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Category:    Home > Reviews > Action > Adventure > Detective > Spy > Literature > Return Of The Saint – 25th Anniversary Special Edition 7-DVD Set (Umbrella Entertainment/Region Zero/PAL)

Return Of The Saint – 25th Anniversary Special Edition 7-DVD Set (Umbrella Entertainment/Region Zero/PAL)

 

Picture: C+     Sound: C+     Extras: B     Episodes: B

 

 

PLEASE NOTE:  This set (issued in 2004) is also available in a similar edition from the Network U.K. label (who has issued ‘Episode 4’ below on Volume 3 of the retro-ACTION! Blu-ray compilation reviewed elsewhere on this site; expect the whole series on Blu-ray in the near future), while this Australian Umbrella version should play on some U.S. DVD players due to its region-free nature.  See the link at the end of this page for a new documentary on this show.

 

 

Sir Lew Grade had many hit TV series during the original reign of his ITC production company, from the SuperMarionation shows (Thunderbirds, Captain Scarlett) to live action Sci-Fi hits (U.F.O., Space: 1999) to Spy classics (Danger Man/Secret Agent, The Prisoner) and many other action hits.  Of all his hits, none were bigger, more profitable, influential or successful than The Saint with Roger Moore, running much of the 1960s from early black and white half-hours to full color hours that put Moore on the map along with ITC in a way no other show had.  It is no surprise Grade would try to repeat that particular kind of success.

 

Immediately after the original show was cancelled, he rehired Moore (before he could sign on to be James Bond in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service) for The Persuaders with Tony Curtis, a lush show with much money in the production taking place in Monte Carlo and surrounding areas.  It was a hit everywhere but in the U.S. and was soon folded.  Grade continued to make TV shows and feature films with U.S. and U.K. stars, with some success, but nothing huge.  Grade decided to reteam with Saint Producer Robert S. Baker and revive the series, especially since Moore was had since become a big hit as James Bond.

 

With that, they needed a new actor and though several may have been considered, the team (including almost the entire crew from the 1960s series) would have the actor Ian Ogilvy on board as Simon Templar.  Ogilvy had already shown his ability to be a lead actor and solid character actor in films like Witchfinder General, The Sorcerers, Invincible Six and Robert Fuest’s underrated adaptation of Wuthering Heights, as well as TV series like Upstairs, Downstairs and The Avengers.  The result was perfect casting and Return Of The Saint began production.

 

As was the case with The New Avengers, the show would be a bit more realistic and take place in even more of a real world, but unlike The Avengers, The Saint was already walking the fine line between gumshoe detective and classical detective fiction.  This series would meld the two nicely as 24 expensive, elaborate episodes were shot in an amazing 18 months! 

 

The show had a good run, including co-production of several episodes with the Italian company RAI, but problems with ITC finances thanks in part to Grade’s expensive epic adventure film Raise The Titanic and awkward U.S. broadcasts of the show (many had to see it 12:40 EST on CBS after reruns of the 1960s Avengers on Fridays in 1979 – 1980) cut a great show short before its time.  The episodes (first broadcast 1978 – 79 in the U.K.) that were made are as follows, listing title/director/summary and RAI (the temporary Italian co-producers) noted in ‘[]’ where applicable:

 

1)     The Judas Game (Jeremy Summers) – MI-6 asks Templar to help them save Selma Morell (Judy Geeson, Star Maidens) who turns out to be an old friend of his.  She is trapped in Albania and has vital secrets that could turn the Cold War against the West, but when he finds her, he also finds a different story.  This is one of the few shows done in the heightened style of the old 1960s shows and it often works, but its Cold War storyline cuts into the suspense a bit.

