15: The Persistent Patriots
W: Michael Pertwee
Adapted as The Persistent Patriots by Leslie Charteris [with Fleming Lee] featured in The Saint Abroad (1969)
D: Roy Baker
S: Edward Woodward, Judy Parfitt, Jan Waters, Ivor Dean
The new year kicks off with the same old Saint.
At the international airport for a fledgling colonial African nation, Simon Templar saves the life of Prime Minster Jack Liskard and blags himself a first class seat home. Back in London to negotiate the final terms of the handover of power from the UK, Liskard becomes embroiled in a nasty game of blackmail and turns to his new best friend for help. Blackmail turns into a murder investigation when Liskard is discovered shot. Naturally Claude Eustace Teal is on hand to investigate. Naturally he only gets the story half-right and the Saint fills in the blanks.
Not a great story, one which revisits plenty of tropes we’ve seen before. For an original adventure, The Persistent Patriots feels very much like something Leslie Charteris might have concocted. A few nods to the modern ilk – Jan Waters plays a photographer’s model in debt who is obviously more than just a model, even her indignation at the suggestion runs dry – and a couple of fist fights can’t enliven a drab affair.
Nice to see Ivor Dean back as Inspector Teal. Cult figure Nosher Powell has a small role as a heavy. The eagle-eyed will also spot the same left-luggage set used in Paper Chase [S5: E11].
The Persistent Patriots [along with The Art Collectors] was adapted for novelisation by Fleming Lee and Leslie Charteris in the 1969 collection The Saint Abroad. Odd that, since for this story he is mostly at home.
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
16: The Fast Women
W: Harry W. Junkin
Based on The Fast Women by Leslie Charteris featured in The Saint in the Sun (1963)
D: Leslie Norman
S: Jan Holden, John Carson, Kate O’Mara, Victor Maddern, John Hollis, Donald Morley
The Saint is in sly mode as he fends off the attentions of two female racing drivers, Cynthia Quillen and Teresa Montecino, both vying for the Women’s Trophy, a sort of Grand Prix for girls. Cynthia has her claws out for Teresa, who has her own talons gripped onto Cynthia’s husband, Godfrey. He is a layabout cuckold drunk, feeding off his wife’s purse and propositioning every cute little woman he meets. The Saint quite rightly takes a dislike to everybody, especially when they all start badgering him to kill the other. A fee of £100,000 doesn’t sway him. Murder is simply not on his mind. A night of love with the fiery Teresa might be however: “Why don’t we have a dinner party of our own for disreputably single people and we’ll invite nobody else?” Kate O’Mara’s racy Italian accepts with indecent haste, much like her driving.
Not a lot happens here. John Hollis pops up as an assassin for hire and there is a brief sojourn to the Brighton Hippodrome where the Saint and the race engineer Paddy observe Maximillian Tordoff performing great feats of marksmanship. Otherwise it’s standard fare with a few nice scenes and a lot of bitterness. Paddy aside, these are really horrible, self-absorbed people who don’t elicit an ounce of sympathy from the audience. Donald Morley’s Inspector Dawes is as perplexed by the perpetrator’s motives as I was; he’s more cooperative with the Saint, but to maintain the suspense clues must be hidden from us, so the reveal is an eyebrows raising moment.
The episode isn’t terrible, but it doesn’t do very much. Leslie Norman does an okay job with a subpar script and story. A few notes are worth raising:
There is some decent, if swift, location work taken at Brands Hatch motor racing circuit which blends in neatly with the studio work and also some stock scenes taken at the 1966 British Grand Prix. The livery for the Argus and Bellini cars and the helmets of the female protagonists were painted specifically to match those of Jim Clark and Graham Hill who were competing at the actual race.
However, while Cynthia’s surname is pronounced and in the credits spelt Quillen, on her race car it is spelt Quillin.
John Hollis, for the sharp eyed, played Blofeld in a wheel chair in For Your Eyes Only.
John Carson makes a decent return for a third outing in The Saint. He’s always reliable in these little affairs.
Paddy gets the rules of darts slightly wrong, claiming you must start and finish on a double, when you only have to finish on a double, at least in ordinary pub darts. Double-in is only generally used in professional championship matches.
