Jack Hively | 67 mins | TV | 4:3 | USA / English | PG*
The first RKO Saint film to not be based on a story by the Saint’s creator, Leslie Charteris, is actually one of the better mysteries in the franchise. Sort of. The downside would be that the solution is glaringly obvious. For a mystery you might imagine that would be a major problem, but the process of investigating is nicely done. A bit more work might’ve been done to obscure the culprit, a character who we meet at the beginning and then more or less disappears and so will inevitably return somehow, but I had so much fun I don’t really care.
The reason it’s so fun is the setup. Inspector Fernack has been suspended from the force, implicated in taking bribes from gangsters. He hasn’t of course, but the criminals he just failed to put away want to see him discredited. Naturally his BFF Simon Templar swings by to help. What ensues is a 180 from the usual formula of the Saint movies: rather than Fernack constantly suspecting the Saint of being the actual perpetrator of the crimes he claims to be solving, here every murder (each of them a man who was conspiring against the inspector) occurs while the Saint is out of the room, but while Fernack has plenty of opportunity to commit it. Much fun ensues as Templar teases his chum.
One of the highlights of the first Saint movie, Paul Guilfoyle, makes a re-appearance here as a different henchman (having (spoilers!) bit the dust in his first appearance). His role is bigger — he’s in the con-turned-manservant role, essentially — though not as independently memorable. Paired with Sanders and Hale, however, they make an entertaining team. The starring cast is rounded out by a return appearance by Wendy Barrie of The Saint Strikes Back. She plays a new character, this time brunette, but still a bit of a femme fatale. She’s underused, but hey-ho.
The Saint Takes Over is, on balance, not my favourite of the series, but still one of the best it has to offer.