The Saint – The Work of Art

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Simon’s gone to Paris in order to spend a little time with the attractive Juliette (Yoland Turner). But this pleasant sojourn is cut short after Juliette’s brother, Andre (Alex Scott), is accused of murdering his business partner, Jean Bougrenet (John Bailey). Unbeknown to Andre, Jean was a member of an Algerian rebel organisation and since he recently defrauded Andre out of five hundred thousand francs, Andre had a clear motive for murder.

Attempting to clear Andre’s name, the Saint finds himself tangling with the implacable Major Quintana (Martin Benson) as well as Vladek Urivetsky (Hamilton Dyce), known as the Master Forger of Europe …..

The pre-credits sequence shows Simon relaxing at a street café. Everything is calm and peaceful, at least until the police turn up and drag a seemingly inoffensive man into the back of their police car. You might expect that this will have some bearing on the plot, but no – the man simply exists in order for Simon to tell the viewers that whilst Paris looks calm on the surface, revolutionary intrigue is bubbling away in the most unlikely quarters. It’s a slightly clumsy way of signalling what the thrust of the story will be, but no matter it’s only a passing irritation.

John Bailey was one of those actors who suffered beautifully (he had a wonderfully expressive face which could express a world of pain). He’s therefore perfect as the twitchy Jean, a man on the run from the imposing Major Quintana. Jean works for Quintana, but Quintana has come to distrust him (easy to see why, since Jean radiates unease and guilt). It’s therefore no surprise that Jean doesn’t last terribly long – he’s throttled to death within the first twenty minutes.

If the opening half of the story is rather dour and humourless – it’s mainly comprised of a number of grim looking men looking grimly at each other – then the arrival of Mère Lafond (Hazel Hughes) helps to lighten matters somewhat. Hughes – an experienced actress with a career which dated back to 1938 – is great fun as the fiery Madame Lafond. She’s a woman who operates on the shadier side of the law and expresses disbelief that the Saint may now be aligned with the godly! Hughes’ appearance is only brief but it helps to provide the episode with a much needed injection of levity.

Yolande Turner, in the first of her two Saint appearances, manages a decent French accent as the alluring Juliette. It’s not the greatest of parts, but she does her best. Robert Cawdron is given some decent comic material as the long-suffering Sergeant Ludic. Tasked with the job of staying by the Saint’s side at all times, it’s no surprise that Simon delights in leading him a merry dance.

At one point, Ludic is dragged along to a fancy dress party. He remains in plain clothes whilst Simon enters into the spirt of things by dressing as a clown (some twenty years before he did so again in Octopussy). It’s difficult not to love the groovy music and general revelries, although it won’t surprise you to learn that Simon organised this treat as something of a diversion ….

Part of the problem with The Work of Art is that the Algerian question isn’t really examined in much detail (we therefore never really know exactly what Major Quintana is fighting for). Urivetsky – although he barely features – at least is given a clear motivation. Unlike Quintana he’s not interested in politics – money is his only goal.

Roger Moore gets the opportunity to demonstrate yet again that the Saint is very handy in a fistfight, whilst his trademark calm under fire is also in evidence. It’s a pity that Simon doesn’t meet Quintana and Urivestsky until the last ten minutes or so, as when he does the story starts to pick up a little impetus.

Adapted from Charteris’ 1937 novella The Spanish War, Harry Junkin’s teleplay retooled the original quite considerably – changing many of the names and relocating the action from London to Paris. The Work of Art is solid enough, but isn’t terribly engaging and so only rates two and a half halos out of five.

Watch for the sign of the Saint, he will return …..

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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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The Saint – The Bunco Artists

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After the elderly Sophie Yarmouth (Mary Merrall) is cheated by two confidence tricksters, Simon – along with Mrs Yarmouth’s daughter Jean (Justine Lord) – decides to turn the tables and play the tricksters at their own game ….

We open in London’s glittering West End.  The scene-setting stock footage tells us that Phyllis Calvert, Marius Goring and Elizabeth Sheppard are playing in Menage A Trois whilst next door David Tomlinson is appearing in Boeing Boeing.

