Vendetta For The Saint (1969)

Directed by Jim O’Connolly
Roger Moore, Ian Hendry, Rosemary Dexter, Finlay Currie, Fulton Mackay, Aimi MacDonald
Music by Edwin Astley

ITC had a habit of taking a two part episode from one of their successful television series and releasing them in foreign markets as a theatrical feature. In this instance it is The Saint that gets the treatment.

Vendetta For The Saint is not really much of a spy film. In fact it is closer to a gangster movie, but as I have been posting quite a few Saint reviews lately, I thought that this would slot in very nicely next to the Simon Dutton, George Sanders, and Ian Ogilve episodes.

This movie starts off in the usual Saintly fashion, with postcard shots of Naples. Then we cut to a swanky restaurant. As Simon Templar – AKA The Saint (Roger Moore) is walking in, a gangster, Alexander Destamio (Ian Hendry) and three goons are about to leave. As the mobsters walk towards the exit, Jim Euston (Fulton Mackay), who is sitting at the bar recognises Destamio. Euston calls out to the Distamio, who he believes is an old friend. He addresses him as ‘Dino Cartelli’. Destamio tells the Euston that he must be mistaken. Euston insists that he is an old friend, but the goons intervene. As they are about to get rough, the Saint steps in (Hey, a great title for a book!) Distamio and his men leave the restaurant.

Soon after, Euston decides to leave the restaurant. But outside in an alley, Distamio has left behind a couple of his men to take care of the meddlesome gentleman.

The next day, Templar reads about Euston’s death in the local paper. Naturally enough, he thinks that it seems very suspicious. Templar then makes a few subtle enquiries to find out who the mobster is, but doesn’t get too far, because the mafia ‘code of silence’ holds strong. Eventually Templar finds out that the gangster is Alexander Destamio. And equally Destamio has done his research and knows who The Saint is as well. When Templar returns to his hotel room, he finds that it has been trashed.

Soon after, Templar recieves an invitation to meet with Destamio and is whisked away by helicopter to the island of Capri. At the airport, he is met by Lilly (Aimi MacDonald). She drives a red sports car, and sports a pink bikini. Templar is taken to Destamio who tries to bribe The Saint. The bribe doesn’t work and templar sets about baiting Destamio. He deliberately calls him ‘Dino’ and threatens to pull down his whole world. Naturally mafia heads, don’t take kindly to be threatened in their own home.

When a television series is turned into a movie, I expect a little more than an expanded television episode. Even though Vendetta For The Saint was originally a two part entry in the series, I still expect it to be the best two episodes. The Fiction Makers the other two parter that was released as a movie, was fairly pedestrian. There wasn’t anything in it that I couldn’t see regularly in the television show. But Vendetta For The Saint rectifies this. It is tougher than a regular episode, and having The Saint go up against the mafia makes this story more perilous and involving. Also utilising some actual ‘on location’ photography (Malta standing in for Italy), rather than using rear projection, adds greatly to the richness of this production.

Obviously everyone has their own personal favourites, but for me (and my ‘Saint’ viewing is far from complete), this is the best Saint film I have seen – Highly recommended.

Vendetta For The Saint (1969)

Spy In Your Eye (1965)

AKA: Bang, Your Dead
Directed by Vittorio Sala
Brett Halsey, Dana Andrews, Anna Maria Pierangeli, Gastone Moschin
Music by Riz Ortolani

Spy In Your Eye is a Eurospy production from the mid sixties. In France, police find a murdered man. It is the third body they have found in the last month with an eyeball removed. Creepy.

After the titles, we cut to East Germany and to the Berlin Wall. Two people are trying to cross over, but their attempt is unsuccessful. The man is shot and the girl is captured.

The movie then moves forward to a briefing that Colonel Lancaster (Dana Andrews) is presenting to his best agent, Bert Morris (Brett Halsey). Morris’ mission is simple. He has to go to East Germany and bring back Paula Krauss (Anna Maria Pierangeli). Krauss is the daughter of a prominent atomic scientist who died a few months previously. All parties, East and West, believe she may hold the key to some valuable research.

After the briefing, Colonel Lancaster has an appointment at the Clinique Opthalmolique of Professor Van Dongen. You see (no pun intended), Lancaster is missing an eye and has been wearing an eye patch. At Van Dongen’s clinic he is going to be fitted with a new glass eye. But this is no ordinary glass eye. This is cutting edge stuff. The eye is actually connected to the muscles in the eye socket, so it moves just like a real eye. Lancaster is pretty happy with the procedure.

