The Saint – The Golden Journey

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Belinda Dean (Erica Rogers) is a beautiful, albeit incredibly spoilt, heiress.  Indulged from a very young age, she’s developed a shocking temper (hapless waiters tend to wilt under her intense all-out attack).  Since Belinda is shortly due to marry one of his best friends, Simon has developed a professional interest in her and decides she needs to be taught a lesson in humility before the big day.  So he forces her to join him on a hundred mile trek through the unwelcoming Spanish countryside …..

One of the more notorious Saint episodes, The Golden Journey is a rum old tale.  I have to confess that my jaw dropped and my eyebrow raised during the opening few minutes after Simon confided to the audience that his friend Jack could easily tame the wild Belinda (but alas, he loves her too much to hit her).  Strap yourselves in, I think it’s going to be a bumpy ride.

Was it just a coincidence that Simon and Belinda were staying in the same hotel?  Or did he decide to stalk her?  I’ve a feeling it’s the latter, which makes his behaviour slightly more creepy than it already is.

Whilst she’s sleeping (again with the creep factor) Simon burgles her hotel room and steals her money and passport, leaving her stranded and helpless.  This is the first step in the Saint’s somewhat cruel plan to strip her of her self assurance, but not the last – as Simon then drops a heavy hint to the hotel manager (a fleeting appearance by the wonderful Roger Delgado) that she’s a criminal!

Goaded by Simon’s manipulation, she does then break the law – by attempting to steal a scooter – which means that she’s bonded ever closer to Simon after he bails her out of prison.  So the scene is set for their journey, where she will learn about the true values of life …..

Although we’re only around a dozen episodes in, it does seem a little strange that various actors have already popped up twice in different roles.  We’ve already seen Bill Nagy and Shirley Eaton return, today it’s the turn of Erica Rogers whilst the following episode features another appearance by John Carson.  Some – like Carson – take very different parts, but both of Erica Rogers’ appearances to date have seen her cast as fairly annoying females.  But whilst Joss Hendry in The Pearls of Peace was irredeemable, Belinda Dean is another matter altogether.

Left with no alternative, she’s forced to follow the impossibly smug Simon as he sets off on his walking trip.  He’s nattily attired of course – sensible clothes and shoes – whilst she’s wearing an expensive, if scanty, dress and high heels.  No doubt the fact that she’s not dressed for the occasion is all part of Simon’s “treatment”.

Apart from a few fleeting appearances from others (the aforementioned Roger Delgado, Stella Bonheur as Belinda’s Aunt, Paul Whitsun Jones as a cackling woodcutter) The Golden Journey is essentially a two-hander.  Lacking any sort of crime element, it’s simply an exercise in who will crack first (need you ask?)

The action switches from location (it’s not quite Spain, but the Welsh mountains are very striking) to studio on a regular basis, often from scene to scene.  This isn’t surprising for an ITC series of this vintage as they tended to be made on a very strict timetable and budget, meaning that a lengthy location shoot with the stars would have been impractical.  Therefore we see plenty of back-projection studio shots of Moore and Rogers mixed in with film footage of their doubles striding across the countryside.  They do feature in some location footage though, and after a while this mix and match approach becomes less of an issue.

Given Belinda’s misadventures (plunging into a raging stream, tumbling down a steep hill) it’s remarkable how her white dress stays pretty clean throughout.  True, it does get a little grubby but it holds up remarkably well.  Though I guess in the name of decency it couldn’t be allowed to get too frayed.

Half an hour in, we have the story’s most infamous scene.  Simon, tiring of Belinda’s backchat, puts her over his knee and treats her to a firm spanking.  There’s not a lot you can say about this, except that Simon seems to be enjoying himself enormously.

It’s not Moore’s fault, but Simon is written throughout as remarkably irritating and obnoxious (but then it’s true that the Saint is attempting to goad Belinda).  The locations are lovely, as is Erica Rogers. although the ending is remarkably predictable and pat (she learns her lesson and no doubt will be a good girl from now on).

There aren’t too many changes made from the original story (although in Charteris’ tale, Simon isn’t an old friend of Jack’s – he had only met him and Belinda a week before.  This of course, makes his behaviour towards her, a virtual stranger, even less admirable).

It’s hard to defend the strong misogynistic tone of The Golden Journey, but since it’s an entertaining travelogue I feel it just about scrapes three halos out of five.

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The Saint – The Pearls of Peace

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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!

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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.

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