Sherlock Holmes in New York (1976)


Country: United States
Director: Boris Sagal
Starring: Roger Moore, Patrick Macnee, John Huston, Charlotte Rampling, David Huddleston, Gig Young, Geoffrey Moore
Music: Richard Rodney Bennett
Based on characters by Arthur Conan Doyle

Regular visitors to this site, may have read this review before (originally posted in Jan 2010), but as the film has finally been released on DVD (by Madman Entertainment in Australia.) I thought it was well worth revisiting. I must admit, I am rather happy I can now relegate my old grey-market NTSC videotape to the scrap heap.

Before we begin, one thing, I feel is important to point out, is that Holmes is now so much bigger than the original stories written by Arthur Conan Doyle. There have been countless continuation novels (not only limited to Holmes, but Professor Moriarty and Holmes’ brother Mycroft have each had novels written about their exploits).

Then, of course, there are the films. The first Sherlock Holmes film was the Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (AKA: Held For Ransom) and starred Maurice Costello as Holmes. Since then, over 70 actors have played the part in over 200 films. But for most people, it was Basil Rathbone’s portrayal of the deerstalker cloaked crusader during the 1930’s and 40’s that are most fondly remembered. But with a 200 plus film back catalogue, a huge range of actors have tried their hand at playing Holmes; some more successfully than others.

The novelisation
For the spy fan, the Holmes adventures that are of interest are the propaganda films from the forties, which feature Basil Rathbone as Holmes battling Nazi spies and other assorted evil doers. Also of interest are the films which feature arch villain Professor James Moriarty. There is no mistaking that the rivalry between Homes and Moriarty is one of the battles in popular culture. Moriarty himself is one of the great ‘evil masterminds’, and certainly a prototype Blofeld (or any other diabolical villain). It is not so very surprising that David McDaniel in The Man From UNCLE novel, The Dagger Affair intimated that the evil organisation THRUSH was set up by Professor Moriarty.

Roger Moore in his biography only has one page devoted to Sherlock Holmes in New York, but it appears to have been a pleasant working experience. From My Word is my Bond (page 264) – Roger Moore – 2008 Harper Collins:

‘Jack called me up and asked if I’d be interested in a TV movie for Fox called Sherlock Holmes in New York. Patrick Macnee was already cast as Watson. It was to film in LA, so that all rather suited me. It was actually shot on the Hello, Dolly sets at Fox’s Hollywood studio.

I’ve already related the story of how I called Oliver Reed and asked if he was interested in playing Moriarty. Well, after he turned us down flat, Jack approached John Huston. As well as being a famous and accomplished director, writer and producer, Huston also turned his hand to acting in the odd film. He was wonderful to work with. On his arrival, John said to our director, Boris Sagal, ‘My boy, I have a lot of speeches to deliver. I may need some help remembering them.’ So, the art department made up beautiful prompt cards – or idiot boards as well call them – with the dialogue written on, and held them behind the camera at strategic points for John to refer to. He delivered every line perfectly, never looking at them once. The old cad.

John and I both enjoyed backgammon and fine cigars, so between takes we’d sit down to play and smoke. I never had the opportunity to work with Huston as a director. That would have been fun and is one of my few regrets.

Other casting fell into place: Charlotte Rampling, David Huddleston, Gig Young, Signe Hasso and my son Geoffrey, who was around ten, who played Irene Adler’s (Charlotte Rampling’s) son who is kidnapped by Moriarty. We later discover that the boy is in fact the result of a suggested liaison between Holmes and Irene Adler.

I won’t say this is regarded as one of the most popular or warmly remembered Holmes film, but we certainly had fun making it.’

As the film opens the year is 1901, and in London, Moriarty (John Huston) is enjoying a brandy is his gaudily decorated villains lair at Victoria Docks. As the clock strikes midnight, one of Moriarty’s lieutenants, Colonel Moran arrives with news. Moriarty and his team of cronies have been plotting the assassination of Lord Brackish, who is the head of the London Bank.

