Thursday, 25 May 2017

Roger Moore tribute double header

In view of the sad passing of Sir Roger Moore I thought it would be fitting to spend the evening watching him at his best. And while I enjoy his Bond movies for me Roger Moore at his best means The Saint and The Persuaders!

The Lawless Lady is episode 20 of the second season of The Saint. It is based on Leslie Charteris’s 1930 novella which is included in the volume Enter the Saint (which I reviewed here a couple of years ago). It went to air in January 1964.

Simon has a chance encounter with London’s most glamorous hostess, the young and beautiful Countess Audrey Morova. Only it wasn’t a chance encounter. Simon deliberately engineered it. It seems he knows a secret about the countess. She is a crook. Now he wants to join her gang of jewel thieves.

Of course we know that the Saint can’t really want to join the ungodly but there he is, robbing someone’s safe.

Dawn Addams is excellent as the countess, a woman motivated as much be a desire for excitement as by greed. Julian Glover is splendidly sinister as her lovelorn but vicious henchman.

Roger Moore as usual doesn’t put a foot wrong.

The interplay between Simon and his would-be nemesis and occasional ally Inspector Claud Eustace Teal (played with style by Ivor Dean) is always a delight. This time Teal really thinks he’s got Simon, but then Claud Eustace always thinks that and he always turns out to be wrong.

This is interesting as one of the episodes which refers at least obliquely to Templar’s criminal past. Nothing is stated outright but it is obvious that the Saint has had considerable experience as a jewel thief. ITC were unwilling to take the risk in the early 60s of having a television series hero who is a criminal but of course the whole point of the character is that he is an ex-crook, albeit one who always had certain moral standards. It was a tricky balancing act but the series pulled it off as successfully as one could expect.

I’ve always been a fan of crime stories set on board ships. Most of this episode takes place on the countess’s yacht. Naturally the entire episode was shot in the studio but the shipboard setting is reasonably convincing.

There’s everything you could want in an episode of The Saint - the background of money and glamour, a beautiful but bad woman who is perhaps not entirely bad and a fairly suspenseful story which puts the Saint in extreme peril.

Moving on now to The Persuaders! and to the episode The Man in the Middle, written by the usually reliable Donald James. It originally went to air in 1971. Brett has been inveigled into helping to catch a British traitor but his problem is that now the British intelligence people thinks he’s the traitor and they want to kill him. And the opposition also think he’s the traitor and for their own reasons they want to kill him as well. Just when it seems that things can’t get any worse Brett runs into his cousin Archibald Sinclair Beachum (Terry-Thomas).

The story itself is nothing special but it’s approached with so much zest and flair that its shortcomings can be readily forgiven. Roger Moore and Tony Curtis have a magical acting chemistry while Terry-Thomas (as a very reluctant hero indeed) is in sparkling form. Of course the presence of Tery-Thomas in the cast is a clear indication that we are not to take  this story the slightest bit seriously. Of course we’re actually not expected to take any episode of The Persuaders! seriously - it was all style and wit and unapologetically light-hearted.

It’s all great fun. And that’s possibly the best way to sum up Sir Roger Moore’s career - it was unfailingly great fun for the viewer.

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