2)     The Nightmare Man (Peter Sasdy) – One of the shows that has appreciated the most since it was first broadcast almost 30 years ago, a woman (Moira Redmond) interrupts Templar and his actress girlfriend (Kathryn Leigh Scott, Dark Shadows) at the hotel they are staying at scared to death in her bed.  As they investigate, it turns out a hitman (Joss Ackland, the “diplomatic immunity” villain from Lethal Weapon 2) is out to kill a vital target.  Clever teleplay by veteran John Krause and yes, the woman with John Bennett’s Col. Perez is Sharon Maughan (spelled without an ‘a’ in the credits) from the Nescafe/Taster’s Choice coffee ads!  [RAI]

3)     Duel In Venice (Jeremy Summers) – Good thriller episode about a sick enemy of Templar’s (Maurice Colbourne) who has kidnapped his current lady friend and put a metal band around her neck that will crush it if a loud noise activates it.  The John Kruse teleplay has some holes in it, but it is a strong show.

4)     One Black September (Leslie Norman) – In another story that has aged nicely, Templar is called in to help British and Israeli intelligence bring to safety an Islamic terrorist who wants to defect!  Great idea that holds up well thanks to John Goldsmith’s teleplay.

5)     The Village That Sold Its Soul (Leslie Norman) – A small Italian town turns out to be a place you can have people killed off and they’ll cover for it, but instead of just gangsters, Templar discovers an uglier plot than he first imagined and may be the only one who can shake the town to its core.  This idea worked better in the Diana Rigg Avengers episode Murdersville, but this is still a good episode.

6)     Assault Force (Peter Sasdy) – Templar is once again stupid enough to come to the aid of a woman in distress, but this time it turns out to be a lady (Kate O’Mara) who wants to recruit him to be part of a secret operation.  Plenty of surprises, including Burt Kwouk (Kato in the Peter Sellers Pink Panther films) in a more serious role.  [RAI]

7)     Yesterday's Hero (Roy Ward Baker) –Smart, strong, dramatic episode has Templar trying to help a down and out old agent (Ian Hendry from The Avengers and its semi-precursor series Police Surgeon) who is about to be released from jail, is officially dead according to British authorities and has unfinished business to take care of.  [RAI]

8)     The Poppy Chain (Charles Crichton) – Veteran actor Laurence Naismith gives one of his best performances as the father of a young lady who dies on poisoned heroin and Templar happens to be friends with her sister and tries to stop him from going on a rampage.  Another winning John Kruse teleplay and one of the best episodes here.  Anton Phillips (Space: 1999) guest stars.  [RAI]

9)     The Arrangement (Peter Medak) – Two women on a plane flight with Templar joke around about killing each other’s husband, but only one (Sarah Douglas, Ursa from the Superman films) means it and so begins a sharp psychological thriller written by Anthony Terpiloff and handled by Medak in peak form.

10)  The Armageddon Alternative (Leslie Norman) – Templar is kidnapped so he can see that a lone nut terrorist can show him he has a nuclear bomb and will bomb London if his demands are not met.  The show gets carried away a bit, but post 9/11, it holds up well.  [RAI]

11)  The Imprudent Professor (Kevin Connor) – A lady friend (Susan Penhaligon) asks him to run interference when she believes her science professor father is in trouble.  Some great humor in Terence Feely’s script and the welcome guest casting of Catherine Schell make for a strong installment.

12)  Signal Stop (Ray Austin) – On a train, Jane Lennox (Ciaran Madden) believes she sees a murder in a building they ride by, but Templar is also on the train and when basic investigations lead to a dead end, he becomes suspicious and discovers his lady friend is not lying.  Slightly conventional Kruse script is still fun, plus the guest casting of Frederick Jagger is a plus.  [RAI]

13)  The Roman Touch (Jeremy Summers) – Templar is ready to show a young lady friend, who is now a pop music star, a good time around town when her agent (Linda Thorson) and bodyguards show up.  Kim Goody and Laurence Luckinbill also star and the show reunites Thorson with Ogilvy, who guested on a Tara King Avengers memorably.  The chemistry is still there and Thorson is great in a very different role.

