Monday 9 April 2007

The Saint in New York (1938) Ben Holmes

A police lieutenant has been bombed and they have the killer, but Inspector Henry Fernack is sure he's going to be back out on the streets in no time flat, like the other important killers that they arrest. The police and the Citizen's Committee for Crime Prevention decide to bring in a Robin Hood to tackle the issue: the notorious Saint. It takes a while to follow his trail of cards to the man himself but they find him in South America and invite him back to New York with a shopping list of villains to catch.

To kick off RKO's series of films featuring suave English detective Simon Templar, aka the Saint, they brought in South African actor Louis Hayward. He's a happy sort of chap, with a knowing smile on his face throughout that helps remind me of Patrick McGoohan. He's the good guy and he's the hero of the film and the series, but he hammers home his point with a bullet very quickly after arriving in New York. Gang leader Jake Irball released through lack of evidence caused by witness intimidation, but next thing we know Irball is dead with a card next to him. The Saint is on the hunt and he isn't restricting his methods to the legal ones.

Hayward is by far the best thing about this film, even with people like Jack Carson propping up the cast as one of the villains on Simon's Templar's hitlist. The problem is that while we learn a little about Simon Templar, we learn next to nothing about anything else. There's no real detective work going on. The Saint just moves from one to the next and does a minor level of playing each against the other. Mostly he just kills and moves on. He's a decent anti-hero but he's going to need to develop a lot more in future films and the films themselves will need to keep up to his standards.

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