The Saint – Judith

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The Saint, relaxing in Canada, is approached by Judith Northwade (Julie Christie).  She  tells him that her uncle, ruthless businessman Burt Northwade (David Bauer), has appropriated the design for a revolutionary new engine from her father and plans to sell it for a small fortune.  So Simon agrees to break into Northwade’s house and steal back the plans …..

There’s plenty of stock footage used in the pre-credits sequence, which sees Simon attending an ice hockey game.  Although you might not have tagged this as Simon’s natural environment, he’s enjoying himself enormously (if the lusty shouts of encouragement he directs towards his team are anything to go by!).  His comfy sheepskin jacket was an unexpected fashion moment.

In the sort of remarkable coincidence that the series thrived on, Burt Northwade just happened to be sitting a few seats ahead of Simon.  They don’t talk – but this moment allows both of our principal characters to be seen together early on.  The episode then follows a traditional path as Simon, after popping up before the credits, fades away for a while in order to allow the guest characters to be established.

Northwade’s hard business streak is quickly spelt out.  His desire to press ahead with the sale of the engine distresses his wife, Ellen (Margo Johns) and their first scene together somewhat lurches into melodrama after he rather theatrically raises his hand to strike her.  She’s disgusted that he’s planning to swindle his own brother, whilst he blames her for not bearing him a son and heir.

We then see a mysterious and beautiful young woman keeping observation on their palatial house.  This is the titular Judith who – after being startled by Northwade’s guards – literally runs into Simon’s path (their two cars almost collide).   Judith drives off, but Simon finds himself arrested as a trespasser.  Clearly the Canadian laws on trespassers were very strict at this time – the Saint is told that if he moves before the police turn up then he could be shot!

This week’s police representative is Inspector Henri Lavan (John Serret).  He’s more suspicious of the Saint than some of his international colleagues and we’re left with the strong impression that he’s not prepared to be fobbed off by Simon’s easy charm.  The moment when he demolishes the Saint’s stated reason for visiting Montreal (Simon claimed he was planning to visit a favourite restaurant) is an interesting one, since it’s rare to see the Saint discomforted or outmanoeuvred by a member of the police force.  But Simon’s not knocked off his stride for long, as he then proceeds to laugh it off and disappears before Lavan has a chance to realise what’s happened.

Simon is given a police shadow – Sergeant Soustelle (Ross Parker) – who sticks to him like glue.  This is a little irksome, so the Saint boldly tells him that he’s planning to pick up a girl.  “And if you promise not to disturb me, you can sit at the bar and have an unlimited number of drinks at my expense”.  That Simon Templar, he’s something of a lad ….

But since the girl is Judith and Simon’s still curious about why she drove so erratically earlier, possibly his interest is purely professional.  Possibly.  Judith pours her heart out to him and it’s not surprising that her sob story hits home – after all, it’s a good story (and she’s gorgeous, which never hurts either).

Judith is an odd one.  For most of its duration it follows a linear path with no apparent mystery – Northwade’s deal is legally sound but morally reprehensible – which means that it’s not the most absorbing of yarns.  But you can still enjoy the various incidental pleasures along the way, such as the entertaining turn by Ross Parker as the gullible Sergeant (Simon is able to wrap the poor man around his little finger).

Although we shouldn’t feel too sorry for him as he doesn’t do badly out of their association – he’s able to eat and drink to his heart’s content!  And when Simon later locks him in the cupboard, the Sergeant’s half-hearted cries of “you’ll go to jail” never fails to amuse. Quite how he’s managed to stay in the force so long is a bit of a mystery.

Julie Christie is lovely of course, and she also helps to keep the interest ticking along although Judith isn’t the most sharply drawn or interesting of characters (at least not until the late twist).  This adaptation slightly softens the bite of the original, but otherwise it stays pretty faithful to Charteris’ story.  The reversal in the last ten minutes is a decent one, but since the rest of the episode is fairly forgettable, overall Judith only rates two and a half halos out of five.

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