Although the release date of this feature length version was December 1968, the fashions and style suggest that it was filmed a lot earlier. The title sequence indeed shows a copyright year of 1966, indicating that this was filmed during the period of the first colour series of The Saint. However, the two part episode of The Saint that made up this feature length version, was not aired until the latter part of the final season. In the rest of those episodes for that final series, Roger Moore's hair is noticeably longer, darker and with longer sideburns. See more »
Naturally, I was aware of Roger Moore having been Simon Templar aka The Saint (a character created, complete with instantly recognizable theme, by Leslie Charteris) before he was Agent 007 aka James Bond, but I’d never actually watched him in the role (other than catching bits and pieces from the TV series when it was broadcast on Italian TV or the Bravo Cable channel).
Anyway, a number of episodes from “The Saint” (the series began shooting in black-and-white, then switched to color) were compiled to make up two individual features (the other being VENDETTA FOR THE SAINT , which is to follow) and released to theaters. However, there was no mistaking the flat TV style (despite employing a veteran film-maker who had even worked in Hollywood), the full-frame ratio, or the studio-bound look (the big-budgeted James Bond adventures clearly could afford to be a great deal more elaborate); nevertheless, the cinematographer of this one – Michael Reed – went on to lens the very next 007 outing i.e. ON HER MAJESTY’S SECRET SERVICE (1969)!
The film, as a whole, emerges to be mildly enjoyable and serves up a fairly ingenious plot: Templar is mistaken for a popular pulp fiction novelist (actually a woman, played by Sylvia Syms) and kidnapped by a gang – hiding under the aliases of the criminal organization (complete with an H.Q. built to specifications) and characters ‘he’ had himself created – in order to plan a heist from an impregnable site! The leader of the villains is played by a flustered Kenneth J. Warren, who has fun with the role; his associates, then, include Nicholas Smith (later to be seen in the ARE YOU BEING SERVED? comic TV series!) and the engaging Justine Lord (who would prove a memorable femme fatale, literally “The Girl Who Was Death”, in the episode of that name from what was possibly the cult TV series of the era i.e. THE PRISONER).
As I said, the film suffers most from its ultra-modest budget – allowing for thrills and action highlights which, while not disagreeable in themselves, are decidedly bland and predictable, especially when stacked alongside what was being delivered in similar vein on the big screen…
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