Tonight's episode of The Saint sees the show at its frothy best with a hugely entertaining comic caper. It's not many comic capers that begin with the appearance of a fearsome Eastern dictator who "makes Hitler and Mussolini look like a couple of boy scouts", though. The dictator in question is one Madam Chen (Jacqui Chan, definitely not to be confused with the similarly named action movie star), and the press are swarming all over her as she arrives in Paris. As Simon Templar notes, "That was quite a big entrance for a small woman."
After horrific abuses of human rights, the thing Madam Chen is most famous for is a string of pearls worth $300,000, and the French police, in the ever-bungling form of Inspector Quercy (Manning Wilson) and Sergeant Leduc (Robert Cawdron), are convinced that Simon is staying at the same hotel in order to relieve her of it. Leduc is assigned to watch over the Saint at all times, but it takes him just a couple of minutes for Simon to evade his watchdog.
Darting into a lift, Simon meets a woman (Sylvia Syms), who he recognises as an acquaintance named Judith. She denies all knowledge of him, however, introducing herself as Madam Chen's PR Officer Jeannine Roger. Syms is a delight throughout the episode.
The slitty-eye makeup that's inevitable whenever a script calls for South East Asian characters is thankfully only sported by one character here, Madam Chen's Foreign Minister Kwan Li (Peter Elliott), on whom she vents her rage after he fails to get her a meeting with any high-ups in the French government: "Perhaps you and your family will prove more effective working on a state farm!"
Jeannine (who its clear has her eye on the pearls) has arranged a press conference for Madam Chen. Unfortunately none of the actors playing the reporters are credited: I'm especially fond of the sultry French woman who poutingly asks about Madam Chen's habit of executing her opponents, and the man who enthusiastically shouts "We want the truth!"
Simon is paid a visit by Fouquet (John Dearth) and Peyrac (Peter Diamond), a pair of identically-dressed crooks who are after Madam Chen's pearls and are keen to keep him out of the way. He makes short work of them.
Also after the pearls is waiter Lo Yung (Eric Young), who sneaks into Madam Chen's suite and has a go at the safe. The script for Jeannine is by Terry Nation, a writer never shy of recycling plot details, and the "diverse characters after a McGuffin" idea would later resurface in his Avengers episode Legacy of Death.
Jeannine notices the safe's been tampered with and calls security. Leduc leaps to the conclusion that Simon's the would-be thief, and heads to his room, where he finds him quietly enjoying a book. The book in question is Francoise Mallet-Joris' 1951 novel Le rempart de béguines, which Simon may well be enjoying for its frank depiction of lesbianism.
Here's a colour picture of the Livre de Poche paperback edition Simon's reading.
After the disgruntled Leduc leaves, Simon's startled by the sight of a pair of legs outside his window. These belong to Lo Yung, dangling from a ledge after his hasty escape from Madam Chen's room. Simon helps him in and learns that he's a rebel from Madam Chen's regime who intended to steal the pearls to help feed the people she's driving to starvation.
Elsewhere, Jeannine discreetly makes an impression of the pearls and then takes them to wily old jeweller Martin Miller, who's significantly upped his price for making a replica.
Jeannine discovers she's been followed by Simon (Lo Yung having sent Leduc off on a wild goose chase), and admits indeed hat she is his old sometime adversary and sometime partner in crime Judith. He invites himself over to her flat for bacon, eggs, and a very funny puncturing of his pretensions to being a connoisseur: "Blue Mountain, lightly roasted, coarsely ground," he pronounces on savouring his coffee. "Instant, two francs a tin," responds the unimpressed Jeannine.
Well, she's not all that unimpressed. As soon as she's got Simon to agree to leave the way clear for her to pinch the pearls, she's sticking her tongue down the terrified chap's throat.
The next day, Simon and his escort follow Jeannine and Madam Chen to the races. Fouquet and Peyrac are there too, and abduct the hapless ladies. Prior to dumping them, they relieve Madam Chen of her pearls, in response to which she gobs in his face.
The glamorous but dishevelled pair try to hitch a lift, and are deeply unimpressed when Simon passes them by in favour of going after the crooks.
Simon beards his quarry in a barn, and battle commences, a pair of villains with pitchfork and scythe proving no match for one unarmed Saint. Note that the chap with the scythe below, who Simon's preparing to throw over his shoulder, clearly isn't John Dearth.
Simon returns the pearls to Madam Chen, who swiftly sets to seducing him: "Eastern women are taught from childhood the art of showing gratitude." While Simon's trying to fend off the sexpot despot's advances, her PR Officer's busy switching the real pearls for the fake ones - though she tells Simon her plan fell through as the fake set wasn't ready on time.
The French government refusing to have anything to do with her, Madam Chen angrily leaves the country. Jeannine returns to her flat to find Simon cooking dinner. It's his special recipe:"Two bottles of wine and one whole chicken". The police, having discovered Jeannine had a fake set of pearls made, arrive to question her and she entrusts the pearls (which she claims are the fakes) to Simon. He's searched, but no pearls are found, and he explains to her that he dissolved them in the wine, purely to teach her a lesson.
It's nonsense, of course - he's still got the pearls (and they wouldn't really have dissolved in the wine anyway), and hands them to the very grateful Lo Yung, who he considers much more deserving than their previous owner. And I'm sure he'll look very lovely in them too.
Here, for no very good reason, is Jacqui Chan's 1960 double A-side single "But No One Knows"/"Gentlemen Please". It's highly entertaining, if you like that sort of thing.
Jacqui's still going, by the way. In recent years she's appeared in Sherlock and been an executive producer on Bananas in Pyjamas.