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September 28, 2005
In the beginning, there was Leslie Charteris,
who as a young man started writing a series of "Meet the Tiger" (1927)
stories about a Simon Templar, aka "The Saint".
These stories are perfectly awful...
certainly they're some of the lowest
prose that I'm willing to slide my
eyeballs across -- and you may have
noticed that they've been rolling around
in some pretty disreputable troughs.
The Charteris Saint -- let's label him
that for convenience, if not accuracy --
underwent many changes throughout the
several decades that Charteris
was (nominally) writing the stories.
In the early stories he was a very British
character indulging in much light-hearted
nonsense babble -- somewhere between Bertie
Wooster and Peter Whimsey, though not as funny
As time went on, he toned down that act, and became
more suave/slick... some people say he became more
American, though I haven't noticed that myself --
perhaps I have a blindspot for Americanisms.
During that period, Charteris himself was
not actually writing all of the stories,
and since many of his ghosts were E.g. Theodore
reportedly Americans, maybe the shift in Sturgeon.
tone was inevitable.
The Charteris Saint was very popular, and
these stories began to be translated into
other media a decade or so after their
inception... one of the earlier ones was
the George Sanders films. The Sanders
Saint had far more of Sanders in him than
Charteris, but then the original (I use
the term loosely) character (I use the
term loosely) was so thin, one could
hardly blame him.
I like the Sanders Saint the best
of all the incarnations: all snide Reportedly, Charteris himself was
insinuations and sinister overtones less enthusiastic about these
as he walked whistling through the productions, and apparently they
dark foggy alleys of noir. lost the rights to use the name.
Sanders then began doing a series
Perhaps predictably, this is of films about a precisely
The Saint that no one seems identical character called "The
to remember. Falcon". Charteris took the
trouble to sneer at these films
in one of his stories.
But then there's another Saint turned this over
that's even farther from the to his brother
public mind, the Vincent Price -- Tom Conway, who
these were a series of radio had a similar
shows, an art form now even more appearence,
ignored than black and white film. though he lacked
The Price Saint was very unusual --
oily, unctuous (whatever that
means), almost effeminate.
An interesting rendition... The Man From UNCTUOUS
In the 60s, Roger Moore stepped
into the slot, doing the television
version that everyone seems to
remember as *The* Saint.
Calling the Moore Saint
the definitive analog
of the Charteris is
Physically, Moore is very
close to the way the Saint
was described; and the arch,
blank, innocent expression
he used so often -- maybe it Reportedly, Charteris
was his only expression, gave the Moore Saint his
really -- has much in common seal of approval.
with the Charteris stories.
In the early days,
The Saint was a
con-man who conned
con-men, and his
ability to project
an innocent lamb
There was another aura was one of his
television Saint, main assets.
the Ian Ogilvy,
about which, the
less said -- Notably, the Roger Moore Saint
was a person with no visible
means of support. To an
American audience he seemed
Then in the 90s there like a very odd character --
was a somewhat what did this man do for a
problematic filmed living? The idea that he was
version of the Saint, a crook who preyed on crooks
starring Val Kilmer. was apparently too edgy for
television, and instead you
Everyone really hated were supposed to assume he was
this film, and I spent independently wealthy.
some time thinking about
There are many things one
might dislike about it --
it's portrayal of the
process of science is The Toadkeeper called
laughable, it's portrait this "the worst movie
of a female scientist is he'd ever seen", and
embarrassing. I'd guess this is why.
There are other things one might
like about it -- with Kilmer, the
Saint has become a man of many
disguises, many identities, though
his affectation is to always adopt
the name of an official Saint (i.e
a Catholic one). In some sense he
has no fixed identity, certainly he This "orphan"
has no given name -- his new bit was probably
history is that he escaped from an suggested by
orphanage at an early age, assuming a few lines
the name Templar out of a from the stories.
fascination with tales of knightly
adventure. At one point, the Saint
talks about donating the
The Saint breaks into the proceeds of a crime to
female scientist's his favorite charity:
apartment, studying her a fund for orphans,
environment to infer what meaning himself.
kind of person she is, Compare to
and to choose which of "Laura"?
his personas he needs to
use to approach her. A woman's character
defined by her posessions.
Dangerbaby was impressed by
the insight shown in having As for myself, Val Kilmer, will
Kilmer work a wild boy always have a positive glow about
persona to impress this him because of "Real Genius".
woman and I suspect a lot of
people's reaction to the
film is cultural, a
difference in background This reckless alcoholic
that determines how you character with a wad of cash
react to that particular haphazardly stuck in the waist
image. band of his leather pants has
a double, contradictory appeal
for some women (even, perhaps
especially, for a super-straight,
mousey, lady of science):
(1) he can take you out of yourself,
into a more dangerous, more
engaging world; (2) he's damaged,
in trouble, and he needs you to
But the main thing that conditioned
the response to this film, the reason
that almost *no one* had a good word
to say about it is simple: they wanted
more Moore Saint, and got Kilmer Saint
instead, and so went off complaining
about how inauthentic this rendition
But what constant factor *is*
there that you can point to in
this long, slow evolution of this
astoundingly minor character?
At no point was The Saint ever
really much more than lightly
sketched in... A stick
Why would anyone declare indeed.
that one version is the
one correct one?
And conversely, why would anyone
bother to do yet another
production under this name...
why not another "Falcon", why
not invent some new handle?
As properties go the Saint is the trashiest,
thinnest piece of cardboard imaginable...
What is there to the name of the Saint?
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