I thought I asked you never to show anyone that selfie I sent you!
😉 very good...
5: The Persistent Parasites
W: Norman Hudis
Based on The Reluctant Nudist from The Saint Around the World (1956) by Leslie Charteris
D: Robert Tronson
S: Cec Linder, Jan Holden, Ann Gillis, Annette Carell, Sonia Fox, Arnold Diamond, Donald Hewlett, Jeremy Longhurst
Leslie Charteris’ short story collection The Saint Around the World features what must be one of his most curious literary efforts. Simon Templar visits a naturist resort on the insistence of a man who is suspicious of the romantic notions displayed by a young woman towards his aging uncle. That would have made a very interesting television episode indeed! I wonder how they would have filmed it? Close ups only? Handily placed bunches of flowers and champagne bottles, like in Austin Powers? The adaptation does feature French police chief Colonel Latignant, who is no fan of the Saint, but as played by Arnold Diamond and written by ex-Carry On scribe Norman Hudis, he comes across as telly’s version of Inspector Clouseau – who himself visited a nudist camp in A Shot In The Dark. The scene where Latignant attempts to interrogate a party of dinner guests and receives a series of cutting replies that alternately puzzle and anger him was basement price Peter Sellers indeed. Not bad for Saturday night TV though.
So, the producers had to ditch the nudist angle, but they retained the basic premise, only now Waldo Oddington’s three ex-wives form a trio of suspects in a murder case. They are stereotypes to a woman: a drunk American, an intellectual Russian and a social climbing Brit. Waldo has invited them and Simon Templar to his secluded villa on a small island off the coast of Monaco, where he untactfully introduces his next wife-to-be, the rather gorgeous Nadine [Sonia Fox]. Fox was an accomplished television actress, having already had stints on Compact and Emergency Ward 10. She would later spend several years at the Crossroads Motel. I don’t know who the other actresses were, although I’ve listed them above. The quartet equip themselves remarkably well and it was fun to see caricatures being reinterpreted for light relief, mystery and romance. Of most interest to this viewer was Cec Linder’s appearance as the tragic Waldo, a man who too late has discovered that love trumps money. It’s always good to cross off a James Bond alumni from the list and there goes another one. Linder’s very good as the reformed millionaire and he’s helped by a neat screenplay that doesn’t keep all its cards close. The Saint’s investigations begin to ebb and flow as the murders, suspects and motives mount up. Donald Hewlitt, who would later grace It Ain’t Half Hot Mum and You Rang My Lord?, plays a dodgy solicitor.
The episode is very well designed. The set dressers really went to town on this one and Waldo’s French villa has a suitably opulent look to it. So too do the scene setting French Riviera location shots. The Poirot-style reveal is nicely done and those moments of humour are a welcome relief. The episode isn’t great fare as a story, but it is worthwhile and I enjoyed the low-key and less violent narrative, while retreading old ground [I’m thinking episodes like The Arrow of God] it still manages to keep us entertained without stretching our credulity.
An above average, well-played adventure.
For other reviews and responses on The Saint:
Recommend "The Saint" or not? — ajb007
ITV's The Avengers, The New Avengers, The Saint, Return Of The Saint — ajb007
Roger Moore and The Saint Series — ajb007
Leslie Charteris's The Saint/Simon Templar Discussion Thread — ajb007
The Saint in the Seventies — ajb007
6: The Man Who Could Not Die
W: Terry Nation
Based on The Man Who Could Not Die from Featuring the Saint (1931) by Leslie Charteris
D: Roger Moore
S: Patrick Allen, Jennie Linden, Roger Phillips, Ivor Dean
Roger Moore flexes his directing muscles again in this so-so adventure which features Patrick Allen as a homicidal playboy who kills for a thrill and for the prospect of rich inheritances. He’s rather good. Everyone else is passable. The story starts at a polo match, proceeds through the seedy side of London life and ends up in subterranean cave in South Wales. Moore’s direction utilises his now trademark catch-call of close ups to increase tension – there’s even a close-up of a firing automatic pistol – and tension is desperately needed in this episode for it is a lacklustre affair all-round. The script is okay; one senses more of Charteris’ literary incidents in this one than normal [I may or may not be wrong]. The exposition certainly has a dated feel to it, and that goes for the extremely rudimentary climbing / caving gear the cast use. The broad strokes applied to the characters turn them into caricatures, and only Allen’s villainous egotist and ‘best friend’ makes any impression. However, Moore keeps us interested with some crackling scenes of suspense and a tougher than usual Simon Templar – improving his own performance when helming the show, it seems.
Not one for the vintage collection, but interesting to see how Moore handles working the camera, cast and crew. One wonders why, after Bond, he didn’t try his hand at directing television shows or even movies, as he seems to have the skill for it.
7: The Saint Bids Diamond
W: Pat and Jesse Lasky
Based on Thieves Picnic (1937) by Leslie Charteris
D: Leslie Norman
S: Eunice Gayson, George Murcell, Jean St Clair, Gerard Heinz, Ed Bishop, Peter Illing
This episode has a terrible title, one which makes no sense at all as bidding never comes into it. The adventure is, however, based on a Leslie Charteris novel and sticks reasonably close to the source story. The reinterpretations come about to good effect and speed up the narrative so it slips easily into the fifty-two minute time slot. Thieves Picnic involved Simon Templar and his pal Hoppy Uniatz rescuing a diamond cutter and his daughter from a jewel smuggling gang, only to discover the diamond cutter has left a winning lottery ticket worth $2m at the gang’s mansion in Tenerife. Despite having no experience as a gem cutter, Templar impersonates one and infiltrates the gang to retrieve the ticket and disrupt the baddies’ elaborate heist plans.
In The Saint Bids Diamonds, Templar is already aware the gang, led by Abdul Graner, have stolen the Regency Diamond from the Louvre and he’s determined to steal it back and collect the insurance reward. He’s aided in his toils by a grey-haired spinster fortune teller who chauffeurs him about, keeps watch on his captives and makes predictions based on her crystal ball. Jean St Clair’s role is obviously a replacement for Hoppy Uniatz, after his disastrous showing in The Careful Terrorist [S1: E3] the writers simply had to create someone more affable to the television viewer’s nature. Dotty, permanently worried Madame Calliope is certainly that. She’s also somewhat unlikely as Templar’s partner in crime, or crime solving, as it were.
Much better is our own Eunice Gayson who plays Graner’s abused wife, a woman who stays for the money and is kept only as window dressing. “You forget why I married you,” scowls George Murcell’s menacing Graner. “Honesty,” he continues, leaning in with a leer like a lion about to tear into a zebra, “such an interesting word… perhaps you are torn between your greed for money which is excessive and your hate for me which is diabolical… You’ll get your reward one day – when I throw you out.” However much Christine Graner hates her husband, she’s learnt a great deal from him and is a right little schemer all of her own. When the Saint turns up, impersonating Ed Bishop’s real stone cutter, Mrs Graner is quick to detect a method out of her situation and ingratiates her way into Templar’s sympathies: “Instead of love, honour and obey it’s been terror, hate and submission.” She soon has a proposition for the Saint: steal the Regency Diamond and split the profits. Unfortunately for them, the local police inspector also has a proposition for the Saint, and he’s spotted by Graner’s goons leading to an awkward confrontation back at the mansion.
It's pleasing to hear Gayson’s own voice as Nikki van der Zyl provided overdubs in Dr No and From Russia With Love. I don’t know why the Bond producers had Gayson dubbed, although it is fair to say she doesn’t sound particularly posh. One can only assume Bond director Terence Young didn’t coach her adequately in the part as, judging from this outing, it seems fairly certain Miss Gayson is a good enough actress to at least attempt a cut-glass accent. These kind of choices hint at the rapid production and quick decision making processes employed by Broccoli and Saltzman during those early OO7 years. I can’t imagine Babs and Michael even casting an actor who couldn’t perform their own dialogue. Has it happened recently? I think not.
Back to The Saint Bids Diamonds. The adventure is well-constructed and well-written. The dialogue is snappy and delivers the expected promises of character and action and mystery. It helps that the cast is delivering too. At these times Roger Moore sometimes plays it too tongue in cheek and I sensed his future latter-day 1980s James Bond seeping out of his well-cut suits. Templar seems just a mite too cool and know-it-all to be for real; he treats Graner a bit how OO7 treats his bosses in Golden Gun or Octopussy, although there is a violent undercurrent to the antagonists’ confrontations that isn’t often seen in The Saint. There’s a brilliant conceit which turns the tables at the end and Graner gets his expected comeuppance.
