The Saint – The Talented Husband

talented 01.jpg

Simon Templar (Roger Moore) arrives in the small English village of Cookham, ostensibly for a relaxing holiday.  But in reality the Saint is on a mission and it doesn’t take him long before he teams up with the gorgeous Adrienne Halberd (Shirley Eaton) in order to run John Clarron (Derek Farr) to ground.  Clarron’s third wife, Madge (Patricia Roc), is a friend of Simon’s and he’s convinced that her life is in great danger.   Has Clarron hatched an ingenious plot to murder his latest wife and pocket her substantial fortune?

The Talented Husband, with its domestic English setting, seems a slightly unusual debut story for The Saint (original tx 4th October 1962).  Partly this is because Simon has to be placed in the background for a large part of the story, as the domestic tensions between Clarron and Madge slowly play out.  This is really Derek Farr’s episode – he deftly manages to portray Clarron as a man who’s constantly bubbling with resentment at the way he’s kept subservient by his wealthy wife (he’s a former actor turned unsuccessful theatre producer) although he’s also able to turn on the charm when necessary.

Adrienne, like Simon, has an ulterior motive for staying in Cookham.  She’s the most impossibly glamourous insurance agent you could ever wish to meet (although the dialogue does acknowledge this) and has been sent to keep tabs on Clarron.  Since he’s taken out a large insurance policy on Madge, foul play seems set to follow shortly ….

What’s interesting is that the “accident” which turns Madge into a bed-ridden invalid does seem to be genuine.  Clarron, reaching down from his bedroom balcony to throw a jumper down to Madge, knocks over a rather large plant pot – right onto her head.  He makes an attempt to stop it falling and looks genuinely contrite afterwards – or is this simply his acting abilities being brought into play?

There’s a large plot twist coming up now, so I’d advise anybody who doesn’t want the story spoiled to look away.  Although to be honest, I’d be amazed if anybody didn’t instantly twig what the twist actually is ….

Clarron hires a gem of a housekeeper, Mrs Jafferty, to look after Madge, but ….. she turns out to be Clarron in drag!

I think it’s fair to say that this isn’t the most successful part of the story.  It’s painfully obvious right from Mrs J’s first scene that it’s actually Derek Farr dragged up and this is made even clearer when we hear Mrs Jafferty speak.  Clearly Farr couldn’t provide a suitably feminine voice, so instead all of Mrs Jafferty’s lines are dubbed by an actress.  This is the sort of concept that works much better in print than on screen.

Although Simon is rather distanced from the action (he’s forced to keep a watching brief with Adrienne for most of the episode) Roger Moore still effortlessly manages to draw the viewers in.  From his opening monologue to camera, where he confides that he’s not a fan of the worthier type of theatre (i.e. the sort of production championed by Clarron), Moore and the Saint seem a perfect fit.

And his ability to turn from relaxed to remorseless is demonstrated at the end of the episode, when we see Simon confront Clarron with the evidence of his crime. Although Moore is best known for his light touch, he’s easily able – as here – to show a flash of steel when required.

With strong support from the lovely Shirley Eaton, the ever-glowering Derek Farr and the nobly suffering Patricia Roc, it’s plain that this one doesn’t lack for acting talent.  A good character piece, The Talented Husband rates a healthy three halos out of five.

talented 02.jpg

The Saint – The Latin Touch

latin 01

The Saint, vacationing in Rome, spots a damsel in distress, Sue Inverest (Suzan Farmer), who is locked in an argument with a stroppy cab-driver, Marco (Warren Mitchell).  Simon smoothly sorts out Marco and equally smoothly proposes to show Sue the sights – starting with the Colosseum.  But he’s hardly begun to display his impressive knowledge of history before he’s coshed by two thugs, who then abduct Sue.  Since she’s the daughter of an American politician, Hudson Inverest (Alexander Knox), it seems clear this wasn’t a random abduction.  But why was she kidnapped – for money, or is there some other reason?

The Saint‘s ability to travel all over the world despite rarely leaving the leafy environment of Borehamwood is well known.  But The Latin Touch does manage an early spot (albeit very brief) of genuine location shooting and these shots mingle pretty well with the studio work.  It also has to be said that the studio Colosseum set is quite impressive – we only see it for a short time, but it was money well spent.

It’s easy to spot that the two men who target Simon and Sue are bad ‘uns – the Frank Sinatra hats and flashy shoes are dead giveaways.  The revelation that Sue is the daughter of an American governor comes as something of a surprise, since Suzan Farmer doesn’t display a trace of an American accent.  Presumably accents weren’t her strongpoint.

She’s only onscreen for a few minutes before being nabbed, but  Farmer still manages to create a vivid impression.  It’s interesting that after Sue’s taken we don’t see her again until the 39th minute.  You’d have expected a few scenes with her to have been scattered through the story in order to ramp up the tension, but instead the human side of the drama is played out by Hudson and his wife, Maude (Doris Nolan).  Hudson puts duty first whilst Maude, as might be expected, is concerned only about her daughter.

Hudson faces a difficult moral dilemma.  Sue has been snatched by Mafia kingpin Tony Unciello (Bill Nagy), who demands that his younger brother, Nick, languishing in an American jail (his death warrant signed by Hudson), is reprieved from death row.  It’s highly debatable that Hudson would have the authority to do this (it’s hard to believe that the American government would agree to such a course either) but the way the story plays out it does seem that he has the power of life and death over Nick.

Warren Mitchell gives a lovely performance as Marco, this episode’s comic relief.  Marco is a rather slippery petty criminal, but Simon’s easily able to recruit him to the side of the godly.  Tony Unciello, like Sue, is rather lacking in screentime until the last ten minutes or so but Nagy’s scenes with Moore when they do arrive are good.  Hungarian-born Nagy might have seemed an odd choice to play an Italian/American gangster, but he’d do so again later (in Goldfinger).

With Tony remaining camera shy for most of the episode, it falls to others to sketch in aspects of his personality, such as the glamourous nightclub singer Maria (Carroll Simpson).  Maria’s short scene – she pulls back her hair to reveal a nasty scar (a legacy of her time with Tony) – helps to illustrate precisely what sort of man he is.  Since The Saint was extremely restricted in how it could depict violence (Leslie Charteris’ original stories often, much to his chagrin, had to be toned down) this scene is useful in the way that it suggests Tony’s violent nature without having to depict it.  Slightly surprising that Carroll Simpson, who is rather compelling, only seems to have made this single screen appearance.

Warren Mitchell’s entertaining as always and Bill Nagy’s nicely menacing, but The Latin Touch does suffer from a lack of tension, since it’s impossible to believe that Sue won’t be rescued in the end.  Given this, it rates a solid, but not spectacular, three halos out of five.

latin 02.jpg

The Saint – The Careful Terrorist

careful 01.jpg

The Saint’s in New York.  He bumps into an old friend, Lester Boyd (Gary Cockrell), who later launches a blistering television attack against Nat Grendell (Peter Dyneley).  Lester accuses union big-wig Grendell of numerous counts of corruption and promises to lay all the facts before the audience during his next broadcast.  But before he can do this, Lester is killed in a bomb attack.  Simon, convinced that Grendell was responsible, vows to pick up where Lester left off.

