Roberto Lucci (Massimiliano Baratta) is killed in a car accident en-route to a meeting with Simon. His widow, famous fashion designer Renata (Elsa Martinelli), isn’t surprised – Roberto was a former racing driver with a love of driving far too fast. The Saint is convinced that his car was forced off the road deliberately – but as there’s no evidence the police aren’t interested. Simon, of course, isn’t discouraged and starts to dig about …..
Shot on location in Italy and directed by Sam Wanamaker, Vicious Circle has a mainly local cast. This is something of a mixed blessing – it’s better to have native Italians rather than English actors putting on fake accents (as happened in the Collision Course two-parter) but the drawback is that they tend to be less fluent in English, hence their performances can feel slightly broader than normal. Part of the problem with this one may also be that the dubbing on this episode is more obvious than usual (series like ROTS would tend to redub the majority of the dialogue as a matter of course).
Elsa Martinelli is icily detached as Roberto’s widow. Following the accident that cut his career short, she was forced to nurse him – and Simon suspects she may know more about his death than she admits. She’s a character drawn in fairly broad strokes – not helped by the dubbing which does create a little distance.
Tessa Wyatt (as Renata’s assistant Anna) seems to be initially positioned as this episode’s female helper, but the revelation that her ex-husband may have killed Roberto is an unexpected twist (and there’s more revelations to come). It helps to isolate the Saint even further – most episodes see him paired up with female company and enjoying the tacit assistance of the authorities (something which doesn’t happen here).
The harder edge of this episode is demonstrated in several ways. Firstly, Simon finds Anna drugged and hysterical in her room and we also have the unusual sight of Simon brandishing a gun (even if he doesn’t fire it). And apart from a few quips, he’s in a pretty serious mood throughout.
The mystery of the episode – who killed Roberto and why? – is maintained until the end. This is another break from the norm as normally the narratives are much more straightforward. It’s a pity there weren’t a few more episodes like this scattered through the run, but partly because it’s a rarity Vicious Circle rates four halos out of five.