Sax Romaine

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Sax Romaine is a fictional character created by the English novelist Henry Sarsfield Ward (1883-1959). He has become the archetype for evil genius in the North American League and the Federated Kingdoms as well as elsewhere.

The Character

1961 paperback edition of The Daughter of Sax Romaine

Romaine's origins are mysterious, but there are hints of terrible crimes and experiments in his past. In this he is clearly likened to the notorious H.H.Holmes. Eventually, it seems his experiments ("blending the most esoteric of sciences with the foulest forms of alchemy") have succeeded in restoring his youth, as well as allowing him to age others prematurely or sometimes destroy free will. He is, among other things, a master of poisons as well as a hypnotist supreme. There are hints in several books of some royal connection, that he might in fact be a pretender to the thrones of Xliponia, some part of Italy or maybe even Kemr. His disdain for those with noble titles yet his insistance upon being treated with royal-like etiquette is just one example of his hypocrasy.

Initially, Sax Romaine appears to be the head of a spy network on behalf of the Holy Roman Empire but as the stories proceeded his own ambitions were increasingly prominent. During the Second Great War he is portrayed as an ally rather than a servant of Prussia, and later there are hints the SNOR are in some sense afraid of him.

Described as a tall, very old but still vigorous man with piercing green eyes, Sax Romaine was always impeccably dressed (usually in black and gold). Later, he rejuvenated into his prime, roughly age forty with jet-black hair save for some grey at the temples. A short goatee and widow's peak complete his iconic appearance. His constant companion was (and continued to be) a pet lemur, named Augustus.

The Stories

All Sax Romaine stories portray him as seeking after personal power on a grand scale. In the last two novels written by Ward it was explicitly stated his desire was to rule the entire world. His modus operandi varied, from sparking wars to blackmail to developing hideous weapons with which to threaten the governments of the earth.

Typically, Sax Romaine's home/lair would be a maze of traps that only he understood in full. His daughter, ironically named Merci Romaine, seemed to be French or possibly Louisienne or New Francien. She betrayed her father at several opportunities and finally he used his strange formulaes to destroy her identity, making her a loyal slave.

For most of the books, Romaine's major adversary is Dr. Peter Hastings, a former Scottish Navy physician who accidentally discovered the fiend's plots via his friendship with a "Foreign Service Retainer" (i.e. secret agent) named Quentin Pence. Later, Dr. Hastings married Pence's sister and their daughter Roberta took up the struggle against Sax Romaine.

Titles of books by Henry Sarsfield Ward:

  • The Mysterious Sax Romaine (1913)
  • The Return of Sax Romaine (1915)
  • The Crown of Sax Romaine (1917)
  • The Hand of Sax Romaine (1918)
  • The Daughter of Sax Romaine (1921)
  • The Bride of Sax Romaine (1923)
  • The Path of Sax Romaine (1925)
  • The Violin of Sax Romaine (1929)
  • The Island of Sax Romaine (1931)
  • The Revenge of Sax Romaine (1933)
  • The Secret of Sax Romaine (1940)
  • The Power of Sax Romaine (1951)
  • The Wrath of Sax Romaine (1955)

All the above titles remain in print. Other novels, authorized by the Ward estate, have been published starting in the 1970s. These continue and include:

  • The Doom of Sax Romaine (1977)
  • The Mask of Sax Romaine (1979)
  • The Drums of Sax Romaine (1981)
  • The Evil of Sax Romaine (1983)
  • The Lair of Sax Romaine (1985)
  • The Jewels of Sax Romaine (1987)

Other Media

In 1935 the motion picture The Hand of Sax Romaine (starring Bela Lugozi) was the first big budget motion picture adaptation of the character, which had hitherto been shown in silent serials. A series of cheap exploitation films were made in the late 1960s and early 1970s directed by Russ Franco and starring Christofer Lee also based on the character, using titles like The Castle of Sax Romaine and The Thousand Eyes of Sax Romaine.

Many critics believe Sax Romaine to be the archetype of villain Wu Fandu in the Doc Sauvage Series while others have pointed to similarities between Romaine and the antagonists in the Jaunge Blone films.

There was also the 1991 comedy The Fiendish Plot of Sax Romaine starring actor Peter Zellers.

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