As Moriarty congratulates Moran on the success of his part of the mission, Moran’s voice begins to change. Then he pulls off several rubber appliances that had been glued to his face. Underneath is Sherlock Holmes (Roger Moore). Holmes recounts how all of Moriarty’s men have been rounded up by the police and how his assassinated attempt has been thwarted.

Moriarty is enraged. But then goes to show Holmes a trapdoor in the floor, a knife that is fired from a cash register on a desk, and a falling chandelier. He shows Holmes each of these devices that could have killed him, and then explains why he didn’t use them. He chose not to kill him at this time because he is preparing the crime of the century, and not only does he plan on changing the world with his audacious act of criminality, but also to humiliate Holmes in the process. Moriarty taunts that he plans to commit the perfect crime and Holmes will be helpless to stop it. As there is no direct evidence against Moriarty at this time, Holmes cannot have him arrested.

In the United States, Irene Adler (Charlotte Rampling) is preparing to star in a new Broadway production at the Empire Theatre in New York. For nine years, for each production she has starred in, she has sent two tickets to the premiere Holmes. He has never attended any of the productions.

Three days later, Holmes and Dr Watson (Patrick Macnee) are at their modest lodging at 221B Baker Street. An envelope arrives from the United States and inside are two tickets for Irene Adler’s new play, but the tickets are torn to shreds. Holmes realises something is amiss and immediately, with Watson in tow of course, he heads for New York.

Upon arrival, they go to the Empire Theatre to acquire tickets for the evening’s performance, but when it comes time for the curtain to be raised, the theatre owner addresses the crowd and says that Irene Adler will not be appearing on this evening due to illness. Her understudy will play the role. Holmes and Watson waste no time, and head directly to Irene Adler’s home. Irene is not ill at all, but something is troubling her, and it doesn’t take long for Holmes to deduce what it is. It appears that Irene’s son, Scott (played by Sir Roger’s son Geoffrey) has been kidnapped.

Shortly thereafter, a note is delivered by a messenger addressed to Holmes directly. But who knew he’d be here? The note says that if Scott is to survive, then Holmes is to refuse any request that the local police may ask.

It all becomes clear on the following morning when Inspector Lafferty (David Huddleston) of the New York Police Department approaches Holmes in want of assistance. In seems that New York plays host to the world’s largest gold depository in the world. Many countries have stored their gold in these top secret vaults, and all the gold has just been stolen. Lafferty asks for Holmes assistance in retrieving the gold. If the gold is not found, then in two days time, when an international transfer is set to take place, then pandemonium will break out between the different countries. It may even lead to war.

But, as Scott’s life is at stake, so Holmes refuses to assist the police in their investigations. At that moment, Moriarty’s taunt about how he will commit the crime of the century and Holmes will be helpless to solve it rings in his ears.

Sherlock Holmes in New York is actually a great deal of fun…that is if you can accept Roger Moore as Sherlock Holmes. I can. But, to be honest, Moore is the weakest link in the film. His acting is okay, but Roger Moore is, …well he’s Roger Moore. He’s the same likeable character that he portrayed as The Saint or James Bond. If you like Moore, then I suggest that you will like this film.

Patrick Macnee does a fine job with Watson, as the character is written. unfortunately, Watson is written as somewhat of a buffoon – definitely from the Nigel Bruce school of Watson – which I know rubs some people the wrong way. As an adjunct here, I must watch The Hound of London, in which Macnee plays Holmes (although it has a reputation for being one of the worst Holmes films ever).

In the quote above, Moore suggests that Sherlock Holmes in New York is not popular or warmly remembered which is quite a shame really. It is well written and the cast is engaging – Huston is clearly having a ball as Moriarty. Out of all the Sherlock Holmes films made this is far from the worst, and Moore’s performance isn’t bad.

Here’s the spiel from Madman.

Roger Moore takes on another literary hero in the DVD debut of this cracking and rare Sherlock Holmes mystery

The games afoot for Sherlock Holmes when he is lured to New York by his arch nemesis Moriarty under the guise that something sinister has happened to Holmes’ former flame, Irene Adler.

