The Saint In Palm Springs is a highly entertaining entry in the RKO Saint series. The films opens with an ominous cable message. It reads ‘ARREST SIMON TEMPLAR…ARRIVIVING SS MONROVIA…WANTED FOR MURDER’. As Simon Tempar, AKA The Saint (George Sanders) arrives in New York, two polieman are waiting at the docks to arrest him. They clumsily try to put a set of handcuffs on Templar, but after some jostling, the two officers end up handcuffed to each other, while The Saint disappears into the night. Templar goes dirrectly to Inspector Henry Fernac (Jonathan Hale) to enquire about the murder charge. The charge is in fact a ruse. Fernac wanted to see Templar. He has a favour to ask. An old friend of his, Peter Johnson (Edmund Elton) is trying to transport $200,000 in rare stamps, which he has smuggled out of Europe, from New York to Palm Springs. Two attempts have been made on the man’s life, and Fernac would like The Saint to act as a body guard.
The Saint goes to a hotel to meet Johnson and suggests it may be better if he carries the stamps. Johnson goes to the safe, which is in another room to retrieve them. As he opens the safe, a shadowy figure at the window fires a pistol. Johnson drops dead. At the sound of the shot Templar rushes in. The killer hasn’t had time to retrieve the stamps and tries to make it back to the window. A fight breaks out, but Templar is knocked back on the bed, giving the perpetrator time to escape.
Despite Templar’s failure to protect Johnson, he decides to continue with the job. He will take the stamps to Johnson’s neice, Elna (Wendy Barrie) in Palm Springs.
Templar makes the journey by train. On board in a saloon car, The Saint sees a attractive lady, Margaret Forbes (Linda Hayes) trying to write a letter with a broken pen. She has ink over her fingers. Templar offers her his pen, and she continues to write. Once finished she returns the pen. Templar uses the opportunity to ask her if she’d care to join him for a drink. She agrees, but first she must remove the ink stains from her fingers. Simon waits while she disappears for a few minutes.
But her actions are not quite what you’d expect. First she rips up the note. It was just a ploy to meet Templar. Then next she goes to Templar’s sleeping compartment and searches his baggage. She doesn’t find what she is looking for, and rejoins Templar in the saloon.
In Palm Springs, Templar and Forbes, just happen to be staying at the same hotel, the Twin Palms. Also at the Hotel is an old friend of Templar’s, Clarence ‘Pearly’ Gates (Paul Guilfoyle). Gates is the house detective, but prior to this, he was a pick-pocket and a thief. Naturally, there are also a host of other suspicious characters staying at the hotel too. After all, this film is essentially an old-fashioned ‘whodunnit’, with nobody quite who or what they seem.
At first glance, this may seem like a mystery crime film, but as the story progresses, it becomes more obvious that this isn’t just a gang of hoodlums after the stamps, but a ring of foreign agents. It’s a little bit complicated to explain, but you have to look at why the $200,000 was converted into stamps in the first place. Simply, this film is set around the time of the Second World War (but America had had entered it yet). In Europe, Hitler would not allow anyone to take anything of value out of occupied Europe. Many Jewish people were forced to leave with nothing. By converting the cash to stamps, it was an easily concealable way to get his cash out of Europe. And therefore, it must be assumed that those chasing the stamps are Nazi agents, but his is never really mentioned or explained.
The Saint In Palm Springs is one of the good entries in the series, aided considerably by George Sanders as Templar. Sanders has the right amount of wit and charm to play The Saint. These films did not have a whole lot of money thrown at them, and the sets weren’t too special, and the action set pieces were limited. This is why the films stand or fall on the dialogue, and the way it is delivered. This is where Sanders comes to the fore. It may only be a B-grade programmer, but I think it is a pretty good one. If you enjoy The Saint, this is one to seek out.