I recently gave into morbid curiosity and watched the trailer for the aborted remake of The Saint with Adam Rayner. It’s not hard to see why it didn’t find a home. You’ve pretty much seen the entire series in the promo, and Rayner’s Simon Templar is more H&M than Gieves & Hawkes. Taking the analogy further, it’s like when Abercrombie & Fitch moved onto Savile Row, or those dodgy watch companies that buy up old makers’ names to flog their iffy wares on eBay. Or when they made that Saint film with Val Kilmer.
Fortunately for us, a masterclass in how it should be done came in the form of BBC Two’s recent repeats of the RKO films with George Sanders. Made between 1938 and 1943, the films benefited from the input of Saint creator Leslie Charteris and the casting of Hollywood A-lister Sanders as Simon Templar. Suave Englishmen with an edge of danger were Sanders’ stock-in-trade. He also possessed a comic touch and combines these elements in a suitably tongue-in-cheek performance. The results are unashamed B-movies but with their charismatic lead, and tight plotting and dialogue courtesy of the original books or plot ideas from Charteris, they remain an enjoyable watch.
There’s still a chance that The Saint’s good name can still be reclaimed. The renaissance of ‘genre fiction’ in the TV schedules means that there’s definitely a market for the exploits of the ‘Robin Hood of Crime’. After all, we’ve just had Robin Hood. Casting-wise, James Purefoy may have turned it down, but ex-Spooks Matthew MacFadyean or Rupert Penry-Jones would fit the bill nicely. Source material wouldn’t be a problem either: Leslie Charteris was nothing if not prolific. The ingredients are there- they just need putting together by someone more Michelin star than Michelin Man. But that’s enough analogies for one article- let’s leave the last word(s) to the original books…
The Saint will return!