A note perhaps should be paid to Leslie Norman, who directs with some dexterity on the tiny budget. He never quite made it big on the cinema screen, despite the success of Dunkirk in 1958, and he found a niche in ITC productions helming amongst others episodes of Randall and Hopkirk, The Baron, The Persuaders, Department S and a slew of episodes across seven series of The Saint and Return of the Saint. His experience as an editor brings a zippy, tense aura to the episodes he directs and ensures a high quota of entertainment value.
8: The Spanish Cow
W: Michael Craymoy
Based on The Spanish Cow by Leslie Charteris featured in The Saint in Europe (1953)
D: John Gilling
S: Nancy Nevinson, Gary Raymond, Viviane Ventura, Arnold Diamond, Leonard Sachs
Back on the French Riviera and more jewel thefts, this time from an impossibly horrendous Central American widow Dona Luisa Arrojo, wife of the late President General Carlos Arrojo, a dictator murdered by the mob with 31 bullets in his back. You can understand why she despises the democrats. She clings to the only physical memory of her husband: the sparkling jewels he bought her. Except Dona Luisa’s brother-in-law has other plans; he wants to use the gemstones to pay for guns and bribes to launch a counter coup. The nervy Diego Ramirez tries to appeal to Dona Luisa’s good nature and pleads for the safe return of the diamonds, so they can be used to promote harmony in the fledgling democracy.
Meanwhile Colonel Latignant insists the Saint stay well away from any attempt to steal the jewels. He tries threats, he tries flattery, he gets nowhere, other than revealing his own taste in haute couture. When Dona Luisa’s companion Consuela offers Simon Templar an open invitation to steal the jewels, he can barely resist. The young Consuela’s rather taken with his flair. “You have a very reckless mouth, senor,” she chimes just after the Saint dismisses the sweaty Gilberto Arrojo with a snap of his cigarette case. Not content with making the bad guys look like dolts, Templar’s also becoming as dab a hand as James Bond in uncovering listening devices in his hotel suite. Naturally he hands all the credit to Col Latignant lest he get himself needlessly arrested – again.
The Spanish Cow is an occasionally perky adventure which leans heavily towards humour for its entertainment value. The actors, Moore and the fetching Viviane Ventura accepted, seem to spend most of their time shouting at one another. The eventual confused cross and double / triple cross will come as no surprise. At one point Roger Moore suggests “There’s too much Latin American melodrama going on for my taste.”
And mine too. Overacted and undercooked.
For other reviews and responses on The Saint:
ITV's The Avengers, The New Avengers, The Saint, Return Of The Saint — ajb007
Roger Moore and The Saint Series — ajb007
Leslie Charteris's The Saint/Simon Templar Discussion Thread — ajb007
9: The Old Treasure Story
W: Ronald Duncan
Based on The Old Treasure Story by Leslie Charteris featured in The Saint on the Spanish Main (1955)
S: Erica Rogers, Jack Hedley, Robert Hatton, Reg Lye, Frank Wolff, Jill Curzon
Roger Moore revisits the cave sets he used directing The Man Who Could Not Die [same season E 6] and makes an equally uneven affair about Blackbeard’s pirate treasure. The episode kicks off in rainy Cornwall where a blathering old mate of Simon Templar’s – a sea dog too old, poor and unwise to be a friend of someone as sophisticated as the Saint – has hidden a section of a parchment map to a secret location in the West Indies. The map looks about as old as Erica Rogers, who puts in her season’s performance-worth as an orphaned barmaid. I had visions of disaster as soon as Reg Lye’s curmudgeonly old soak tweaks a toothy, moustachioed grin and swigs from a bottle of Barbadian Rum. I remember Lye being a good foil as a put upon chef in the Dr Who episode The Enemy of the World, but he’s dreadful here and gets the adventure off on all the wrong feet, clumsily hamming it up and staring weepy dog eyes at his mate Simon Templar. Yes, The Old Treasure Story is a rum old do indeed. Too many side plots are created and discarded and the adventure simply doesn’t gel. It feels like several short stories lumped together to form an unspeakable whole. It was so loosely bound I was surprised when the treasure hunters discovered the bounty. I really thought it would all be an elaborate hoax.
In addition to Rogers and Lye, Robert Hatton plays a movie mogul and Jill Curzon his Italian starlet floozy. Jack Hedley is the scheming villain. Frank Wolff his muscleman compadre who fights the Saint and manages to split Roger Moore’s perfectly tailored trousers. There’s really nothing we haven’t seen before, perhaps explained by the story being the last lifted from The Saint on the Spanish Main. This book, with five adaptations from six short stories, features strongly in the list of Saint TV lore chiefly for its exotic locations one assumes.
I didn’t know the history of the 4th Season of The Saint while I watched it, but it feels very much like a stopgap season, designed to keep the audience aware of the programme before the roll out of the expansive and expensive colour episodes in 1966. Subsequently, I have learned the nine episodes were filmed alongside Season 3 and held back specifically for the purpose. Unfortunately, the producers seem to have neglected this period somewhat, for the quality of adventure lurches from the very good [The Checkered Flag, The Abductors, The Persistent Parasites, The Saint Bids Diamonds] to the poor [everything else]. The Old Treasure Story fits neatly into that vein of low-level tat.
And rolling on and on...
May I present the infamous Simon Templar....
1: The Queen’s Ransom
W: Leigh Vance
Based on the character created by Leslie Charteris
D: Roy Baker
S: Dawn Addams, George Pastell, Nora Nicolson, Peter Madden, Patrick Westwood, Stanley Meadows
30th September 1966 and Roger Moore returns for Season 5 of The Saint in glorious televisual mid-sixties technicolour. Splendid stuff indeed. The story is good fun too.
We start with a scene setting opulent shot of Monte Carlo’s famous Casino, before we venture inside to meet Simon Templar who is perusing the clientele. Instead of his opening monologue addressing the audience directly, the producers opt to use a voice over, which informs us of the same details, but without the need for breaking the fourth wall. Here, Roger Moore informs us that: “For the pampered rich who come to Monte Carlo, their urge is not only to get richer, but to test their nerve against that remorseless adversary: luck.”
He’s talking specifically of King Fallouda of Federia, a deposed monarch who is looking to resecure his crown with the assistance of his British wife. She’s played with some icy efficiency by Dawn Addams. Within seconds of her appearance, the Saint rubs her the wrong way with a stiff glance before recognising the danger signals of an assassin, his cane poised to strike a lethal blow against the ex-king – it has a bayonette blade contained within it and the point destroys Fallouda’s chair. This immediately brought to mind Ian Fleming’s writings and his scenes set at the Casino Royale, where assassins wandered into the gaming rooms armed with similar contraptions.
In fact, the whole episode has elements of OO7 and Saint familiarity to it, maybe not intentional, but they are there nonetheless. The new titles zip by in a blur of pastel colours. Red, blue and magenta silhouettes suggest the danger the Saint poses and repels. The theme tune is happily extended; and at the end too, where the credits are more substantial. Both times the Saint’s stickman calling card silhouette ends the sequence. The casino interior is nicely decorated, so too Fallouda’s apartments. If the sets tend towards the mundane as the story progresses, that’s more because the adventure has taken us into those realms, not because of a failing by the design teams. The costumers give the cast some decent togs to throw on, including Miss Addams’ neatly chic sixties-glam outfits. They must also have spent a small fortune collecting new colour location shots. Basically, you can see the spend on the screen as it is deliberately dripping with excess. This was a statement of intent from ITC and the Independent Television Networks. The Saint was not going to look second rate. It was an international product being staged for an international [i.e. American] market and needed to look it. Black and white and cheap and cheerful wasn’t going to cut it in 1966.
To that end, the producers took a risk by having the season’s opening salvo be the first story in the show’s history to be written directly for the screen with no input from a Leslie Charteris novel. I wouldn’t say this necessarily improves the product, but the opportunity is grasped by writer Leigh Vance and director Roy [Ward] Baker. The story fairly trots along, raising itself to a gallop at moments of critical tension. It is sadly perhaps only Sir Roger who seems to under appreciate the show, choosing to play Simon Templar on one of his less gracious days. There may be a reason for this. It is suggested early on in the screenplay that Templar and Queen Adana once had a relationship. She is the daughter of a London bus driver, a woman whose model looks have propelled her into high society and the arms of a Middle eastern monarch. Templar knows quite a lot about her and seems at ease with her waspish and demanding tenor. Dawn Addams is admirably stuffy as a poor girl made good. She’s a decent obnoxious foil for Roger Moore, but the lack of a sartorial atmosphere rather pollutes their scenes. At one point, he extends his lighter to her cigarette; with some dexterity she steals it – a hint at her past. They swap verbal acid barbs as if they were born to it. Asking for the lighter’s return with a leering smirk of contempt, the Saint only receives the Queen’s disdain: “We find you arrogant, smug and self-important. You were hired to do a job, just like a chauffeur or a cook or any other servant. Do try and remember that and our relationship may be less painful than it is at the moment.” Ouch. Later on Templar quips: “Someone had to carry the lighter.” Nobody ever quite gets the better of the Saint.