The incidental music is particularly strong for this one. During the backstage fight between Templar and Tordoff, the action is accompanied by a whispered boogie-woogie tune from the theatre show taking place above the combatants. A nice touch that. The car chase is also enlivened by a jaunty jazzy little number which hints at the silliness of the drivers – the expert women race to nothing more than the sound of their engines. I don’t often give Edwin Astley praise – let’s be honest he’s got his work cut out scoring 26 episodes a year and I understand he’ll take short cuts – but this outing certainly offers more than the usual brass and drum portfolio we’ve come to expect.
The Fast Women marks a turning point for The Saint on television as it was the last episode to be adapted from a Leslie Charteris original. Its origin collection The Saint in the Sun was also the last Saint book to be written solely by Charteris himself. From 1964, all The Saint novels / novellas / collections would by written by other authors starting with Harry Harrison’s Vendetta for the Saint [which would later be the last novel adapted for television and theatrical release]. Indeed, so wrapped up in television consultation did Charteris become that his next Saint book didn’t arrive until 1968 and was entitled, with rare honesty, The Saint on TV.
Regarding the television adaptations, Season 5 had already seen several adventures written specifically for the screen. It is a credit to Charteris’ invention that he has written enough novels or short stories to occupy as many as 76 episodes of the TV series, but times have to move on and the production team must have felt they had exhausted all the best stories available to them. The repetitive themes of blackmail, double cross and deception, coupled with doses of infidelity, smuggling or revolution, a dash of espionage or corporate greed, seem a little moribund by 1967 and branching out into original adventures feels like a step in the right direction for The Saint.
17: The Death Game
W: Harry W. Junkin, John Kruse
Adapted as The Death Game by Leslie Charteris [with Fleming Lee] featured in The Saint on TV (1968)
S: Angela Douglas, Alan McNaughtan, George Murcell, John Steiner, Bernard Horsfall, Ivor Dean, Katherine Schofield
And as if by magic, the very next episode was picked out by Leslie Charteris to headline The Saint on TV, the first of two novella collections that appeared in 1968. And it is a weird one, a story that feels as though it has been transplanted from the script-room of The Avengers. This jokey murder game was the kind of ruse employed over and over to thwart Steed and Mrs Peel. It doesn’t sit half so well with Simon Templar. The opening scenes take place during a fog bound London night. The Saint is pursued by wind-up toy soldiers, shot at, dodges an arrow and avoids an electrocution. As Roger Moore’s expression turns more and more bemused, a disembodied voice claims to have “killed the notorious Simon Templar.”
It is, of course, all a wonderful lark for bored psychology students Jenny Turner and Grey Wyler who play an internationally popular cult activity called the Death Game. This involves hunters tracking and ‘killing’ victims by nefarious means. Wyler is an expert, who revels in his successes. Jenny seems more in it for cute kicks, but then she’s played by Angela Douglas, who is cute and probably way too old to be impersonating a psychology student. Vice-Chair of the faculty, Bill Bast, thinks the Chairman, Dr Manders, is hiding something: 12% of students who attend the honorary World Finals in Switzerland never return. And Manders has been paid £5000 to ensure he sends prime candidates to Adolf Vogler’s specialised clinic in the Swiss Alps. When Bill Bast turns up dead – by nefarious means, naturally, or unnaturally as it were – the Saint feels he must investigate further. When Dr Manders tries to scythe him with a rapier it becomes fairly obvious all is not what is should be with the Death Game.
Inspector Teal agrees, and it later becomes clear he’s fed Templar extensive background information about Adolf Vogler because come the final reel the Saint knows everything about the villain’s history and his present. His future, of course, is to be bested by the Saint, but not before a final ten minutes which resembles a daytime telly version of The Hounds of Zaroff. The Saint and Jenny are pursued by hunters through the woodlands of a lake bound island where Vogler has his elaborate brutalist mansion, all cement and glass and straight lines. He’s able to observe the Death Game candidates through closed circuit cameras hidden behind mirrors, sips tumblers of brandy alexanders and reaches out across the world to plot to order the downfall of political agitators from any nation – using the same psychologically imbalanced hunters from the Death Game. Unfortunately for the Saint, he’s rumbled by slinky henchwoman Gretl [Katherine Schofield in clinging red cat suits] and Vogler confronts him over cigars and brandy alexanders. George Murcell, who cut a wicked figure in The Saint Bids Diamonds [S4: E7] is equally good here, bringing a touch of James Bond villainy to the proceedings.