During their last meeting, Moriarty had promised revenge in the form of shattering Holmes’ reputation in the eyes of the world. He plans to commit the crime of the century – a crime that will occur under his very nose – and he will be powerless to stop it. The world will sneer, ridicule and the hound the famous sleuth into oblivion.

So when the villainous scoundrel makes good on his promise by quietly robbing the world’s gold reserves from a high-security bank vault, why is Holmes refusing to put his remarkable deductive powers to use? Has Moriarty indeed pulled off the crime of the century?

Roger Moore, taking a break from the height of James Bond hysteria, joined an all star cast including Patrick Macnee, Charlotte Rampling, Gig Young and John Huston as Moriarty for this sumptuous big-budget Sherlock Holmes adventure filmed by 20th Century Fox in 1976. Never before available on DVD, this Special Edition includes a newly recorded feature-length audio commentary with Sir Roger Moore.

Advertisements
Sherlock Holmes in New York (1976)

The Saint: The House on Dragon's Rock (1968)

Country: United Kingdom
Director: Roger Moore
Starring: Roger Moore, Anthony Bate, Annette Andre, Melvyn Johns, Alex Scott, Glyn Houston, Richard Owens, Talfryn Thomas, Heather Seymour
Music: Edwin Astley
Based on characters created by Leslie Charteris

Roger Moore takes the helm as director in what is possibly the silliest episode in The Saint TV series. And naturally, being so silly, it is also one of the most entertaining episodes, and therefore I recommend it highly.

The episode starts with Simon Templar (Roger Moore) arriving by car at a small village in Wales. I wont attempt to tell you the name of the village as it is unpronounceable to my un-cultured tongue. This village seems deserted, and Templar seeking life of any kind heads to the local pub, the Prince of Wales. It too seems strangely deserted. However there is a fire burning, half drunken pints on the table, and smoldering cigarettes in the ash trays. Where ever the inhabitants of the village are. It would appear that they left in quite a hurry.

The House on Dragon's Rock
'We don't like strangers in our village!'

A young girl opens an adjoining door to the main bar and walks in. Templar asks her where the townsfolk are and she says that they have gone to search for Owen. At that moment, the girl’s father arrives on the scene brandishing a shot-gun. When Templar explains that he was invited to the town by the local doctor, Rhys Davis, then the hostility ceases. And soon he has joined the search party looking for Owen.

Who is Owen? Owen Thomas is a shepherd who has gone missing over at Devil’s Gorge. As the search party is about to give up, Owen staggers from the shrubs, disheveled, shaking and as pale as a ghost. He has seen something that has frightened the living daylights out of him. As the search party is called off by radio, the high pitched squeal from the walkie-talkie sets Owen off. He clutches his head and begins to scream. This is practically the last sound he makes, because due to shock, he has lost the power of speech. Therefore he is unable to describe what has frightened him so.

The House on Dragon's Rock
The ubiquitous Simon Templar

Doctor Rhys Davis explains to Templar that a lot of strange things have been happening in the area. A two tonne tractor was upturned in a field, a stable was torn apart, many cows have been found dead, and trees have been torn out by their roots.

No one is sure what is causing the mayhem. The locals all have an idea though, and at the pub they discuss them. Some believe it is a monster from outer space, others believe it is a werewolf or a vampire. However more reasonable minds suggest that it possibly has something to do with a group of scientists, calling themselves the Western Research Laboratory, who operate out of a mansion on top of Dragon’s Rock.

The House at Dragon's Rock
Dr. Sardon and Dr. Armstrong - the men from the Western Research Laboratory

The contempt and mistrust that the locals hold for the laboratory is evident when Carmen Grant, from the laboratory drops into the pub to enquire about the well being of Owen. As many locals believe the laboratory is responsible for his condition, they refuse to talk to her. However, Templar is never one to ignore a lady and updates her on Owen’s progress. Then he escorts her to her car. Along the way he finds out that she is the niece of the director of the laboratory, Dr. Charles Sardon – and if Sardon doesn’t sound like the name of a mad scientist, I don’t know what does!