But there’s more to it than that. Von Dongen is working for the Russians, and a tiny camera has been planted into the new glass eye. Now everything that Lancaster sees is transmitted back to the Russians.

Meanwhile Agent Morris parachutes into East Germany where a hunchback is waiting for him. They ascertain that the Russian’s are taking Paula back to Moscow by train and organise a daring rescue mission. The rescue is successful, but the next problem is getting back across the frontier. The border is protected by a field of land-mines. Morris and Krauss make the crossing with the aid of a bulldozer.

Spy In Your Eye is a fairly enjoyable Eurospy production, and features some memorable set-pieces. It’s main weakness is the lack of a decent villain. A common failing in many Eurospy productions is an underwritten and under utilised villain. They seem to have figured that a suave spy clobbering or evading hordes of henchmen was enough to keep the plot moving. Spy In Your Eye falls into the same trap. The villains are a generic bunch of Russians – all black leather coated thugs. Their leader, and I use the word loosely, is ‘Boris’ (Gastone Moschin). In any other spy film, ‘Boris’ would be ‘second thug on the left’, not the leader. As a threat and a worthy opponent, ‘Boris’ just doesn’t make the grade.

Despite it’s weaknesses, Spy In Your Eye is a decent example of the Eurospy genre, and worth seeking out. For those wanting to track down a copy, I notice that The Eurospy Guide suggests it may be hard to track down an English language version. The good news is that Sinister Cinema have an English language version, which appears to be an old American television print – the image is clear but a touch on the brown side (still very watchable).

Spy In Your Eye (1965)

Condorman (1981)

Directed by Charles Jarrott
Michael Crawford, Barbara Carrera, Oliver Reed, James Hampton, Jean-Pierre Kalfon, Dana Elcar, Robert Arden
Music by Henry Mancini

Condorman is a Disney children’s spy film. It does have one or two good set pieces, but on the whole it’s a pretty sloppy affair.

The film opens in Paris. Woody Wilkins, a comic book writer is testing a plot point in his latest Condorman comic. In the comic Condorman leaps off the Eiffel tower with a set of wings that expand out from a pack mounted on his back. So naturally, that’s where we find Woody – dressed as Condorman and leaping off the tower. Down below, taking photos is Woody’s friend Harry Oslo (James Hampton).

Woody or Condorman if you prefer, is played by Michael Crawford, who these days is better known for being The Phantom Of The Opera in London. But back then, he was better known as the accident prone Frank Spencer from the television show Some Mothers Do Ave Em. In an attempt to bury the ghost of Frank Spencer, Crawford adopts a very strange American midwest twang when speaking. It is very disconcerting.

But back to the action. Woody’s attempt at flying doesn’t go too well and he ends up in the river. Harry tries to console him. Who is Harry? Harry is an old friend who happens to work for the CIA – but before you go thinking that this guys is a daring secret agent – I hate to tell you that he is just a file clerk. But all that is about to change.

Harry’s boss, Russ (Dana Elcar) takes off for a couple of days to Geneva. During his absence, Harry is promoted to looking after the French section. One of his tasks is to take care of an document exchange with the Russians. Both parties have agreed that the exchange should be performed by civilians. It is Harry’s job to pick the civilian.

And as you would have guessed, Harry turns to Woody. Woody, who has a tendency to live in a fantasy world, jumps at the opportunity. He turns up at the train station wearing an old fashioned trenchcoat and hat. Harry chains a briefcase to Woody’s wrist and sends him on his way to Istanbul.

Waiting at the other end in a restaurant is Natalia (Barbara Carrera). The document exchange is supposed to be a civilian opperation, but Woody tells Natalia a few little white lies. He says that he is a top flight covert agent and he completes missions like this all the time. If Natalia was a civilian too, like she was supposed to be, then Woody’s lies would have been harmless. Instead she is a Russian agent, and she is being watched by some other unsavoury characters. A Chinese agent sets a pack of goons on Natalia, and Woody steps in to help. With dumb luck and clumsiness he takes care of the aggressors. Now everybody believes that Woody truly is a secret agent and all sorts of spy hijinks follows.

The most interesting thing about this film is the cast. Crawford I’ve mentioned. Secondly we have Barbara Carrera as Natalia. It’s very strange to see her in a children’s film. At her best she is a femme fatale bombshell. But this film appears to be made just before she broke through with roles in I, The Jury, Never Say Never Again, and Lone Wolf McQuade.