It’s a shame that Lester didn’t pre-record his programme, that would have saved everybody a great deal of trouble ….

The Saint seems to be resident in New York (or at the least, has his own apartment).  He’s not alone though, as he has the assistance of Hoppy (Percy Herbert).  Hoppy Uniatiz popped up a fair few times during Charteris’ original stories, but like most of the book regulars (apart from Inspector Teal) he didn’t become a fixture throughout the series.  A slight pity, but it’s possible that Hoppy’s dumbness might have become grating over time.  Having said that, I do like Hoppy’s delight that Simon, following in the footsteps of Lester, might become a television star.  “Another Jack Benny. Another Bob Hope. Another Mr Jelly Wobbly. Hey, he’s a big old fat guy who does a kid’s show”!

Although Simon begins by declaring that Lester is wrong to believe that the pen is always mightier than the sword, since the police are convinced that he’s going to extract violent revenge against Grendell, the Saint is forced to try and defeat his nemesis without any overt display of force.  Grendell is under no such restrictions though and elects to use a loose cannon called Herman Uberlasch (David Kossoff) to finish off Simon.

Grendell may be depicted as a union boss, but this is never a factor in the story (he could just as easily be a politician or a businessman).  Peter Dyneley’s pretty solid, although his entourage offers slightly more vivid character pickings.  Dorinda Stevens is good value as the brassy Verna, his sharp-tonged moll, whilst David Kossoff is ever so slightly deranged as the bomber.  Grendell and Uberlasch are clearly men of limited imaginations since they decide to blow up Lester with a bomb and later elect to dispose of Simon with …. wait for it, two bombs!

If the story is rather slight, then Roger Moore is once again working overtime to make bricks out of straw.  Simon’s confrontation with Grendell sparkles, thanks to the Saint’s passionate oratory.   “You are a parasite and an extortionist.  You’ve had dozens of men beaten up by your hired thugs, just because they attempted to vote you out and get a decent, honest union boss in your place”.  I also love the way he insouciantly blows smoke into Grendell’s face!

Sally Bazely has a small, but key, role as Lester’s girlfriend, Jenny Hallam.  She elects to deal with Grendell in her own way – taking a potshot at him – but of course she’s unsuccessful (had her aim been better then the story would have ended somewhat prematurely).  As it is, Simon’s able to deal with Grendell quite neatly – as he later tells Sally, the man was hoist with his own petard.

Maybe the most memorable part of The Careful Terrorist is Simon’s closing television announcement.  He uses it to reassure the public that Grendell was an isolated rotten apple, stating that all the other union bosses up and down the country are fine upstanding men who are only interested in furthering the interests of their members.  This was obviously slotted in by an anxious production team, worried that the American viewing public might be upset by the episode-long attack on the probity of their public servants (today, people wouldn’t probably bat an eyelid at revelations of corruption).

This clumsy ending is a slight problem (and the rest of the story isn’t terribly compelling either) but with Roger Moore pulling out all the stops, I’m happy to add an extra half point to this one – leaving The Careful Terrorist with a respectable three and a half halos out of five.

careful 02.jpg

The Saint – The Covetous Headsman

headsman 01

The ever-optimistic Simon is hopeful that his travelling companion on the flight from America to France will be a beautiful young woman.  And his wishes are answered after Valerie North (Barbara Shelley) takes the place next to him.  With seven hours to fill they have plenty of time to chat, so she tells him that she’s making the trip to Paris in order to be reunited with her brother, Charles, who she hasn’t seen since they were separated as children during the strife of WW2.

But there will be no happy reunion as Valerie arrives to receive the terrible news that her brother is dead, his body recently fished out of the Seine.  And when her life also appears to be in danger, things look even bleaker.  Luckily for her, she has a Knight Errant – the ever resourceful Simon Templar ….

This week we’re in Paris, which is inevitably represented by stock footage.  It’s sadly rather grainy and therefore stands out somewhat from the sharp picture elsewhere (as so often during ITC series of this vintage, suspension of disbelief is required).

There are some interesting French accents on offer here, although some actors – such as Eugene Deckers, playing Inspector Quercy – were born a little closer to France (Belgium) so he’s pretty credible.  The veteran American actress Josephine Brown seemed an odd choice to play a French crone, Madame Duras, but she’s splendidly entertaining during her scenes.  Madame Duras was Charles’ landlady and her quick tongue manages to infuriate the police (who unchivalrously refer to her as an old bag!).

After a few average episodes, this feels more like classic Saint.  Simon has a beautiful damsel in distress – Valerie – to protect and a collection of ungodly ruffians to beat up.  Chief amongst the ungodly is the ever watchable George Pastell as Georges Ollivant.  Ollivant was a collaborator during WW2 and it quickly becomes clear that the mystery of Charles’ death is connected to buried secrets from the war.

Although it initially seems unlikely that the youthful Simon could have been a member of the resistance during WW2, it’s just about credible.  Roger Moore was born in 1927, so if Simon’s the same age then the Saint would have been eighteen in 1945.  And when Simon later runs into an old colleague from his war days, Antoine Louvois (Esmond Knight), Antoine does comment that Simon was “so brave, and so very, very young”.

Simon later entertains the beautiful nightclub singer Josie Clavel (it’s a tough job, but somebody’s got to do it).  Although to be fair to the Saint, it’s strictly business, as he’s hopeful that Josie – a close friend of Charles – might be able to shine some light on the mystery of why Charles was robbed of a medallion (the fact that Valerie – who owns an almost identical medallion – was also targeted, suggests that it’s key to solving the mystery).

The Covetous Headsman ticks along nicely.  Pastell, a vision in his smoking jacket, oozes menace as he confides to his parrot that they’ll soon be rich again.  Barbara Shelley is luminously beautiful, although Valerie is rather a passive character, content to be rescued rather than striking out on her own.  Carole Gray, as Josie, has less to do but she’s rather gorgeous (and Josie’s character is given an extra bit of spice when it’s revealed she’s in cahoots with Ollivant).  Esmond Knight may be a touch hammy, but Louvios helps to articulate the argument that traitors such as Ollivant should face the justice of their peers.  Simon disagrees (although the literary Saint probably would have had fewer scruples).

The climatic scene between Simon and Ollivant is more than decent and it’s a neat touch that Ollivant does receive justice from the hands of the law, although not in the way you might expect.

Roger Moore continues to impress.  I love the scene where he confronts several thugs – first there’s a bout of fisticuffs and then he threatens to shoot one of them (his first shot goes wide – just – which is enough to convince the quaking baddy that Simon means business).  Always a pleasure to see the Saint get his hands dirty.

