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Movie Review - The Saint with Val Kilmer (1997)

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Background

When I was a teen-ager, one of my favorite pastimes was to go to the movies to watch Simon Templar known as “The Saint,” played by George Sanders, who was a debonair actor, far more suited to the part than the current “Saint,” Val Kilmer.  In those days, though, Simon Templar did not have the advantage of modern technology where he was able to solve crimes through computers and smart phones.  He had only his wits to get him through.

                                                       

Val Kilmer

                                                               Val Kilmer - Wikimedia

Introduction

In the modern-day Saint film, I learned for the first time about Simon’s early life in a Catholic orphanage, where the children were given a saint’s name to designate them.  Simon’s name was John Baptist Rossi, which he was unhappy about.  He escaped from the orphanage and called himself Simon Templar.  However, whenever he was asked his name, he would promptly answer: Thomas More, Martin de Porres, Vincent Ferrer, or some other saint’s name, and explain what that saint was noted for.

The Saint Steals for a Living

In the most current film, Val Kilmer does a fairly creditable job of impersonating Simon Templar and forecasts the possibility of a modern series about his escapades.  This time, he was hired by a Russian billionaire, Ivan Tretiak (Rade Serbedzija) who had been secretly controlling huge amounts of Russian heating oil, causing its citizens to freeze in the country’s cold winters.  Simon’s job would be to steal from an American doctor, Emma Russell (Elisabeth Shue), a renowned Oxford scientist, her newly-created formula for cold fusion which would provide unlimited free energy to the world.  Tretiak’s ownership of the formula would skyrocket him into becoming the next Russian communist Czar.

Tretiak’s chief scientist informed his boss that the formula was incomplete, and therefore unworkable in its present form.  He needed Simon Templar to extract the remaining steps of the formula from its creator in order to make his plan work.

                                                          

Elisabeth Shue

                                                             Elisabeth Shue - Wikimedia

Simon Meets Dr. Emma Russell

However, when Simon met the beautiful Dr. Russell, he was intrigued by her looks and her intelligence.  He decided to turn down Tretiak’s offer to steal the formula and aided her instead by keeping her from Tretiak’s grasp.  Tretiak ordered his henchmen to kill Simon and to bring Dr. Russell to him, so that he could force her to hand over the rest of the formula. 

Tretiak came up with a new plan since the formula in its present form was unusable.  He decided to sell the formula to President Karpov of Russia for a huge sum of money in order to embarrass the President when the Russian people realized they had been duped.  They continued to freeze because of the contrived oil shortage in Russia.

Simon Aids Dr. Russell

Simon’s allegiance changed to help Dr. Russell to complete her research while keeping her hidden from Tretiak.  Simon used the name of Saint Thomas More when he introduced himself to the scientist, explaining that the saint became a martyr in defense of his faith.  One wonders at the naivety of Dr. Russell, when she learned that Simon steals for a living, and had planned to steal from her, rather than help her.

Simon and Emma Elude Tretiak

Tretiak, with the help of his foppish son Ilya (Valeriy Nikolaev), consistently loses the trail of Simon and his new love.  The inevitable car chase occurs, and Simon and Emma are forced into an underground sewer which heightens the tension experienced by the viewer as a spate of water rushes towards them, forcing them to retrace their steps.  They were able to elude Ilya by sliding down a snowy bank next to the river while Ilya searched the street right above them to no avail.  When Simon fell in the freezing water, Emma had to get him to safety, which turned out to be a house of prostitution, where she was able to warm him with her own body to prevent his slipping into hypothermia.  In the process, Emma did save Simon’s life.

                                                        

Saint Thomas More

                                                           St. Thomas More - Wikimedia                                                                                                                                        {{PD-US}}

Tretiak Exposed

Emma knew that she could finish the formula if she could be alone for a few hours to work on the equation.  Simon was able to hide her away to complete her work.  He then brought the formula to Tretiak’s scientist who was able to prove that the formula worked.  Tretiak was exposed as a fraud and, in addition, it was revealed that he had stored tons of the needed heating oil on his property.

The lovers were together at the end, but the viewer has to wonder whether the romance will last.  The Saint must be a carefree bachelor if he is to continue the series with a new episode.  One is left with the sad sense that the poor girl is in for a letdown.

Leslie Charteris

Leslie Charteris, the novelist, brought The Saint to life in the 1920’s and 1930’s through his many novels and short stories about the fabled crook.  The Saint was also the subject of 14 films based on Charteris’ character.

Leslie Charteris was actually named Leslie Charles Yin, the son of a wealthy Chinese surgeon.  His mother was English.  He was born in Singapore in 1907.  When he was 25 years old, he moved to America with 25 dollars in his pocket.  He tried many professions before settling on novelist, including working in a tin mine, as a gold prospector, then as a bartender.  His first book which featured The Saint was written when he was 20 years old.  There were almost 100 stories about his famous character, several of which have been lost over the years.  He became a U.S. citizen in 1946 and was married four times.

                                                

George Sanders

                                                            George Sanders - Wikimedia

George Sanders

George Sanders was born in Russia in 1906.  His family left for England during the Revolution.  In 1937 he moved from England to Hollywood where he was offered a long-term contract with 20th Century Fox.  Sanders played The Saint in five pictures from 1939 to 1941.  This was followed by another adventure series where he portrayed The Falcon in four films.  His blood brother, Tom Conway, took over his role as The Falcon when George went on to a variety of roles in many successful films.  His movie career spanned four decades.  Sadly, George Sanders committed suicide in 1972 by overdosing on sleeping pills.

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Bibliography

  1. "The Saint." rogerebert.com. 23/02/2016. 23/02/2016 <Web >
  2. "Leslie Charteris." IMDb. 23/02/2016. 23/02/2016 <Web >
  3. "George Sanders." www.saint.org. 23/02/2016. 23/02/2016 <Web >

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