Thursday, 19 September 2013

Thursday 19 September 1963

Back for a second series (and making his TV Minus 50 debut), it's an adventurer famed for fighting crime in some of the world's most glamorous and exotic locations.

Yes, it's the one and only Roger Moore as Simon Templar.  On arrival at the historic Cromwell hotel Stevenage (former home of Oliver Cromwell's secretary John Thurloe - book your stay here), he's faced with a cornucopia of familiar film and TV faces: there's Brian Oulton, peering out at him from behind a pot plant, Michael Peake, glowering like nobody else can in a doorway, and fey Scot Angus Lennie, bouncing down the stairs to greet him at reception in anticipation of his tenure at Crossroads (sadly it seems highly unlikely Angus will greet you if you do choose to visit the Cromwell.

Templar's not just in Stevenage for pleasure: he's been called to a rendezvous with the clearly terrified Matson (Oulton).  Scared by the looming presence of Blatt (Peake), he arranges to meet Templar at a bus stop out of town.  He's got vital information to impart, but as you'd expect he's gunned down before he has a chance to impart it, though Templar knows it involves a shadowy enemy agent known, as Frasier viewers especially will appreciate, as Maris.  Matson dies with the name "Magda Vamoff" on his lips.

After Matson's killing Templar has his weekly tussle with a law enforcement officer who doesn't trust him in the slightest.  This week it's Richard the Lionheart's Glyn Owen as Inspector Kinglake.

Matson, it emerges, had a top secret job designing parts for guided missiles.  Templar goes to visit his boss Mr Gower (Charles Simon), a man so baffled by the whole affair that a question mark's started growing out of his head.

A more productive visit to Matson's grieving widow reveals that Magda Vamoff was a woman who Matson regularly met at the shady Blue Goose Club.   Heading down there, Templar meets the glamorous Magda, the venue's hostess, as well as a cheerful barman played by The Navy Lark's Michael Bates.

As is his wont, Templar wastes no time in getting acquainted with Magda (apparently she's just the kind of woman he likes: "old enough to have had a little experience, and young enough to want a little more."

Always a camp figure (she played the title role in Zeta One, for goodness' sake), Addams doesn't disappoint here, speaking with the same flamboyant accent she'd later use again in The Vampire Lovers and all-too-briefly appearing in a magnificent leopard skin ensemble.

The Blue Goose is the mysterious Maris's base of operations, and it turns out that after racking up massive gambling debts Matson was forced to pay for them with military secrets, his guilt eventually making him turn to Templar.  A new lead now appears in the form of Nick Vashetti (Neil McCallum), a Canadian former associate of Maris's who appears to suffer from an especially bad form of dandruff.

Vashetti has a list of the names of everyone involved with Maris's operation, which he agrees to provide for Templar.  Predictably enough, he doesn't manage to do this, being rapidly dispatched by Maris's henchman Blatt and his crony.  Said Crony is played by the omnipresent Ray Austin, which tips us off that there's a big fight in the offing - as Templar finds when he heads back to the Blue Goose...

Templar's manhandled into the cellar by Maris's henchmen, and takes a tumble down the stairs (actually it's probably Ray Austin doing this stunt: it's definitely not Roger Moore).

In a not entirely unexpected development (mainly due to lack of other suspects), it turns out that the barman was Maris all along. And all of a sudden he's not quite so jolly.

Maris dashes off to destroy the list of names that could be his downfall, and the expected massive fight takes place between Moore and Austin.  Once Templar's bested his opponent Maris meets a rather more literal downfall at the end of his gun.

The baddies vanquished, it turns out Magda was plotting against Maris all along - and she's got all the names on the list he burned handily memorised.  So that's good.

With its femme fatale, fisticuffs and stock of endearing clich├ęs, The Fellow Traveller is exactly the kind of rip-roaring hokum that characterises ITC at its best (it's directed by Peter Yates, whose high-action style would shortly be transferred to the big screen).  And it's nice to have an action-packed film series round these parts again as a contrast to some of the more sedate videotaped series.


  1. You have some nice clips of me there, I never knew they were around. Thanks.

    Raymond Austin
    Raymond DeVere-Austin: AKA Raymond Austin

  2. For many years I Have been a great fan of yours Ray since 1982 and I watched the famous episode of The Saint in The Fellow Traveller & The Director is The late Peter Yates and your great role as Mr Craig in The Loneliness of The Long Distance Runner in 1962 alongside Tom Courtenay as Colin Smith & The late Michael Redgrave as The Governor at Ruxton Towers as the director of ITV Shows with The Champions,Randall & Hopkirk(Deceased),Department S,The Avengers & The Saint since The Sixties.

    Once again Ray,you are a great actor,stuntman,director & writer icon and keep up the good work.

    Terry Christie,from Sunderland,Tyne & Wear.