Simon is cooling his heels by the stage door, waiting for Jean to appear.  She’s delayed, which allows the Stage Door Keeper (played by Meadows White) to wax lyrical (“all the world’s a stage”, etc).  He also has one of the most arch deliveries of “why, you’re the famous Simon Templar” seen in the series to date.

She’s worth waiting for though (Justine Lord is a vision in white).  Jean’s a not terribly successful actress, but she’s hopeful that her big break is just around the corner.  I love her breathless précis of the exciting new role she’s hoping to snag.  “I go insane in act two, I yell and scream and carry on. And then in the end I put three bullets in my husband’s heart”.

But whilst Simon is squiring Jean around town, what of her mother?  She lives in a picturesque English village and is a big wheel at the Netherdon Parish Church.  She’s approached by a pleasant young American woman, Amelia Wade (Louise King), who tells her that the church is in line to receive a handsome donation from a mysterious American foundation (which would allow them to meet their restoration target).

This seems too good to be true – and alarm bells really start to ring when Amelia tells Sophie that she actually needs to see the money they’ve collected so far for the church restoration (records and receipts aren’t acceptable – only sight of the actual cash will do).  Of course, we’ve already got a good idea about what might happen, since Simon’s primed us in the pre-credits sequence about con artists.

But it seems as if Simon won’t be needed as Mr Henderson (Peter Dyneley), from the International Detective Agency in New York turns up, hot on Amelia’s heels.  Hurrah!  Along with the local copper, Charlie Lewis (Victor Platt), they ask Sophie to play along – if they can catch Amelia in the act, actually attempting to steal the cash, then she’ll be bang to rights.  But of course, Henderson isn’t what he seems either (he and Amelia – or Joyce, as she’s really called – are husband and wife confidence tricksters) so poor Sophie finds herself conned, good and proper.

The con is done very neatly – it’s not quite Hustle, but it’s still an effective set piece.  What’s especially entertaining is how Henderson explains to a rapt Charlie and Sophie exactly how “Amelia” carried out the switch (a case with a false bottom) only for him to then pull the same trick.  Dyneley and King make for an effective double act.  This was Dyneley’s second of three Saint appearances (it’s certainly a better role than his first, The Careful Terrorist).  American-born King made a string of appearances in British series during this period (her final credit was in 1964).  Her character is allowed a little twinge of conscience – after all, conning an old lady out of six thousand pounds (what will happen to the church roof now?) is a bit mean.

It doesn’t take Simon too long to work out that they’re actually called Mr and Mrs Richard Eade and have made their way to the South of France.  They can’t be terribly good criminals if they leave such an obvious trail ….

So the Saint and Jean set off for France and after the usual orgy of stock footage, Simon adopts the role of a friendly Texan and impresses Eade by flashing his cash about.  I’ve commented before about Moore’s interesting range of accents, and this is another good example.  Although as before, I’m not sure whether it’s supposed to be deliberately bad or not.  What’s certain is that Moore’s comic timing is put to good effect during these scenes (I like his bootlace tie as well).  But Simon’s not the only one with a silly accent as Jean’s gone all French.  Like Moore, Lord plays the comic scenes well.

There’s some familiar faces lurking about in the background. André Maranne makes his second and final Saint appearance. It’s not a terribly interesting role (hotel barman) but he does get a few lines.  John Standing plays a Gendarme whilst an uncredited Ingrid Pitt can be seen lounging by the hotel pool.

Charteris’ original tale appeared in the short-story collection, Thanks to the Saint (1957).  A fair bit of retooling went on during the first half of the adaptation (in the short story, Mrs Yarmouth believed she was handing over the money in order to make her nephew a film star) but the second half (Simon turns the tables with a sting revolving around a valueless necklace) was pretty much the same.

This change of emphasis – from film stardom to church welfare – allows Simon to make an amusingly impassioned speech after he and the Gendarme (Standing) run the crooks to ground.  “All over Netherdon parish, old people, widows, children, plumbers, bricklayers, carpenters, ordinary people, contributed their pennies and their shillings to the Netherdon Church restoration fund and these parasites stole it”.  Standing gets to react in a suitably shocked manner (“oh no”).

A lovely comic episode where everyone’s on fine form.  Roger Moore, of course, was made for this sort of role whilst Justine Lord is also very watchable.  Hard to see how this one could have been any better – five halos out of five.

