Jack Hively | 63 mins | TV | 4:3 | USA / English | PG*
George Sanders is the Saint for the final time in a film that isn’t the series’ best, nor its worst. It also marks the final appearance by Jonathan Hale as Inspector Fernack, and third-and-final turns from both Wendy Barrie and Paul Guilfoyle. For those keeping track (or not), that’s the same four leads as the last picture! Same director too, as Jack Hively helms his third (and, of course, final) Saint adventure.
By this point Fernack seems to have reconciled himself to Simon Templar being on the side of the angels (he is a Saint after all) and actually offers him a mission. A friend of Fernack’s needs some immensely valuable stamps escorted to Fernack’s friend’s daughter in Palm Springs, but being out of NYC that’s outside Fernack’s jurisdiction — but nowhere is beyond the reach of the Saint. Or something. Anyway, he agrees, but it goes quickly awry when Fernack’s friend’s brother is murdered; but the Saint, being the fundamentally decent adventure-seeker he is, agrees to take the stamps on to Fernack’s friend’s brother’s niece anyway.
Points are scored here for a change of format. Rather than racing back and forth around the same city, here the Saint sees action in New York, on a train, in a holiday resort in Palm Springs, and in the desert surrounding it. Somehow it feels different, more layered. That said, it gets a bit repetitive. The stamps are contained in a locket that is repeatedly stolen, recaptured, stolen-but-empty, recovered, rinse, repeat. Still, there are inventive spots along the way, and for once it manages to pull out a genuine twist — the culprit is obvious throughout, as per usual, but then… well, that would be spoiling it.
Hale isn’t in it nearly enough unfortunately, especially considering this is his last outing. Guilfoyle has the sidekick role and at least his and Sanders’ relationship is a fun substitute. Barrie is, for once, simply the ingénue and not some form of criminal mastermind. Don’t worry, there’s another girl for that: Linda Hayes, who seems a promising match for the Saint but, though prominent early on, is ultimately disregarded. The highlight for both women comes when they get invited along for a horse ride with the Saint and have a good bitch at each other. It’s a pickle quite unlike the ones Templar usually finds himself in! I have nothing against Barrie, but quite why they sought to use her repeatedly I don’t know. And, to be frank, she worked best in her first appearance.
The Saint in Palm Springs isn’t a grand send-off for this repertory company of Saint series filmmakers, but then I don’t imagine it was ever intended to be. At least it still has most of the fun and charm that characterise this era of the Saint’s adventures, something that is sorely missing as the series continues under new leadership.