He's up to all sorts of tricks here and for a while I thought the story was going to replicate Season 1’s The Golden Journey [S1: E10]. Midway, it certainly has that tone to it, when Adana has to relearn what life is like for those who have little money and power. Ultimately, although Adana’s intellectual rebirth is undertaken and accomplished, the adventure isn’t really about that. Those moments are for comic relief, if we can call it that. No, what concerns us in The Queen’s Ransom is a trip to Switzerland to withdraw from a Swiss bank $5million of jewels which will fund Fallouda’s prospective coup d’état and return him to power. Simon Templar isn’t enamoured with George Pastell’s fez wearing king, but he’s persuaded to assist the pair when Adana lists Fallouda’s achievements – setting straight his moral compass. Odd that, as Fallouda is still an autocratic dictator, philanthropic work or not. Democracy doesn’t even get a word in.
Templar accepts the job accompanying Queen Adana across borders to collect the gems and he comes up with a bunch of crafty tricks to fool any possible chasing rebels. One actor, who plays a strongman, is rather obviously blacked up, which is a shame as this immediately dates the show. Later on, after Templar’s exploding briefcase gasses everyone and we learn he’s switched cases, foiled a bag-snatch and is basically as clued-up as a man can be in 24 hours about Fallouda’s enemies, the warring pair of fugitives get holed up in a remote garage – like Richard Hannay and Pamela in The 39 Steps. He also sleeps on the floor and in his clothes. We never see Queen Adana dress or undress although she’s clearly wearing no nightdress [or anything?] under the bedclothes. Later on, she tickles the Saint awake with her foot, which seems very familiar…
“I suppose I ought to congratulate you,” the Queen murmurs.
“Not if it hurts,” he replies.
Humour and sudden mystery is supplied by a dotty old English woman out for a holiday on the Cote d’Azur in her Rolls. Nora Nicholson is good fun and well worth her ten minute slot as the fawning Hortense Willoughby Hamilton, who assumes the fugitives are married. They don’t deny it and again those Hitchcockian and Flemingesque touches haunt us. “My talent for intrigue almost exactly matches my contempt for politicians,” Hortense twitters. Sensing imminent betrayal, Sir Roger replies: “We’d better not try your birthday cake, it’s probably laced with arsenic.” A nice touch which recalls Billy Wilder’s and Cary Grant’s insane little-old-ladies black comedy Arsenic and Old Lace. The Saint driving at top speed backwards down a twisting mountain road has future memories of For Your Eyes Only, while a car’s destruction when confronted with a road-blocking lorry stinks of Dr No. However, I would suggest most casual observers wouldn’t see the obvious.
The cast is a good one. Main payers aside we see Stanley Meadows drop in for a cameo, Peter Madden is underused as the eye-patched chief villain and Patrick Westwood is the traitor within. Everyone is pretty much on good form, excepting Sir Roger who makes light of the material. He can’t hide an expanding waistline either, which is interesting when we consider the problems he had towards the end of his Bond tenure.
All over, The Queen’s Ransom is a decent start to the new season. It isn’t an out-and-out classic, but it has enough action and a hefty slice of underlying fun to keep us enthralled and entertained. If the Bond / thriller similarities wear a bit thin, this is probably due to my knowledge of the genre / subgenre than anything the filmmakers are thinking.
Welcome back, the technicolour Saint.
Leslie Charteris's The Saint/Simon Templar Discussion Thread — ajb007
was The Saints switch to colour simultaneous with the Avengers switched to colour (season 5)? or at least their switch to film (season 4)?
I know Danger Man also switched to colour late in its run but only for two episodes, before McGoohan announced he was bored with his old show and would rather make The Prisoner
maybe the reason this episode of the Saint seems like a pastiche of Casino Royale, 39 Steps and an earlier Saint plot is precisely because it was the first nonCharteris plot. Like how The Spy Who Loved Me is a greatest hits of scenes from earlier Bond films, they needed some familiar elements to make the allnew plot seem authentic. Still its odd they would recycle The Golden Journey of all episodes, I dont think anybody likes Templars behaviour in that old episode. Maybe they thought there was a nugget of an idea that could be redeemed if the woman forced on the journey had a different backstory and was shown to be deserving of Templars humiliations?
All your observations are worthy comment @caractacus potts but I am not dipping that deep into the Saint's history. What I do know is the decision to go for colour was based on the show's popularity in the USA. I assume ITC probably wanted to seize the market - as it were - and made the decision to make all their popular shows in colour as the USA had primarily switched to colour transmissions.
It is amazing to me to think these colour episodes were transmitted in B & W as colour transmissions hadn't commenced in the UK until 1967, when the new channel BBC2 broadcasted Wimbledon tennis in colour. Colour went 'live' jointly on BBC1 and the ITV network on 15 November 1969 - after The Saint had completed its run. BBC1's first ever colour broadcast was a concert by Petula Clark. ITV chose to show some children's programs, including a repeat of Thunderbirds. I don't know when The Saint first got repeated but given colour film or tape was so expensive, I assume they probably repeated it quickly.
It is also amazing to think the first demonstrated colour transmissions were by made by John Logie Baird way back in 1928. Progress was slow in those days.
The Golden Journey scenario has recurred several times in lesser form during the series.
thanks @chrisno1 I don't expect you to go down all the possible rabbitholes. From my reading about the other ITV adventure shows, this switch to colour was significant, and its good to see the context. As you demonstrate with the late date of colour broadcast at home, they were doing this for the US market. I'm not sure if it was a larger audience, but large enough to justify the expense.
I looked up these dates in wikipedia, I think theyre all British broadcast dates:
(EDIT: Danger Man's switch to colour is more complex than I thought: these two episodes were held back when McGoohan decided to do The Prisoner instead, and were first broadcast as fill-in episodes during The Prisoner's run. That partially explains the long gap. So what is more important, is the first Prisoner episode was 29 September 1967 and that show was always in colour. But those two Danger Man episodes mustve been filmed even earlier with the same intent to expand the American audience)
I've seen before that TV was invented way back in the 20s, didnt realise they were already experimenting with colour though. I know a lot of developments in consumer technology got set aside throughout the Depression and WWII (at first consumers had no money, then they had other priorities), television was finally a thing people bought and watched shortly after WWII and there was a sudden postwar consumer boom in the States. Funny it took another 20 years for colour tv to catch on though if itd already been developed, maybe it just wasnt good enough yet.
2: Interlude in Venice
W: Paddy Manning O’Brine
S: Lois Maxwell, William Sylvester, Quinn O’Hara, Paul Stassino, Joyce Blair, Richard warner, Robert Ayres, Patrick Troughton
“Venice, Queen of the Adriatic… After dark, Venice is a romantic fairyland, but in the dark alleys not every path leads to enchantment.”
Cue a woman’s scream and the Saint to the rescue. The woman is Cathy, daughter of ultrarich crime-fighting lawyer John Allardyce who is on a business trip to Italy with his family. His daughter however resents her stepmother, Helen, played with some verve by Lois Maxwell and the latter only relents when Simon Templar displays his most affable side and offers to escort Cathy [Quinn O’Hara] on a whirlwind tour of the famous floating city. The tour ends with a night at the new casino, one owned by ‘Foots’ Fortunati but fronted by a Venetian prince, Ubaldo. William Sylvester and Paul Stassino bristle at each other as their two character’s verbally fight for supremacy, the new money winning over the old. When The Saint marries two decent actors together the results are often startlingly good. It’s a pity Stassino is killed off mid adventure. Ubaldo is broke and bored. He dismisses his mistress and wants rid of the interfering foreigners, but he’s lodged to the latter’s riches and can’t pay his extravagances without his cut from the casino. He brings in the tourists. The Saint’s old friend Don Battista doesn’t like the brash set up either.
Lurking behind the gloss and glamour of Venice is a memorable murder, an investigation only part solved by the Italian police: the Seffarano Case. When the princely trickster is killed during a liaison with Cathy Allardyce, the Saint begins to unravel the past and uncover the present. The future looks bleak for young Cathy. By the episode’s end, he’s had a change of heart and chooses to cover up for the doomed conspirators with a line of divine forgiveness. “Now I know why they call you the Saint,” intones Patrick Troughton’s Inspector Gambetti, the latest in a line of policemen not indisposed to allowing Simon Templar to do their dirty work for them.