Naturally Templar delves deeper into the mystery, and finds out that indeed, Sardon is carrying out some very strange and terrifying experiments – experiments that are getting way out of hand. When Carmen is attacked by a large creature, whose tracks lead to Sardon’s laboratory, Templar finds that the madman is breeding giant insects.

The House on Dragon's Rock
Unspeakable Terror!

The House on Dragon’s Rock is an absolute riot, and beyond the mad scientist plot device, the story bears more than a passing resemblance to James Cameron’s Aliens. I am not for a second suggesting any plagiarism from the writers of Aliens, after all this story is pretty derivative of many old fashioned thrillers, but the plot similarities are quite striking – but to reveal more would constitute major spoilers.

The House on Dragon's Rock
Dr. Sardon with his creation

For those readers who have never seen this episode of The Saint, I hope you chose to seek it out. It is thoroughly entertaining, presenting the kind of far-fetched thrills that only a UK television show from the 1960s could provide. The Saint is often considered the ‘straight man’ of British TV when compared to The Prisoner or The Avengers, but this episode shows, when put to it, The Saint team could be just as ‘out there’ as the rest of them.

The Saint: The House on Dragon's Rock (1968)

"… it won't be the nicotine that kills you!"

smokin’ spies

A part of the appeal of spy films is watching agents live the high life. They live the life we’d all like to live. With the exception of ‘saving the world’ their lives have very few consequences. They are always in the most glamorous places, with the most glamorous people and, of course, doing the most glamorous things with little regard for the price they may have to pay – both emotionally and financially. Unlike real life, an agent is never short on cash, or seen sweating over the outcome of a roll of a dice or a spin of the wheel in a casino (an enemy agent may, but not the hero). An secret agent’s rent is always up to date and the phone company is never chasing him over a delinquent payment. I assume these everyday expenses are picked by the agency.

A secret agent always has an excellent wardrobe. No ‘off the rack’ shopping for them, male or female. The clothes are always tailored impeccably, even if they will date badly in years to come (the baby blue towelling jumpsuit the Sean Connery wore in Goldfinger springs to mind).

So they look good and aren’t encumbered with the burdens that everyday people encounter. Sure they may have to disarm a nuclear weapon in ten seconds but how often do those situations arise? Not very often. This leaves our operatives with plenty of leisure time. How do they chose to use that time? By indulging in all manner of vices.

Now back in the sixties and seventies these vices were seen as the height of sophistication. They were notches on your gun belt. A good spy would smoke at least two packs a day, down a good bottle of scotch, and then go to bed with a beautiful, willing sexual partner.

While drinking and sex are still socially acceptable (well maybe not in the main street – but you know what I mean), smoking is now particularly scorned upon. Now it is not the purpose of this blog to condone smoking in any way, but obviously it is a motif than runs heavily throughout espionage movies, particularly in the sixties, and one that bears further investigation. First some examples.

Smoking scenes in espionage movies:

In You Only Live Twice James Bond (Sean Connery) has finally been captured by his nemesis, Ernst Stavro Blofeld. Locked down in Blofeld’s impregnable control room, Bond asks for a cigarette. Blofeld insists that “… it won’t be the nicotine that kills you!” Bond takes a drag and counts to three. The cigarette houses a tiny rocket which kills one of the guards, giving Bond the opportunity to attempt to escape. He fails.

Murderers’ Row, starring Dean Martin as Matt Helm, features a cigarette that fires a poisonous dart into an enemy (similar to above, hmmmm?) Helm then throws the empty pack onto the dead man revealing the Surgeon Generals warning in an attempt to get laughs.

• Deano is at it again in The Ambushers. This time, Matt Helm is facing a firing squad. He requests a final cigarette. His request is granted, but his cigarette emits laughing gas rather than the usual smoke, allowing him to affect his escape.

• In The Quiller Memorandum, one of the code phrases is, ‘do you smoke this brand?’ as George Segal as Quiller holds out a cigarette to a fellow agent.

