The Saint – The Benevolent Burglary

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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.

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The Saint – The King of the Beggars

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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.

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The Saint – The Saint Sees It Through

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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.

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The Saint – The Ever-Loving Spouse

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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.

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The Saint – The Gentle Ladies

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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.

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The Saint – The Invisible Millionaire

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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.

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The Saint – The Man Who Was Lucky

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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.

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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.

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