After witnessing the attempted assassination of Sheikh Kemal (Marne Maitlaind) on television, Simon has a sense that he’s going to be involved, although he doesn’t know how. He doesn’t have long to wait – shortly afterwards he receives a call from a senior man in American intelligence, Hendricks (Roger Brown).
Hendricks is convinced that Kemal will be targeted again and this time the hit will succeed, as an expert assassin called Brown (Sergio Doria) has been hired. Hendricks is less concerned with Brown, he wants the organisation financing him – a shady murder cartel responsible for most of the major assassinations over the last five years.
Moments later Hendricks is murdered in front of Simon’s eyes and that makes things very personal for the Saint. He assumes Brown’s identity and goes undercover to break the cartel. There he runs into the beautiful but deadly Laura (Britt Ekland) …..
Shot on location in Rome, Murder Cartel, like all the foreign episodes of ROTS, certainly makes full use of the locale. Back in the 1960’s, whenever Roger Moore’s Saint visited Rome it would be courtesy of back projection and filming at Elstree Studios. There’s no substitute for the real thing though, as this episode shows.
An impressive moment occurs when an accident is staged with two taxis in one of Rome’s busy streets. It’s probably not the sort of thing that could easily happen today (red tape and clearances would make it prohibitively difficult). Although the illusion is slightly shattered just after the crash – we see quite a few people standing about watching from the pavement (clearly they had been there quite a while, enjoying observing the film crew at work!)
Ogilvy gets to don a pair of dark glasses as he pretends to be a ruthless assassin. It’s the third story in a row where Simon pretends to be on the side of the baddies – pity these episodes couldn’t have been spread out throughout the run, lumped together they don’t work quite as well.
Britt Ekland is statuesque but wooden as the head of the murder cartel. She’s given a brief speech to justify herself (it’s all to do with her father) although since she’s a fairly sketchily drawn character it doesn’t really help to flesh her out.
The main problem with Murder Cartel is that it’s difficult to get involved with the story. Simon is upset about the death of Hendricks (an old friend, apparently) but as we’ve never seen him before his death doesn’t have any resonance. The question of whether Kemal will die or not is another part of the plot which remains undeveloped – his screen-time is so limited (and we only hear him utter a few words throughout the whole episode) that it’s impossible to feel invested in his fate.
Having said that, the story chugs along quite agreeably, the locations look lovely and Ekland, whilst hardly the best actor in the world, is very easy on the eye.
So this rates three halos out of five.