The more violent or grisly aspects of Leslie Charteris’ original stories tended to get watered down before they hit the screen, and this one is no different. In Charteris’ story, Valerie’s brother is beheaded (which makes you view the title in a different light).

The plot may be slightly flaky, but the performances alone are enough to make me rate this four halos out of five.

headsman 02

The Saint – The Loaded Tourist

loaded 01.jpg

Simon Templar, international jet-setter that he is, is once again airborne – this time travelling from Rome to Geneva.  Today though he’s not sharing with a beautiful young woman, instead he’s sitting next to a stroppy teenager, Alfredo Ravenna (Joseph Cuby), who’s fretting that he’s being forced to emigrate from Rome to New York.  Both his father, Fillipo (Edward Evans), and his American step-mother Helen (Barbara Bates) attempt to reassure him, but to no avail.

Like Simon, the Revenna family are breaking their journey in Geneva and when Fillipo is knifed to death it goes without saying that Simon’s on the scene almost straight away.  Suspected by the police, the Saint can’t help but get involved …..

The Loaded Tourist begins with a piece to camera from Simon, expounding on the thoroughness of the Italian customs officers.  The fact that Fillipo and Helen are looking rather shifty immediately caches Simon’s attention, although when we later discover the very obvious place where they’d hidden the mystery package that resulted in Fillipo’s death (underneath a false bottom in Helen’s vanity case) you have to wonder if maybe the Italian customs men aren’t all they’re cracked up to be …..

Joseph Cuby registers high on the histrionics scale.  Poor Alfredo is far from chuffed at being uprooted from Rome to New York (even Simon’s reassuring words don’t help) and later tells Simon that he’s convinced his step-mother was involved in the murder of his father.  Cuby doesn’t essay a subtle performance, but it makes a nice change for the Saint to team up with a young lad rather than a young woman.

Edward Evans (probably best known as Pa Grove from The Grove Family) doesn’t have a great deal of screentime but he offers us a decent Italian accent.  ITC series of this vintage regularly call on British actors to adopt many and varied accents and it’s fair to say that some are better at this than others.  I’m sure this is something that we’ll touch upon again and again …..

Actually, speaking of that, Simon produces an Italian accent later in the story.  I’m not sure whether it’s deliberately supposed to be a little off, or if that was the best that Roger Moore could do.  Hmm.

The very recognisable John Dearth plays Inspector Codout.  He’s one of those police officers who take an instant dislike to the Saint (and the feeling is obviously mutual).  It’s a pity that Dearth only makes a fleeting appearance as more could have been made of the enmity between Simon and Codout.  Guy Deghy is rather good as the mysterious Oscar Kleinhaus, a man who appears on the murder scene just after Simon and whose precise involvement in the plot remains nebulous for a while.  The sharp-eyed might also spot Andrew Sachs in a small role as the hotel receptionist.

There’s a decent mystery element to this story.  We discover that Fillipo was carrying a stash of jewels, but since he seemed to be a law-abiding chap it’s a puzzle as to where they came from.  Production design is pretty solid – after the inevitable stock footage shots of Geneva, we see a rather nice balcony set with Lake Geneva in the background.  It certainly helps to create the illusion that we’re abroad and not stuck in the studio.

It’s an interesting touch that Alfredo’s ravings about his wicked step-mother actually turn out to be true.  She did intend to rob her husband, although murder wasn’t on her agenda.  This was the final screen role for Barbara Bates, who had previously plied her trade in a number of fairly undistinguished Hollywood movies.  Sadly, she took her own life in 1969 at the age of just forty three.

A solid yarn, The Loaded Tourist rates a respectable three and a half halos out of five.

loaded 02.jpg

The Saint – The Arrow of God

arrow 01.jpg

Simon is relaxing in the Bahamas.  It’s an idyllic paradise – or it would be if Floyd Vosper (Anthony Dawson) wasn’t polluting the atmosphere.  Simon explains that he’s the lowest of the low – a gossip columnist who gleefully uses the power of the press to spread embarrasing nuggets of information about the great and good of Bahamian society. When Vosper is brutally murdered at a party held by Herbert Wrexall (Ronald Leigh-Hunt) there’s no shortage of suspects as all of the well-heeled guests – including Simon – had motives for bumping him off ….

A generous helping of stock footage (running to a minute) helps to create the illusion that we’re in Nassau.  Vosper’s slippery personality is then established as a number of people, including Wrexall’s wife Lucy (Elspeth March), line up to give him less than glowing character references.  Simon and Lucy discuss how Vosper is nothing more than a gutter journalist, although it’s ironic that Lucy then admits she always reads his column!

Also ironic is the eventual reveal that all the information he held on Wrexall’s party guests is completly accurate. So whilst they may bemoan his manner and attitude, some of their own behaviour is shown to be rather questionable. Therefore the tensions between Vosper (positioned as an uncouth outsider) and the likes of Wrexall (cultured but slightly impoverished – hence his need of Vosper’s support) plays along class lines. Simon, despite his buccaneer status, has no difficulty in allying himself with Wrexall and the others (in his well-tailored dinner jacket, the Saint is every inch the gentleman).

As we’ve already been primed that Vosper is a bit of a rotter, this means that his eventual arrival carries even more impact.  Anthony Dawson is simply delightful – spitting venom with a smile on his lips, Vosper manages to sow discord wherever he goes.  Moore and Dawson aren’t the only familiar faces from the James Bond films, as Honor Blackman – playing Wrexall’s secretary Pauline Stone – also appears.  The fact that Wrexall and Pauline are conducting a less than clandestine affair is all grist to Vosper’s mill (and provides the story with yet another motive for murder).

If you enjoy watching Simon beating up the ungodly, then The Arrow of God is likely to disappoint.  Simon does offer at one point to give Vosper a spanking, but that doesn’t really count!  But I’ve no complaints as it’s an entertaining murder mystery which features a score of familiar faces.  Apart from those mentioned, John Arnatt is his usual solid self as Major Fanshawe whilst John Carson, browned up as an Indian mystic called Astron, somewhat receives the short end of the stick.  It’s hard not to be reminded of Peter Sellers (“goodness gracious me”) during his scenes.

Other potential suspects include the smoothly handsome tennis player John Herrick (Tony Wright) and the brash American businessman Arthur Gresson (Gordon Tanner).

The Saint retreats a little into the background during the first half of this story.  Until the murder occurs he’s simply one of the house-guests (he gets to cross verbal swords with Vosper a few times, although the honours are about even).   One notable change between Charteris’ original story (part of the collection The Saint on the Spanish Main) and this adaptation relates to the murder weapon.  Here it’s an actual arrow, in the short story Vosper was skewered with a large beach umbrella (which would have been a striking image, but possibly too gory to pass the censors).

