The Saint – The Talented Husband

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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 having to be kept by his wealthy wife (he’s a former actor turned unsuccessful theatre producer) but 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.

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The Saint – The Latin Touch

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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.

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The Saint – The Careful Terrorist

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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.

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The Saint – The Covetous Headsman

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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.

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The Saint – The Loaded Tourist

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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.

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The Saint – The Arrow of God

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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.

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The Saint – The Pearls of Peace

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Brad Ryan (Bob Kanter), a friend of Simon’s, approaches him with a request for money.  Brad’s convinced that there’s a valuable oyster bed in Mexico, just ripe for the picking.  An indulgent Simon agrees to lend him three thousand dollars which enables Brad and his partner Harry Tiltman (Robin Hughes) to depart for San Domingo.

But Tiltman is a con-man and once they arrive in Mexico he robs Brad and leaves him for dead.  Three years pass and all of his backers, including Simon, have come to the conclusion that Brad simply stole their money and disappeared.  But then Brad’s ex-girlfriend Joss (Erica Rogers) receives a letter from him – promising the return of her stake money if she makes the trip to San Domingo.  The Saint, intrigued to discover what happened, agrees to accompany her ….

This is an odd story and no mistake.  The first part of the episode – Brad and Tiltman set out on the hunt for oysters – is told in flashback, with Simon only appearing briefly to set the scene.  Brad is the character who drives the early part of the plot – he’s a boyish but reckless adventurer and it quickly becomes clear that his trust in others could prove to be his downfall.

Joss is beautiful, but rather self-centered.  A budding actress, she’s content to let herself be pawed by producers (a topical touch) and following Brad’s disappearance has no compunction in marrying for money.  In short, she’s presented as little more than a gold-digger and whilst Simon is reasonably polite to her face, he can’t help but let the odd barb pass his lips.  When they both arrive in Mexico, he elects to search for Brad by himself, and after she asks if that’s because she’s so repulsive, he responds that her repulsiveness isn’t visible.  Ouch!

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In Charteris’ original story he memorably described her thus.

She was a type. She was the half-disrobed siren on the jacket of a certain type of paper-bound fiction. She was the girl in the phony-tough school of detective stories, the girl that the grotesque private eye with the unpaid rent and the bottle of cheap whisky in his desk drawer is always running into, who throws her thighs and breasts at him and responds like hot jelly to his simian virility.

You can’t really miss the fact that San Domingo is a small Mexican village.  Flamenco guitar and maracas in the local bar (check).  Sombreros and ponchos on display outside (check).  This heavy-handed scene setting does raise a smile, but the village – constructed on the back lot – is quite convincing and the stock footage blends in well, ensuring that it counts as one of The Saint‘s more convincing early foreign locales.

I love the cliché moment when Simon saunters into the bar.  The mere sight of his immaculately tailored suit is enough to draw the eyes of the locals, but it’s when he mentions that he’s looking for Brad Ryan that everybody really begins to loom in a menacing fashion.  But for once, the locals aren’t there to be sinister or obstructive – instead they’re only trying to protect Consuelo (Dina Painser).

When we last saw Brad, he’d suffered a nasty head wound and very well might have been dead.  This turns out not to be the case – he was found by Consuelo who has slowly nursed him back to health.  But the twist is that the fight left him blind and only an expensive operation will restore his sight.  This revelation raises a few interesting questions – most notably what will happen to Consuelo if and when Brad regains his sight.  Although Dina Painser was only in her early forties at the time, she seemed to be made up to look older (therefore the unspoken inference is that Brad will no longer be interested in his ministering angel once he sets eyes on her).

That Consuelo is happy to put her life savings towards Brad’s operation, despite the fact he may leave her when his sight is restored, speaks volumes for her good heart.

Joss and Consuelo are plainly designed to be opposites in every way.  Joss is young, beautiful, but completely self-absorbed whilst Consuelo is older, care-worn but possessed of a deep love for Brad.  Eventually Brad obtains the money he needs for the operation (thanks to assistance from Simon) and the Saint is on hand to reassure the viewers that Brad will be able to see beyond Consuelo’s physical appearance in order to view the beauty underneath (yes, he does lay it on a bit thick).

It’s true that Simon’s closing piece to camera is slightly toe-curling and it’s very hard to warm to Brad at all (lucky that he’s got people like Simon and Consuelo to look out for him) but The Pearls of Peace isn’t a total write-off.  Erica Rogers is rather good as the very unsympathetic Joss (clearly she made an impression as she’d return to the series on three more occasions – playing a different character each time).

The adaptation by Richard Harris was pretty faithful to the original story, although Simon and Ned Yarn (renamed Brad Ryan for the teleplay) were strangers whilst Joss’ behaviour and colourful insults were rather toned down.

The Pearls of Peace doesn’t quite work, but there’s enough of interest for me to rate it a solid three halos out of five.

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