The Saint – ‘The Queen’s Ransom’ (1966): Roger Moore bonding with royalty

15 JANUARY 2024

JBC rating: ****

James Bond Connections (3):

  • Starring Roger Moore (James Bond, 1973 – 1985) as hero Simon Templar, a.k.a The Saint.
  • Featuring George Pastell (train conductor in From Russia with Love) as King Fallouda.
  • Featuring Peter Madden (Kronsteen’s chess opponent in From Russia with Love) as chief villain Farid.

In the 1960s, Saint producers Robert S. Baker and Monty Berman were the small screen equivalent of the James Bond producers Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman. Both partnerships converted a long-running series of novels into internationally successful on-screen adventures, transforming the careers of their leading men in the process. Ahead of the Bond producer’s own split, in 1965 Baker and Berman would dissolve their producing partnership. However, unlike Broccoli and Saltzman in 1975, their’s was an amicable split and Berman would go off to produce several classic 1960s action-adventure series including The Baron (1965 – 66) and The Champions (1968 – 68). Baker found a new partner in Roger Moore and together they produced the remaining two (colour) series under their joint production banner BAMORE. Whereas EON arguably lost Sean Connery by refusing to allow him greater creative involvement, Baker ensured the continued success of his show by teaming up with his leading man.

The first episode produced by BAMORE, ‘The Queen’s Ransom’, is an excellent 50-minute adventure. It opens with Simon Templar, dressed Bond-style in an ivory dinner jacket, saving the deposed Middle Eastern King Fallouda from an assassination attempt in a Monte Carlo casino (the elderly assassin sporting a SPECTRE-style walking stick with a hidden blade). Impressed by his new friend, the King – played by Cypriot actor George Pastell (above) who appears as the train conductor in From Russia with Love (1963) – asks Templar if he will travel to Zurich to collect some expensive jewels which will help fund an attempt to win back his former kingdom. English actress Dawn Adams (top image) has great fun playing the King’s beautiful but pompous wife, Queen Adana, who accompanies Templar on the trip. Templar knows Queen Adana from her days as a London model. In several sparkling scenes, Templar enjoys poking fun at the Queen’s adopted Royal manners while referencing her roots as the daughter of a bus driver. In an entertaining reversal, the Queen manages to throw a few well directed barbs back in Templar’s direction in several screwball scenes.

Templar and the Queen must play a cat and mouse game across Europe with a group of villains desperate to abort the coup by stopping the jewels reaching the King. The machinations are directed by a ruthless one-eyed middle eastern villain called Farid, played by actor Peter Madden (above) who also briefly appears in From Russia with Love. In the second half of the 1960s the cinematic James Bond would be an increasing influence on The Saint. In another direct connection with From Russia with Love, at one point Templar escapes from the villains with the help of a briefcase equipped with an exploding gas canister (below). The influence of Alfred Hitchcock is apparent in scenes where Templar and the Queen find help from a kindly old lady called Hortense, charmingly played by actress Nora Nicholson. Templar tells Hortense he is eloping with his fiancé, in a clear echo of The 39 Steps (1935). Then, in a lovely Hitchcock-style twist, the apparently kindly Hortense turns out to be a kidnapper-for-hire.

Famously, Roger Moore rarely stepped outside of Elstree studios in the seven years he spent filming The Saint. The “international locations” were created using a mixture of stock shots, rear projection and, frequently, sticking a palm tree in front of the camera! Unfortunately, these elements blended less well in colour where, for one thing, the grain of the different film stocks is easier to discern. Frequently, the same shots would be seen again and again (regular viewers of ITC action-adventure series will spot the frequently re-used stock shot of a car plunging from a cliff at the climax). However, it’s a testament to the quality of the scripts and the actors that these production draw backs never compromise the charm of the series.

The television Simon Templar is a softer character than James Bond. While the married Queen clearly develops feelings for him by the end of the episode, Templar refuses to act on them, something it’s hard to see any incarnation of Bond doing. Though physically adept in the various fights, he displays none of the sadistic relish defeating the villains as evidenced in the 1960s Bond films. However, as both smooth and accomplished adventurers, there are plenty of similarities and The Saint provided Roger Moore with the greatest showcase for James Bond any actor has ever had. Indeed, ‘The Queen’s Ransom’ is an excellent example of the high-quality adventures Roger Moore featured in long before he was granted his licence to kill.

How well do you think The Saint compares to James Bond? Please leave a comment or an alternative review below.

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