Story: A New Year’s Eve celebration at a posh club takes a lethal turn when a man is shot down, though he happened to be lining up his own shot when he was struck. Of course, this causes some panic and Val (Wendy Barrie) tries to leave the scene in a rush, until someone questions her at least, which leads to someone speaking up on her behalf. Simon (George Sanders) happens to be at the club and he vouches for Val, which sets off a chain of events that find Simon, aka The Saint, the target of an investigation, rather than the investigator himself. Val is suspected of being involved in multiple murders, but is she indeed a killer and if so, what role has The Saint played in her crimes?
Entertainment Value: This sequel to The Saint in New York is a briskly paced mystery that keeps your attention, even if it doesn’t leave much of an impression. The narrative is fine, if not memorable and the twists are passable at best, but this is solidly written overall. I wouldn’t have minded some fresh, sharper twists and turns, as this kind of material benefits from that greatly, as the turns keep the narrative moving ahead. But I don’t want to seem too harsh, as again, the writing is solid, it just isn’t going to bowl anyone over or inspire other writers. The movie runs just over an hour, so it keeps a tight pace and that helps a lot with the entertainment value. At the same time, perhaps a longer runtime could have allowed for more narrative depth, so it is a trade off of sorts. I think The Saint Strikes Back is a solid mystery and the cast is quite good, so it earns a recommendation.
This sequel would introduce a new version of The Saint to audiences, as George Sanders steps into the role, one he would revisit several times in the franchise. He is a natural fit right from the start, bringing the sophisticated, collected vision of The Saint to life, which really helps the character seem to have more depth than the script reflects. This kind of character can be tricky to rein in, as going over the top has to be easy in this case, but the tone doesn’t support camp, so thankfully, Sanders keeps things classy and even debonair. I appreciate the energy he brings to the role as well, as he seems to enjoy the role and that shows in his performance. A change in lead actor could have lessened this sequel, but Sanders is more than up to the task here. The cast also includes Jerome Cowan, Wendy Barrie, Barry Fitzgerald, and Willie Best.