He's fairly good at it too. A familiar blackmail plot raises its head, only to be promptly forgotten, and Joyce Blair’s blonde good time girl proves a useful ally. The casino set is the same one used in the previous episode with minor redressing and the entrance lobby is redecorated a third time as Fortunati’s palazzo interior. A good recycling of sets then. Sadly for those who remember these things, Roger Moore prowls around night time Venice in an ill-fitting cumbersome leather number when in those black and white episodes he’d wear svelte sweaters and trousers. I keep thinking how he disguised his paunch filming A View To A Kill by holding his hands in his zip-jacket pockets. He’s almost doing the same thing here.
Interlude in Venice doesn’t quite reach the heights of the season’s opening episode, but it is a neat adventure that rushes acceptably to its conclusion and has the added bonus of being quite deceptive about who might be the true villain of the piece.
3: The Russian Prisoner
W: Harry W. Junkin
Based on Lucerne: The Russian Prisoner by Leslie Charteris featured in The Saint in the Sun (1963)
D: John Moxey
S: Penelope Horner, Joseph Furst, Guy Deghy, Yootha Joyce, Godfrey Quigley, Anthony Booth, Robert Crewdson, Sandor Eles
Geneva. A scientific conference is in progress and the holidaying Simon Templar naturally comes under the radar of the over enthusiastic police chief Oscar Kleinhaus. With good reason too, for the Saint has aroused the suspicions of the Soviet delegation and their security officer Major Milanov. She’s an auburn haired officious sort and as played by Yootha Joyce elicits a certain ruddy sexuality, which even Simon Templar seems susceptible to. She’s harsh with her tongue and keen with her eye, seizing an opportunity to waylay the Saint at an embassy cocktail party. Meanwhile the Commissar, Zhukov, is busy entertaining Kleinhaus, who is equally busy pulling the metaphorical wool over both the Russians’ and the Saint’s eyes. Guy Deghy was equally shifty in his first appearance as the rotund Oscar way back in Season 1 [S1: E5 The Loaded Tourist] and it’s interesting that he manages to get one over the Saint this time, although Templar has a remarkable awareness about him which aids his own investigations.
Joseph Furst, who of course featured in Diamonds Are Forever, held up many ITC programmers and he turns up again for his usual outing. Unlike in The Saint Plays With Fire [S2: E11] and The Saint Sees It Through [S2: E27] he isn’t playing the villain and his more docile, worrisome turn proves effective compared to other occasions. Furst and Deghy were on the same villainous side in The Saint Sees It Through; here they are the good guys. Furst’s scientist, Karel Jorovitch, wants to defect. Not for any political reason though, he simply wants to be united with a daughter he hasn’t seen for twenty years. Major Milanov has other ideas and has the nervy Professor observed by her two heavies. Luckily for Jorovitch, Simon Templar is on hand to intervene when he’s accosted in a hotel foyer. While the Professor escapes and the Saint is arrested, Jorovitch’s daughter sets about tracking her father down.
Irma Jorovitch is played with some sweetness and steel by beautiful Penelope Horner. Never quite a star, Horner maintained a decent career in supporting roles, including several ITC episodes, before she bagged a recurring role on the BBC’s hit ferry-based soap opera Triangle. Thoroughly believable as a worried daughter and then equally efficient as her tables get turned, Horner’s exchanges with Roger Moore are excellent. Indeed, I’d go as far as to say the performances in The Russian Prisoner are some of the best we’ve seen in The Saint to date, with thorough and engaging turns not just from the major players but also from the supporting cast. For instance, Tony Booth and Godfrey Quigley’s hapless heavy mob are clownish, but not total dullards, and when Major Milanov cuts them down to size, you sense their panic and inadequacy. There’s a great turn too from Sandor Eles as the put-upon concierge at Templar’s hotel; when not being henpecked by his wife, he’s battering away complaining guests. He also keeps a watchful eye on the lobby and manages to warn his favourite guest of impending danger. Little but well delivered acts such as this boost our enjoyment by bringing a sense of genuine character to the adventure.
Congratulations then to screen writer Harry Junkin – who usually script supervises and hasn’t written an episode for some while – who allows his characters space to breathe, as well as director John Moxey who compliments the script with good action scenes and excellent reaction shots. For instance, the tete-a-tete between Major Milanov and Commissar Zhukov is as angry as vipers fighting and yet reinforces both characters’ positions within their respective hierarchy. There is no love-lost there, yet also a telling obedient hierarchy at work; the script, direction and playing demonstrates this. Similarly, Moore and Horner’s scenes together have a frisson of sexual attraction which is extremely well-played and doesn’t dampen the robust storyline.
The Saint hasn’t always tapped into contemporary zeitgeists, but defections, spies and spying were all the rage in the media of the mid-sixties. Author Leslie Charteris had tapped into this himself for the original short story – published in 1963 - and the production crew do sterling work to deliver an excellent adventure.
A big thumbs up.
One day, I promise myself, I'm going to get round to watching these since your reviews make them sound exactly like I would enjoy them even more than I thought.
It is a long task. 18 months, on and off.
4: The Reluctant Revolution
W: John Stanton
S: Barry Morse, Jennie Linden, Martin Benson, Peter Illing, Gerard Heinz, Peter Halliday, Michael Godfrey
“President Alvarez, a bargain basement politician always ready to dip his hand into the national till..”
So we know right from the first words of The Reluctant Revolution who the villain of the piece is. Ensuring President Alvarez gets his comeuppance takes a while, but we get there. This brand new story is set in San Pablo, an imaginary South American dictatorship, but, much like the opening two episodes of the colourful and revitalised Season 5, we still have many of the old ‘saint-isms’ in place. This one is about a bloodless coup, which was the same ambition of the young Prince Karim in The Wonderful War [S2: E16], and features a niche group of freedom fighters, similar to The Revolution Racket [S3: E5] and the Mexican bandits in Teresa [S2: E4]. An oil deal is feathering the President’s nest, and that primary resource has reared its ugly black head several times too.
Unusual in this one is the role played by Barry Morse, who fleshes out Victor Lawrence, a North American occupying a position of power and influence in Alvarez’s administration. He has a hold over the president – I was reminded of poor President Lopes in Licence to Kill – and bends the top man to his will, aided by Martin Benson’s terrific police chief Captain Sanchez. Meanwhile, the Saint has bumped elbows and swapped luggage with the beautiful Diane Holbrook. Well, you would when she’s played by the delightful Jennie Linden.
Diane has the gen on Victor Lawrence. He defrauded her father, who subsequently committed suicide in prison, innocent of a crime he was framed for. She’s tracked Lawrence down and has arrived in San Pablo with one intention: to kill Victor Lawrence. The Saint confiscates her pistol, once he finds it tucked under Diane’s black lace undies. We don’t see if he takes those as well and we can only wonder if Simon Templar is partial to wearing ladies knickers. Diane doesn’t seem to travel with much other luggage so she isn’t planning on hanging about. Either that or she’s a bit of a dirty girl. Judging from Roger Moore’s expression as he twists the lacy panties around his fingers he’s thinking the same thoughts I was… that kind of dirty.
Templar then prevents an assassination attempt, but begins to fathom all is not right with San Pablo and Victor Lawrence. The first half of the adventure is taut and well controlled by the experienced Leslie Norman. It’s a fairly bloodthirsty, fast moving affair, which then comes to a sudden halt when the Saint is arrested. A good interrogation scene under bright lights in an enormous bare room, full of close ups, sudden zooms and disorientating lights beckons in the more suspense-bound second half and its series of internal coups and treason on both sides. It’s enough to say that the revolution succeeds, as hoped, without bloodshed and the villains are despatched with some aplomb.
A decent adventure with another good cast providing the main interest as they vie for audience attention. Barry Morse probably just about nicks the trophy as the best of the lot, but Jenny Linden and Roger Moore as well as the shifty Peter Halliday as Vargas, a counterspy, give him a run for his money.
5: The Helpful Pirate
W: Roy Russell
Based on The Helpful Pirate by Leslie Charteris featured in Trust the Saint (1962)
S: Erika Remberg, Paul Maxwell, Vladek Sheybal, Anneke Wills, Redmond Phillips, George Pravda, Jack Gwillim, Michael Wolf
“Into each life, some rain must fall…”
So quotes Simon Templar from Henry Wadsworth Longfellow [The Rainy Day, 1841] or perhaps he’s preferring the 1944 song by the Ink Spots, of which Ian Fleming’s heroine Vivienne Michel would surely approve. For more modern ears we might perhaps remember Steps’ A Deeper Shade of Blue. For television viewers, it crops up in The Rockford Files and The Singing Detective. Here, it seems to bear no relevance to the story which unfolds, other than to introduce us to the Saint at a wind and rain swept London Airport. The poem’s closing line, “Some days must be dark and dreary”, perhaps sums up this espionage adventure a little better, as it is quite dark, meandering like Longfellow’s wind and rain on the edges of society, while death – “the common fate of all” – lingers in the background.