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The Saint – Marcia

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Simon is mourning the death of Marcia Landon, famous film star, who took her own life after being disfigured in an acid attack.  Rising starlet Claire Avery (Samantha Eggar) has taken over the role Marcia was due to play in an upcoming film and after receiving a threatening letter – stating that unless she hands over five thousand pounds she too will be disfigured – calls on Simon for help.  So the Saint finds himself with a film studio full of suspects to investigate …..

The pre-credits sequence has a bleakness which wasn’t typical for the series, as we see Simon pay Marcia a fullsome eulogy.  Her face – prior to the attack – is prominently displayed both in the newspapers and on the studio walls where Simon has called to see Claire (and Marcia’s image will continue to appear throughout the episode).  The attack is shown in flashback – shot from distance and mostly using shadows, it’s effectively moody (and also isn’t explicit – which was always a consideration).

It’s a cliché but Samantha Eggar – just like Claire Avery – has undeniable star quality.  Director John Krish favours close-ups in the early part of the episode – as Claire and Simon chat about Marcia – and these shots, along with Eggar’s low, breathy voice helps to create a considerable impression.  The camera loves her and, to be honest, so do I.

Johnny Briggs creates an immediate impression as the chirpy runner, Johnny Desmond – he’s an upbeat sort of chap, always ready with a bad joke.  Marion Mathie, later to be the third and final television She Who Must Be Obeyed in Rumpole of the Bailey, is another familiar face who pops up (she plays Sheila – wife of Mike Sentinal, the director).

Jill Melford is deliciously bitchy as Irene Cromwell, an older actress who clearly believes that she should have been given Marcia’s role.  Dripping with honey-tongued venom, she’s highly entertaining.  Mix in Tony Beckley as Claire’s very disgruntled co-star and Philip Stone as a dogged police inspector and it’s hard to see how this story could have been better cast.

What’s nice about this one is that it gives us a rare chance to look behind the scenes at the studios where The Saint was shot.  It’s nowhere as self-reverential as some of the later UFO episodes, but it’s still interesting (and I daresay since it was pretty cheap to shoot, it would have pleased the producers).

As the story progresses, Claire continues to stress.  Things come to a head when a prop gun, used in the recording of the film, is substituted for a real one.  Simon, standing off-camera, shouts “drop that gun and nobody move!” in an incredibly forceful way (very uncharacteristic) whilst Claire just screams.  Oddly, she does so after the shot’s been fired (she appears to be working on a slight delay).  John Krish doesn’t really do Eggar any favours by zooming into her screaming mouth – it’s an arresting image, but not terribly flattering.

Towards the end of the episode, there’s a chance to see even more of the studio as Simon pursues a mysterious stranger through its various nooks and crannies.  This might be little more than padding, but it’s shot so well that it’s hard not to enjoy it.  Indeed, that sums up the story as a whole.  The mystery is fairly slight, but with such a strong cast it’s easy to be totally absorbed.

The use of Marcia’s photograph is an especially memorable touch.  It’s seen so often, in various different locations, that it’s almost like she’s always present – albeit as a passive, non-speaking observer.  This is one of the reasons why Marcia is a fascinating story which rates four and a half halos out of five.

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The Saint – The Fellow Traveller

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Simon is contacted by a man called Henry Matson (Brian Oulton) who tells him that he’s been forced to steal blueprints from the place where he works.  He and Simon meet in what appears to be a safe place – a deserted bus shelter in the middle of nowhere – but Matson has barely begun to pour out his story before he’s shot dead by a passing motorist.  With his dying breath, he’s able to point the Saint in the direction of the Blue Goose Club and the glamourous Magda Vamoff (Dawn Addams).

Globe-trotter Simon Templar has temporarily come back down to humbler surroundings, as the caption at the start of the story (Stevenage, England) makes plain.  Matson only makes a brief appearance before hitting the dust, but it’s enough to paint his character as a rather quiet, unassuming and insignificant man.  This makes his secret life – cavorting with the fleshpots and gamblers at the Blue Goose – a little hard to accept, but if he didn’t have some weakness (in his case gambling) then he wouldn’t have been blackmail material.

