We gave it a B
Over the years, there have been almost as many Saints in the media as there are in the Catholic church. Vincent Price portrayed Leslie Charteris’ mystery-novel hero on radio; George Sanders, Hugh Sinclair, and Louis Hayward impersonated him in old movies; and Val Kilmer takes the role in the new big-screen retread (see review on page 58). Yet to me, there’s only one true Simon Templar: Roger Moore, who played him in the 1963-66 British TV series THE SAINT (PolyGram, unrated, four volumes with two episodes each, $14.95), of which eight color episodes from the ’66 season have just been released on video.
The role of the debonair, globe-trotting do-gooder fit Moore like an expertly tailored tuxedo. In fact, it suited him far better than James Bond ever did; the unflappably polite Moore never seemed lethal enough to be 007.
There’s a certain sameness to the episodes that’s comforting at first but grows a bit wearying. Simon inevitably finds himself in an exotic location, where he must protect an older gentleman against some evil force (the Commies, the Nazis, etc.). The fellow often has a grown daughter — a beautiful blond, of course — who becomes a love interest for Simon. Fisticuffs ensue, the world is made safe for democracy again, and the credits roll.
Despite the predictable plots, Moore’s youthful charisma carries you along. He waltzes through far-fetched scenes with arched-eyebrow aplomb and makes even his most un-PC remarks seem charming (he pumps one cutie for info thusly: ”I shall wait 10 seconds, and if nothing is forthcoming, I shall place a few well-deserved whacks on that delectable posterior of yours”).
As an added bonus, the videos include the episodes’ original promos, which provide their own campy laughs. Plugging ”The Man Who Liked Lions,” in which Templar battles a self-styled Roman emperor, the announcer intones, ”Beneath this gay exterior lies [a] deadly mystery,” over a shot of two grappling Greco-Roman hunks. There’s more homoerotic subtext here than in the Tony Curtis-Laurence Olivier Spartacus bath scene.
For maximum swinging-’60s atmo, though, feast your eyes on the TV movie THE SAINT: THE FICTION-MAKERS (1966, LIVE, unrated, $9.98). The Saint‘s stick-figure-with-a-halo logo appears in an animated Pink Panther-style credits sequence that sets the tone for this witty romp, in which Moore’s Templar is mistaken for an espionage author and kidnapped by fans who want him to plan a heist. Throw in a bombshell bad girl in a silver jumpsuit, a Multi-laser Destructor device, and characters named Frug, Galaxy Rose, Nero Jones, and Rip Savage, and you have enough kitsch for a John Waters flick. Moore keeps a straight face through it all, proving he truly does have the patience of a … well, you know. The Saint (Vols. 1-4): B The Saint: The Fiction-Makers: B+