Curiously however, nobody dies in The Helpful Pirate, an adventure which starts off like a pre-emptive version of On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. Templar is nabbed by two hoods wielding guns, who escort him to a waiting car. The Saint cracks jokes at their expense: “Are we going to a party? – You’re recruiting for the navy? – Oh, you need a fourth for bridge?” The men remain stoic, take their charge to Eddington Typewriter Services where a code word tapped out on a Qwerty keyboard opens a revolving section of the wall and the hidden office of Major Carter, head of the British Secret Service. Carter – like Draco – is also in the company of a pretty young woman. This time it is Anneke Wills, looking radiant in colour. She must have made this episode a few weeks before she bagged the role of Dr Who’s mini-skirted assistant Polly as the shows aired concurrently in 1966.
I liked Wills’ Polly in Dr Who and I’m rather taken with spunky Fran Roeding too, who is worried about her father, an eminent scientist who has gone missing in Hamburg. Prof Roeding is an expert in laser technology and the British cannot afford to lose him to the opposition. Major Carter has run out of capable agents and forcefully recruits the Saint to the cause. Templar takes up the job of retrieving the Professor from the clutches of whoever has him with a little reluctance, swayed perhaps by the fetching Fran and her pleading eyes. Bermuda must wait, it seems.
Hamburg looks all pristine and 1960s post war in the establishing aerial location shots. On the ground it’s all studio sets and brief glimpses of office blocks with fake facia to represent the Hotel Neuezeiten – The New Times, for those who want to know. And in fact we should want to know, because it is precisely these new shadowy Cold War times which the episode inhabits: secret agents, listening devices, agent manipulators, shady part-time villains, neat camera angles – there’s a particularly good shot of the Saint searching a room which is reflected from a bathroom mirror – confidence tricks, stealthy pursuit, kidnap, exchange, secret dungeons, a lover’s betrayal.
There’s another neat moment when the Russian officer Nikita Roskin meets the racketeer Kolben at a book shop and the two men stop talking and start flicking through novels every time a person browses too close to them. They of course are discussing the price of a scientist. Roskin is fleshed by Vladek Sheybal, who graces everything he does with a slight slimy, grasping manner. He’s as effective here as he was as the wily Kronsteen in From Russia With Love. Korben is something like Johnny Vulkan from the same year’s Harry Palmer flick Funeral in Berlin. The Helpful Pirate predates that movie’s release by a few months, and Korben prefers to deal in antiques rather than underwear. He’s not developed Vulkan’s knack of dealing with people. Paul Maxwell plays Korben like a brusque American thug. It isn’t clear he was supposed to be portrayed that way, but that’s how we get it. Korben, or Maxwell, treats his underlings and his women mean.
Erika Remberg’s Eva is the heroine, not sadly Anneke Wills, and she spends a night deceiving Simon Templar with a tale of pirates and buried treasure while exploring the delights of Der Reeperbahn. The Saint appears to know the street and its famous redlight antics well. A slip by a waiter reinforces his suspicions about his and Eva’s sudden meeting in the hotel’s bar. Hamburg ladies, despite Der Reeperbahn, are not so much into the New Times, I gather. The traditional elements of fleecing a tourist for cash don’t sit easily into the spying game. Charteris’ original short story was one of his most recent, but I couldn’t track down any details about it online, so I assume the spy story version we have better reflects a television writer’s ideal of The Saint rather than Charteris’ usual trickery and deception which we notice in the background.
The story plays out very nicely and director Roy Baker creates a good sense of atmosphere. The feeling of people being under surveillance and working to extract money, information or both from each other, passing it to one side or the opposition if they want to is well represented. There’s a hotel receptionist who sets up traps for Kolben’s victims and when perky Fran tips up at the Saint’s room, his own spy, one of the maids, gives him a tip off. I liked that neat display of every person, in every societal strata playing their role in the expanding game of cat-and-mouse. For the raven haired Eva, it’s all about love and loyalty. When Kolben shows his true nature, she defects, as it were, just in time to help the Saint save the day. The scene where Anneke Wills tries to escape the baddies clutches and interrupts Eva’s lover’s tryst was hilarious. “Who is that girl?” shouts an astonished Eva as Fran exits struggling in the arms of a bruising heavy. Kolben can’t explain it without resorting to his gangster trope and Eva is at once lost to him and returns out of the black rain to the light side of the angels, or saints, as it were.
The episode has a huge cast list for such a short experience. It’s well constructed and the cast give it everything. Having the Saint working directly for MI6 or whatever they want to call it here, is not unusual – think back to The Fellow Traveller [S2: E1] – and the arrangement works better than when he stumbles onto outrageous plots because we don’t need to spend ages on exposition. Jack Gwillim’s Major Carter makes a suitable replacement for Basil Dignam’s Commander Richardson. Of note, it is interesting to see that while many people in all walks of life know who Simon Templar is, the Russians and Germans in this episode do not. Has his fame not stretched beyond the Iron Curtain, or even to Hamburg, despite his familiarity with Der Reeperbahn?
An unusually strong episode aided by a raft of good performances, let down only by a slightly hampered fisticuffs ending that feels convenient rather than necessary.
I prefer The Saint in colour, it makes me seem shallow but they just play better to me, they come alive - especially if set abroad - and the plots seem happier and more straightforward. Today I caught one from Season 6 called 'The Man Who Gambled With Life' - @chrisno1 should look forward to that one as it feels very Bondian, albeit set in the lush countryside of England in June. Specifically, it feels a bit Diamonds are Forever, with its themes of death, in particular being cryogenically frozen. I won't say more, except Steven Berkoff shows up as a young heavy - I didn't recognise him - and in fact the villain's heavies do resemble those in FYEO, sort of young and streamlined, a bit cult-like. Moore looks a bit portly in this - Movie Collector editor Trevor Wilsmer observed years ago that his weight gain and loss offered a bit of interest and variation. Emma Peel gets a namecheck, it's one of those odd things - so if Simon Templer can refer to her as a cultural reference, does that rule out Steed and Peel using Templer as a cultural reference?
The ending paved the way for a sequel episode in maybe 1986 - maybe Moore would have been up for that? Except the lead actor had died just a year or so earlier. Another lead actress in this died only last year. A third is still alive, as is Berkoff of course. Anyway, I enjoyed this one even though Templer seems mighty magnanimous about seeking retribution for his assailants at the end, it's sort of 'Ah well, that worked out okay, let's all just go our separate ways then...'
Thanks for that @Napoleon Plural My review will come in a few weeks. Personally, I prefer the monochrome - you'll understand as the reviews progress - but I have to say the photography is certainly vivid and adds a touch of exotica to the surroundings. It is such a pity the budget didn't stretch to filming outside of the UK, indeed outside of the Home Counties and Elstree Studios, as that would have aided the 'look' and 'feel' of the show immensely. The Persuaders, The Protectors, Return of the Saint and others of their ilk, for all their other faults, always had some beautiful scenery to fall back on. There is often something authentic missing from these sixties yarns and to be brutal the black and white episodes hide it better than the colour ones. An example of what I am talking about is the studio bound escapade below.
6: The Convenient Monster
W: Terence Feeley
Based on The Convenient Monster by Leslie Charteris featured in Trust the Saint (1962)
S: Suzan Farmer, Laurence Payne, Carolee Blakiston, Fulton Mackay, Anne Blake
Scotland, Loch Ness.
“More than three-thousand eye witnesses have claimed to see a mysterious creature rise from the waters…” so relates Simon Templar as Roger Moore steps out of his Volvo and strides across the Elstree soundstage which doubles as a sandbank on Loch Ness, a castle ruin, a village pub, a gilded mansion and several other northern hospitalities. Within seconds, the Saint is thrown into a curious case of a dead dog, mutilated it seems by a sea creature. The local historian Noel Bastion is too busy writing a biography of the Duke of Wellington to worry about what his haughty wife, Eleanor, gets up to, and she’s too preoccupied hunting Nessie to worry about their home life. The Saint raises a quixotically quizzical eyebrow when witnessing the first of several domestic disputes. He doesn’t seem keen to hang about. Only the delights of the ever-delightful Suzan Farmer, as a farmer’s daughter no-less, keep him around.