Interviews with Matson’s wife and employer temporarily place Simon in somewhat prosaic surroundings (and it’s rather odd that Simon – rather than the police – breaks the news to his employer that Matson is dead) but it’s not long before the Saint is ensconced in the comfort of the Blue Goose, which is much more his sort of place.

He quickly makes the acquaintance of Magda and elects to adopt the full frontal approach – telling her that he’s a friend of the late Henry Matson.  Since the club is occupied by individuals – such as Hans Blatt (Michael Peake) – who are just itching to kill him, going undercover probably would have been a waste of time.  Plus it would have been much less fun – there’s very much the sense here that Simon enjoys breezing around from place to place, stirring up trouble as he goes.

Magda professes not to know anything about Matson’s death, but can we believe her?  Addams is statuesque, but slightly stiff.  Magda does sport some impressive clothes though – the leopard skin coat and hat combination stands out especially.  She and Simon have a rather nice relationship – it’s all about the subtext – with Simon warily attempting to probe her for information.  At one point, as they share dinner, he casually tells her that she hasn’t told him one word of truth all evening.  She doesn’t take offence at this, so either Simon’s remarkable charm is operating at full strength or she’s so incredibly crooked that she just has to soak up the insults ….

Angus Lennie is good fun as the hotel receptionist, James Andrew MacTavish. I know this will come as a shock, but James is Scottish (no, really).  He’s a helpful sort – passing on messages to Simon and acting as a sounding board for his theories.  Another very familiar face, Glyn Owen, appears as Superintendent Kinglake.  The Superintendent is your typical Saint police officer – irritated at the way that Simon rides roughshod over his investigation, but powerless to stop him.  Owen doesn’t have a great deal to do until the last ten minutes or so, but he’s the recipient of a few decent exasperated lines.

Michael Peake had the face of a villain, so it won’t come as a surprise to learn that today he plays … a villain (Hans Blatt).  Indeed, it always came as a slight surprise whenever Peake turned out to be playing a good guy (such as in the Doctor Who story The Romans).  Blatt begins by attempting to run Simon off the road and when that doesn’t work he slips into his hotel room to pop something unpleasant into his bottle of wine.

Later, Simon reaches for the bottle and pours out a drink for himself and his visitor, Nick Vashetti (Neil McCallum).  Just in case we’d missed the scene of Blatt’s tinkering, the incidental music goes overboard with menacing drumbeats as the pair slowly raise the glasses to their lips, just to hammer the point home.  But in the split second before they take a swig, Simon senses poison and knocks the glass out of Vashetti’s hand.  A pity that Blatt didn’t choose an odourless poison (goodness knows what they were teaching people in crime school back then).

Vashetti’s death is just a pleasure deferred for Blatt though.  Vashetti has information which will allow Simon to solve the mystery, but he doesn’t get the chance to pass it over as a visit from Blatt (complete with his trusty silenced pistol) sorts him out once and for all.  It’s a rather odd scene, as although the tension is nicely ramped up by the slow and methodical way that Blatt attaches the silencer to his gun, the mood is then dissipated by the very unconvincing “pop” it makes.  It’s such an unconvincing sound that at first I wondered if it was a fake gun (designed to frighten but not kill).

The Fellow Traveller was adapted from Charteris’ short story The Sizzling Saboteur (one of two novellas published as The Saint on Guard in 1944).  The events were relocated from wartime America to modern Britain and the death of Henry (Matson on television, Stephens in print) was much grimmer in the novella.  The Saint’s car journey is interrupted by what appears to be a log in the road – but it turns out to be Henry’s blackened, dying body.

Although The Fellow Traveller has a mystery at its heart (just who is the Mr Big running the operation?) the eventual reveal of his identity is a bit of a damp squib.  It’s also difficult to be that invested in Magda’s fate as Addam’s icy persona doesn’t help to draw the viewers in.  As ever, it’s an efficient production, but since the story never quite kicks into gear it only rates three halos out of five.

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The Saint – The Benevolent Burglary

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Having had a successful evening in a Monte Carlo casino, Simon is in the process of cashing in his chips when he bumps into an old friend, Bill Fulton (Gary Cockrell).  Bill’s feeling depressed because the millionaire father of his sweetheart, Meryl (Suzanne Neve), has forbidden their union.  Meryl’s father, Elliot Vascoe (John Barrie), has an impressive art collection and the Saint – aiming to teach him a lesson – bets him five thousand dollars that sometime during the next four days his new gallery will be robbed.