• In From Russia With Love, Connery as James Bond uses the code, ‘do you have a match?’ again with cigarette in hand.

All the five films above are from the sixties. So, back then, smoking was presented as a perfectly acceptable behavior. Or on the flip side, In Dr. No and enemy agent swallows a cyanide pill hidden in a cigarette, and in Deadlier Than The Male, an oil executive has the back of his head blown off after drawing back on a Corona Corona cigar. So maybe smoking was presented as dangerous, but not quite in the fashion that the anti-cancer council would appreciate.

That’s the sixties, but popular culture’s view on smoking hadn’t changed much in the seventies. Smoking was still okay. Yul Brynner, famous for his anti-smoking campaign after his death, is clearly seen lighting up in Night Flight From Moscow. In fact, he complains that the cigarette he is offered may be too mild for him. Roger Moore as James Bond in Live And Let Die lights himself a large stogie while shaving.

By the eighties and nineties things started to change. On screen heroes became more physical, mainly due to the success of Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger. With their physicality came a healthier body attitude.

So in the new millennium, smoking isn’t presented as being glamorous any more and is not looked on so favorably. In fact, during Timothy Dalton’s tenure as James Bond (mid to late 80’s), he had to fight to smoke in the films, believing it to be true of the Character he was playing – a man living on the edge and indulging in all life’s pleasures and vices. But Dalton’s successor, Pierce Brosnan chose not to smoke. In the opening sequence on Tomorrow Never Dies, Brosnan as Bond is seen clobbering a smoking soldier after offering him a light. To cap it all off Brosnan’s Bondian quip as the man falls to the ground is, ‘Filthy Habit’. Now we have to travel back in time to the sixties or seventies to view secret agents with a cigarette in hand. Times have changed.

It was fascinating to see the reversal in the recent French comedy, OSS 117 – Cairo Nest of Spies, directed by Michel Hazanavicius. Secret agent, OSS 117 Hubert Bonisseur de La Bath, as portrayed by Jean Dujardin is almost embarrassed that he doesn’t smoke. Shamefully he confesses that he has been trying to taking up smoking but with little success – he just doesn’t have the taste for it.

"… it won't be the nicotine that kills you!"

Sherlock Holmes In New York (1976)


Director: Boris Sagal
Starring: Roger Moore, Patrick Macnee, John Huston, Charlotte Rampling, David Huddleston, Gig Young, Geoffrey Moore
Music: Richard Rodney Bennett
Based on characters by Arthur Conan Doyle

Why Sherlock Holmes? Some readers may be wondering why I am writing about Sherlock Holmes? After all, he isn’t a spy. But I would assert that Holmes and many characteristics found within a Sherlock Holmes story provided a template for many of the spy stories that were to follow throughout the years. I consider Sherlock Holmes to be one of the ‘Originators’ along with Bulldog Drummond, Simon Templar and Flash Gordon. Yes – Flash Gordon, but I’ll talk about him some other day.

One thing, that I feel it is important to point out, is that Holmes is now so much bigger than the original stories written by Arthur Conan Doyle. There have been countless continuation novels (not only limited to Holmes, but Professor Moriarty and Holmes’ brother Mycroft have each had novels written about their exploits). Then there are the films. The first Sherlock Holmes film was the Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (AKA: Held For Ransom) and starred Maurice Costello as Holmes. Since then, over 70 actors have played the part in over 200 films. But for most people, it was Basil Rathbone’s portrayal of the deerstalker cloaked crusader during the 1930’s and 40’s that are most fondly remembered. But with a 200 plus film back catalogue, a huge range of actors have tried their hand at playing Holmes; some more successfully than others.

For the spy fan, the Holmes adventures that are of interest are the propaganda films from the forties, which feature Basil Rathbone as Holmes battling Nazi spies and other assorted evil doers. Also of interest are the films which feature arch villain Professor James Moriarty. There is no mistaking that the rivalry between Homes and Moriarty is one of the battles in popular culture. Moriarty himself is one of the great ‘evil masterminds’, and certainly a prototype Blofeld (or any other diabolical villain). It is not so very surprising that David McDaniel in The Man From UNCLE novel, The Dagger Affair intimated that the evil organisation THRUSH was set up by Professor Moriarty.

