When the daughter of one of his oldest friends is kidnapped in Venice, the Saint faces a desperate race against time. Linda (Cathryn Harrison) has been abducted by Jed Blackett (Maurice Colbourne). Blackett and Simon have crossed paths before – five years ago in Mozambique.
Ever since, Blackett has been waiting for the opportunity to exact his revenge and Linda finds herself the unfortunate bait in his trap. Simon has just six hours to find the girl, but luckily for him he has help – an attractive gondolier called Claudia (Carole Andre).
Ian Ogilvy’s favourite episode, it’s clear that the star of Duel in Venice is the city itself. Had it been set in London for example, it would have been a decent runaround but nothing special. It’s the gorgeous sights and sounds of Venice that make all the difference.
It’s a pity that the storyline bears some similarities with the previously transmitted episode The Nightmare Man (an adversary from the Saint’s past reappears and is out for revenge) but that’s down to the vagaries of scheduling I guess. And the problem of dubbing raises its head again – everybody (especially Maurice Colbourne) sound like they’re dubbed for large parts of the episode.
Colbourne has a nice line in hysterical giggling and portrays Blackett as a completely deranged character. It’s by no means a subtle performance, but since his screen time is quite limited (popping up every now and again to taunt Simon) it’s not really a problem. Cathryn Harrison has little to do except react to Blackett’s villainy with wide-eyed fear – such as when he fits her with an acoustic necklace (any loud sound would cause it to instantly tighten, killing her instantly).
So the bulk of the story is a two-hander with Simon and Claudia. Carole Andre gives a lovely performance as the headstrong, argumentative Claudia and it’s her local knowledge which helps the Saint to eventually track Blackett down.
We never find out how Simon and Blackett came to meet five years ago. Since Blackett is a mercenary and he claims that Simon left him for dead, the inference is that they were both fighting on the same side in some war. It seems an uncharacteristic thing for the Saint to have done, but there’s another moment in the story which does hint at a darker side to Simon Templar.
Early on, Simon approaches Guido (Enzo Fiermonte) for help. He’s a man of great knowledge and power (presumably a local gangster) and is initially reluctant to help, but Simon (with the help of a gun) persuades him. When the Saint threatens to put a hole in his head, it’s possible to believe that he’s bluffing – but he may not be.
It’s easy to believe that Leslie Charteris’ Saint would have been prepared to shoot, since the literary Saint was a much more amoral, violent character (when transferred to television, the Saint was greatly watered down). This (and the reference to Mozambique) helps to subtly imply that the relaxed, affable playboy that Simon Templar appears to be may not the whole picture.
Helped by the location, Duel in Venice scores four halos out of five.