Wednesday, 21 November 2001

Leslie Charteris: The Saint on TV (1968)

Edition: Pan, 1970 (Buy from Amazon)
Review number: 996

After two series of The Saint TV programme, there was no more suitable material remaining among the Saint stories written in the previous thirty five or so years. This may seem a little strange, considering the vast amount that Charteris had written, but there are good reasons why so little was reusable. The initial agreement had been that no new stories were to be developed, and the decision to make each fifty minute episode self-contained was a major limitation. Other decisions were to cut out permanent companions (and Patricia Holm or Hoppy Uniatz occur pretty frequently), and to ignore easily datable tales, which makes all the wartime stories and some of those from previous years unusable. Budgetary constraits were quite stringent, ruling out stories with easily identifiable exotic locations. So, as he explains in the introduction, enough money was offered to overcome Charteris' scruples, resulting in the stories chosen here, two of the most memorable of all the TV episodes. Both are stories originally by John Cruse, adapted by Fleming Lee; the screenplays were by John Cruse and Harry W. Junkin.

The better story is the first, The Death Game. Here, Simon Templar gets involved in a student craze for simulated assassination, and discovers that it is an orchestrated front for the recruitment of real killers by a criminal organisation. In the other story, he is contacted by a furious sculptor who is convinced that the Saint has seduced his girlfriend; when Simon goes to visit this man and try to find out what has really happened, the artist is murdered in front of his eyes and attempts are made to frame him for the killing.

By choosing two of the best stories from the series, this collection is able to match up to the bulk of Charteris' output; it is one of the best of all the postwar Saint books.

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