This is a real strange one. Based on a story from the same collection as the previous The Helpful Pirate, the original was one of Charteris’ few forays into the other-worldly. It doesn’t really work as a fantasy or as a thriller. There’s an unrequited love triangle, a suspiciously acting housekeeper, some dreadful clues to a ‘monster’ and a reveal which has more in common with Enid Blyton’s Famous Five or the Scooby Gang; I half expected someone to say: “If it wasn’t for that meddling Simon Templar!” The whole story is very slight. At times, when the Scottish mist descends and Templar and Ann Clanraith are hunting killers or monsters the episode resembles something Hammer Pictures might have put out. At other times it’s a haphazard creaking melodrama, then a plodding sci-fi story or a murder mystery.
Suzan Farmer is always a delight to watch – along with Justine Lord, she’s by far the best of Roger Moore’s repeat co-stars – but even she’s lost among the abysmal fog. Sir Roger is taking an extended holiday, choosing to raise his eyebrows a shade too often. He barely puts a hair out of place. In fact, despite all the clambering about on rocks, glens and ladders, Moore spends most of the adventure in a neat three-piece suit. Futon Mackay grabs the attention as a slow-witted poacher who knows more than he tells.
One thing I have noticed about these colour episodes is that the halo which appears above Simon Templar’s head is never centred, as if the audience is being told the Saint isn’t as straight a man as he might seem. Simon Templar seems to suggest that too in this episode, referring to his “unnatural curiosity.”
It’s that inquisitiveness which ultimately helps solves the mystery of course, but there is a distinctly unnatural coda to follow. All very odd.
When did the theme tune change? I was never keen on the original one - though it took a while for me to realise the falsetto choirboy like 'ooh-ooh' backing was a nod to the name of the titular hero - but it was better than the new one, I think. Return of the Saint had a great theme tune, even if devoid of any nods to the character's holier than thou status.
I noticed the off centre halo too.
The theme tune changes in Season Six. I will get to that soon !
The Convenient Monster is one of my favourite colour episodes, probably because I’m fascinated with the Loch Ness monster legend.
7: The Angel’s Eye
Based on The Angel’s Eye by Leslie Charteris featured in The Saint in Europe (1953)
S: Jane Merrow, Liam Redmond, Donald Pickering
No guest stars were listed for this episode. That’s often a bad sign.
The Angel’s Eye of the title is a 125carat diamond owned by Lord Cranmore, who needs to sell it to satisfy the running costs of his 2000 acre estate. Cranmore is sending his estate manager, Tom Upwater, and Upwater’s niece Mabel to Amsterdam to have the diamond recut and sold, where it will fetch over £200,000. A substantial sum in 1966.
The premise dips neatly into a common problem for the landed gentry in the sixties, when many estates were sold off either to hotel chains or private non-titled owners. Some sought assistance from the National Trust. It’s interesting to have the Saint dipping his toe into these waters: should he be assisting these entitled classes when they hit rocky waters? Lord Cranmore’s nephew is a distasteful young man, played by Donald Pickering, who exemplifies all the bad feelings one has about the upper classes. He admits to being a snob, finds the thought of selling the family silver abhorrent and has suspicions about everyone associated to his uncle – including Simon Templar.
A bungled robbery whets the Saint’s appetite and he accepts Lord Cranmore’s offer to accompany the Upwater to Holland. You can see why as trouble follows them across the Channel. Cyril Shaps cuts a decent figure as the diamond cutter Jonkheer, but the performances are rudimentary at best. The story is basically one long chase around the canals, tulips and windmills of Amsterdam, with a modicum of excitement thrown in for good measure. The resolution is tidy.
This was the seventh and final adaptation taken from Leslie Charteris’ collection The Saint in Europe, a book that has proved fruitful for the TV show as every single story was used as the basis for an episode of The Saint.
8: The Man Who Liked Lions
W: Harry W. Junkin, Douglas Enfer
D: Jeremy Summers
S: Peter Wyngarde, Suzanne Lloyd, Michael Wynne, Jeremy Young, Peter Elliott, Nike Arrighi
This is an odd little number which has the Saint chasing clues from a dead journalist’s little black book, clues that take him all over Rome and lead him to the egotistical head of a murder agency known as the Organisation.
There, that’s the plot done.
A few worthwhile points of interest. Warren Mitchell’s rather marvellous creation the taxi driver Marco de Cesari, has morphed into Michael Wynne’s bungling taxi driver Franco de Cesarie, which is no great shake up in the character stakes but a step down in the acting ones. Wynne simply isn’t as engaging as Mitchell, although to be fair he isn’t asked to do as much and doesn’t have the scenes of ‘male bonding’ which made Moore and Mitchell’s partnership so contusive to success.
Suzanne Lloyd makes another appearance, although this is less successful than her previous appearances over Seasons 2 and 3. In fact, she’s sort of hitched up once more with Ed Bishop – they played a pair of swindlers in The Revolution Racket [S3: E5] – as the lover of his dead journalist Tony Allard, who is of course a good friend of Simon Templar’s.
Best of the bunch of supporting actors is Peter Wyngarde who scowls his way effectively through proceedings in that flambouyant and entirely menacing manner he perfected later for Jason King. Wyngarde makes a more than welcome pass as a dastardly villain, cruel, controlling and confident in his schemes, clothes and character. The scene where he confronts Suzanne Lloyd’s grieving artist is chilling in its intensity. Director Jeremy Summers does some excellent work to provide Wyngarde with an air of danger and vicious intent. She recognises, we see it, everyone feels it. Very good stuff indeed. It’s a pity the rest of the story doesn’t add up to very much; there’s even an entirely misleading scene where the local police appear to be setting Templar up for a potential fall, an event never referred back to once. The climax is a gladiator sword fight which reminded me of the hokum in Star Trek’s Bread and Circuses. No good at all really.
Roger Moore has past experience with sword and sandal epics from Romulus and the Sabines and I bet he thought he’d seen the last of it. He makes Simon Templar seem distinctly uncomfortable trussed up in a centurion’s garb. Still, at least Peter Wyngarde retains his foul inclinations.
An enjoyable, if inconsequential, effort.
9: The Better Mousetrap
Based on The Better Mousetrap by Leslie Charteris featured in The Saint in the Sun (1963)
D: Gordon Flemyng
S: Alexandra Stewart, Arnold Diamond, Ronnie Barker, Madge Ryan, Lisa Daniely, Patrick Whyte, Eddie Byrne, Michael Coles
A hugely entertaining slice of mischief for The Saint set among the hotels and coastlines of Cannes and featuring Roger Moore giving us a whiff of an impersonation of Cary Grant from Hitchcock’s To Catch A Thief. I’ve been waiting a long time for an episode like this, one that genuinely attempts to present the Saint not so much as a righter of wrongs but as a reformed crook who settles things straight with the guilty and innocent, all the while prodding the offensive nose of the police. As written by Leigh Vance, this adventure veers closer and closer to John Michael Hayes’ sublime story and script for that 1955 classic caper thriller, where retired thief John Robie a.k.a. ‘The Cat’ [Cary Grant] attempts to outwit a new burglar whose daring robberies mimic his own. This episode even starts off with a jewel thief clambering about on the roofs and balconies of an exotic hotel.
“A Persian poet once said: a woman’s eyes are the only jewels she needs,” relates the Saint as he flips roulette chips across the baize, “I’m afraid that not many of the dowagers and rich widows that flock to Cannes during the season seem to agree with him. Can you wonder that the place is a magnet for every crook in the business? They take the time and trouble to poach their victim and each has their own way of operating. Take the flyman for example…”
And we cut to Eddie Byrne’s Tench as he shuffles along a ledge, enters Lady Haverstock’s hotel bedroom and steals her necklace and earrings from the flower vase she had hid them in. The Saint, of course, is nearby and springs to the rescue. He’s the coolest person in the room – other than the beautiful Natalie Sheridan, who instantly recognises him as Simon Templar. He stays cool, and so does she, throughout the whole adventure as they drift lazily through a couple of days and nights in Cannes, hobnobbing it with the rich and famous, swapping comic acidly observant lines with each other and everyone else and avoiding the long arm of the law. Arnold Diamond’s Inspector Latignant makes his technicolour debut and he’s even more flowery than usual, determined to apprehend the Saint, happy to sweep up the spoils when Templar wins the day. He’s assisted by Ronnie Barker as a Cote d’Azur alternative to the Parisian Luduc. Barker’s Alphonse is a physical comic foil for both Latignant and the Saint. The scene where he attempts surveillance in a hotel bar and instead draws attention to himself was straight out of the bumbling Clouseau’s book; a more risqué moment when he interrupts Templar and Natalie as they canoodle in a car hints at the more permissive times.
