Double Trouble


I was never very good at multitasking. I was capable of putting off cleaning the garage while thinking about how I wasn’t going to do the dishes, but it took a lot of effort and I found it was more efficient to just avoid one thing at a time. Now I can barely even single task. I usually watch TV with the sound off because looking and listening at the same time can lead to my accidentally following the plot, which is technically a third thing, and then if I happen to sip a diet soda a the same time, that’s four things and circuits blow. I wake up on the carpet two days later with no idea what I did with the sofa cushions.


You probably think I’m exaggerating, but this weekend I attempted to watch a movie while walking on the treadmill, and I just couldn’t do it. I watched “The Saint’s Double Trouble” (1940), starring George Sanders as Simon Templar, from beginning to end and I—or rather, my brain—was totally defeated. My brain was overtaxed trying to figure out how to put one foot in front of the other.


To begin with, George Sanders plays both Simon Templar (The Saint) and Boss Duke Bates, a Philadelphia crime boss. Simon and Duke not only look identical—same hair cut, even-- they sound identical. They both have George Sanders’ suave British accent, although Boss Duke Bates has to wrap it around sentences like, “I say, you mugs, break it up.” First Boss Duke pretends to be The Saint. Then the Saint pretends to be Boss Duke. In fact, I’m not sure there’s a single scene in the movie where The Saint is the Saint and Boss Duke is Boss Duke, except for the ones where they’re both in the same scene, and even in those, I’m not sure. The boss’s henchmen aren’t sure either. The one who limps (“Limpy”) keeps saying things like, “Say, youse ain’t the boss, you’re dat Saint Augustine character!” So does the one who plays the harmonica (Monk “Warren”) (and shouldn’t that be “Monk” Warren? Who the heck was in charge of handing out the quote marks at RKO?). The third henchman, “The Partner,” is played by Bela Lugosi. In fact, Bela was the main reason I decided to watch this thing. “Wow, a low budget detective movie with Bela Lugosi! Yeah!” is the kind of thing you think when your brain is occupied trying to keep you from falling off the treadmill. Anyway, Bela’s not in it much. He’s just there because somebody figured it would be funnier if three henchmen couldn’t tell Boss Duke from the Saint in three consecutive scenes.


In retrospect, I wonder if it would have been more confusing or less confusing if George Sanders has used different accents for Boss Duke and the Saint. I wonder if George Sanders thought he was using different accents. If so, he may have set the gold standard for bad American accents. It is almost the American accent equivalent of Dick Van Dyke’s cockney accent in “Mary Poppins,” a bad accent that may someday be equaled but can never be surpassed.


The plot involves smuggling diamonds into the country in an Egyptian mummy. Although later in the movie somebody hides the diamonds in the heel of his shoe, and I can’t help thinking that probably would have worked just as well for smuggling them into the country, as well as being cheaper and not involving mummies.


A couple of murders take place early on, which Boss Duke tries to pin on The Saint by leaving a card on the bodies saying, more or less, “I killed this guy. (signed) The Saint.” So the cops are all looking for The Saint. It’s a pretty good plan, unless of course you look exactly like The Saint. Then, I would imagine, it’s a pretty terrible plan, since the cops might mistake you for The Saint and arrest you.


Fortunately that doesn’t happen, though.


Oh wait, it kind of does.


So when Boss Duke is in jail for murder, The Saint visits him dressed as a woman and then I had to go to the bathroom, but I was only gone for a couple of minutes and when I got back Boss Duke was leaving the police station dressed as a woman and The Saint was… no wait, The Saint was… um… well, one of them gets killed, and then the other one… well, there’s these diamonds… Well, there are actually TWO bags of diamonds. I forgot that. But it’s okay, because it doesn’t matter.


Another thing I was confused about—besides, you know, everything—is, just what does The Saint do? The movie is kind of structured like a detective movie, but he doesn’t have any clients, and he doesn’t make any money. The police seem to be after him even before the murders, but I have no idea why, and as far as I could tell, neither do they. I also couldn’t figure out why he was called ‘The Saint’ rather than “The Delivery Boy” or ‘The Cocker spaniel” or “The Roll of Duct Tape in the Kitchen Drawer.”


So clearly, I’m going to have to fire up the treadmill and watch this movie again. And this time I’m not taking any chances. I’m turning the sound off.