AKA THE SAINT’S GIRL FRIDAY
AVAILABLE TO VIEW LEGALLY ON YOUTUBE
RUNNING TIME: 64 min
REVIEWED BY: Dr Lenera, Official HCF Critic
Two men are chasing a woman when her car plunges into a river and she dies. Simon Templar aka The Saint, arrives in England because his girlfriend had cabled him for help, but is met with the news that she is dead. Immediately suspecting foul play, he finds out that she had gambling debts, and sets out to search for the illegal gambling racket that she was involved with, soon coming up against the vicious River Mob…..
The dashing Robin Hood-like criminal created by Leslie Charteris is best known in the guise of Roger Moore in The Saint TV series and perhaps the dreary Val Kilmer film which featured a Saint not much like the Saint, but Simon Templar also featured in a series of eight ‘B’ movies from 1938 to 1943 where he was played by Louis Hayward, Hugh Sinclair and George Sanders. Based on an original screenplay rather than material by Charteris, The Saint’s Return, which starred Hayward, was the first Saint film in ten years and an attempt to revive the series so Hammer could have a franchise, but the film wasn’t as popular as expected and the plans for a series were nixed. The only memories I have of the Saint are the Kilmer effort and, very vaguely, the Return Of The Saint TV series starring Ian Ogilvy when I was a kid, so I can’t compare The Saint’s Return, which was retitled The Saint’s Girl Friday, to earlier Saint outings. Taken on its own though, it’s a perfectly serviceable little [it only runs for just over an hour] ‘B’ thriller even if it feels more like an episode of a TV series. Hayward’s hero is an enjoyably smooth-talking, insolent ‘hero’ whom every woman in the story seems to want [and he seems to get over his girlfriend’s death pretty quickly] and who doesn’t hold back on slapping people around if he deems it necessary, though sadly much of the fighting is either overly brief or takes place in darkened rooms so you can’t see much.
The story of an illicit gambling den and the women being forced into working for it is quite interesting, the revelation of who the leader of the River Mob certainly came as a surprise to me, while the light tone darkens fairly effectively with some genuine threat and some deaths. A nice touch is the shot of a floor plan of a country house that is about to be burgled; the names of all the guests belong to Hammer regular cast and crew members of the time, including Terence Fisher, while the country club in the first few minutes is the same one as in Goldfinger. Diana Dors shows up for one amusing scene, Naomi Chance is luminous as the ‘Girl Friday’ who helps Templar, and Charles Victor is enjoyable as Chief Insp. Claud Teal, the man always on Templar’s tracks and either helping or hindering him. This is a slight, breezy film of little consequence, but with some charm, entertainment value and even wit, a film where the hero will escape some bad guys through a window and enter through another window into another apartment where he’s recognised and dragged to a party as a celebrity. It may have even caused me to check out the other Saint films, which thankfully are available of DVD. This one isn’t, and I had to watch it on YouTube.