But moving forward and retaining the espionage theme, what we have in Sherlock Holmes In New York is James Bond (Roger Moore) as Sherlock Holmes and John Steed (Patrick Macnee) as Doctor Watson. Incidentally, Macnee would move from second banana (Watson), to top-dog (Holmes) in the film The Hound of London.

Roger Moore in his biography only has one page devoted to Sherlock Holmes in New York, but it appears to have been a pleasant working experience. From My Word is my Bond (page 264) – Roger Moore – 2008 Harper Collins:

‘Jack called me up and asked if I’d be interested in a TV movie for Fox called Sherlock Holmes in New York. Patrick Macnee was already cast as Watson. It was to film in LA, so that all rather suited me. It was actually shot on the Hello, Dolly sets at Fox’s Hollywood studio.

I’ve already related the story of how I called Oliver Reed and asked if he was interested in playing Moriarty. Well, after he turned us down flat, Jack approached John Huston. As well as being a famous and accomplished director, writer and producer, Huston also turned his hand to acting in the odd film. He was wonderful to work with. On his arrival, John said to our director, Boris Sagal, ‘My boy, I have a lot of speeches to deliver. I may need some help remembering them.’ So, the art department made up beautiful prompt cards – or idiot boards as well call them – with the dialogue written on, and held them behind the camera at strategic points for John to refer to. He delivered every line perfectly, never looking at them once. The old cad.

John and I both enjoyed backgammon and fine cigars, so between takes we’d sit down to play and smoke. I never had the opportunity to work with Huston as a director. That would have been fun and is one of my few regrets.

Other casting fell into place: Charlotte Rampling, David Huddleston, Gig Young, Signe Hasso and my son Geoffrey, who was around ten, who played Irene Adler’s (Charlotte Rampling’s) son who is kidnapped by Moriarty. We later discover that the boy is in fact the result of a suggested liaison between Holmes and Irene Adler.

I won’t say this is regarded as one of the most popular or warmly remembered Holmes film, but we certainly had fun making it.’

As the film opens the year is 1901, and in London, Moriarty (John Huston) is enjoying a brandy is his gaudily decorated villains lair at Victoria Docks. As the clock strikes midnight, one of Moriarty’s lieutenants, Colonel Moran arrives with news. Moriarty and his team of cronies have been plotting the assassination of Lord Brackish, who is the head of the London Bank.

As Moriarty congratulates Moran on the success of his part of the mission, Moran’s voice begins to change. Then he pulls off several rubber appliances that had been glued to his face. Underneath is Sherlock Holmes (Roger Moore). Holmes recounts how all of Moriarty’s men have been rounded up by the police and how his assassinated attempt has been thwarted.

Moriarty is enraged. But then goes to show Holmes a trapdoor in the floor, a knife that is fired from a cash register on a desk, and a falling chandelier. He shows Holmes each of these devices that could have killed him, and then explains why he didn’t use them. He chose not to kill him at this time because he is preparing the crime of the century, and not only does he plan on changing the world with his audacious act of criminality, but also to humiliate Holmes in the process. Moriarty taunts that he plans to commit the perfect crime and Holmes will be helpless to stop it. As there is no direct evidence against Moriarty at this time, Holmes cannot have him arrested.

In the United States, Irene Adler (Charlotte Rampling) is preparing to star in a new Broadway production at the Empire Theatre in New York. For nine years, for each production she has starred in, she has sent two tickets to the premiere Holmes. He has never attended any of the productions.

Three days later, Holmes and Dr Watson (Patrick Macnee) are at their modest lodging at 221B Baker Street. An envelope arrives from the United States and inside are two tickets for Irene Adler’s new play, but the tickets are torn to shreds. Holmes realises something is amiss and immediately, with Watson in tow of course, he heads for New York.

