.

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