Simon’s in full James Bond mode at the start of the episode.  He’s looking suitably dashing in a white tuxedo and – like Bond – is the sort of gambler who knows when to stop.  His taste for stylish casualwear can be seen later on when he relaxes in an impressive dressing gown.

Bill’s a penniless musician which means that in Vascoe’s eyes he couldn’t be a worse match for his daughter.  And then there’s the instrument he plays.   “A drummer! Not even a real musician, he just makes a noise”.  Needless to say, Meryl doesn’t take this sort of criticism very well – it just serves to drive a wedge between her and her father.

Suzanne Neve is rather lovely, although unlike some of the other ladies who cross paths with the Saint, Meryl carries herself with a more natural air.  Amongst her later credits, Neve would appear in The Forsyth Saga (1967) as well as popping up twice in UFO as Ed Straker’s bitter and estranged ex-wife Mary.

Simon’s baiting of Vascoe might be partly motivated by the travails of Bill and Meryl, but he’s also doing it because he despises Vascoe (they’ve clashed before).  Vascoe is the sort of character who simply rubs Simon up the wrong way – he tags him as a nouveau riche philistine, someone who doesn’t appreciate art (he simply delights in buying up various treasures in order to demonstrate that he’s “cultured”).

John Barrie racked up sixty six episodes of Sergeant Cork during the 1960’s.  Amazingly, all of the episodes exist and are now available on DVD – if you haven’t seen them then you really should (advert over).  It’s mainly thanks to Cork that Barrie has become a favourite actor of mine – meaning that it’s a treat to see him pop up in this episode.  Vascoe is not the most multi-layered of characters – he’s an arrogant type who you know is going to be taken down a peg or two – but thanks to Barrie’s performance he’s never less than completely watchable.

Another familiar face appearing is Rachel Gurney as Delphine Chambers.  Delphine has been commissioned by Vascoe to paint a portrait of Meryl, which gives her the opportunity to linger around the perimeters of the plot.  Other highly recognisable actors passing by include Ivor Salter as a typically inefficient policemen (just one of a number drafted in to keep tabs on Simon) and Andre Maranne as a radio operator.

Arnold Diamond, as Colonel Latignant, may be one of Simon’s lesser-known authority adversaries, but since he appeared in six episodes he possibly deserves to be more appreciated.  Latignant is tasked to stop the Saint (who of course runs rings around him with insouciant ease). This means that at one point the unfortunate Latignant buries his head in his hands and lets out a primal scream of anguish!

Simon’s public pronouncement has drawn a veritable rogues gallery to Monte Carlo – all of them keen to attempt the burglary, since they know that if they succeed then Simon will be blamed.  Jules Brant (Raymond Adamson) is the one who actually carries out the crime, although Simon is on hand to intercept him and give him a decent duffing up.  It’s a nice touch that Brant left the Saint’s calling card (the stickman figure) at the scene of the crime – this was something that the literary Saint tended to do in his early days.

Simon’s parting shot to Vascoe – he returns the stolen items and explains that any one of his trusted friends and advisors could have been the inside man since they all despise him – is devastating.  The television Saint has rarely been as ruthless as this, although since his actions do serve as a wakeup call for Vascoe, it’s not entirely vindictive.  This is easily Barrie’s best scene, as we see Vascoe slowly realise that whilst his life is materially rich it’s also emotionally barren.  We end on an optimistic note as Vascoe and Meryl are reconciled.

Given that it shares a few plot similarities, it’s not too surprising that this story was originally published in the same collection as The Charitable Countess (The Happy Highwayman, 1939).  Charteris’ story is set in New York rather than Monte Carlo and although Vascoe is blocking Meryl and Bill’s marriage, it’s for a very different reason.  In the short story, Bill has invented a new tube(!) that’s set to make him a fortune – but since grasping old Vascoe lent him the money to develop it, he’s now planning to foreclose on the loan and reap the rewards of Bill’s invention for himself.  The identity of the thief is also quite different and Vascoe remains unrepentant at the end.  Given that the story is pretty short, it’s not too surprising that the teleplay had to be bulked out somewhat.

