Brad Ryan (Bob Kanter), a friend of Simon’s, approaches him with a request for money. Brad’s convinced that there’s a valuable oyster bed in Mexico, just ripe for the picking. An indulgent Simon agrees to lend him three thousand dollars which enables Brad and his partner Harry Tiltman (Robin Hughes) to depart for San Domingo.
But Tiltman is a con-man and once they arrive in Mexico he robs Brad and leaves him for dead. Three years pass and all of his backers, including Simon, have come to the conclusion that Brad simply stole their money and disappeared. But then Brad’s ex-girlfriend Joss (Erica Rogers) receives a letter from him – promising the return of her stake money if she makes the trip to San Domingo. The Saint, intrigued to discover what happened, agrees to accompany her ….
This is an odd story and no mistake. The first part of the episode – Brad and Tiltman set out on the hunt for oysters – is told in flashback, with Simon only appearing briefly to set the scene. Brad is the character who drives the early part of the plot – he’s a boyish but reckless adventurer and it quickly becomes clear that his trust in others could prove to be his downfall.
Joss is beautiful, but rather self-centered. A budding actress, she’s content to let herself be pawed by producers (a topical touch) and following Brad’s disappearance has no compunction in marrying for money. In short, she’s presented as little more than a gold-digger and whilst Simon is reasonably polite to her face, he can’t help but let the odd barb pass his lips. When they both arrive in Mexico, he elects to search for Brad by himself, and after she asks if that’s because she’s so repulsive, he responds that her repulsiveness isn’t visible. Ouch!
In Charteris’ original story he memorably described her thus.
She was a type. She was the half-disrobed siren on the jacket of a certain type of paper-bound fiction. She was the girl in the phony-tough school of detective stories, the girl that the grotesque private eye with the unpaid rent and the bottle of cheap whisky in his desk drawer is always running into, who throws her thighs and breasts at him and responds like hot jelly to his simian virility.
You can’t really miss the fact that San Domingo is a small Mexican village. Flamenco guitar and maracas in the local bar (check). Sombreros and ponchos on display outside (check). This heavy-handed scene setting does raise a smile, but the village – constructed on the back lot – is quite convincing and the stock footage blends in well, ensuring that it counts as one of The Saint‘s more convincing early foreign locales.
I love the cliché moment when Simon saunters into the bar. The mere sight of his immaculately tailored suit is enough to draw the eyes of the locals, but it’s when he mentions that he’s looking for Brad Ryan that everybody really begins to loom in a menacing fashion. But for once, the locals aren’t there to be sinister or obstructive – instead they’re only trying to protect Consuelo (Dina Painser).
When we last saw Brad, he’d suffered a nasty head wound and very well might have been dead. This turns out not to be the case – he was found by Consuelo who has slowly nursed him back to health. But the twist is that the fight left him blind and only an expensive operation will restore his sight. This revelation raises a few interesting questions – most notably what will happen to Consuelo if and when Brad regains his sight. Although Dina Painser was only in her early forties at the time, she seemed to be made up to look older (therefore the unspoken inference is that Brad will no longer be interested in his ministering angel once he sets eyes on her).
That Consuelo is happy to put her life savings towards Brad’s operation, despite the fact he may leave her when his sight is restored, speaks volumes for her good heart.
Joss and Consuelo are plainly designed to be opposites in every way. Joss is young, beautiful, but completely self-absorbed whilst Consuelo is older, care-worn but possessed of a deep love for Brad. Eventually Brad obtains the money he needs for the operation (thanks to assistance from Simon) and the Saint is on hand to reassure the viewers that Brad will be able to see beyond Consuelo’s physical appearance in order to view the beauty underneath (yes, he does lay it on a bit thick).
It’s true that Simon’s closing piece to camera is slightly toe-curling and it’s very hard to warm to Brad at all (lucky that he’s got people like Simon and Consuelo to look out for him) but The Pearls of Peace isn’t a total write-off. Erica Rogers is rather good as the very unsympathetic Joss (clearly she made an impression as she’d return to the series on three more occasions – playing a different character each time).
The adaptation by Richard Harris was pretty faithful to the original story, although Simon and Ned Yarn (renamed Brad Ryan for the teleplay) were strangers whilst Joss’ behaviour and colourful insults were rather toned down.
The Pearls of Peace doesn’t quite work, but there’s enough of interest for me to rate it a solid three halos out of five.