Radio Play Review – The Saint – The Connelly Silver Mine
Leslie Charteris’s modern day Robin Hood hero, Simon Templar, known as The Saint, has undoubtedly had more incarnations than Doctor Who, James Bond, or Sherlock Holmes. Leslie Charteris himself created hundreds of Saint stories and novels, before movie versions, TV shows and other presentations surfaced.
Though certainly best remembered for Roger Moore’s long running Pre-James Bond series, and the sequel (The Return Of The Saint) starring Ian Ogilvy, as well as a dire big budget movie starring Val Kilmer, The Saint was also extensively played on radio, most popularly, by Vincent Price between 1947 and 1951.
The Saint was initially introduced as a Raffles style professional phantomesque crook who took money from other crooks, to help the ordinary honest people recover their losses, but he steadily developed into more of a routine private detective. Price certainly plays him as a laconic Chandleresque gumshoe, full of wise-cracks and rather too American for the very English suave sophisticated playboy Charteris created.
The Connelly Silver Mine is a typical early radio episode with Price as Templar, investigating why so many crooks and killers are interested in a seemingly worthless silver mine. He protects the girl who owns the mine, which really has no more silver left in it, but which has been proved to also contain valuable supplies of natural mercury. A fun thirty minutes of listening carried by Price’s slick continuous patter as the actor clearly relishes his role, which gets quite infectious. Without such a calibre of delivery the story would be quite forgettable.
There is a pointless meeting with a fortune teller who warns Simon Templar off going near the girl as the story begins, but Templar is as much a womanizer as he is an adventurer. Such warnings are invariably counter-psychological to him.
The closing fight to the death on a rickety lift that allows access to the mine shaft is genuinely thrilling, though even Price notes the absurdity of the lights and electrics still working perfectly in a long abandoned mine.
Interestingly, the radio show uses the trademark whistling theme tune later used in the Roger Moore TV series, though abandoned by the Ogilvy follow up shows. The tune was attributed to Charteris himself, which seems unlikely as he certainly had ghost writing assistance on many of the Saint stories.
The radio shows are a great chance to hear a diverse side to Price’s acting range, especially as he was later associated so much with the horror movie genre.
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