Friday 10 December 2021

The Saint in colour

In 1966 ITC decided it was time to switch to colour for the new season of The Saint. There were a couple of other minor changes as well, the most notable being that we now get a voiceover introduction to each episode rather than having Simon Templar break the fourth wall and address the audience directly.

Overall though it’s the formula as before. If you have a formula that works why change it?

So, some reviews of early fifth season episodes chosen at random.

The Queen’s Ransom

In The Queen’s Ransom (which aired in 1966) Simon finds himself involved, very indirectly, in a revolution after he saves the life of a deposed Middle Eastern king. The revolution is intended to restore King Fallouda to his throne. The Saint has mixed feelings about revolutions but in this case he feels that the restoration of the king really would a good idea. The problem is that the money to finance the revolution will have to come from the sale of Queen Adana’s jewels and they’re in a safety deposit box in Zurich. The Queen will have to fetch them and Simon’s job is to protect her and the jewels.

This episode then becomes a kind of Couple on the Run story as Simon and Queen Adana are chased about Europe by the king’s enemies who intend to get those jewels. It’s a typical Saintly adventure, with Adana and Simon at each other’s throats at first, much to Simon’s amusement.

There’s the usual Saintly mix of adventure with a dash of humour but with quite a bit more action compared to the earlier black-and-white seasons. And the action is noticeably more violent (although it’s still very restrained compared to the direction British television would take in the mid-70s).

The sparks really do fly between the Queen and the Saint. There’s no hint of romance (Queen Adana is very happily married to the King and is absolutely faithful to him). Queen Adana tries her best to be regal and mostly succeeds although at times she is reminded that before she was a queen she was the daughter of a London bus driver. Dawn Addams does a fine job of being queenly while giving us occasional subtle glimpses of her working-class background.

A very entertaining episode.

The Reluctant Revolution

The Reluctant Revolution takes place in the South American dictatorship of San Pablo. Simon runs across an attractive young woman named Diane (played by Jennie Linden) who has a gun in her purse. He fears she might be going to try to kill someone and that proves to be the case. She wants to kill the dictator’s right-hand man, and that gets both Diane and Simon mixed up in an attempted revolution.

The Saint isn’t altogether sure he approves of revolutions. They usually end with a lot of innocent people being killed. If only one could have a revolution without bloodshed. Perhaps it can be done, if Simon can make use of his skills as a confidence trickster.

An enjoyable episode.

Interlude in Venice

In Interlude in Venice Simon is seeing the sights when trouble finds him (as it always does) and he has to rescue an American girl from a too-insistent would-be Lothario. The American girl, Cathy, is about to get herself in more hot water (something she seems to have a talent for), this time with a sleazy prince. 

This one was perhaps a bit too ambitious, with lots of blue-screen stuff to convince us that Roger Moore is really zipping around the canals of Venice when quite obviously the entire episode was shot in the studio. At least the blue-screen stuff is fairly well done.

As you would expect it turns out that things are not quite what they seem. A pretty decent episode.

The House on Dragon’s Rock

The House on Dragon’s Rock, which was directed by Roger Moore, is a very untypical episode of The Saint. It’s more like a 1950s science fiction monster movie with a bit of Hammer-style gothic atmosphere thrown in. Simon arrives in a small Welsh village to find that strange and disturbing things have been happening. The latest mystery is the disappearance of a shepherd named Owen and when Owen is finally found the mystery remains as deep as ever.

The villagers are convinced that it has something to do with the scientific experiments being carried out in the big old house on Dragon’s Rock.

This is not just a monster movie story, it’s also a mad scientist story with Anthony Bate as Dr Charles Sardon making a pretty effective mad scientist. Dr Sardon has his own ideas about the future of the planet.

Much of this episode was actually shot in Wales, with mostly Welsh actors. To venture so far from the studio was highly unusual for 1960s British television. And there are special effects. OK, the special effects are roughly of the standard you’d expect in a 1960s Doctor Who episode but given the tone of the episode they work well enough.

There has to be a pretty girl in an episode of The Saint and in this case it’s Annette Andre (later to be better known from her regular role in Randall and Hopkirk, Deceased).

Roger Moore plays things pretty straight which, given the outlandish plot, was probably a very sound idea.

There’s an obvious attempt to get away from the flat lighting so characteristic of 1960s television and achieve a more atmospheric effect.

The House on Dragon’s Rock is a great deal of fun.

The Man Who Liked Lions

A journalist, a friend of Simon’s, is murdered in broad daylight in Rome. Needless to say Simon makes it his business to find out why. The trail leads him first to artist Claudia Molinelli but what Simon really wants is to find the Man Who Likes Lions. Eventually he finds him. He is Tiberio Magadino (Peter Wyngarde) and apart from being obsessed with lions he is obsessed by Ancient Rome. He dreams of recapturing the glory of Ancient Rome but it’s the way he earns his living that interests Simon.

The plot isn’t all that special but it’s the outrageous execution that makes this a memorable episode.

This is one of several memorable TV guest roles that Peter Wyngarde did in the 60s before finding fame in Department S and Jason King. His most notorious guest role of course was in the A Touch of Brimstone episode of The Avengers (the one with Mrs Peel as the Queen of Sin).


  1. I think I've mentioned before that the more cultish ITC series were repeated a lot in the 70s and especially the 80s on UK TV - but generally the shows that only ran for one season. I don't think I'd seen a full episode of the Saint before I got the Colour episodes box set (still not got the B&W set).

    This is possibly the best show I've seen of its type, certainly the best British show - ti's so much better than the later ITC shows - which were all clearly trying to be 'The Saint With An Exotic Twist'. The idea that at the start of each episode, someone points him out ("the famous Simon Templar") is a great concept - they can then get straight into the plot without any more gimmicks. Unusually, having watched almost all the box set, the series is still strong towards the end, IMO, although the depictions of late 60s culture are sometimes hysterically funny.

    On the Network box, the House on Dragons Rock (which I LOVED) is on the first disc, along with the Loch Ness one, the other most outlandish episode (at least for the ending) which made me expect a rather different show! Ironically, the Man who Liked Lions is the only one I gave up on - I just didn't like it.

    For my money, this show is better than the Avengers - there's more of a sense of genuine peril. And also, some episodes are clearly about subjects close to Roger Moore's heart. VERY highly recommended.

    1. There was a time when I was a bit dismissive of The Saint. Then I bought the b&w boxed set and sat down to do some serious Saint-watching. And became more and more impressed. I don't know why this series doesn't get more love from cult TV fans.

      I have a very slight preference for the b&w episodes. Maybe it's because the opening sequence in those episodes is so clever, with Simon Templar breaking the fourth wall.