The Saint – ‘The Saint plays with Fire’ (1963): introducing Roger Moore’s greatest non-Bond role

8 JANUARY 2024

JBC rating: ****

James Bond Connections (5):

  • Starring Roger Moore (James Bond 1973 – 1985) as Simon Templar, a.k.a The Saint.
  • Featuring Joseph Furst (Professor Doctor Metz in Diamonds Are Forever) as chief villain Kane Luker.
  • Featuring Robert Brown (M, 1983 – 1989) as Howard Jackman.
  • Featuring Joe Robinson (Peter Franks in Diamonds Are Forever) as henchman Austin.
  • Featuring John Hollis (uncredited as ‘Blofeld’ in For Your Eyes Only) as henchman West.

Veteran English producers Robert S. Baker and Monty Berman achieved international success with their classic action-adventure television series The Saint (1962-69), an adaptation of author Leslie Charteris’ long-running series of novels and short stories following the adventures of smooth crime fighting playboy Simon Templar. Baker and Berman were essentially a small screen version of James Bond producers Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman, making similar successful creative choices. Just as Sean Connery would be the vital element differentiating Dr No (1962) from the 1954 U.S TV play, ‘Casino Royale’, Baker and Berman’s series eclipsed several lacklustre 1940s American-made Saint B-movies by casting the skilled and charismatic Roger Moore as the dynamic lead character. Though Templar was a freelance crime fighter / adventurer in contrast to the state employed Bond, the characters share obvious parallels, and few can have been surprised by Moore’s eventual casting as Connery’s successor in 1973.

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Crossplot (1969): Roger Moore advertising for Bond

6 JUNE 2023

JBC rating: ***

James Bond Connections (2):

  • Starring Roger Moore (James Bond, 1973 – 1985) as hero Gary Fenn. 
  • Featuring Bernard Lee (M, 1962 – 1979) as villain Chilmore.

Crossplot is a lightweight, but fun, “wrong man” thriller starring a pre-Bond Roger Moore. Produced immediately after Moore’s long stint as crime fighter Simon Templar in the classic British TV series The Saint, the film was clearly an attempt to launch his career as a movie star whilst keeping his Bond ambitions afloat following a near miss with the role in 1968 (in an aborted version of The Man with the Golden Gun). Indeed, Gary Fenn, a London-based advertising executive who finds himself unwittingly involved in a spy plot, shares Bond’s love of luxury and beautiful women. The film also includes a pre-credits sequence followed by psychedelic titles overlayed with a (rather warbly) theme song. However, unlike 007, Fenn has no obvious military background and story-wise Crossplot is a throwback to pre-Bond spy thrillers where spies are the villains. Whilst its (by then) old-fashioned plot may have limited its box office appeal in 1969, the film offers Bond fans the chance to see Roger Moore effectively adjust his professional adventurer star persona to play a civilian with no track record of outwitting villains.

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