Thursday, October 23, 2014

Tonight's Movie: The Saint's Double Trouble (1940)

THE SAINT'S DOUBLE TROUBLE (1940) is a minor entry in RKO's Saint series.

George Sanders plays a dual role, as the crime-solving Saint, Simon Templar, and also as Duke Bates, the head of a diamond smuggling ring.

The story, which involves diamonds smuggled into the U.S. in a mummy, is not the easiest in the world to follow, as it's often unclear which character is the real Saint. This seems to have been a deliberate story-telling device by the filmmakers, to keep the audience guessing, but I simply found it frustrating, as I wanted to know who to root for.

The film's other main drawback is that despite the presence of Bela Lugosi -- and of course Jonathan Hale as the Saint's friendly nemesis, Inspector Fernack -- the cast is extremely bland.

This was one of just four films leading lady Helene Whitney appeared in; she and the Saint seem to have had some sort of past romantic relationship but it's not explored in any depth. The next couple films will have Wendy Barrie, who also appeared with Sanders in the early FALCON films, and hopefully those movies will be a bit livelier.

The cast also includes Donald MacBride, John F. Hamilton, Thomas W. Ross, Elliott Sullivan, Byron Foulger, Edward Gargan, and Pat O'Malley.

The most interesting thing about the film is a scene with primitive special effects showing both of Sanders' characters onscreen at the same time; the second George Sanders in the scene is a back projection! It's quite odd-looking, and it's fascinating how far special effects had come by the time of Olivia de Havilland playing twins in THE DARK MIRROR (1946), in which the effects are almost seamless.

Whether he's playing the Saint or the Falcon, Sanders is always pleasant company in his RKO mysteries, but this one is a lesser effort.

This was one of three SAINT films directed by Jack Hively. The screenplay of this 67-minute film was by Ben Holmes, and the cinematographer was J. Roy Hunt.

THE SAINT'S DOUBLE TROUBLE is available on DVD in the Warner Archive's George Sanders Saint Movies Collection. I previously reviewed the first two films in the set, THE SAINT STRIKES BACK (1939) and THE SAINT IN LONDON (1939).

THE SAINT'S DOUBLE TROUBLE has also been released on Region 2 DVD. It had a VHS release as a TCM double feature paired with THE SAINT IN LONDON (1939).

THE SAINT'S DOUBLE TROUBLE can also be seen from time to time on Turner Classic Movies.


Blogger Kevin Deany said...

I always wished that Bela Lugosi had appeared in a Mummy movie. This is as close as he got.

7:31 AM  
Blogger Rick said...

This is sort of a watershed film in Bela Lugosi's career. He was, since DRACULA in 1931, definitely considered a "horror man." But throughout the '30s, his filmography is studded with non-horror roles as well. INTERNATIONAL HOUSE, BEST MAN WINS, POSTAL INSPECTOR, NINOTCHKA (of course) and others. But THE SAINT'S DOUBLE TROUBLE was the last Lugosi film that was not, in any way, a horror film.
A couple of his later films such as BLACK DRAGONS and ONE BODY TOO MANY are certainly only borderline horror, but they were pretty much sold as such mostly because Bela Lugosi was in the cast.
GENIUS AT WORK in '46, I think, is really not a horror film but even it is usually referred to as horror or at least sort of casually ushered into that company because it features not only Lugosi but another horror man, Lionel Atwill.
So, THE SAINT'S DOUBLE TROUBLE is the last film of Bela Lugosi's that was not horror, sold as horror, or lumped in with others as horror. He had about 30 movies ahead of him during the last 15 or so years of his life, but he never again got out of the "horror man" slot.

10:17 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

That's kinda funny, Kevin! ;)

Rick, horror films aren't my thing so I really appreciate you sharing this information on the progression of Lugosi's career with my readers. That was very informative and I appreciate you feeling in some blanks in my knowledge!

Best wishes,

1:22 PM  

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