Once Vosper’s dead body is discovered, the law – in the form of Major Fanshawe – quickly arrives on the scene and John Arnatt, puffing on his pipe, forms a decent partnership with Roger Moore.  It’s interesting how quickly Simon is able to reposition himself from suspect to police helper – given the Saint’s colourful reputation you might have expected the police to treat him with a little more caution.  Indeed, it doesn’t take long before Simon completely supplants Fanshawe (effectively turning into Hercule Poirot for good measure).

The drawing room denouement – as Simon explains how the murder was committed (and unmasks the murderer for good measure) – is nicely done and tops off a highly entertaining episode.  Four and a half halos out of five.

arrow 02.jpg

The Saint – The Pearls of Peace

pearls 01

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!

pearls 02

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.

pearls 03

The Saint – The Element of Doubt

element 01.jpg

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.

element 02.jpg

The Saint – The Effete Angler

effette 01

Vacationing in Miami, Simon is disappointed to learn that the skipper of the best fishing boat around – Patsy O’Kevin (Kevin McAlliney) – is fully booked up for the next few weeks.  But when Simon meets the radiant Gloria Uckrose (Shirley Eaton), the person responsible for chartering Patsy’s boat, his natural charm quickly wins him a place aboard.

Simon and Gloria have a relaxing afternoon on the waves, but when they eventually reach Bimini Dock – where Gloria’s husband, Clinton, is waiting – things turn a little sour.  This is not only due to Simon’s obvious closeness to Gloria, but also because Clinton (George Pravda) mistakenly believes that the Saint is aware of his criminal activities.  Together with his nefarious partner, Vincento Innutio (Paul Stassino), they ponder how to get Simon out of the way – eventually deciding that Gloria will be the perfect bait …..

Simon’s eye for a pretty face (and backside!) is on overdrive today.  The sight of a gorgeous bikini-clad blonde, carrying a large fish, captures his attention – although it’s plain that her ample proportions (back and front) were impressing him more than her fishy was.

But if Simon’s eyes were out on stalks when the fish-laden blonde passed by, that’s nothing to way he reacts after he meets Gloria for the first time.  You can’t really blame him though (Shirley Eaton looks stunning).  Given that 1962 was a very different moral era (especially in America – which was a prime market for this British-made programme) some people may have been slightly affronted at the way Simon deliberately attempts to romance a woman he knows is married.  It seems that the hotel staff might have shared this opinion too – I do like the shocked expression of the bartender after Simon tells Gloria that he’s hoping for an early dinner and a late night!

Their “affair” begins in a pretty chaste way – a few drinks and a dance in the hotel bar – but there’s something about the looks exchanged between Roger Moore and Shirley Eaton which makes this scene crackle with energy.  Making a quick return to the series after playing Adrienne Halberd in The Talented Husband, this is by far the better of the two roles for Eaton.  She’s striking from her very first scene – in which we observe her slowly soaping herself in the bath.  Little can be seen, but there’s a very sensual atmosphere nonetheless.

The big question must be, what did a nice young girl like Gloria see in Clinton?  Middle-aged, bad-tempered and somewhat on the dumpy side, he can hardly be said to be much of a catch (sorry, I’ll try not to use any more angling terms).  Their marriage seems to be an unhappy one – hence Gloria’s delight at spending time with Simon.  She later tells the Saint that Clinton is “dull and drab and jealous”.

She views Simon quite differently (“you’re a man”) and he reacts positively when she suggests they run away together.  But the slight face he immediately pulls suggests that he’s already a few steps ahead of her.  The revelation that Gloria isn’t the innocent and nice girl we’ve been led to believe (instead she was a willing accomplice in Clinton and Vincento’s scheme to lure Simon away from Bimini) is a decent twist – although by this point most people probably would have picked up on the fact that Gloria seemed just a little too perfect to be true.

One of the interesting things about The Effete Angler is that we don’t learn until pretty late on precisely what Clinton, Gloria and Vincento are up to.  Not that the precise nature of their villainy really matters, as it’s simply the Macguffin which ensured that Simon and Gloria were thrown together.

George Pravda, always such a watchable actor, is on good form as Clinton.  Popping tranquilisers like they were smarties, as the story wears on he cuts an increasingly forlorn figure.  His initial menacing persona therefore gets stripped away to reveal a much less impressive man – one who’s easily dominated by his wife.  The first of five Saint appearances for Paul Stassino, Vincento appears to be the muscle of the organisation – he later creeps into Simon’s room to shoot what he believes to be the sleeping Saint.  This may be an unconscious nod to a similar scene from the first James Bond film, Doctor No, but it’s no surprise to see that Simon has a brief tussle with Vincento (knocking him out) whilst Bond shoots his assailant in cold blood.  As touched upon before, this era of television was very restricted in terms of depicting sex and violence

It’s hard not to be smitten by the charms of Shirley Eaton and the character of Gloria – who switches from lovable innocent to hard-faced moll across the course of the episode – is one of the reasons why this one’s so very enjoyable.  Four and a half halos out of five.

effette 02.jpg

The Saint – The Charitable Countess

Simon is in Rome in order to attend a charity ball held by the Countess Christina Rovagna (Patricia Donahue).  Although it’s ostensibly been arranged to benefit Father Bellini’s charity for destitute children, little of the money collected actually reaches the needy.  So the Saint decides to tilt the balance back in Father Bellini’s favour ….
Simon is well aware of the irony inherent in the Countess’ charitable soiree. A group of incredibly wealthy people paying exorbitant sums in order to enjoy the finest food and wines available (secure in the knowledge that their excesses will, in some way, help those less fortunate than themselves).  The Saint may be a part of polite society – feted for his notoriety – but he’s also content to also remain an outsider.

This is evident in the way he interacts with the Countess.  At first glance she appears to be a pleasant enough person – and a charitable lady to boot – so Simon is happy to flirt outrageously with her.  But are his feelings for her genuine, or is he simply dissembling – telling her what she wants to hear?  As we’ll discover later, it’s clearly the latter.  Simon is always the arch manipulator, content to play along with whatever the current situation might be (although he does seem shocked to discover that the Countess is making such a substantial profit from her charity).

So after learning that only nine thousand out of the fifty thousand dollars raised was donated to Father Bellini (Anthony Newlands) we’re forced to reassess everything we’ve learnt about the Countess to date.  Father Bellini is very pleased with this sum though – considering it to be a fortune – so clearly he’s not the worldliest of people ….

In sharp counterpoint to the pampered lifestyle of the Countess, we’re also privy to the miserable existence of a group of street urchins, led by the voluble Franco (Philip Needs).  True, they’re all rather grubby, but the dirt looks like it’s been applied by a make-up artist (these children seem just a little too well-behaved and mannered to convince as genuinely feral creatures).