14)  Tower Bridge Is Falling Down (Roy Ward Baker) – When a junk yard owner turns up dead, Templar suspects it is no accident and investigates, with chilling results.  A friend of the man’s daughter, the case leads to larger, uglier doings.  [RAI]

15)  The Debt Collectors (Leslie Newman) – Templar crosses swords with MI-6 again, this time simply by saving a young lady on a runaway horse.  She is being used as bait to find a traitor in the organization and decides to poke around himself.  Anton Rodgers (The Prisoner,) Diane Keen (The Sandbaggers) and Geoffrey Keen (of the Bond films) co-star in one of the best shows in the series.

16)  Collision Course: The Brave Goose (Cyril Frankel) – Templar becomes involved with a beautiful widow (Gayle Hunnicut) when it turns out her husband helped to heist tons of gold and now, his partners want it and will kill her or anyone else in their way to get it.  Thing is, she does not know where it is, so Templar dives in.  This is the first of a two-part show written by John Kruse and cut into a feature film released theatrically in Europe as a few Moore two-parters had.  Stretching the storyline a bit much, it is not bad, but could have been more effective.  The movie version is on DVD 7 of this set.  [RAI]

17)  Collision Course: The Sixth Man.

18)  Hot Run (Peter Sasdy) – Templar goes to Cortina when a skier is shot to death before his eyes.  The murdered man’s sister is also a suspect and The Saint quickly meets up with Diane Lang (Rula Lenska) who turns out to know more about everything going on than he first imagines.  Lenska was on U.S. TV with a series of very successful Alberto VO-5 commercials, but can definitely act, making for an opponent equal to The Saint.  John Nolan (Batman Begins) also stars.

19)  The Murder Cartel (Tom Clegg) – In a reverse of the now cult-classic James Bond film The Man With The Golden Gun, Templar goes undercover as a world class hitman to protect an Arab sheik (Marne Maitland, The Avengers) and no less than Britt Ekland (from that very Bond film) plays a mysterious woman part of the plot.  Helmut Berger also stars in this complex thriller by John Goldsmith that is one of the best shows here.

20)  The Obono Affair (Peter Sasdy) – The most serious dramatic show in the series, Templar has to help an African diplomat when his son is kidnapped, he is the target of an assassination and racism may only help the matter.  A mature show that is a nice surprise among these shows.  Jack Hedley (For Your Eyes Only) also stars.  [RAI]

21)  Vicious Circle (Sam Wanamaker) – A racing car friend (Michael Forest aka Massimiliano Baratta aka Massimo Baratta) of Templar’s is killed and especially becomes suspicious when he meets his fashion designer wife (Elsa Martinelli) in this intense episode.

22)  Dragonseed (Leslie Norman) – Templar is visiting a good friend for his birthday as a surprise, but he leaves and dies in a helicopter explosion and Templar is certain it was no accident, so he decides to avenge his friend.  Another strong show and guest star Shane Rimmer is a plus.

23)  Appointment In Florence (Peter Sasdy) – Italian terrorists capture and kill a best friend of Templar, which immediately sets him about finds how it happened, who did it and how to hunt them down.  Stuart Wilson, James Aubrey and Carla Romanelli co-star in this well-paced episode, though the Italian villains were wearing thin at this point.

24)  The Diplomat's Daughter (Charles Crichton) – Cars keep near-missing Templar’s Jaguar XJ-S until he figures out the real target is of the title character, whose father only just became an ambassador, but little do they know it is a very bad idea to cross The Saint; especially in his favorite ride.  David Garth (Dr. Who) co-stars and yes, that is Murray Head from the musicals Jesus Christ Superstar and Chess (with the hit One Night In Bangkok) and John Schlesinger’s Sunday Bloody Sunday. [RAI]

 

 

Like several shows ending before their prime (Kolchak: The Night Stalker, U.F.O.,) this is a series that had several more strong seasons in it, but like The New Avengers could not overcome syndication issues, target advertising not being effective enough and simply a push by U.S. companies to against imports, no matter how good.  At the same time, Grade’s latest big budget feature film project would be his last as the box office money-loser Raise The Titanic (finally hitting screens in 1980) forced him to sell his shares of ITC and without his vision and support, the new owners folded the show.  Had it been the hit it deserved to be on these shows in the U.S., it likely would not have folded and more episodes ordered.

