This episode of the Saint provides a double-whammy for spy spotters. Not only does it feature Peter Wyngarde, as the titular ‘Man Who Liked Lions’ but also has a small role for Ed Bishop who would appear as a technician in You Only Live Twice and more famously play Klaus Hergersheimer ‘G-section’ in Diamonds Are Forever – but of course, most of you remember him as Commander Ed Straker in Gerry Anderson’s UFO.
Tony Allard (Ed Bishop) is a journalist working on a big crime story in Rome. He thinks he has all the pieces figured and arranges to meet his old friend, Simon Templar at The Coliseum. Allard explains that he is onto something big and couldn’t meet at his apartment because he is being watched. Just as he is about to tell Templar all about his story, when a gloved assailant throws a ceremonial dagger, with a carved lion’s head into Allard’s back. He topples forward into The Saint’s arms.
Templar tries to chase the assailant but it’s no use; he has too greater start. He returns to Allard, only to find that the police are already on the scene. Detective Vittorio Leale (Michael Forrest) had been assigned to follow and protect Allard. Obviously he didn’t do a very good job, and Templar lets him know that in no uncertain terms before heading off to find the culprit.
Templar recruits Franco the taxi driver (Michael Wynne), and they to search Allard’s apartment for clues. Two villainous characters are already at Allard’s place and are searching for a diary. When Templar arrives a scuffle breaks out and he is knocked unconscious. The villains flee.
When Templar wakes, he find scattered among the detritus on the floor an invite to an art exhibition. Templar decides it might be worth attending in Allard’s stead. Upon arrival Templar is confronted by Tiberio Magadino (Peter Wyngarde), who recognises that Templar is not Allard. Templar confesses to the deception, and explains why. It seems of little consequence to Magadino, who leaves Templar to mingle with other guests. Templar then approaches the artist, Claudia Mollinelli (Suzanne Lloyd) whose paintings are being exhibited. Templar tells her that Allard is dead and she completely freaks, running out into the street.
She catches a taxi to Allard’s apartment, with Templar following close behind. Once inside, she retrieves Allard’s diary, hidden in the lining of a curtain. Templar arrives and retrieves the diary from Claudia. Inside is a list of murders and dates that have happened all around the globe. They are, of course, linked to one man – The Man Who Likes Lions.
As this episode features Peter Wyngarde, it has to end in a flamboyant fashion, and it doesn’t let us down. The story culminates in a costume party hosted by Magadino. All the guests are outfitted in costumes from ancient Rome. Magadino sits on a thrown, drinking wine and being fanned by serfs, while down below on the floor the other guest participate in an orgy. Templar arrives; not in costume. His appearance is soon corrected, and Magadino provides for him a Roman Legionnaire’s costume.
The gamesmenship between Templar and Magadino reaches a climax with both men hacking at each other with swords, while standing beside a pit with a man-eating lion in it. I don’t have to say much more – you can no doubt guess the outcome.
Once again, this is a highly entertaining episode of The Saint, and it’s conclusion is pretty wild – for an episode of The Saint, that is – it’s pretty tame compared to an episode of The Avengers, which specialised in such absurd theatrics. The Saint was usually more grounded. Wyngarde, of course, chews up his dialogue, and towards the end, steals the show. If you are looking back at the body of work from Peter Wyngarde, this is one show that cannot be missed.
The screencaps used in this post have been taken from the website Hellfire Hall: A tribute to Peter Wyngarde.