In fact, there are several nods to the contemporary modern day. The outfits sported by the thieves are remarkably swanky and on point, short straight-cut jackets and roll neck pullovers, tight jeans. Natalie’s blue mist smoky eye shadow. Bertha Noversham’s disdain for the new rich. A middle aged movie producer has brought his ignorant, alcoholic starlet on holiday with him. Roger Moore tempts lovely Alexandra Stewart with a generous meal and a drive home – “a private engagement” he calls it – but she’s all for going Dutch, less he think divorced women are easy. “In Cannes, they seem to think if you aren’t waiting for one man, you must be waiting for all men,” she complains.
Interestingly, this reflects a scene about ten minutes in when the thieves Tench and Hugo drive down a street to their backstreet hostel. Waiting on the corner, idly swinging her handbag is a woman in a white dress. As Tench crosses the road and Hugo drives away, we notice a man approaching the woman. He engages her in an unheard negotiation. While tiny, little pieces of background such as this add flavour and interest to the main narrative. The production team really try to make this look and feel like an exotic, erotic trip to the south or France. The gaming room is packed with diamond encrusted women, tuxedoed men; the restaurants are swanky and share that Provencal air; the cocktail bars are sleek and modern; the five-star hotel rooms big and bold; the low rent accommodation cheerfully seedy; even the establishing shots of the beaches and roadways and red drenched sunsets share the feel of luxuriousness wrapped in a mink coat. Suitably, the crook’s hostel is named the Dauphine, suggesting this is the kind of life which will be coming next for the pampered rich. It is no surprise the more adaptable Saint fares better talking to the bosomy concierge than the stiff formal unimaginative police officers.
The blowsy film actress Mila Gambadi [Lisa Daniely] brags about her jewel collection, while her director sugar daddy Bernie Kovar [Patrick Whyte] cringes. She’s all over the Saint. “Get me one of those, Bernie,” Mila crows. Poor Bernie’s cringes become even deeper, much to the amusement of cheerful champagne swilling Bertha. Madge Evans is brilliant in this pivotal role, occupying the matronly accomplice taken by Jessie Royce Landis as Grace Kelly’s mother in the 1955 classic. However, Kovar knows where his bread is buttered and so does Mila. “You’re an awful boor when you’re drunk,” he argues, only to be told: “You’re an awful boor when I’m sober.” After their drunken spat, they retire to bed. We know it has ended well because when Hugo sneaks into their suite to nab the jewels, Kovar appears in his pyjamas and lights a post coital cigar.
Meanwhile, the Saint steals a kiss from the delightful Natalie. “Is this the end of the sex war?” he murmurs; “Mm, we just signed an armistice,” she agrees. The dialogue is informing us in a wonderfully erudite manner about everyone’s attitudes. “You don’t want to take orders from a woman,” the confident flyman Tench tells the nervy safe cracker Hugo. Writer Leigh Vance also uses humour to deflect tension. The moment Latignant enters the Saint’s suite and, astonished, only finds Natalie delicately sucking on a cigarette, was a moment of glee; so too Templar attempting to evade the police by exiting through the balcony doors: “Everybody here uses the window.” Moments of suspense are introduced to boost the thrill quota, and not only for the Saint. As Tench tries to frame prime suspect Simon Templar, he’s almost caught by Pauline Collins’ hotel maid. Minutes later Templar pursues him over the rooftops and death comes quicker than the night; this one a scene directly lifted from the climax of To Catch A Thief.
The plot turns just enough to keep us entertained and concerned for the characters we have come to enjoy and like. Director Gordon Flemyng injects enough tension and mystery to offer a quiver of danger. The subtle clues both lead and mislead. The final twist before the Saint clears his name and offers Latignant the arrest even surprised me. The explanation is thin at best but doesn’t hurt proceedings. Overall it was the slightly exaggerated performances I enjoyed the most, ones that interpreted a great script, creating and moulding characters without ever tipping into caricatures. Roger Moore has rarely been more assured and one should praise him for not attempting an impersonation of Cary Grant. This is pure Moore, even if the sentiment tips a wink to the great debonair actor.
There is much to admire in The Better Mousetrap, which feels like a fifty minute trip to classic Hollywood c.1955. The title however is terrible. A very good episode indeed.
10: Little Girl Lost
Adapted as The Dizzy Daughter by Leslie Charteris [with Fleming Lee] featured in The Saint Returns (1968)
S: June Ritchie, Noel Purcell
The Saint is on a fishing holiday to Ireland. His pleasant afternoon by the river is interrupted by two speeding cars, one of them spewing forth a blonde woman, Mildred, who bizarrely claims to be Hitler’s daughter. So begins a dreadful tale of blarney, double cross and embarrassment.
Until the very neat reveal at the episode’s climax, this is quite possibly one of the worst episodes of The Saint I have seen. A risible endurance test for 45 minutes, during which a couple of hopeless private detectives working for business magnate Eugene Drew attempt to kidnap their employer’s daughter for a tidy profit. There are gypsies, there are angry fathers, there are fist fights, there are dialogues of atrocious simplicity, there are many-many-many raised eyebrows, there is a compulsive liar for a ‘heroine’ and Roger Moore acting the smug git of a Saint again. Noel Purcell was an Irish oil prospector way back in The Wonderful War [S2:E16]; he acquits himself with the same mixture of frivolity and astonishment here.
Leslie Norman – a British director of much esteem – can’t do anything with a script and a premise so lame. Unbelievably, Little Girl Lost was a favourite story of Leslie Charteris and he petitioned author Fleming Lee to adapt the original teleplay for the companion collection The Saint Returns. He’s wrong. This is just awful.
For other reviews and responses on The Saint:
11: Paper Chase
W: Harry W. Junkin & Michael Cramoy
S: Ronald Hines, Niall McGinnis, Penelope Horner, Gordon Gostelow, Jack Gwillim
The Saint is taking a late night / early morning stroll along London’s Embankment, musing on life’s peculiarities: “for those of us who are not asleep, it is a time to love, pray, hate, argue, cheat, sometimes even kill.”
When Templar intervenes in an altercation between two men, he sets in motion a danger strewn adventure that takes place behind the Iron Curtain in Communist East Germany. Major Carter meets the Saint at Wimbledon’s Centre Court – apt for me as I’m watching the grass court tennis as I write – complaining not about the terrible seats [they were virtually benches in the sixties] but the standard of the sport. “Tennis isn’t how it used to be,” he says. I share the sentiment over fifty years on. Tennis aside, the Major has an assignment for the Saint. The man Templar aided at 5am a couple of days ago was Eric Redman, a Foreign Office civil servant who has gone missing, taking with him a file full of the identities and locations for all of the British Secret Service’s East Zone Operatives. Carter’s fear is that Redman has defected. He needs the file back and hopes the Saint can track the rogue agent down. It’s too risky sending data across to the very same East Zone Operatives, but as Templar knows what Redman looks like, he could trace the traitor easily.
So says the Major.
Things never work out quite so easy. Templar’s first port of call is an optician whose pretty receptionist is a lurking, inquisitive Stasi spy. This is a great scene, a real sixties secret agent moment for The Saint, with Templar viewing photos of possible suspects through the ophthalmologist’s testing equipment. Unfortunately, the beautiful blonde receptionist has suspected and reported Simon Templar, for when he reluctantly boards a train to Leipzig, his cabin is occupied by Kurt Probst, Colonel in the People’s Police, Leipzig Division, Security Section. Templar’s cover is Neville Franklin Forbes, a salesman for spectacle lenses, and Probst seems to have intimate knowledge of the trade and Forbes’ company. Eluding the Colonel over a railway car dinner, the Saint discovers a man searching his suitcase. There is a very James Bondian fight in a train carriage which ends in grisly fashion.
At this point in proceedings, I was thoroughly enjoying myself. This original adventure was dipping its toe metaphorically into the sixties spy craze and doing a very good job of it too. Director Leslie Norman is more than competent at ramping up the suspense and ensuring we have a few nifty camera angles to keep our eyes peeled. Close ups of moistured, sweating faces abound. The closeups of the east German secret policeman as they go about their business presents a hard, unremitting view of their work. The torture scene, where a man is scaled by hot coffee, was very effective. The action is swift and has a desperate, insidious edge to it. The sets are dark and cloistered. There are secrets and shadows everywhere. As the police net closes, Norman increases the tension with a series of tight, dark swathed scenes, never better than a clever piece of subterfuge in a left luggage office. The long drive to the border crossing keeps us on the edge of our seats too. One must congratulate regular cameraman Michael Reed, who would go on to great work for On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, here providing all those important shadows and sudden splashes of light which remind us of the dangers in the darkness.