 

Fortunately, Grade put the money in this show and along with the great behind the scenes talent and great casting, the show holds up very well three decades later.  Ogilvy was great in the role, continues to be a successful actor & writer and the few actors who have tried to take on the role since (including the talented Val Kilmer) have not even come close.  Sadly, this may be the end of the franchise in peak form, but so many have not seen the show, that if they picked up this set, they would be very, very surprised.  Another revival is being planned as of 2009.

 

If anything, the show plays like early seasons of Hart To Hart, where the money is on the screen, in the scripts and production locations and clothes.  This is from a time when shows were built to last, shot in 35mm film, not afraid of color filming, intelligent scripts, wit or real intent to show the audience a good time.  That has been lost since the 1980s and one of the reasons the revivals of The Saint afterwards hardly made a mark.  It is certainly the equal of the Roger Moore shows, something few sequels of any kind could claim.

 

 

The 1.33 X 1 color PAL image looks good for its age, with limited color variance between episode transfers and making one want to see a film print or HD version.  Director of Photography Frank Watts, B.S.C., gave the show great compositions and made it look even more expensive and lush than it would in the hands of a lesser cinematographer.  There are some detail issues and the video masters are a few years old, but they look very good overall as shot with EastmanColor stocks and developed by Rank Labs.  Some prints look a little better than others and hold up well enough against the first Blu-ray with an episode from the show, which says something about how well these shows were shot.  The Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono (miscredited as Dolby 1.0 on the package) also sounds good for its age including the dialogue, sound effects and memorable instrumental theme song by Brian Dee & Irving Martin taking its semi-Disco approach from The Spy Who Loved Me’s Bond 77 instrumental theme, which makes sense as the Barbara Bach XXX character informs and inspires more than a few of the women on this show.

 

Extras are many and besides the great box art (which I like better than Network’s box art, though it is still good too) offers trailers for other ITC/Umbrella DVD releases, guest cast profiles, various production notes, original ITC pressbook text inside each case and rare stills on all six main DVDs.  Besides a mini-reproduction booklet with the set, DVD 1 adds an Ogilvy/Baker commentary on Duel In Venice, DVD 2 has isolated music and sound effects on Assault Force, DVD 3 adds an Ogilvy/Baker commentary on Signal Stop & alternate opening titles with a terrible Disco/Pop song, DVD 4 adds storyboards for the animated title sequence and a commentary track on Collision Course – The Brave Goose by Production Supervisor Malcolm Christopher & Assistant Director Ken Baker, DVD 5 has isolated music and sound effects on The Murder Cartel, original commercial break bumpers & stills of original tie-in memorabilia, DVD 6 has an on-camera interview with Ogilvy, textless opening & closing credits and 1969 episode of the series Strange Report with Ogilvy called “Kidnap – Whose Pretty Girl Are You” and DVD 7 has the feature cut of The Saint & The Brave Goose complete with trailer and DVD-ROM PDF printable pressbook.

 

A note on the feature film says it has not been remastered, but the episode versions look terrific, so it is not as bad and I was not impressed by the new music or new opening credits.  However, it makes for the largest of the great extras, which are very thorough.  The only things one could have asked for not here include stereo upgrades of the shows, more isolated commentary tracks (it’s not too late for HD) and possibly those U.S. CBS Late Movie pieces plugging the show before The Avengers began.  Hard to believe 12:40 A.M. was this show’s U.S. debut time.

 

Otherwise, it marked the end of the Lord Lew Grade era of entertainment and the last peak of The Saint.  Will the Templar character ever really make a comeback?  Hard to say, but this under seen Ogilvy show is so strong, it is a must for any serious TV on DVD collection and one of the most highly recommended TV sets we’ll ever feature.  For more on the series, try this link to the new DVD documentary The Saint Steps In… To Television:

 

http://www.fulvuedrive-in.com/review/8681/The+Saint+Steps+In

 

 

-   Nicholas Sheffo


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