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Thursday, 19 April 2007

The Saint in London (1939) John Paddy Carstairs

I don't think anyone has played the Saint better than George Sanders who is the epitome of suave English charm, even though he was born in Russia, lived in the US and died in Spain. He was of English heritage and parentage at least. In his second outing as the Saint, Simon Templar is back in London and finding life dull and uneventful, at least until he attends a party on the advice of a friend in intelligence so as to meet the mysterious Bruno Lang to begin a battle of wits with. He also acquires a couple of partners: the resourceful and adventurous Penny Parker, played by the delightful Sally Gray; and Dugan, a pickpocket trying to go straight who sounds like George Raft, who he hires as his valet.

It's a slowburner, for sure, as we have no clue what the mystery is to start with. Rather than being dragged into it or hired to investigate it, Templar goes looking for it. After cracking Lang's safe he heads out into the country where he finds and rescues a foreign national who has been tortured. The investigation as to who this gentleman is and why such things have been happening to him comprise our plot. Naturally there's plenty of fooling the police, evil masterminds, lesser lights in the organisation who don't really want anything to do with it, all the standard components of such things.

The story works well enough, I suppose, but there's not much to set light to our imaginations. Sanders is excellent without seeming to be, as he always was. He had the most effortless touch that any actor ever brought to bear, breezing through whatever circumstances he found himself in as if they were the most natural thing in the world. It's what made him so great in so many films, but especially as the Saint. Sally Gray is a lively companion and nobody really lets the side down, but there's just not much here to work with, unfortunately.

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