Thursday, 26 September 2013
Thursday 26 September 1963
Having been in foreign climes - presumably duffing up baddies and making love to beautiful women - Simon Templar arrives at London Airport. His opening monologue this week is worth quoting in full: "Getting back to London from any other world capital is like moving from storm to calm. The officials are polite and efficient, and the people, in typical British fashion, are mannerly, quiet and orderly. In fact, no one ever intrudes on your privacy." Cue hordes of press and screaming fans descending upon the unsuspecting Saint. No, they haven't mistaken him for Frank Ifield - he's become quite the celeb in his absence, with famed movie producer Byron Ufferlitz announcing a film of his life, starring (quite to his surprise) the man himself.
An understandably baffled Templar heads off to see the literally shady Ufferlitz (Ronald Radd) at his studio lair, attended by his slimy lawyer (Ivor Dean). Any qualms Simon might feel about this rather underhanded way of getting him before the cameras fade away when he's offered £1000 a week and a five per cent share of the profits. Ufferlitz has found a brand new star.
The new signing sets to meeting the team working on his celluloid biography: a vastly irritating pair of practical joke-loving screenwriters (Paul Whitsun-Jones and Jerry Stovin), and Jack Groom, the director assigned to the project (Alfred Burke, seen below striking a directorly pose).
But it's not all fun fun fun at the studio - Ufferlitz, generally despised by all and sundry, has inspired the particular wrath of Orlan Flane (Alex Davion), the actor originally lined up to play Simon Templar before the producer decided to cast the genuine article. The impecunious Flane desperately needed the role, and vows a terrible revenge on Ufferlitz for denying him it.
Everything about his new career still seems pretty rosy to Simon, especially as Ufferlitz has fixed a date for him with studio starlet April Quest. Wonderfully enough, Ms Quest is portrayed by the patron saint of the bonkbuster, Jackie Collins - at this time just Joan's less famous sister. Predictably enough, our Mr Templar is soon taking full advantage of the facilities laid on by the studio.
But Simon and April's evening is interrupted - firstly by the irate, drunken Orlan Flane, who Simon obligingly knocks out, and secondlywhen he receives an urgent message purportedly from Byron Ufferlitz, urgently summoning him to the producer's house. It's not a huge surprise when he discovers the producer's corpse. He also finds Ufferlitz's distraught secretary, Peggy Warden (Monica Stevenson) hiding behind the curtains, having arrived there just before him.
The case is being investigated by Templar's old adversary, Inspector Claude Eustace Teal of Scotland Yard, played here by Wensley Pithey, one of several actors to take on the role - it would eventually be permanently assigned to Ivor Dean, appearing in this episode in another part. Teal's irrational hatred of Templar is such that he's determined to pin the murder on him, despite the complete lack of any kind of motive.
There's no lack of motive among Ufferlitz's employees, though - they all loathed him. It's Jack Groom who's initially arrested, having quarrelled with the producer that evening over his desire to end his contract and work for another studio. Groom had been attempting to blackmail Ufferlitz over his relationship with Trilby Andrews, a young starlet who he stole from Groom and then drove to suicide with his cruelty. But Simon thinks Orlon Flane's the most likely culprit to have both killed Ufferlitz and sent the note in order to get Templar on the scene and in the frame for the killing. On discovering the note was sent by the screenwriters as their bizarre idea of a joke, the Saint vents his wrath on them by taking the drastic step of putting waste paper baskets on their heads.
Templar eventually convinces the grudging Teal that he wasn't the killer, and both the Saint and the police pursue a thoroughly sozzled Flane, who eventually drives himself to a fiery death.
Teal's happy to close the case, but Simon realises that Flane wasn't the killer after all (look away now if you don't want the ending spoiled). Having noticed that Warden is "nearly an anagram" of Andrews, and noticed a slight resemblance between the unfortunate Trilby (presumably named after the character who falls under the influence of a wicked impresario in George du Maurier's novel) and Peggy, Simon has deduced that it was Ufferlitz's secretary who killed him out of revenge for her sister's death. I would recommend to anyone going to a job interview that they imagine they want to wreak a terrible revenge on their prospective boss - it always seems to get you employed in shows like this. However, I would caution you to use a name that is not nearly an anagram of your real one. Simon - always irresistible, of course - finally convinces Peggy to turn herself in.
Starring the Saint is a pedestrian whodunnit and a bog-standard Saint, more interesting for its background detail than anything happening in the foreground. It passes 50 minutes pretty painlessly, but its not one of the show's more diverting offerings.