Hey, it’s Jean Marsh and Michael Gough! Reckon they’re up to no good? Just look at them.
Back when I first started watching The Saint in 1986-87, “The Imprudent Politician” became one of my favorite episodes, in part because of the story and in part because Marsh and Gough were in it and I knew who they were from their roles in sixties Doctor Who. In time, I’d come to recognize most of the great guest cast, including Anthony Bate, Moray Watson, and Mike Pratt. And in the spring of 1988, after reading a little bit about the Profumo Scandal of 1961-62, I caught that guest star Justine Lord is being a little bit Mandy Rice-Davies in this story about blackmail that involves an accidental death and a country house full of suspects.
So no, for the small number of you hoping our kid would recognize Lord after seeing her in another episode just four days ago, he didn’t. This one took a little more work, and a little backtracking after we got started, than I would have thought. It seemed simple enough: a politician’s being blackmailed because he has a cute mistress and once passed her some insider stock information. I overlooked the reality that the kid has only a vague idea of what a mistress is or why anyone would want one, and no clue at all what insider trading is. But I wasn’t going to let this one collapse because he didn’t understand it, so we got it all cleared up and once he understood there’s a big country house full of brooding visitors who don’t seem to like each other, he said “Okay, it’s like Clue,” and he was good to go.
Mike Pratt plays one of the blackmailers in this, and you’ll remember how, as Jeff Randall, the poor guy lost just about every fight he got in? He coshes Simon Templar from behind about halfway through this story, and that’s it for his luck. He gets thrashed to within an inch of his life later on. When Monty Berman and Dennis Spooner were putting together Randall and Hopkirk, they might’ve looked at this episode and said “That’s our man!”
Afraid our son wasn’t in the right frame of mind for tonight’s episode of The Saint. He said that he enjoyed all the fights – there’s a brawl about every six minutes – and didn’t like all the smooching, but he got lost in a plot detail. He’s done this before when he’s a little tired and overstimulated, but he convinced himself that the story’s macguffin was vitally important to his understanding of the plot. Plus he misheard “Process G” as something else, and stayed completely confused until he asked us to pause and explain why in the world some American company is going to pay an old man a million dollars for processed cheese.
Since he didn’t understand the macguffin, he decided the story was too complex for him and tuned out. It’s been a while, but I remember a New Avengers left him similarly stumped and bored. Interestingly, he realized afterward just where he misunderstood. He recited straight back to us a pretty good definition of a macguffin, that it’s merely the object that drives the plot and the action. Once he understood he was hung up on something unimportant, he conceded that he enjoyed the scraps.
And that’s a shame, because he could have enjoyed a good one, packed with great actors, with a very funny opening. It begins with Simon in a fancy hotel bar overhearing two young men mocking him, because he’s got the looks of a fellow upon whom damsels in distress throw themselves. Cue, immediately, a damsel in distress played by Annette Andre.
So Simon doesn’t give her story of death threats and macguffins any attention, congratulates the chaps on pulling a good gag, and has to run to her rescue because some villains, among them Peter Vaughan, Neil McCarthy, and Michael Robbins, really did send her that death threat because they want her father’s macguffin. McCarthy and Andre appeared together a few years later in a Randall and Hopkirk. Other familiar faces include Justine Lord as the maneater who wants to do all the smooching that bothered the kid, along with Ed Bishop, Geoffrey Keen, and David Jackson. That is a really terrific cast for a fun and entertaining story. Hopefully he’ll be less wired for the next episode, although I’m not expecting him to recognize Justine Lord in it since he tuned her out completely tonight.