If they don’t quite seem natural when they’re sharing scenes together (although the relationship between Franco and Angelina – played by Loretta Parry – is quite touching) then Franco develops into a more rounded character once Simon and Marco (Warren Mitchell) take him under their wing.  Simon instantly feels a sense of obligation towards the boy (Marco less so).   The scenes between Moore and Needs are strong ones, with Moore pitching his performance at just the right level in order to ensure that Needs gets a chance to shine.

If he’s good when acting alongside Needs, then Roger Moore really sparkles when he returns to confront the Countess.  Also present is Aldo Petri (Nigel Davenport), the Countess’ current companion.  Simon delights in explaining to Petri that the Countess Christina Rovagna began her life as Maggie Oakes of New Jersey.  She was a vaudeville artiste famed for taking off her clothes ….

The Countess is a cool customer though, not at all fazed by Simon’s full frontal attack.  She’s strongly disinclined to hand over the rest of the charity money and reacts with scorn when Simon suggests that she sells her necklace in order to raise the sum he’s requested.  So Simon elects to steal it – which meets with her whole-hearted approval.  In many ways she’s almost the female version of the Saint – outwardly frivolous but with a core of steel – which makes their battle so entertaining.  Had she simply been a run-of-the-mill criminal then the story would be much less interesting.  She’s convinced that he’ll fail dismally and be humiliated – but we know the outcome will be somewhat different.

Charteris’ short story was originally published in 1939 (as part of the collection entitled The Happy Highwayman).  This adaptation relocated the action from New York to Rome (and added the subplot of the urchins) but otherwise the main thrust of the story – the Saint sets out to steal the Countess’ necklace in order to repay her charity debt – remained intact.  In both the original story and teleplay he doesn’t do it in a Raffles-style way though, instead he removes all the jewels from the Countess’ dinner guests at gunpoint.  However, the adaptation scores by the way that Simon is able to bring Franco and the others into the dining room in order to show his victims the reason why they should be happy to give up their baubles.

Another good showcase for Roger Moore, The Charitable Countess manages to keep the essence of the original story – featuring the earlier, more criminally-inclined Saint – intact.  It rates four halos out of five.

charitable 02

The Saint – The Golden Journey

golden 01

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.

golden 02.jpg

The Saint – The Romantic Matron

romantic 01.jpg

Simon, this week in Argentina, meets a charming American lady called Beryl Carrington (Ann Gillis).  She tells him that a recent acquaintance – the personable Ramon Venino (John Carson) – has entrusted her with a list of political dissidents which he says will be vital in ensuring the future stability of the country.  Beryl passes the list to the Saint, who instantly comes under attack from the ungodly.  This raises Simon’s suspicions that the friendly Venino may not be all he appears to be ….

The Saint, like most ITC series of the time, requires a certain suspension of disbelief.  The opening stock footage and caption might tell us that we’re in Buenos Aires, but it quickly becomes clear that the filming was done a little closer to home.  Sometimes the programme makers can strike lucky and find a British location that does a fair job of doubling for this week’s foreign locale (or if not, they can simply stick a few palm trees into the frame and hope that does the trick!)

Alas, the opening of The Romantic Matron is one of the series’ less impressive location gambits.  We switch from Simon, relaxing at a pavement café, to a ridicously ugly building that isn’t at all in harmony with the attractive stock footage we’ve just witnessed.  For the dedicated ITC watcher, this will be a familiar sight – it’s the Elstree studios in Borehamwood.

Before we meet Beryl, there’s the little matter of the daring theft of one million dollars worth of gold bullion to consider.  The local police inspector (played by Patrick Troughton) resolves to hunt the criminals down.  If you’ve seen the Doctor Who story The Enemy of the World, then you might be able to guess what accent Troughton adopts – clearly it was his one size fits all solution when playing foreign types.

From the first time we see her, Beryl is presented as an innocent aboard.  Which is presumably why she’s targeted by the smooth and polished Venino (although since she’s only just arrived in the county it’s a slight mystery how he picked her out so quickly).  Venino shows her the sights, but there’s always a dark shadow dogging him – he’s followed everywhere by two silent men.

And what’s Simon doing whilst Beryl and Venino are becoming better acquainted and making googly eyes at each other?  Not a great deal, it has to be said.  This is another of those stories where the Saint remains off-screen until well into the episode – before that, Ann Gillis and John Carson take centre stage.

The title might suggest that Beryl, the romantic matron, is middle-aged, but Ann Gillis was only in her mid thirties at the time of recording.  As a child, she starred in a number of Hollywood films (seemingly positioned as the next Shirley Temple).  Her adult acting career was less prolific, although she notched up appearances in several other ITC series during the early 1960’s (EspionageThe Sentimental Agent).  Gillis is rather appealing as the ingenious adventurer – suddenly emboldened by her whirlwind romance with Venino.

John Carson’s second Saint role is much better than his first.  He’s still playing a foreigner, but at least this time he’s not browned up.  Always a favourite actor of mine, Carson manages to breathe a little life into a character that’s – possibly deliberately – not terribly well defined.

Once Beryl meets Simon and pours out her strange tale, then the story begins to pick up some impetus.  The Saint wasn’t a series which tended to dig too deeply into real-world politics, so the brief discussion here about Argentina’s current situation is fairly noteworthy.  Simon begins by pointing out how the people still seem to be a little nervous (a legacy, he claims, of decades of dictatorship).  However, things now seem to be on a more even keel thanks to the fairly popular government, suggesting that the story was set prior to March 1962 (which saw the moderate President Frondizi overthrown).

If this talk of politics seems a little dull, then never fear – it isn’t too long before Simon gets to duff up a couple of heavies.  It’s a cracking fight scene, with the Saint operating at full intensity (I especially like the way he slaps the second one around the face a few times before pushing him and his friend over and then toppling his bed onto them for good measure!)  You can tell it’s been a pretty severe tussle as Roger Moore’s usually immacuately coiffered hair is in a very distressed state by the end ….

The Saint gets a pretty good workout during this episode, as he’s later duffed up in a garage and then strung up for good measure. It looks fairly uncomfortable, but luckily Simon doesn’t stay trussed up for long.

The riddle of the missing gold bullion possibly isn’t too difficult a mystery to solve (especially when you discover that Venino – having bumped into Beryl’s car – was extremely keen to have the damage repaired at a local garage, all costs paid by him).

Larry Forrester’s teleplay relocates the action from Cuba to Argentina, but otherwise it sticks quite closely to Charteris’ story (originally published in 1958).  It’s mildly interesting that the crux of the story – Venino attempts to smuggle the stolen gold out of the country by fashioning solid gold bumpers (suitably camouflaged) onto Beryl’s car – was a plot point echoed in Ian Fleming’s Goldfinger, published in early 1959.  Did the one inspire the other, or was it just coincidence?

