Return of the Saint – Appointment in Florence

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When a friend of Simon’s, Christian Van Esser (Bryan Pinero), is kidnapped and later killed by a faction of the Red Brigade, the Saint is quickly on the trail.  One of the terrorists, Ingo (James Aubrey), reacts badly to Christian’s murder and absconds – along with the ransom money.  With both his former associates and the Saint on his trail, he’s certainly a man in demand.  His girlfriend, Lea (Carla Romanelli), is a strong lead – but can Simon convince her that the man she loves is a terrorist?

By now you should be aware of the drill.  If Simon’s spending time in the pre-credits sequence with an old friend, it’s reasonable to assume that his lifespan will be somewhat limited!  A nice touch is that the episode opens with Simon and Christian enjoying a skiing holiday (no doubt these scenes were shot during the making of Hot Run) and we then relocate after the first ten minutes to Florence.  The two very different locations help to give the story an extra gloss.

Before the credits roll, we see Christian abducted, but we don’t know why.  It’s interesting that immediately after, time has clearly elapsed – we learn in very short order that Christian was kidnapped, the ransom was paid, the Saint had promised not to do anything to impede his return but all to no avail (his dead body arrives at the rendezvous in a cable-car).  All of this is dealt with in a minute or so, whereas it would have been more usual to develop the drama of Christian’s kidnap during the first act.

The least impressive piece of dubbing in the episode comes when Christian’s wife spies his lifeless body in the cable-car and screams.  The shape of her mouth in no way corresponds to the heart-wrenching wail which was no doubt added on much later in London!

Terrorism rarely featured in ROTS (One Black September was a notable exception).  It’s not hard to understand why, as the fanaticism of terrorists sits rather uneasily with the series’ escapist tone.   As might be expected they’re painted with rather broad brushstrokes – the terrorists’ beliefs are briefly touched upon, but if they had been ordinary criminals the story wouldn’t have been too different.

Their leader, Manfred (Stuart Wilson), is slightly more sadistic than the run of the mill ROTS baddy though.  When he corners Lea, he tells her that “I’m going to hang you from your own balcony. And when you are choking, I will come and cut the rope and watch while you fall and break your neck.”  Not surprisingly, he doesn’t get to carry out his threat as Simon arrives in the nick of time.

Carla Romanelli gives a nice performance as Lea – she doesn’t have a great deal to do, but comes over in several key scenes very well.  An eye-catching turn comes from Nicole Stoliaroff as one of the terrorists, Gaby.  Although it’s true that her character is something of a cliche – blond, beautiful and deadly – and is never really  developed.  As I’ve said, it would have been better had the terrorists had more strongly defined characters and motivations, but perhaps that was outside of the series’ parameters.

Despite the feeling of deja vu, this is a solid episode which rates four halos out of five.

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