Yesterday I found out a friend of mine is a long time fan of Simon Templar, both in the Leslie Charteris novels and the Roger Moor TV series from the ’60s. Something I’d have never suspected, knowing her.
This led to this and that and I found out the aborted pilot movie for the planned reboot of the series, that was announced in 2012, is now available on Youtube, for less than four bucks – the price of a big serving of ice cream.
So I served myself a big bowl of dark chocolate ice cream, and I sat down for 90 minutes to watch what might have been.
For the uninitiated, Simon Templar, alias The Saint, is an international adventurer created in 1928 by British writer Leslie Charteris. A rogue and a thief that targets other criminals, Templar was quite successful in his printed adventures and in the 1960s came to the TV screens with the elegant features of Roger Moore, the actor still mostly associated with the character (and indeed, at a time the owner of the rights for TV adaptations of the Charteris books).
Later, it was Ian Ogilvy that reprised the role in the early 1980.
The character was also variously portrayed on the big screen, most notoriously by Val Kilmer in an ill-fated (and rather useless) 1992 movie.
The new series was announced in 2012 as produced and featuring both Moore and Ogilvy in supporting roles. British actor Adam Rayner was cast as Templar and Eliza Dushku as his associate/mistress Patricia Holm from the novels.
The pilot was shot, then shelved, then re-shot, then finally distributed as a direct-to-video feature in 2017. It is in fact the last film in which the late Roger Moore appeared (for a cameo, really)
The plot: Simon Templar steals from the rich and evil to help finance charities. When the banker that helped embezzle 2.5 billion dollars in African relief funds has a change of heart and seeks FBI protection, his associates kidnap his daughter – and he calls upon Templar for help.
Which is not a bad plot as thing go.
Rayner is good if a little conventional, Dushku is gorgeous, not conventional at all and tragically under-used. Why not give her the lead and go for a Simone Templar series?, I wondered. She could be the grand-daughter of the Roger Moore character, or the daughter of the Ogilvy character.
And this talking about family and relations is not casual: the movie tries to “pull a Batman on us”, bringing in a subplot with Simon’s parents being killed in front of him and what not.
It’s a sign the writers are going for a rather conventional, “checking all the boxes” approach to TV writing that reminded me, of all things, of the Magnum PI reboot – just another iconic character flattened by trope-laden writing, just another series in which the female lead is a lot more interesting that the titular guy.
In the end, The Saint is an OK TV movie, the sort of thriller in which the files are downloaded on a portable hard-disk and we are thrilled (or are we?) watching the progress bar slowly crawling to the 100% mark.
Good cast, scenic locations, a big iconic character, but a rather flimsy execution.
Good for an evening keeping the heat off by shoveling chocolate ice cream, but not enough to cry because the series was never made.
10 July 2019 at 04:30
I remember (accurately, I hope) Leslie Charteris writing that he was pleased enough with Roger Moore as The Saint but not too pleased with the television scripts, which were milk and water compared with the original stories. Charteris also described television as, in his view, “the mini-medium of mini-minds.”
Personally I’d have liked to see a TV series and maybe movies which gave Templar back his original setting, the world of the early 1930s which was essentially before Hitler. “Adolf,” Charteris explained, “though busily on his way at the time, was still largely being written off as a crackpot who would never really amount to anything.”
The original Saint cheerfully sentenced evil men to death and carried out the sentence, swindled corrupt financiers and returned the money to those the financiers had ruined, minus his ten per cent commission, and foiled the schemes of arms manufacturers to start wars for profit.
After his identity became known and he got a royal pardon for foiling an assassination attempt on the King of England, he had to tone down his brand of vigilante justice and be more circumspect. The ‘sixties television series did drop hints here and there that The Saint had been a lot wilder and more rambunctious in former years but was more restrained now, and on the whole I liked both it and Roger Moore (whom I remembered from “Ivanhoe”, or was it “Sir Lancelot”?)
10 July 2019 at 09:40
It was Ivanhoe – childhood reminiscences.
As for the Saint, it is obvious that the old TV show had to tone down a lot. Today, with streaming services, HBO and what not, it would be possible to have Simon Templar do his job properly – and have fun doing it.