Thursday, 21 February 2019
The Saint's Vacation
Hugh Goes There
The Saint's Vacation
UK/USA 1941 Directed by Leslie Fenton
Warner Archive Blu Ray Zone A
The Saint's Vacation is the first of two films that continued the RKO run of The Saint movies, after George Sanders had left the role, that starred Hugh Sinclair as the new Simon Templar. After the last few films I’d begun to warm to Sanders (who still wasn’t a patch on Louis Hayward in The Saint In New York, which I reviewed here) but I certainly hadn’t expected to miss his presence in the role after he’d jumped ship for the first of The Falcon movies for the same company. More on those when I rewatch them at some point in the future but, I have to say, Hugh Sinclair in this one doesn’t come close to having the screen presence that Sanders utilised in the role and I was expecting to like this guy more than I did.
One of the biggest problems with this one though, at least as I see it, is the script or, more precisely, the dialogue. Bearing in mind that this was based on one of Leslie Charteris’ original novels and that he actually helped write the screenplay to this one, I would have thought the dialogue would have been much more on the nose and a little bit more sparkly than it is here. Alas, the speech seems to be mostly dry and functional in a lot of it and as much as some of that can be blamed on the performance, you really do need better things to say than this if you’re going to get away with these kinds of movies. The Sanders films practically sang their words like lyrics (as did the books) but here the notes of the lines seem somewhat flat.
One positive thing is that there seems to be a lot more variety in the locations or, more accurately, types of locations since, I’m sure, most of this was studio bound and I believe some of the train stock footage was pilfered from Hitchcock’s The Lady Vanishes. But we have the usual resort with hotel rooms (although this is not like most resorts you’ve ever seen and the room locations are definitely ‘built for a movie’, it seemed to me, rather than what you would find in real life), a set of train carriages, a police station with jail cells and even a chateau... so they cram a lot into the small, just over an hour, running time.
This may be because RKO formed a British company to make this one, as part of frozen funds to help out the British in time of war, from what I can make out. So it does have a slightly different flavour to it than the previous movies. Not necessarily worse, just different... although the film is certainly not one of my favourites of the run, that’s for sure.
Now Hugh Sinclair does kind of warm up in the role later on, towards the end of the movie but... I dunno... I just can’t get used to the idea of Simon Templar having a moustache, to be honest with you. He is as much abetted as aided by Arthur Macrae as his friend Monty Hayward, who is there more for comic relief as anything else although... I couldn’t get into his brand of shenanigans myself.
Of much more interest was Sally Gray as Mary Langdon. She played a different character in an earlier film in the series and here she kind of replaces The Saint’s girlfriend from the book. She is quite amazing to watch though and her performance is a lot more larger than life in a “What the heck is going on with this woman?” kind of way than anyone else in the movie. That being said, this may be because Hugh Sinclair’s performance seems somewhat minimalistic even when he’s standing next to a tree for a lot of the time but seriously check out what Sally does with her role here. It’s not what she is saying but, more, what she does when she doesn’t have anything to say. Her reactions and facial expressions when you are supposed to be looking at whoever else is talking on screeen are absolutely bemusing and delightfully hilarious at certain parts of the story. It’s almost like somebody was playing the role in an alien costume and decided they needed to move their head around to emote more to make up for not seeing their face... except you can see her face just fine and marvel at the stupendous looks of surprise and eyebrow twitches which she throws into her art. Just wonderful.
Another plus for this movie is that the punch ups are at least a little more energetic and entertaining than some of the ones in the George Sanders movies. Although, it has to be said, the stunt doubles in this are just as good as they were in the preceeding movies... by which I mean they look nothing like the actors they’re doubling for. However, at least the action is somewhat more credible so that’s a big plus on this one.
The score on this one is by Bretton Byrd, who I’ve never heard of and remains uncredited. He does, however, utilise Roy Webb’s (or Leslie Charteris’, depending on whose story you believe) jingle for the Simon Templar character, not just in the opening and closing titles but also in some of the underscore too. Well, I’m assuming he does anyway but it could, I suppose, just be tracked in from one or two of the earlier films.
And that’s me done on this, admittedly short, review of The Saint's Vacation. There was one more film in The Saint series which starred Hugh Sinclair (neither of which I’d seen before) but, although shot the same year, the film’s release was delayed by a couple of years... and I’ll probably talk about why when I watch and review that next one sometime soon. Hope you join me for it.