Fleeting appearances by some familiar faces (Patrick Troughton, Victor Spinnetti, Joby Blanshard) helps to keep the interest ticking along, but truth be told The Romantic Matron never quite sparks into life.  Gillis and Carson are both good and Roger Moore seems to relish the opportunity to handle a bit more action than usual, but the basic plot isn’t really that gripping.  Three halos out of five.

romantic 02.jpg

The Saint – The Man Who Was Lucky

lucky 01.jpg

Small-time London bookie, Marty O’Connor (Harry Towb), is witness to a murder committed by ‘Lucky’ Joe Luckner (Eddie Byrne).  Luckner, an infamous local gangster, is well known for terrorising anybody who attempts to testify against him (hence his nickname).  The desperate Marty approaches Simon, who gladly agrees to bring the notorious hoodlum to justice ….

Regular Saint watchers will have noticed by now that most episodes tend to open with a caption (and appropriate stock footage) which creates the illusion that we’re in some exotic foreign locale.  Today’s caption (West London Dog Track) is so different from the norm that it’s hard to believe it wasn’t an ironic move.  It made me smile anyway.

The Man Who Was Lucky places the Saint into a more seedy environment than the one he’s generally used to.  It’s a gorgeous snapshot of early 1960’s London, complete with a slight noirish twinge.  You have to love Lucky’s Bar, where we first meet Cora (Delphi Lawrence), since it has a swinging light jazz soundtrack and some serious jiving on its small dancefloor.

Cora, and her friend Jane (Vera Day), are sitting at the bar and bemoaning their poor fortune.  Cora, the elder of the two (she’s in her early thirties), tells Jane that she’s getting too old for all this. “My girdle’s too tight, my feet hurt and I’m broke”.  The inference is that they’re prostitutes, but it’s not surprising this is only implicit in the script.

It’s a slight plot oddity that Cora is not only in a relationship with Marty, but is also on friendly terms with Lucky.  This means that after she bumps into Lucky in his bar, she’s then within earshot when one of his henchmen passes by to inform him that Marty and his partner, James Bailey (Nicholas Selby), need to be taught a lesson.  Lucky doesn’t seem concerned that Cora has overheard and later expresses incredulity that she and Marty might be involved with each other (although he possibly seems to be in denial about this).  It’s only a small character moment, but it’s a fairly telling one – since it shows that Lucky only believes what he wants to believe.

After receiving a severe beating (well, severe by 1962 Saint standards), Bailey dies.  This immediately places Marty in a sticky dilemma – as Cora points out, if he attempts to testify against Lucky then his life expectancy is bound to be on the short side.  Across a sixty year career (first credit in 1949, last in 2009) Harry Towb never disappointed.  With so many roles across numerous television series, he became an instantly recognisable face – often, as here, playing decent, honest people who end up getting caught in the machinations of others.

We then see some stock footage shots of various hot and happening nightclub signs – Astor, Safari Club, Le Coq D’Or, Pigalle, The Flamingo Club – before ending back at Lucky’s Bar.  It’s another decent mood moment which helps to sell that illusion that we’re deep within the smoky environs of Soho.

Eddie Byrne adds a touch of unpredictable menace as the domineering Lucky.  I have to confess that he’s not an actor I’m terribly familiar with, but since he appeared in three further Saint episodes (and a fair few other series I have in my collection) I’m going to keep an eye out for him in future.  Lucky’s interrogation of the hapless Jane is a well-played scene.  She tells him that she enjoys working at Lucky’s Bar (“it’s very stimulating meeting new people … and everything”) which serves as another hint about her profession.

lucky 01a

After Lucky slaps her about a bit, Simon (who just happened to be passing by) bursts into the office and gives him a slap in return.  Jane’s very impressed.  “Oooh, just like Superman”!

Simon, ever the Knight Errant, then takes Jane back to his (very well furnished) flat for some tea.  He tells that he doesn’t like men who slap women around (although that’s not what he said during The Golden Journey).  Her job of work is becoming more explicit by the minute, as she then expresses incredulity that she’s been in his flat for ten minutes but he’s not made a move towards her (leading her to wonder if he’s one of those people who do nothing but talk).  Brassy, yet vulnerable, this is a nice turn from Vera Day who teams up very effectively with Roger Moore.

The Man Who Was Lucky sees the first appearance of Claude Eustace Teal, dubbed “England’s greatest bloodhound” by Simon.  Played here by Campbell Singer instead of the more usual Ivor Dean (although Wensley Pithy and Norman Pitt also made one-off appearances in later episodes) the parameters of the character – constantly irritated by the Saint, especially since he usually ends up three steps ahead of him – are clearly defined.

Given that we’ve already had several New York stories with Inspector Fernack, it seemed slightly strange to relocate the action from New York (as per Charteris’ original story, published in 1939) to London.  But knowing the origins of the story, it means that Lucky’s persona in the teleplay – he acts more like an American gangster than a London one – makes more sense.  John Gilling’s adaptation (he also directed) also ups the ante by changing Lucky’s crime to murder, rather than tax evasion (this fitted well with American pre-WW2 mobsters but might not have seemed terribly thrilling for an early sixties television audience).

Playing more like an episode of Gideon’s Way than The Saint (although this is a compliment not a criticism) The Man Who Was Lucky is a very enjoyable story.  Four halos out of five.

lucky 02.jpg

The Saint – The Invisible Millionaire

invisible 01

Wealthy industrialist Marvin Chase (Basil Dingham) is recuperating after being badly burnt in a car crash.  Nora Prescott (Eunice Gayson), an old friend of Simon’s, works for Chase and is puzzled by his post-crash actions (which has seen him sell off valuable elements of his business empire).  She attempts to voice her concerns to the Saint but is murdered before she can go into specifics.  Is there a connection between her death and the car accident?  There are several suspicious factors to consider – not only that Chase’s head and hands remain bandaged at all times, but also that his daughter, Ellen (Jane Asher), finds her father’s behaviour to be so changed ….

The appearance of Eunice Gayson in the pre-credits sequence (she runs into Simon who – rather improbably – is mooching around the London Stock Exchange) might lead you to imagine that she’ll be the Saint’s helper this episode.  Which she sort of is, but the fact she doesn’t make it to the end of the story alive comes as something of a jolt.  Possibly best known for her brief appearances in the first few James Bond films, Gayson is quickly transformed into the perfect secretary thanks to the addition of a pair of glasses!

The Chase house is a hotbed of intrigue and passion.  His wife, Rosemary (Katharine Blake), is carrying on a not terribly clandestine affair with Chase’s handsome young assistant, Bertrand Tamblin (Mark Eden).  Meanwhile, Chase’s black-sheep of a brother, Jim (Nigel Stock), can’t help butting in – irritated that his brother is rich and successful whilst he isn’t.

Dingham is perfect in his brief appearance as the unyielding elder brother – a man totally dedicated to making money – whilst Stock matches him as his dissolute, spendthrift poor relation.  Mix in a teenage Jane Asher as Chase’s devoted daughter and you’ve got a pretty packed household.