The episode is only a half-way success. The story doesn’t even get going until the second half and feels bogged down by the Death Game of the title, a notion that doesn’t really stand up to psychological profiling. Early on the students in grimy London are a bit too ‘groovy, kinky, super’ to be taken seriously. Then it is as though we’ve got transported into a completely different episode with luxurious Swiss surroundings, a nasty criminal mastermind and a spate of killings. For what it is, it is okay. Leslie Norman, who seems overworked this season, again creates a decent atmosphere but hasn’t anywhere to place it.
Two lines of dialogue stuck out: Vogler assessment of Simon Templar as “an obstructionist” seems very apt and after dispatching the Saint to Switzerland, Inspector Teal’s statement that “I need my head examining” exactly mirrors that of Inspector Dawes in the previous The Fast Women. I know how they both feel…
18: The Art Collectors
Adapted as The Art Collectors by Leslie Charteris [with Fleming Lee] featured in The Saint Abroad (1969)
S: Ann Bell, Peter Bowles, Nadja Regin, Geoffrey Blaydon
Wow. This is… well… this is … a mess?
The Saint’s halo shifts so far to his right it is almost dropping onto his shoulder, which shows the kind of careless form we are treading here.
Natasha Ivanova is an exiled White Russian who possesses three previously unseen Da Vinci paintings. The Saint, unaware of Natasha’s art collection, attempts to pick her up in a classy Parisian restaurant. She’s having none of it, crafty girl, but soon relents when he rescues her from a kidnap attempt. Ann Bell’s accent lasts longer than her character’s resolve. It is quite possibly the most annoying aspect of the whole episode, being so obvious and overbearing it becomes a hindrance to taking Natasha’s seriously. Full marks though to Miss Bell for not allowing the make-believe to drop, even when she’s throwing a tantrum and chucking vases and plant pots at an amused Simon Templar.
The Saint, naturally, has all the answers and, as has become his manner, he doesn’t let on and is becoming privy to information through channels we never see. This is a cute get-out for the writers, or may be an editing concern. One thing they don’t have time for is to show the very lengthy process of determining provenance. Geoffrey Blaydon’s art expert Marcel Legrand gives the canvases only a few seconds cursory glance before declaring them genuine which is a complete farce of the actual procedure. Okay, The Saint is not a show renowned for dwelling on these sublime details, but I think it is relatively important here as the authenticity of the pieces is crucial to determining their value.
Glossing over this enormous error in writing, there are some nice touches which lighten the mood. The Saint sneaking around in a sealed packing case, leaving it Houdini style and stencilling his stickman moniker on the lid was one. Another is the moment he notices two brandy glasses on a table when Legrand specifically claims he is alone. The eventual reveal of who everyone is and what they hope to achieve has some merit, locked up as it is with the repatriation of Nazi loot, but the whole episode is rather weak, if occasionally good fun.
Legrand’s wife, Lucille, is played by Nadja Regin who of course played Kerim Bey’s mistress in From Russia With Love and Bonita, the flamenco dancer, in Goldfinger. No explosions interrupt her performance this time around.
Along with The Persistent Patriots (S5: E15), Leslie Charteris chose this episode to adapt for the two novella collection The Saint Abroad. Charteris has very low taste in television. I find it unbelievable that these half-baked adventures were chosen ahead of, say, The Queen’s Ransom or Paper Chase, both of which would have made tremendous literary forays. Still, perhaps Charteris wanted a lighter Saint to inhabit the pages of his books. We certainly get one here.
I'm very much enjoying reading these. Watching them all has moved into my "one day" file (recently I bought and watched other shows of a similar vintage so I might get round to it).
Not a bad prediction as it turns out…