The Saint 5.1 – The Queen’s Ransom

In the spring of 1966, ITC started production of The Saint and, briefly, Danger Man, in color. The result here looks a little threadbare, doesn’t it? Maybe it’s overdue for a really nice restoration, because The Prisoner began filming a few months after this and has always looked so colorful and gorgeous. I’m not sure in which order these were actually made, but they started with a block of 30 episodes and the first 27 of them became “season five,” led by “The Queen’s Ransom” in most of the ITV regions. I remember reading that it was also chosen to launch the first season on NBC in the summer of 1967, but I can’t confirm that presently.

I’m still not sure that moving to color was the right move for this series, in part because it always looked so right in black and white, but our son certainly enjoyed this one a lot. Simon pulls a great switcheroo on the bad guys that had him laughing out loud, and the whole thing is one fisticuff-fueled cat-and-mouse game with criminals while Simon brings some snobbish Nosuchlandia royalty back down to Earth. Bits of it are very reminiscent of one of the most entertaining black and white episodes, “The Golden Journey.” Dawn Addams, who our son predictably did not recognize despite seeing her twice in the last month, plays the snobby queen, with support by George Pastell and John Woodvine.

But I didn’t pick “The Queen’s Ransom” for its guest stars, actually. I picked it for the ITC white Jaguar going off a cliff again, and the darn kid didn’t realize what was happening until it was on its way to launching. “I didn’t realize it was a Jaguar,” he protested. They picked a brilliant, amazingly twisty road to shoot on, and Avengerland tells me that it’s a road on the Llyn Stwlan Reservoir in Wales. The road was also used in a Persuaders! four years later, as well as, weirdly, another Saint that we’re going to watch soon, in which the other stock ITC crash, with the Red Renault, is used. I honestly didn’t plan this. I swear I picked it for its guest stars, not its car crash.

The Saint 2.20 – The Lawless Lady

Several months ago, some wag on Twitter pointed out how the great Julian Glover has been in practically everything as a villain, and “this pest” has made enemies of the Doctor, Indiana Jones, the Rebel Alliance, and James Bond, among others (Jason King, the Avengers, etc.). For some reason, while our son gamely accepts his old man pointing out actors with good humor and a smile, he thinks the world of Glover because every casting director for the last sixty years has had his number for projects that he enjoys, and has labeled him “The Pest.” Even if he still can’t recognize him without a prompt. That is reserved only for Doctors, it seems. He also didn’t recognize Dawn Addams, who he saw in Danger Man just two weeks ago, so we shouldn’t be too surprised.

But our son’s oddball little Glover fandom – okay, the word’s a bit strong, but we’ll use it – led him to theorize that since Glover’s character from the legendary Doctor Who serial “City of Death” was splintered in time, there could be a version of Scaroth who is split across the multiverses. We were hiking a few months ago and he started putting together a Legion of Doom, of sorts, with some villains to battle his favorite heroes. And in his imagination, Lex Luthor and Davros and Megatron are right to call in Scaroth, because all his other selves have long experience battling all sorts of heroes throughout the multiverse. Glover’s character in this story actually comes close to winning a brawl with Simon Templar, which very few other villains on this show do.

Anyway, the kid enjoyed this one, in which Templar starts acting like his old, notorious gentleman thief self to get in with a gang of high-society criminals. There’s a little mystery about what’s going on to keep his attention, a funny bit where a butler gets locked in a closet, and it ends with a good scrap. It also features a brief appearance from Ivor Dean as the delightful, grouchy, and long-suffering Inspector Teal, “the bloodhound of Scotland Yard.” If we were digging deeper into this series, I’d be sure to pick a few more episodes with him, but as it is, I think we’ll see him just once more, later this month. We’ll also see Dawn Addams again, but after nine whole days, I’m not expecting him to recognize her.

Danger Man 2.8 – The Battle of the Cameras

So Danger Man finished its run of 39 episodes and that, as they say, was that. Except that United Artists started making James Bond movies, and those films started defying everybody’s box office expectations. With advance word on the third film, Goldfinger, indicating it was going to be the biggest one yet, Danger Man went back into production as a one-hour show, with John Drake now formally an agent for British intelligence instead of some nebulous office of NATO.

The numbering I’ll use is the British broadcast order, which, as is standard with ITC series, never had any connection to the order they were actually made. “The Battle of the Cameras” was made twelfth and shown eighth in the Midlands region, in December 1964. But in America, it was selected to lead the run in April 1965. Given a new name, Secret Agent, and a brilliant theme song by Johnny Rivers, the show aired on Saturday evenings on CBS.

It was a midseason replacement for The Entertainers, a forgotten variety show that can’t have been bad; Bob Newhart and Carol Burnett were the hosts! But the show somehow failed despite an incredibly sweet slot between Gilligan’s Island and Gunsmoke, which any hour-long show would kill for, and Secret Agent caught the attention of younger viewers and all those people who were crazy for spies and, well, secret agents. I should note that it wasn’t quite the first off the block for this new fad in the US, though. NBC’s Man from UNCLE beat it to American airwaves, but there’d be another three or four similar programs, including the fourth season of The Avengers, on the air within a year.

The American broadcasts of this series were reasonably close to the British ones, which is remarkable considering the period and how fast these had to be made to make CBS’s dates. There were 22 made in the first production block. 21 of these aired in America from April to September 1965, along with two from the second production block of 23, before CBS gave the show a three-month break. It came back in December to replace The Trials of O’Brien, which CBS moved to another night to fill in a different hole.

The kid squirmed a bit at the beginning, but he settled in and said he really enjoyed this. I thought it was excellent, and I was very glad to see that such an entertaining story was written by Philip Broadley, because as those of you with long memories may recall, I was kind of hard on the writer for penning some disappointingly ordinary episodes of Department S. But this was amusingly twisty, with each side getting ahead of the other, and it had some nice fight scenes. Guest stars include Dawn Addams as the femme fatale, Niall MacGinnis as her boss, and Patrick Newell as a bumbling cohort from Drake’s office.

I’m not sure what the contemporary reviews were like, but if I’d have been around in 1965, I’d have watched it every week. Did CBS have anything remotely as good as this in 1965? Well, yes, The Dick Van Dyke Show, but nothing else.