The car-crash is achieved in the most budget-conscious way possible.  We see a car driving down a country lane and then there’s a dissolve to a blurry spinning image which eventually stabilises itself to reveal a newspaper headline stating that Chase was injured and Tamblin killed during the blazing crash.  It was clearly a packed issue that day (other headlines include “Jobs pledge by Mac”, “Butler finds his birds have flown” and most improbably “The alpine Prince buys a pair of blue skis”).

With Chase tucked up in bed, looking like the Invisible Man, it shouldn’t be too hard to guess the upcoming plot twist.  Yep, Chase was murdered by Tamblin who – suitably bandaged up – is now masquerading as his former employer with the active connivance of both Rosemary and the crooked Dr Howard Quintus (Michael Goodliffe).

Few Saint stories were better cast than this one.  Eden and Dingham were both somewhat lacking in screentime, but Nigel Stock gets a decent piece of the action.  Michael Goodliffe is also gifted a strong role – although it’s plain right from Quintus’ first appearance that he’s a decidedly dodgy doctor.  It seems odd they went down this route since it means that it’s just a little easier to guess what the denouement will be.  Jane Asher is wonderfully earnest as the apple of her father’s eye.  Jim earlier told his brother that he was a cold fish – unable to love anything except the numbers on a balance sheet – but the brief interaction between Chase and his daughter (and her stricken reaction after the accident) suggests otherwise.

Simon and Nora have arranged to meet at the boathouse close to the local pub.  But someone gets there before Simon – and that someone is carrying a very large knife …..

Needless to say, Nora’s murder takes place with the minimum of blood, but what’s more interesting is that although director Jeremy Summers attempted to ramp up the tension at first by not showing the murderer’s face, the wider shots proved to be more of a giveaway.  Since Jim was seen lurking around the pub, possibly it was intended to briefly throw suspicion onto him, but this doesn’t really work as we can see that the assailant (even though he only appears briefly) was slim and dark-haired (Stock was a little tubbier and lighter haired).  And about the only slim and dark-haired person we’ve seen so far has been Mark Eden.

In Charteris’ story, published in 1939, Simon and Nora were strangers – although her death plays out in pretty much the same way (she has information, but is killed before the Saint can reach her).  Simon’s devoted but dim sidekick Hoppy was deleted from the teleplay (possibly a blessing), whilst Nora’s backstory (her father was a failed businessman which led to a sympathetic Chase giving her a job) wasn’t touched upon.  The basic plot remained the same, although the original had a much more hard-boiled feel (and was somewhat cut down for the screen, since it was a novella rather than a short story).

Simon’s confrontation of Rosemary and Quintus is rather enjoyable.  “Mrs Chase, I’ve never hit a woman in my life but there can always be a first time. Now sit down!”  Always good to see a flash of steel in Roger Moore’s portrayal.  One curiosity occurs when Simon explains to an admiring Inspector Welland (Charles Morgan) exactly how the scam was worked.  There’s an obvious dubbed moment when Moore says “Tamblin asked Chase” which leads me to suppose he got the names mixed up on the take (since Chase was driving, Tamblin had to ask him to stop in order that he could kill him and fake the crash).

Predictable the story might be, but it’s also a pretty high quality one.  Four halos out of five.

invisible 02

The Saint – The Gentle Ladies

gentle 01.jpg

Simon is spending a few days in Sussex, partly to do some sailing and partly because he wants to see Kathleen Howard (Christine Gregg) again.  But intrigue and mystery dogs the Saint wherever he goes and the sleepy fishing village of Bosham is no different.  Three seemingly respectable sisters of a certain age – Florence (Avice Landone), Ida (Renee Houston) and Violet (Barbara Mullen) – find themselves targeted by an uncouth blackmailer called Alfred Powls (Philip O’Flynn).  What is the dark secret that all three women have been harbouring for decades?

I love the fact that everybody in the world seems to have heard of the Saint.  Simon and Florence are introduced to each other in the pre-credits sequence (she bumps into his car) and when he tells her his name, she reacts in the time-honoured fashion (and then, of course, a halo appears).  Ida and Violet are equally perturbed when they learn that the Saint is in the vicinity, no doubt worried that their – as yet unknown – secret will shortly be divulged.

As with the series opener, The Talented Husband, this is something of an atypical Saint episode.  There’s a crime element, but the village setting and the byplay between the sisters is something of a departure from the usual, more hard-boiled action.  As the title suggests, all three sisters have gentle personas, so it’s something of a shock for them when their comfortable lives are rudely interrupted by the arrival of Powls.  They know him of old – and whilst his blackmail begins modestly enough (a demand for fifty pounds) he then tells them that he wants a cottage and a yearly stipend of two thousand pounds.  The fact they seriously consider his request makes it clear that they’re all women of very substantial means ….

Avice Landone, Renee Houston and Barbara Mullen were all veteran actresses, each boasting highly impressive cvs.  Landone had appeared in a score of films during the forties and fifties (including Carve Her Name With Pride), before becoming something of a television fixture during the sixties and seventies.  Houston’s film career started in the late twenties and ended in 1975 (her final credit was The Legend of the Werewolf).  Amongst her other notable film appearances were a couple of Carry Ons (including playing the wonderfully named Agatha Spanner in Carry On At Your Convenience).  Barbara Mullen will always be best remembered as the indomitable Janet in Dr Finlay’s Casebook (she notched up nearly two hundred episodes between the early sixties and early seventies).

As the episode proceeds, the personas of the three women all become better defined.  Florence might be hopelessly accident-prone (seemingly unable to take her car out without bumping into something) but unlike the others she seems set to break free of her spinsterish bonds.  The affable George Marsh (Anthony Nicholls) has been conducting a long-term, low-key courtship of her, although the arrival of Powls drives a wedge between them.  Nicholls, later to become an ITC regular in The Champions (complete with a remarkably false-looking beard) is a strong addition to the cast whilst Timothy Bateson makes an amusing cameo as Charley Butterworth.

Violet’s the most retiring and twittery (Mullen’s very watchable during all her scenes – always doing something to catch the eye) whilst Ida is the strong arm of the three.  She’s quite prepared to give the grinning blackmailer a hefty slap!

Once Simon learns the reason for Powls’ presence then there’s the inevitable fisticuffs.  Moore again scores high on the intensity level as Simon drops his usual relaxed persona in order to forcibly ram his point home.  “Whatever the Warshed girls did in the past, they’ve lived down and I don’t want to know the dirty details. They’re loved in this town and they’re happy here.  And no dirty minded, sewer minded little creep like you is going to blackmail them. You understand?”

John Graeme’s teleplay relocates the action from America to England.  In both the original story and Graeme’s adaptation, Simon’s well-meaning attempt to run Powls out of town only drives him back to the sister’s house – but what happens next is quite different.  On television, a drunken Powls accidentally falls down the stairs to his death, but in Charteris’ story Florence bludgeons him with a poker (leaving Simon with a hole to dig in order that they can dispose of the body).