Another typically strong guest cast – headed by the peerless John Barrie – ensures that this is another top quality Saint episode.  Four and a half halos out of five.

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The Saint – The King of the Beggars

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Simon, back in Rome, becomes aware of an odious protection racket targeting the city-wide population of beggars.  They’ve been forced to give a percentage of the money they collect to a mysterious figure known only as the King of the Beggars.  A young actress, Theresa (Yvonne Romain), has gone undercover in order to identify the “King” and Simon, suitably disguised, quickly takes her place (after all, he’s got much more experience of tangling with the ungodly than she has).  But events take a sinister turn after Theresa is kidnapped …..

The King of the Beggars touches upon a theme previously raised in The Charitable Countess, specifically the divide between Rome’s rich and poor.  As before, Simon shows sympathy towards those who have nothing, especially when one of them is brutally mown down before his eyes.

There’s plenty of familiar faces in this one – Oliver Reed (more of him in a minute), Ronnie Corbett (credited more formally as Ronald) and Warren Mitchell, who was making his third and final appearance as Simon’s Rome-based helper, Marco.  Moore and Mitchell slip easily back into their bantering partnership (Simon offers Marco a drink – he asks for a large whisky, but receives a small coffee instead!).  Marco is again partly present to give us the opposite view about beggars – he regards them as a workshy nuisance, whilst Simon is much more forgiving about the plight they’ve found themselves in.

Oliver Reed’s imposing physical presence is immediately evident.  As Joe Catilli, a member of the protection racket, he glowers splendidly and it isn’t long before he and the Saint come to blows.  Their bout of fisticuffs may be brief, but it feels quite convincing.  They tangle on several later occasions as well, with the most entertaining being when the Saint uses Catalli as an unwilling guinea pig in order to demonstrate to a group of impressively bearded vagrants the best way to defend yourself from unwanted street attacks!

Last time, I raised an eyebrow (in tribute to Roger of course) at the Saint’s previously unheralded skill with disguises.  Remarkably he’s at it again today – a pair of dark glasses, a little bit of stubble, mussed hair and he’s instantly transformed into a blind beggar.  It’s ever so slightly awkward though that he’s then approached by Catilli, who doesn’t seem to connect this blind beggar to the young chap who had earlier duffed him up.  I mean, it’s not that great a disguise.

Marco and Simon are teamed up for several very enjoyable scenes.  One of my favourites sees them interrogating an uncommunicative member of the gang.  But never fear, Marco has a pair of pliers in his pocket and attempts to give him an instant spot of rough dentistry!

Who could the King of the Beggars be?  We’re introduced to Stephen Elliot (John McLaren), a philanthropic American who appears to share Simon’s distress at the plight of Rome’s displaced citizens.  But everything points to the fact that this upstanding man will later be revealed to be the “King”.  Or will there be a twist?  Hmm ……

John McLaren seems a little stiff, although this may be due to the character he’s playing and not a lack of acting ability.  More naturalistic is Maxine Audley as the Contessa Dolores Marcello.  Dolores and Elliot first encountered the Saint when he was wearing his beggar disguise and when they all meet again at a swanky party she quickly makes the connection (which is more than Elliot did).

But it seems that Catalli eventually did twig as well, as Simon finds himself drinking a cup of drugged chocolate at the flop house run by Maria Calvetti (Jessie Robins).  As Simon slumps to the floor, Catalli pops up in a typically menacing fashion.  Maria and Catalli then team up to interrogate the kidnapped Theresa.  A shame that Robins’ role isn’t larger as Maria’s got a nice line in threats.  “Miss Mantania, don’t get rough with me. I can knock you right through the wall”.  I believe her ….

One of two novellas from the 1948 book Call for the Saint, Charteris’ story was set in Chicago, with Simon’s regular sidekick – Hoppy – assisting him.  Marco performs a similar function in the teleplay (and is considerably less irritating).  Many of the characters are essentially the same, although the names have naturally been changed to rather more Italianate ones.

John Gillings’ teleplay retains all the essential story beats of the original, including the chess piece left behind by the abducted Theresa (which gives Simon a vital clue).  The identity of the “King” is a decent twist and together with the strong guest cast, headed by Reed and Mitchell, it helps to make this another very solid story.  Four halos out of five.

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