Upon arrival, they go to the Empire Theatre to acquire tickets for the evening’s performance, but when it comes time for the curtain to be raised, the theatre owner addresses the crowd and says that Irene Adler will not be appearing on this evening due to illness. Her understudy will play the role. Holmes and Watson waste no time, and head directly to Irene Adler’s home. Irene is not ill at all, but something is troubling her, and it doesn’t take long for Holmes to deduce what it is. It appears that Irene’s son, Scott (played by Sir Roger’s son Geoffrey) has been kidnapped.

Shortly thereafter, a note is delivered by a messenger addressed to Holmes directly. But who knew he’d be here? The note says that if Scott is to survive, then Holmes is to refuse any request that the local police may ask.

It all becomes clear on the following morning when Inspector Lafferty (David Huddleston) of the New York Police Department approaches Holmes in want of assistance. In seems that New York plays host to the world’s largest gold depository in the world. Many countries have stored their gold in these top secret vaults, and all the gold has just been stolen. Lafferty asks for Holmes assistance in retrieving the gold. If the gold is not found, then in two days time, when an international transfer is set to take place, then pandemonium will break out between the different countries. It may even lead to war.

But, as Scott’s life is at stake, so Holmes refuses to assist the police in their investigations. At that moment, Moriarty’s taunt about how he will commit the crime of the century and Holmes will be helpless to solve it rings in his ears.

Sherlock Holmes in New York is actually a great deal of fun…that is if you can accept Roger Moore as Sherlock Holmes. I can. But, to be honest, Moore is the weakest link in the film. His acting is okay, but Roger Moore is, …well he’s Roger Moore. He’s the same likeable character that he portrayed as The Saint or James Bond. If you like Moore, then I suggest that you will like this film.

Patrick Macnee does a fine job with Watson, as the character is written. unfortunately, Watson is written as somewhat of a buffoon – definitely from the Nigel Bruce school of Watson.

In the quote above, Moore suggests that Sherlock Holmes in New York is not popular or warmly remembered which is quite a shame really. It is well written and the cast is engaging – Huston is clearly having a ball as Moriarty. Out of all the Sherlock Holmes films made this is far from the worst, and Moore’s performance isn’t bad.

The illustration of Roger Moore as Sherlock Holmes at the top is from Pat Art.
SPY CONNECTIONS:

Roger Moore – played James Bond in seven films.

Patrick Macnee – played John Steed in the television series The Avengers.

John Huston – was one of the myriad of directors on the 1967 version of Casino Royale.

Richard Rodney Bennett – composed the score for The Billion Dollar Brain.
Sherlock Holmes In New York (1976)

The Saint: The Ex-King of Diamonds (1969)

Country: United Kingdom
Director: Alvin Rakoff
Starring: Roger Moore, Stuart Damon, Isla Blair, Ronald Radd, Carol Friday, Willoughby Goddard, Paul Faussino, Alan Rowe, Anthony Stamboulieh
Music: Edwin Astley
Based on characters created by Leslie Charteris

The Saint television series episodes were generally self contained, unlike the trend in current television series where a back story is played out over many episodes. In some instances this back story comes to the fore and these episodes are considered to be the core episodes. But there is none of this in The Saint. For an episode to become a core episode it must contain either a plot that is exceptionally well written, or a cast of guest actors who viewers are drawn to. However, The Ex-King of Diamonds is neither of these things, but I still believe it is one of the core episodes of the series. Its plot is serviceable, without being spectacular, and the guest stars, while being familiar faces, aren’t really major drawcards either. What makes The Ex-King of Diamonds unique is that the crew behind this episode, producer Bob Baker, writer John Kruse, and even Roger Moore were trying something new. They could see that The Saint’s run was coming to an end and were looking towards their next project – but more on that later. In the meantime,let’s have a quick look at the plot and see if it reminds you of another popular ITC series.

The episode begins on the Cote d’Azur, at Nice airport, where two men have just arrived. One of them is Simon Templar, AKA The Saint (Roger Moore). The other is wealthy Texan millionaire, Rod Huston (Stuart Damon). They have both been invited, along with many other wealthy individuals, to the ‘Hotel Magnificent’ in Monte Carlo for the gaming season. Throughout the season, Boris, the ex-King of Slovania (Willoughby Goddard) is to be the banker at his own priate baccarat table, where he hopes to make enough money to finance a coup, which will see him regain his Kingship.