The Warshed sisters’ dark secret is quite different too (although both in print and on television it’s revealed that they’re not actually sisters).  It’s not difficult to see why it was changed though. On television they’re revealed to be highly improbable fine art thieves, in print they were prostitutes – Florence had been the madam of a notorious bawdy house, whilst Ida and Violet had been two of her girls.

A story that coasts along thanks to the guest performances of the three veteran actresses, The Gentle Ladies rates a respectable three and a half halos out of five.

gentle 02.jpg

The Saint – The Ever-Loving Spouse

spouse 01

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.

spouse 02

The Saint – The Saint Sees It Through

through 01.jpg

Simon travels to Hamburg, at the behest of the American government, in order to investigate a fine art smuggling ring.  He has an “in” – since a former girlfriend, Lili Klausner (Margit Saad), seems to be implicated.  The Saint quickly works out that the sinister Dr Ernest Zellerman (Joseph Furst) is a key man, but finding evidence against him proves to be tricky ….

The Saint Sees It Through has a decent noirish atmosphere, with Simon meeting taciturn contacts on dark street corners before dodging into Tante Ada’s –  a smoky nightclub where Lili plies her trade.  Moore isn’t doing much during these early scenes, but as the cliché goes – less is more.  He enters the club whilst Lili is in mid song and moves to stand directly in front of her.  This could be taken as an oppressive gesture, but Lili doesn’t interpret it as such.  Later, as they share a drink, he asks her why she walked out on him several years back.  It’s unusual for Simon to show concern about a former relationship (like James Bond he generally tends to love them and leave them) but it may be that he’s simply using this as an excuse to re-establish a link with her.

Also at the club is Dr Zellerman, who has arranged a date with Lili.  But after Simon appears, she declines Dr Zellerman’s invitation – which rather infuriates the good doctor.  Luckily Simon’s on hand to forcibly teach him that good manners cost nothing.  Whenever I see Joseph Furst it’s hard not to have one line of dialogue running through my mind (“nothing in ze world can stop me now!”) but there was a good deal more to him than that over exuberant Doctor Who guest appearance.  Elsewhere he tended to be – as here – much more restrained and sinister (Furst carved out a very decent niche playing villains).

It was a good move to cast Margit Saad, a German actress, as Lili.  No doubt many British actresses could have played the role just as well, but Saad is naturally more authentic.  Mainly plying her trade in German-language roles, this was therefore something of a rare English-language excursion for her.  Given this, you might have expected her to be a little stiff, but that’s not really the case – or if it is, then it suits the character.  Saad also has several musical credits to her name, so it could very well have been her vocals which were used for the nightclub scene (it was fairly common for anonymous singers to dub beautiful actresses who weren’t such beautiful vocalists).

Guy Deghy makes his second Saint appearance (here, looming with menace as another member of the smuggling ring) whilst Elspeth March, a veteran actress with an impeccable list of stage and screen credits, plays Tante Ada – the slightly blowsy nightclub owner who is also connected to the nefarious goings on.  This means that the Saint has a number of adversaries to battle against – but is Lili one of them?

Her connection to the smugglers remains nebulous for a while, although Simon – in the course of a little light burgling of Dr Zellerman’s office – finds her details in his card index file.  She then explains to Simon that she’s his patient (Zellerman is a psychiatrist) which Simon has a hard time in believing.  “You’re no more mentally ill than I am” he tells her.

You have to be impressed at Simon’s snap diagnosis (presumably those people who do have issues display physical traits).  He’s convinced that Dr Zellerman has waged psychological warfare on her, in order that he can then bend her to his will.  Since this turns out to be the case it luckily lets Lili off the hook in terms of being a complicit criminal (although it also serves to reinforce Simon’s prejudices that it was laughable to believe that an attractive young woman could possibly have had mental health problems – not such a good thing).

There’s some impressive dressing gowns on display during this episode.  Firstly, Carl (Guy Deghy) sports a natty little number when Simon comes a calling.  The Saint puts the screws on him, which is enough to convince the physically imposing – but rather cowardly – Carl that he should cut and run.   Dr Zellerman agrees he should go (providing him with an escort out of the city) but it’s plainly telegraphed that Zellerman has arranged for Carl to be permanently silenced.  And so he is – via a rather striking death scene (Carl, shot once, sinks slowly to the floor in a very eye-catching manner).

Our second dressing gown moment occurs when Simon, equally as well attired as Carl, agrees to meet Dr Zellerman for lunch (although you’ll be happy to learn that he changed out of his dressing gown before the meeting).  It’s a trap though – Zellerman had arranged for Simon to admit that he’d earlier indulged in a spot of burglary (unaware that several police officers were stationed outside to hear his confession).  This could have been a sticky moment, but conveniently (a touch too conveniently maybe) Simon’s American contact appears from nowhere to bail him out.

Furst creates one of the best realised Saint villains to date.  Dr Zellerman might be largely single-minded in his desire to make money, but he also exhibits a spasm of tenderness towards Lili.  But he can’t bring himself to cease his brainwashing tricks on her since he knows that if he did then he’d never see her again.  Therefore we shouldn’t feel too sorry for him.

Simon later exhibits a previously unknown talent for disguises, as he saunters into Tante Ada’s bar sporting a beard and a wicked-looking scar.  It’s enough to fool Lili, which seems to suggest that she’s either very trusting or needs to visit an optician.  Simon’s Swedish accent (imagine the Swedish Chef from The Muppet Show) is also a joy.  It seems barely credible that Simon’s disguise would fool anyone for more than a minute (why not recruit a genuine unknown to penetrate the smuggling ring, rather than Simon who’s now a familiar face?) so that’s a slight mark against the story.

Published in 1946, The Saint Sees It Through was the final full-length Saint novel (from then on, Charteris would pen either novellas or short stories).  In the novel, opium, rather than art treasures, are being smuggled whilst the location is New York instead of Hamburg.  Simon’s contact, Hamilton, is the same in both – although his presence makes more sense in the novel, since he’d also been Simon’s wartime contact (the Saint – like Charteris – had relocated to America during WW2).

Notwithstanding Simon’s rather silly disguise, this is a well-crafted episode which has something for everyone.  A first-rate guest appearance from Joseph Furst, a decent romance between Simon and Lili and some energetic last-minute fisticuffs as the Saint duffs up several members of the ungodly.  A very early credit for Ian Kennedy-Martin (later to create The Sweeney and Juliet Bravo), this is good stuff – especially the heart-breaking final scene (absent from the original novel).  Four and a half halos out of five.

through 02.jpg

The Saint – The King of the Beggars

beggars 01.jpg

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.

beggars 02.jpg

The Saint – The Benevolent Burglary

burglary 01.jpg

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.

burglary 02

The Saint – The Fellow Traveller

fellow 01

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.

fellow 02