Tuesday, April 10, 2012

THE SAINT DOUBLE FEATURE

Gentleman adventurer Simon Templar, alias "The Saint," was the hero of a series of novels written between 1928 and 1963 by author Leslie Charteris. Often referred to as "the Robin Hood of modern crime," the character was a thief who stole from criminals, and who, simply for the excitement, often turned his questionable skills toward aiding the authorities (who never quite trusted his motives) in fighting racketeers and other criminals.

The character was hugely popular, inspiring dramatic radio programs, comic books and newspaper strips, several television series and numerous feature motion pictures, most notably, perhaps, a series of B-programmers for RKO in the late 1930s and early 1940s. Five of these starred the great George Sanders as Templar. In 1941, British actor Hugh Sinclair took over the role in THE SAINT'S VACATION. A couple years later, he would reprise the role in THE SAINT MEETS THE TIGER. Both of Sinclair's turns as the Saint are now available from Warner Archive as the Manufactured-On-Demand SAINT DOUBLE FEATURE.

In THE SAINT'S VACATION (1941, co-scripted by Leslie Charteris himself) Simon Templar is on holiday in Europe with his pal Monty Hayward (Arthur Macrae), when he stumbles into skullduggery surrounding a mysterious music box. Fortunately, girl reporter Mary (stunning Sally Gray) is on hand to help. In THE SAINT MEETS THE TIGER (1943, based on Charteris' first "Saint" novel), the suave Saint heads for the seaside community of Cornwall, where he matches wits with a mysterious gold smuggler going by the colorful handle of "The Tiger." Both movies are solid little low-budget mysteries, and were filmed in England, with British casts.

In my opinion, Sinclair is just adequate as Templar, lacking the droll wit, urbane charm and sheer charisma of his predecessor. In fact, with his heavy-lidded, sleepy eyes and dry delivery, Sinclair seems somewhat bored in the role (and he's hilariously bad in the fistfights).

Previously released in the 90s on VHS, this new MOD edition marks the first time these particular movies have been available on DVD. As with the previous Saint collection from Warner Archive, THE SAINT DOUBLE FEATURE presents both black & white films in 1.33:1 "full-frame." No notable digital clean-up or remastering appears to have been done; both movies are sourced from somewhat battered-looking prints. There is a lot of evident print damage (in the form of specks and scratches) and age-related wear visible. but the contrast is good, and there don't appear to be any missing frames. Audio is a clear Dolby Digital Mono 2.0. There are no extras included, not even trailers.

I didn't enjoy these entries as much as I did the George Sanders installments, but they're decent, slick B-films and genuinely entertaining. If you're a fan of the character - or Forties mystery series in general - you might want to pick them up.

BUY: The Saint Double Feature