The other actor of note is Oliver Reed. He plays the role of the evil Russian spymaster, Krokov. I am very pleased to say that he doesn’t overact or do any unnecessary mugging, which so many actors seem to do when they are playing a villain in a kid’s film. Reed plays it cold and scary.

Condorman is a bit of a throwback to when children’s films were lowest common denominator film-making. These day’s children’s films are much more sophisticated. This film falls into the trap of going for the cheap laugh, rather than allowing and trusting the audience to understand and enjoy the story that they are telling. To the film’s credit though, it does feature a fare amount of Cold War style espionage, which is only tarnished by these switches into comedy.

In the end it’s pretty hard to be critical of a film called Condorman, which features a man dressed in a bird suit on the posters and DVD cover. Let’s face it, it is aimed at kids.

Condorman (1981)

The Saint And The Brave Goose (1979)

Director: Cyril Frankel
Starring: Ian Ogilvy, Gayle Hunnicutt, Stratford Johns, Derren Nesbitt, Joe Lynch
Music: John Scott
Based on characters created by Leslie Charteris

Here’s another Saint movie. Like some of the others it is not really a spy film, but it does have some globe trotting and international crime, concerning a stolen shipment of gold bullion. The Saint And The Brave Goose is a two-part episode from the 1978 television series “The Return of the Saint,” edited together and released as a feature film. The two episodes original episodes were Collision Course: The Brave Goose and Collision Course: The Sixth Man.

The first thing that’ll notice about this movie is that they have created a new title sequence. That in itself isn’t a bad thing, but they have discarded The Return Of The Saint theme music and in it’s place have used a dreadful piece of quasi-prog rock.

The film opens with the Embassy Express Race, which is a 200 mile power boat ocean race. The two favourites for the race are Oscar West (Edward Brayshaw), an arrogant fellow who is only interested in winning, and Simon Templar AKA: The Saint (Ian Ogilvy). As the race progresses West and Templar fight it out for the lead, then there is an explosion on West’s boat. Through the billowing black smoke, Templar can see West and the co-driver fighting over a gun on deck. Then there is another explosion and the whole boat is destroyed.

There is an inquest into the tragedy. Most of the inquiries centre around West’s co-driver Maurice Bonaparte. As far as the police are concerned, nobody by that name exists or can be traced. Simon, on the other hand, thinks something fishy is going on. He suspects West of being involved in a fifteen million pound gold bullion robbery, eight years previously. Templar has also ascertained a bit more information about the mysterious Maurice Bonaparte. Apparently he had spent the last seven years in a Moroccan prison. He had only been released a week ago.

Meanwhile, Oscar West’s widow, Annabel (Gayle Hunnicutt) discovers that she is broke. Oscar left her no money. Her only asset is Oscar’s yacht, The Brave Goose, which is tied up in Marseilles. Soon she is on her way to France and into a whole mess of trouble. In fact the story is very reminiscent of the classic Cary Grant, Audrey Hepburn movie, Charade. Both productions feature men with shady pasts, who have mysteriously died and left their wives nothing. And both feature the shady associates of the dead husbands trying to track down and acquire large sums of money, which they believe has been secreted away by the widow. Finally both feature dashing leading men who partner up with the widows to help solve the mystery. In this, the suave dashing hero is Ian Ogilvy. Ogilvy is very good as The Saint. He’s not Roger Moore, but in some ways that is a plus. Ogilvy is a bit tougher than Moore. In the late seventies, television and the movies had changed and the simpler, more fantastical plots, such as The Fiction Makers were no longer in vogue. But having said all that, despite the toughening up of Templar, they haven’t taken away the glamour and sophistication.

Another cast member worth mentioning is Derren Nesbitt. Over the years Nesbitt has played practically every nationality on the planet – most famously as the German SS-Sturmbannführer, Von Hapen in Where Eagles Dare and as the duplicitous French/Mexican reporter, Pallain in The High Commissioner. Here he plays Inspector Lebec, a French police officer. As the character is played by ‘Dirty Derren’ you can expect that all is not as it seems.

This addition to The Saint canon is pretty good, if somewhat derivative of other spy films. I have already mentioned Charade, but there is a bullfight scene, that plays like a hyped up version of the one featured in Fathom and there’s some underwater scenes that remind me of When Eight Bells Toll. But if you can overlook these similarities and just let the story, and the entertainment wash over you, then The Saint And The Brave Goose is a fine Saint film.

The Saint And The Brave Goose (1979)