But first, Templar and Huston have to travel from Nice to Monte Carlo, and their chosen mode of transporation is the motor car. Huston heads off first, but is soon overtaken by Templar in his high-powered vintage saloon. Huston isn’t pleased to be overtaken, and presses the pedal to the metal in an attempt to keep up, and possibly overtake Templar. This results in an egoccentric car chase, with each driver trying to prove who is the better man.

This one up-manship doesn’t stop at just a car race either. Upon arrival in Nice, both men also vie for the attention of Janine Flambeau (Isla Blair) – although it must be said both men strike out with their initial advances. Then the boys engage in some crap shooting. It doesn’t seem to matter what they do, these two seem to be at logger-heads with each other.

Then the card game begins. Watching in the wings is Janine, along with her father, Professor Henri Flambeau (Ronald Radd), who happens to be a brilliant mathematician and the author of ‘Probability in Gambling’. As the game continues, Boris has an extra-ordinary run of luck. So much so, that Flambeau believes that Boris is cheating using marked cards. During a break in the game, Flambeau shares his theory with Templar.

The game continues. Meanwhile Flambeau decides to take his ‘marked card’ theory further, and with Janine in tow, he heads to the factory where the playing cards are manufactured. His investigation is curtailed quickly, when he is captured and Janine is clubbed from behind and rendered unconcious.

The card game is over for the evening. Boris has won a large amount of cash, much to the chagrin of Templar and Huston who adjorn to a patio outside. Here, Templar shares Flambeau’s theory that Boris is using marked cards. Huston is furious that Templar didn’t tell him earlier and a fist fight errupts. Huston wants a piece of Templar, and then once finished, he wants a piece of Boris too. But Templar manages to dissuade him with a well placed punch to the jaw.

To get to the bottom of Boris’ scheme, Templar and Huston agree to team up. To learn more, they decide to track down Professor Flambeau – good thing to, because when they discover him, unconcious, he is being positioned in a crashed car, while Boris’ goons pour petrol over the vehicle. Obviously they are planning to ‘stage’ an accident. Templar and Huston step in and fight off Boris’ goons. The Professor is rescued, but where is Janine? It seems that the mystery is far from over.

So, does the story seem familiar to you? You have two head-strong dilettante playboys on the Cote d’Azur -one English, the other American – they both encounter each other on the road, where a car chase follows – then later get into a fist fight! It’s The Persuaders! The Ex-King of Diamonds was a tryout for The Persuaders television series, and many of the elements in this episode found there way into the pilot for The Persuaders, Overture. Of course there are many differences too. Rod Huston is a slow talkin’ Texan, whereas Tony Curtis as Danny Wilde, was a motor-mouth from the Bronx. But still, the dynamic is the same. First, an outward antagonism, that slowly builds to respect and then friendship.

The Ex-King of Diamonds is a must
see episode for fans of Roger Moore’s The Saint series and The Persuaders. It isn’t as fast paced as some of The Saint episodes – primarily because it has to built up the relationship between Templar and Huston, but time never seems to drag. The characters are good and bounce off each other well. The story itself, seems derivative of quite a few familiar (to spy fans) stories. The first is, obviously, Casino Royale. We have a villain who needs to make a lot of cash (to repay a debt) quickly by playing cards. The card marking could come from the film Kaleidoscope, with Warren Beatty, or even bears more than a passing resemblance to the season one, Mission Impossible episode, Odds on Evil. What I am saying here, is that the plot, even in 1969, had been used quite substantially by spy shows – but that doesn’t really matter. It’s what’s playing out over the top with Templar and Huston that is important, and here the buddy formula that was to prove so successful (in my eyes at least) in The Persuaders was given its first tryout -and for me that is a joy to watch.

The Saint: The Ex-King of Diamonds (1969)