Not least in Redman’s dark life. He believed he was exchanging secrets for his father’s freedom, but Carl Roteman’s beautiful secretary Hanya shows him the dead scientists gravestone. Redman has been double crossed by a cabal of chancers who want to steal the secrets and sell them on to the Soviets. Deceived and desperate, he asks the Saint for assistance, the Saint asks Hanya, who bargains with him to be smuggled back over the border. Penelope Horner first came to our attention as a starlet on the rise in The Set Up [S3: E15] and she revealed a devious edge in the recent The Russian Prisoner [S5: E3]. Here she’s more of a damsel in distress, but acquits herself well, decked out in a suitably bland skirt suit and with a curled bob of a hair style. In fact, she resembles an early version of Kara Milovoy from The Living Daylights, except she isn’t falling for the hero.
The climatic chase is good and has unexpected moments of humour. Niall McGinnis enjoys himself as the effervescent but steely Colonel Probst, a good foil for Roger Moore, who also provides a sterling effort; a real forerunner of his James Bond interpretation, not just physically, but right down to his disarmingly charming disdain for authority figures and a quizzical cheeky eye towards the ladies. Paper Chase resets the bar of achievement for The Saint as not only is it well-structured and produced, with performances that refuse to drag, but the contemporary atmosphere and espionage angle is fully involving even though we rather know the writers have cut corners to ensure the story doesn’t exceed the 52-minute run time.
An excellent slice of entertainment.
12: Locate and Destroy
S: John Barrie, Julia Arnall, Francesca Annis, Victor Beaumont, Simon Lack, Roger Delgado, Wolfe Harris, Maurice Kaufman, Andreas Malandrinos
Here, The Saint captures another contemporary sixties theme: war criminals and the hunt for escaped Nazis. Simon Templar is in Lima, Peru, and while he is browsing in Senor Gonzales’ antique shop, the mining magnate Henry Coleman arrives to pick up a reframed family heirloom. The Saint has recognised the picture, although Coleman claims it is a fake. Before the matter can be resolved, two gunmen enter the shop in an attempt to kidnap the rich industrialist. Naturally, the Saint steps in and foils the plan. Coleman refuses to press charges and insists the fracas was a misunderstanding. Roger Delgado’s police captain, Rodriguez, is unconvinced; so too is the Saint who takes it upon himself to dig a little deeper into Coleman’s personal history and his collection of historical artefacts. Discovering the painting was stolen from the Krakow Museum, he begins to put to two and two together, but not before some Israeli agents intervene and put the lives of the Saint, a local doctor and his beautiful daughter in danger.
This absorbing drama-thriller is one I have vague memories of – I must have watched a repeat before – and while it suffers marginally from being entirely studio bound, the excellent screenplay and above average performances make this a convincing and exciting story. There was a tremendously effective torture scene in Paper Chase, the one featured here is equally astonishingly grim. Salter, a mole for the Israeli’s, is found out and Coleman’s goons go to work on him, a bruising encounter so ruthless the man dies from his internal injuries. Victor Beaumont’s Karsh is a closet SPECTRE henchman in the Hans or Gunther mode. Meanwhile Henry Coleman is a closet Bond villain, small scale but with all the scheming assets. He’s so formal he invites Simon Templar to dinner while his heavies are smacking the life out of poor Salter. John Barrie’s sweating, plump middle-aged businessman with his glasses and white linen suits looks as benign as they come; but he’s hiding the identity of Hans Koenig, Deputy Minister for Mining in the Third Reich and killer of 5200 Jews, who he locked inside a collapsing gold mine. Coleman / Koenig even deceives his wife [Julia Arnall]. Things unravel when Salter escapes and dies in the arms of the local nurse, Maria Lopes, who because she’s played by the gorgeous Francesca Annis, must of course be assisted by the Saint.
The affair proceeds with all the necessary vim and vigour and the cast give everything. It may not be the very best of The Saint, but by touching on a very topical narrative the adventure becomes untypical of the series and is much more rewarding than the standard blackmail and double cross we generally expect.
Thoroughly enjoyed this one.
13: Flight Plan
W: Alfred Shaughnessy and Anthony Squire
S: William Gaunt, Fiona Lewis, Imogen Hassell, Ferdy Mayne
Flight Plan is an original story, but betrays some of the old silliness from the monochrome days. After a few stories which tapped into contemporary themes with some aplomb, this effort is distinctly sub-par. If you can accept the premise that Simon Templar can pilot a prototype Osprey jump jet at supersonic speed from eastern Europe to Britain without a single day’s training, I guess you might enjoy this adventure. I can’t and I didn’t.
The Saint is back in London and is witness to a foiled kidnapping. The victim is Diane Gregory [Fiona Lewis], sister of a disgraced RAF pilot, who has been targeted in an attempt to coerce her sibling into betraying his country. Ferdy Mayne heads up the bunch of Arab-looking Communists. He and Imogen Hassell are half-blacked-up for the occasion [do they call that 'dusting' or 'tanning' ?] which is half-way embarrassing to these modern eyes. Putting aside the makeup, Mayne is rather good as the ruthless leader of a small cabal of terrorists. Unusually, he and Miss Hassell and the rest of the crew are not caught. Instead, once Simon Templar has freed Miss Gregory and deposited her with the RAF, he rushes in pursuit of Mike Gregory, who is having second thoughts a second too late.
Some fun and games ensue in a fictional enclave of the Soviet Bloc. Everything is highly derivative and wouldn’t look out of place in a Matt Helm movie. It’s all very frantic and cliched and not very good.
For the Osprey the production team gained unique access to the testing of what would become the famous Harrier Jump Jet and that’s about the most interesting aspect of this production.
14: Escape Route
W: Micheal Winder
S: John Gregson, Wanda Ventham, Ivor Dean, Donald Sutherland, Jean Marsh, Jeremy Burnham, Vicki Wolf
Escape Route feels like the sort of story Leslie Charteris might have written, an intricate little piece based around the Saint’s self-imposed incarceration at Her Majesty’s Pleasure, a put-up job specifically designed by Inspector Teal to uncover, chase and thwart a gang of jail-breakers who have managed to free ten inmates from British prisons in the past year. An epidemic, the good Inspector claims. Ivor Dean is marvellous as the permanently harassed Inspector, who employs Simon Templar reluctantly, preferring to see his cheeky nemesis genuinely behind bars. The Saint is only vaguely interested in the jail-breakings – he as always is in the game for a higher moral motive. A friend of his, nightclub singer Penny Williams, is still mourning her father Charlie Pearson, who broke jail with help from the anonymous gang only to be discovered dead in a roadside ditch. Pearson was innocent of his crimes and unable to pay the gang’s escape fees. So, it’s a partial revenge for Simon Templar and a delicate deception from Claude Eustace Teal.
The story is condensed, of course, and it might have been better simply to have the Saint being held on remand before trial rather than being convicted, just to speed up the narrative. It runs fairly fast anyway. The episode kicks off with a daring jewel robbery in Belgravia and a high speed London pursuit. Templar hides the jewels in the jazz nightclub where Penny sings to disinterested hipsters in turtle necks and miniskirts. Finally apprehended by the police, after being given up by Vicki Wolf’s jealous goodtime girl Maggie, the Saint is given ten years by a stern judge. At this point I was already thinking the Saint had an ulterior motive and I wasn’t wrong. Templar shares a cell with Donald Sutherland’s John Wood, a cheerful, but vicious bank robber, who has got wind of the exclusive escape route for those who can pay their 20%. He’s prepared to pay – and so is the Saint. Salvation from rock breaking arrives via a helicopter and a daring flight to freedom. Transported to London, the pair meet Ann and Harry [Jean Marsh and Jeremy Burnham] who organise the remainder of the operation. While John Wood easily obtains his fees and loot, things are more complicated for the Saint, drawing Penny into the gang’s plans, which turn out to be murderous as well as financial advantageous. Nobody ever escapes: every jailbreak ends in the death of the fugitive and suave ex-SAS officer Colonel Roberts [John Gregson] pockets all the proceeds.
Roger Moore directs with some muscle and a softer hand at times of intrigue. He’s particularly good in the intimate, one-to-one standoffs: Templar and Wood in prison; Templar and Roberts shooting crossbow arrows for a fiver a bull’s eye; Templar and Teal discussing the Saint’s entry into prison life; Ann and Wood, the latter looking as if he is about to stick his over active tongue down her throat after every spoken word. The dialogue isn’t doing much, but Moore as director allows his cast the room to breathe and offer character insight through action and reaction. It’s really rather pleasing to watch. I wasn’t bored, that’s for sure. If the ending dives into familiar territories, with a shade too many fist fights, it is certainly engaging.
Wanda Ventham, who had a terrible time playing a lovesick impressionable teenager in Season 3’s The Death Penalty, is much better here, acting her age and assisting Roger Moore with his deceptions and intrigues.
Escape Route is often cited as one of the ten best episodes of The Saint and on current form, while top ten might be pushing it, I’d probably agree it is an extremely good episode indeed.