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 Ever-Loving Spouse

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Otis Q. Fennick (Barry Jones) approaches the Saint for help. He’s been caught in a compromising position in his hotel room after a scantily-clad, attractive young woman, Norma Upton (Jacqueline Ellis), was thrust upon him, whilst a photographer, Vern Balton (David Bauer), took several incriminating snaps (paid for by Fennick’s wife, Lianne). But after Balton is murdered, Simon has a complicated mystery to unravel ….

Simon is indulging in one of his favourite pastimes – observing the foibles of others.  He’s staying in the same hotel as Fennick and his colleagues (a group of middle-aged businessman who, since they’re attending a convention far away from their wives, take the opportunity to cut a little loose).  Well most do, Fennick remains somewhat straight-laced.  He’s also not terribly American.  Presumably Guernsey-born Jones didn’t feel confident in adopting an accent – although most of the other cast were American or Canadian born, which helps with the authenticity.

David Bauer, making his second Saint appearance, casts an effectively evil shadow as the slimy Balton – although this is a much smaller role than his previous one (he’s bumped off mid-way through).  Jeanne Moody draws an immediate boo-hiss as the conniving Lianne Fennick, the scarlet woman scheming to divorce her husband and pocket a sizeable alimony payoff along the way.  Quite what poor Otis saw in Lianne is a bit of a mystery – but then, love is blind.

Although most of the performances are pitched at a steady level, somebody is doing something a little different.  That’s Alexis Kanner, always an idiosyncratic actor.  Kanner plays Alec Minser, Norma’s jealous boyfriend (it’s fair to say that he’s somewhat upset that she’s been posing for suspect photographs with Balton).  Since Alec is written as a somewhat unstable character you could argue that Kanner was perfect casting, since this was his usual stock in trade.  He certainly ensures that Alec comes across a twitchy, unpredictable type.

Alec becomes suspect number one for Balton’s murder and is taken downtown to be grilled by the grim Detective Williams (British born Robert Arden, managing a decent American accent).  This seems far too obvious though (and the Saint wasn’t involved in his capture) so there clearly has to be a twist along the way.  The last twenty minutes or so, when the Saint turns detective in order to unmask the true culprit, are the most effective of the episode since there’s a decent mystery to unravel (even if the list of suspects is rather small).

Taken from the short-story collection The Saint Sees It Through (published in 1959), Charteris’ tale has a few incidental details missing from Norman Borisoff’s teleplay.  Such as the reason why Simon’s somewhat slumming in a very average hotel with a group of boisterous executives (the convention types have so monopolised all the hotels in the area that the Saint concludes he’s lucky to have found a room anywhere).   Although the television Fennick, like his literary counterpart, is head of a sweet company – in print much more fun’s made with this.  Simon, on first hearing his story, ponders if it’s all a gag perpetrated by one of his colleagues.

If some prankster in this Convention is trying to sabotage your bid to be elected Supreme Lollipop by charging you with dissolute habits, the foul conspiracy may yet boomerang. With your new reputation as the Confectionery Casanova, you might become the hero of the Convention. Think what a few shots like that did for Brigitte Bardot.

Possibly the biggest change is reserved for the end.  I won’t disclose the identity of the murderer, but in print Simon is happy to let him or her walk free (considering that the murder of a blackmailer is an acceptable crime) whilst the television Saint is a much more law-abiding type.  As touched upon previously, Simon’s vigilante aspects had to be toned right down when the series was developed, in order not to affect the sensibilities of the watching millions, and this was something which rather neutered the character at times.

Not the best the series has to offer then – partly because of the changes made, but also because the story never really clicks into gear until we’re more than halfway through.  But the performances – especially Kanner and Jones – are strong, and this is enough to make me score it three and a half halos out of five.

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The Saint – The Element of Doubt

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Carlton Rood (David Bauer) is a hot-shot lawyer who always gets his clients acquitted – even when they’re obviously guilty.  His latest client, Joe Sholto (Bill Nagy), burnt down his own warehouse in order to collect the insurance money (in the process, a policeman was killed in the blaze and his cleaning woman, Agnes Yarrow, was blinded).

Agnes (Margaret Vines) confirmed that Sholto was present at the scene, but under Rood’s remorseless courtroom questioning she wilts.  Sholto therefore walks free, but the Saint isn’t prepared to let it rest there.  Instead, he dishes out his own unique brand of justice ….

Apart from popping up in the pre-credits sequence, Simon doesn’t do a great deal during the first half of the story.  But he’s not really missed, as his absence allows the plot to be nicely set up, with Sholto’s ruthless character brought to the fore.  Ruthless he might be, but clever – hmm, maybe not.  It possibly wasn’t the wisest move for him to have torched his own warehouse (surely he could have hired someone to do so?)  And if he had brought in some outside thugs, then Agnes would have struggled to connect them to her employer.

Taking Willis Burnham (Robert O’Neill) along to assist him wasn’t too clever either.  From the moment the pair enter the warehouse, fire on their mind, Burnham wears a perpetually worried expression (he seems such an obvious weak link).

The New York setting of The Element of Doubt is convincingly realised.  Stock footage is kept to a minimum whilst the use of American-born actors such as Alan Gifford and David Bauer is a plus (with the British cast essaying fairly credible American accents).

It’s a pity that Alan Gifford, appearing again as Inspector Fernack (following his turn in The Careful Terrorist) didn’t become more of a regular.  Fernack, a creation of Charteris’, is essentially the American equivalent of Claude Eustace Teal.  Both might have a low opinion of the Saint, but every so often they’re forced to admit that his unorthodox approach does produce results.  Fernack has a nice comedy moment when he welcomes the glamourous insurance agent Mary Hammond (Anita West) into his office.  He doesn’t quite slobber all over her, but he comes close!

Earlier the same year, 1962, Anita West had left Blue Peter after presenting just sixteen editions (she had decided that her imminent divorce from Ray Ellington might prove an embarrassment for the show).

David Bauer gives a solid performance as Rood.  He may be well aware that his clients are often guilty, but he doesn’t overplay the sleaze – instead Carlton Rood radiates an air of solidity and respectability.  At least until he steps into court, which is when he’s prepared to use any dirty trick at his disposal in the service of his clients.  The way he reduces Agnes to hysteria is slightly chilling (even if Margaret Vines does overplay the moment somewhat).

So with Sholto now free, Simon elects to go undercover – sporting a pair of glasses and a not terribly convincing Texan accent – in order to sow discord between Rood and Sholto (he hints to Sholto that Rood’s planning to double-cross him).  As with some of Moore’s other accents, I’m not sure whether it’s deliberately supposed to be bad, or whether that was the best that he could do ….

Although Sholto is quite ruthless in the teleplay – locking Agnes in the burning warehouse – this is nothing compared to his behaviour in Charteris’ original story.  There he shot and killed Mr Yarrow (a character absent here) and blinded Agnes with acid fired from a gun.

Simon remains in the background until the last fifteen minutes or so, but since the story culminates in a well-acted tale of double-cross (orchestrated by the Saint, gleefully playing Rood and Sholto off against each other) it merits a score of four halos out of five.

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