The Saint – The Latin Touch

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The Saint, vacationing in Rome, spots a damsel in distress, Sue Inverest (Suzan Farmer), who is locked in an argument with a stroppy cab-driver, Marco (Warren Mitchell).  Simon smoothly sorts out Marco and equally smoothly proposes to show Sue the sights – starting with the Colosseum.  But he’s hardly begun to display his impressive knowledge of history before he’s coshed by two thugs, who then abduct Sue.  Since she’s the daughter of an American politician, Hudson Inverest (Alexander Knox), it seems clear this wasn’t a random abduction.  But why was she kidnapped – for money, or is there some other reason?

The Saint‘s ability to travel all over the world despite rarely leaving the leafy environment of Borehamwood is well known.  But The Latin Touch does manage an early spot (albeit very brief) of genuine location shooting and these shots mingle pretty well with the studio work.  It also has to be said that the studio Colosseum set is quite impressive – we only see it for a short time, but it was money well spent.

It’s easy to spot that the two men who target Simon and Sue are bad ‘uns – the Frank Sinatra hats and flashy shoes are dead giveaways.  The revelation that Sue is the daughter of an American governor comes as something of a surprise, since Suzan Farmer doesn’t display a trace of an American accent.  Presumably accents weren’t her strongpoint.

She’s only onscreen for a few minutes before being nabbed, but  Farmer still manages to create a vivid impression.  It’s interesting that after Sue’s taken we don’t see her again until the 39th minute.  You’d have expected a few scenes with her to have been scattered through the story in order to ramp up the tension, but instead the human side of the drama is played out by Hudson and his wife, Maude (Doris Nolan).  Hudson puts duty first whilst Maude, as might be expected, is concerned only about her daughter.

Hudson faces a difficult moral dilemma.  Sue has been snatched by Mafia kingpin Tony Unciello (Bill Nagy), who demands that his younger brother, Nick, languishing in an American jail (his death warrant signed by Hudson), is reprieved from death row.  It’s highly debatable that Hudson would have the authority to do this (it’s hard to believe that the American government would agree to such a course either) but the way the story plays out it does seem that he has the power of life and death over Nick.

Warren Mitchell gives a lovely performance as Marco, this episode’s comic relief.  Marco is a rather slippery petty criminal, but Simon’s easily able to recruit him to the side of the godly.  Tony Unciello, like Sue, is rather lacking in screentime until the last ten minutes or so but Nagy’s scenes with Moore when they do arrive are good.  Hungarian-born Nagy might have seemed an odd choice to play an Italian/American gangster, but he’d do so again later (in Goldfinger).

With Tony remaining camera shy for most of the episode, it falls to others to sketch in aspects of his personality, such as the glamourous nightclub singer Maria (Carroll Simpson).  Maria’s short scene – she pulls back her hair to reveal a nasty scar (a legacy of her time with Tony) – helps to illustrate precisely what sort of man he is.  Since The Saint was extremely restricted in how it could depict violence (Leslie Charteris’ original stories often, much to his chagrin, had to be toned down) this scene is useful in the way that it suggests Tony’s violent nature without having to depict it.  Slightly surprising that Carroll Simpson, who is rather compelling, only seems to have made this single screen appearance.

Warren Mitchell’s entertaining as always and Bill Nagy’s nicely menacing, but The Latin Touch does suffer from a lack of tension, since it’s impossible to believe that Sue won’t be rescued in the end.  Given this, it rates a solid, but not spectacular, three halos out of five.

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