Wednesday, 15 October 2014

Thursday 15 October 1964

I haven't updated you much lately with what was going on beyond the box in 1964, but it would be very remiss of me not to mention that 50 years ago today Britain went to the polls, with Harold Wilson's modernity-focused Labour party looking set to seize power from a Tory government that had been almost brought to its knees by the Profumo scandal of the previous year, and was now looking more desperately out of touch than ever with elderly aristocrat Alec Douglas-Home at the helm.  

After exercising their democratic right, the people of Britain could sit and relax in front of ITV with this week's episode of The Saint, scripted by Dalek creator Terry Nation.  We begin with Simon Templar enjoying himself in the Bahamas (he's hiding out from an irate husband, it seems), but having his peace disturbed by an old friend, Joan (Erica Rogers), who's in distress over the strange way her sister Lida has been acting...

We're no sooner introduced to Lida (Jeanne Moody) than we find out the reason for her strange behaviour: she's being blackmailed.  We don't see the face of the tormentor who's on the other end of the phone to her, but there's an enormous crash zoom into the skull ring on his hand when he hangs up.

Lida has a bust-up  with Joan, then tearfully drives to see her boyfriend Maurice Kerr (Peter Bowles), and pours her heart out to him.  He advises her to pay up, but refuses to go with her to see the blackmailers, suggesting it'd just make things worse.  He promises they'll go away together once it's done, but the conversation's cut short when another woman emerges from the bedroom in search of Maurice, earning him a mighty whack across the chops from Lida.

Lida hurries off, but slips back while Maurice is otherwise occupied to steal his revolver.  Next she drives to Captain Kidd's Club, a piratically themed gambling den run by the oleaginous Esteban (Marne Maitland).  On her way to the tables Lida's startled by the flash from a camera toted by a sweaty character played by Aubrey Morris (who, you may recall, was also in this week's Danger Man).

Joan receives a frantic call from Lida, begging her and Simon to come to the club.  They arrive just in time to hear a gunshot and discover Lida's dead body.

Local police chief Robert Raglan waddles into action, interviewing the club's patrons.  He decides it's suicide, but, of course, Simon decides to carry out his own investigation.

Barry Keegan plays the affable Bosun, who greets visitors to the club.  He offers to help Simon (demonstrating the hook he wears isn't real).

Aubrey Morris only had a tiny role in Tuesday's Danger Man, so it's good to see him get a better chance here to display his unique brand of seedy menace as psychopathic photographer Harry "Pebbles" Sanchez (so named for his thick glasses, which we can see in closeup have two tiny holes for Morris to see out of), who seems to having a whale of a time disfiguring photos of the  dead woman.

Pebbles receives a visit from Maurice.  Unsurprisingly, these two were involved in the blackmail of Lida, working at the command of a mysterious boss.  Maurice reels in rich women, and Pebbles takes compromising photos of them.

Maurice is horrified that Lida's now been killed, and demands payment for his part in the business, but is scared off by Pebbles, who threatens to "scar that pretty face of yours".  Threatening the police, Maurice departs, and Pebbles gets on the phone to the boss (there's another zoom in to the ring).

It's hard not to feel sorry for Maurice, an especially unfortunate character who is assaulted in every scene he's in.  Next time we see him he's packing to clear out when he's interrupted by Simon, who punches him in the stomach and then violently interrogates him about his relationship with Lida.

Maurice confesses that he was helping to blackmail Lida, and that the threat was to send the photos to her husband, who's on business in England.  Before he can tell any more he's put out of his misery by Pebbles, who, lurking in the shadows outside, shoots him in the back.

Simon heads off in pursuit of Pebbles, but ends up being caught by the police.  Inevitably, he's arrested for Maurice's murder, and equally inevitably manages to talk himself out of it within a couple of minutes.  Next he heads to see Joan, but instead finds the Bosun bound and gagged.  Untying him, he learns that Joan has been kidnapped by the crooks.

Thinking that Esteban's likely to have a hand in the blackmail ring, Simon and the Bosun make their way to the club, where the Saint has a fight with the proprietor, who proves himself very handy with a cutlass.

Simon eventually gets the better of Esteban, but manages to establish that he's completely innocent.  He doesn't seem especially worried about attacking an innocent man, though, in fact he makes it quite clear he's not going to apologise.  The bastard.

Simon finds a camera belonging to Pebbles, and from a conversation with Esteban decides the photographer is the man he's after.  At Pebbles' hovel, Simon's ambushed by the photographer, but makes short work of him after he knocks his specs off.  Simon rescues Joan and sends her off with the Bosun, then burns all of Pebbles' ill-gotten pics.

He then discovers the gang's boss is pointing a gun at him.  It's the Bosun, which will come as no surprise to anyone who noticed the blackmailer had an Irish accent, or indeed anyone who's noticed that there are no other suspects.  It's downright baffling, though, that such a big thing was made of the skull ring when it plays no part whatsoever in the villain's unmasking.  The Bosun shoots Pebbles dead, but is then swiftly incapacitated by Simon.  The Saint attempts to make off with a bracelet of Lida's as a reward for his good works, but, in the most friendly possible way, the Inspector relieves him of it.

I'm ashamed to say that I haven't written up the BBC's election coverage, even though it is available to watch on Youtube here;

And in the unlikely event that you don't know the outcome of the election, I'll tell you tomorrow.

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