Saturday, 30 June 2018

Cathy Gale in the Bahamas

I was quite surprised to see Honor Blackman appearing in an episode of The Saint. The setting was a country house in Nassau, the episode The Arrow of God. There were two black maids with speaking parts, and several black policemen, but the "Indian mystic" was played by an actor with the very un-Indian name of John Carson.
And there was Honor Blackman, playing the Other Woman that one of the other characters wanted to leave his wife for.
And it reminded me that, in the last episode of The Avengers where she played Cathy Gale, Cathy said she was going to the Bahamas for a holiday, well away from Steed. I suppose the script writers knew that she had got the job on the Saint coming up.

It's a pity she didn't agree to do another season of The Avengers, but then she wouldn't have been able to do Goldfinger, and there wouldn't have been that lovely in-joke where Steed gets a postcard from Mrs. Gale and asks "What on earth is she doing at Fort Knox?"

Honor Blackman had a harder job in the Avengers than Diana Rigg - at the beginning, they performed the episodes live in the studio - so everything had to be right first time, and if anyone fluffed a line they just had to carry on. The Saint was done on film right from the start, and you can really see the difference.
Even so, Patrick McNee and Honor Blackman obviously worked well together - you can see how relaxed they are in their scenes together. I also hadn't realised until I watched the season through just how reckless Steed can be of his partners' safety, and just how much he relies on Cathy's expertise while he's muddling through and relying on his wits to get him out of trouble. Way back in the Venus Smith episodes, he deliberately puts her into potentially dangerous situations without telling her what she's getting into. Cathy Gale has a few choice words to say to him about that, in several episodes, leading up to her deciding to make a clean break of it and head to the Bahamas.

Thursday, 28 June 2018

Harlan Ellison

I've just heard, via Diane Duane on Twitter, that Harlan Ellison has died.
Harlan Ellison provided one of my earliest tastes of real, grown up, science fiction as the editor of the anthologies Dangerous Visions and Again, Dangerous Visions.
He wrote one of the best episodes of Original Star Trek - City at the Edge of Forever.
He was one of the great science fiction writers, and I'm quite surprised at how upset I feel about his passing, since I didn't know him as a person at all - just the stories, which will continue to be read and appreciated.

Wednesday, 27 June 2018

Simon Templar - New Head Canon Origin Story

I watched the fourth episode of the Saint, involving a plot dating back to the French Resistance in the Second World War. Simon meets an old friend from those times, who remembers him being part of the Resistance himself. "You were very brave, and so very young," he says.
At which point I spluttered: "Young? He must have been about ten!"
So I started thinking about it. "Twenty years ago" in 1962 would just about have worked to make Simon a young teenager during the War - but what was he doing in Occupied Paris?
Leslie Charteris is no help at all on the origins of the Saint - I don't think he ever mentions the Saint's family, and besides, the Saint of the books was an adult in the 1920s, when men were men and cars had running boards.
But for the Saint of the TV series - could he have been living in Occupied Paris because his mother was French? I've always been led to believe that the Saint was English, but cosmopolitan, and there is no way anyone English could have been living in Paris at that time. I doubt very much that Simon was ever in any sort of armed forces, and he would have been too young to be a spy.
So now I have the image in my mind that he was the kid who hung around with the men of the Resistance, running errands for them. Which would be why he wasn't present at 'The Drop', the incident when the villain of the piece betrayed the Resistance and 27 out of 30 of them were killed. We also meet all three of the survivors in the episode.
It works for me, anyway.

Tuesday, 26 June 2018

The Saint - Thoughts so far

I've now seen the first three episodes of the Saint, and I'm really enjoying it - but I have some thoughts. For instance, the series hasn't passed the Bechdel Test yet. There are quite a few women, with decent parts, but they're all in separate scenes so never interact with each other. And they're all blonde (apart from one Italian girl and an old lady).
On the plus side, Warren Mitchell guest stars as a delightful Italian taxi driver (and he and the Saint are speaking real Italian). Warren Mitchell seems to have been one of those actors often called upon to play dodgy foreigners - he was also a Russian spy in the Avengers.
I think they may actually have gone to Rome for some of the establishing shots of the Saint walking around, before returning to the studio - or if not, they made it look convincing.
In episode 3 David Kossoff is a bomb maker for a corrupt US Union boss. There's even a speech at the end where the Saint praises honest union bosses. This is also the episode that introduces Hoppy, beside whom two short planks would look intelligent.
So far, too, it has been established that the Saint speaks Italian and understands enough Latin to send a coded message to a Latin professor (now State Governor), and has a wide knowledge of antiques - and that the gun he is licenced to carry in the US, is a Beretta .32.
The series also made use of several American actors (the chap at the US Embassy in Rome sounded very like Phones from Stingray, too). I'm sure this was to appeal to the American TV market.
Next up, the Saint is in Paris dealing with a plot that dates back to the French Resistance....

Sunday, 24 June 2018

Simon Templar - The Saint

We had Hay Festival at the end of May, so I didn't have time to do anything else, like posting here. The procession of Handmaids from Margaret Atwood's Handmaid's Tale, on the day she gave her talk at the Festival, was just brilliant, though!
But after that there's been all the news of children separated from their parents and locked in cages at the Mexican border with the US, and I didn't really feel like posting anything frivolous for a while.

Sometimes you just have to take a break from watching the news, though, and yesterday I found something that made me very happy. It's an incomplete set of DVDs of The Saint, starring Roger Moore before he went on to Bond stardom. I remember loving these as a kid, and I bought all that were left in the charity shop, hoping that they would still be fun to watch.

I watched the first one last night, and loved it.

The Talented Husband was first broadcast in 1962, and you can tell right from the start that they had a decent budget - there was location filming (a railway station, the Saint's car driving along, a small town street), and the unfortunate wife of the Talented Husband was Patricia Roc, a well known actress who co-starred with Margaret Lockwood in The Wicked Lady. The Avengers at the same time had a much more limited budget, and they were still doing the episodes mostly live, rather than on film, as the Saint was. 1962 was the year that Cathy Gale left the Avengers, so it's interesting to compare the two series.
Despite a couple of good parts for women, this episode of the Saint doesn't pass the Bechdel Test - they never actually speak to each other, but the woman insurance investigator is treated as a professional by the Saint when they join forces.
It also struck me that no-one seemed to think it was unusual to see an Italian running a British pub/hotel, where the Saint stays when he arrives in the small town of Cookham.