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Friday, 20 April 2007

The Saint Takes Over (1940) Jack Hively

Skipping over The Saint's Double Trouble for some reason known only to TCM programmers, The Saint Takes Over is the fourth of five Saint movies that featured George Sanders as Simon Templar and the first to be written directly for the screen. All up until now had been based directly on source novels by Leslie Charteris, but the work here was done by screenwriters Lynn Root and Frank Fenton.

Race fixer Rocky Weldon isn't guilty, the papers say, but Inspector Henry Fernack is. Apparently $50,000 magically appeared in his safe and so he's up on bribery charges. Luckily Simon Templar is on his way back to New York to help him, by cruise liner where he's been busy rescuing and then falling in love with Ruth Summers, played by Wendy Barrie. I don't quite know how the studios worked out how this would be OK but Wendy Barrie is the leading lady in three of the five Sanders Saints but as a different character each time.

This time out she's a mysterious woman, who has come to New York, it seems, to look into the same people as Templar. There are four of them in the race fixing circuit, plus a fifth, Ben Eagen, as their mouthpiece who soon turns up dead with the $90,000 to cover the bribery operation missing from his safe. When the others start getting murdered too, Fernack, Summers and the Saint himself seem to be on the premises at the time each time. Who could it be?

Well, it's pretty obvious from moment one who did it, especially given her surname and everything else, but it's still fun to watch everyone work it out and Templar, who of course knew all along, nab the rest of the gang. Sanders is still excellent, in between Hitchcock films, and Barrie is pretty good. Jonathan Hale is sleepwalking as Inspector Fernack though, and so is Morgan Conway as one of the bad guys five years before he'd become Dick Tracy. Paul Guilfoyle might just be the most notable supporting actor here, and given that he's a dumb second rate mobster that's not a great compliment. He has the sort of part you could expect someone like George E Stone or especially Elisha Cook Jr to play, but he has fun with it.

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