Wrapping up our look at this great old series, perhaps unsurprisingly we watched the famous two-part adventure. There’s actually another two-parter, but it’s not as famous as “Vendetta for the Saint,” which, in 1964, became the first “Leslie Charteris” Saint novel to be published in many, many years. Charteris didn’t actually write it, it turned out. It was ghosted by the great Harry Harrison, but it somehow seemed to be the one that every bookstore used to have in multiple editions.
Our son was really happy with the second half, but thought the first was long and he wasn’t too involved. Since part two is a giant cat-and-mouse game with Simon Templar being hunted all over Sicily by gunmen, there’s a lot for a kid to chew on, and he said that it was really exciting. Good; I think you can see a little bit of both For Your Eyes Only and Octopussy in the last twenty minutes of this. It’s a template of what was to come, and since I plan to introduce him to James Bond next year, I think he’ll like what he’ll be seeing.
For a long time, “Vendetta for the Saint” was the only color installment of the series that I saw. When I first started watching the series in high school, WATL-36 only had the black and white episodes available. Fortunately, I was long in the habit of reading the weekly TV listings very carefully to spot any monster movies or schedule changes, because some time after WATL moved on from the series, WTBS – you may have got it on cable, but it was channel 17 in Atlanta – showed this movie one Saturday afternoon.
You sometimes see essays about The Saint that call “Vendetta” and the other film, “The Fiction Makers,” examples of the way syndicators used to repackage two-part episodes as movies for foreign markets and American syndication. That isn’t true. They were both made as features and then edited into two parts for broadcast in the UK as part of the sixth season. It was partially filmed in Malta – perhaps they had such a good experience that ITC decided to come back and film Mister Jerico here the next year? – and features Templar at war with the Mafia, represented by Ian Hendry as a villain who’s trading on a false identity and gets very angry when people deduce who he really is. The Lovely Aimi MacDonald is a damsel in distress, George Pastell gets to play a hero for a change, and Fulton Mackay and Alex Scott both appear, briefly.
The kid really enjoyed this because Simon is actually fighting for his life for whacking great chunks of the story, but what I like best is that this is a fight the Saint does not need to pick, and he does it anyway. Even when he realizes that this villain, Dino Cartelli, is a little more connected and a lot more dangerous than the average Saint bad guy, Templar finds the guy’s sore spot and jabs it, repeatedly. But Cartelli gets under our hero’s skin, too. Templar drops the façade in the second half and threatens to kill his opponent. That’s how high the stakes get. It’s a great story, and such fun to revisit.
That’s all for our look at The Saint, but we’ll sample another classic ITC series next weekend. Stay tuned!