Farewell to the Saint

“James Bond actor Roger Moore…” Of course it’s the first line of his obituary, and he acknowledged good-naturedly that it was inevitable that it would be so, several times, in different interviews over the years. Roger Moore played James Bond in more movies than any other actor, he starred in some of the best films of the franchise (For Your Eyes Only, The Spy Who Loved Me) and the worst (Moonraker.) He was 007 to an entire generation, maybe two, inhabiting the role from 1973’s Live and Let Die to 1985’s A View to A Kill. The role casts such a giant shadow that it swallows any actor who takes it on.

But… Roger Moore’s not MY James Bond. Not even close.

Because for me, he was too letter-perfect as Simon Templar, the Saint. That’s all I can see; even when Moore’s in a Bond film, to me it looks like Simon Templar doing a Bond impression.

Moore wasn’t the first actor to play Templar, nor the last, but he was the best. He so perfectly inhabited the character of the roguish gentleman thief that I cannot even read the books any more without picturing Roger Moore in my head as I am reading.

The books, by the way, are great fun– at least the ones Leslie Charteris wrote himself. (1964’s Vendetta for the Saint and everything that came after were ghosted by various writers of varying talent. I’d say they are not really worth the bother, except maybe Vendetta— Harry Harrison did a nice job on that one– but I’m a bit of a snob about it.) Any of the genuine Charteris volumes are a good time but if you want a nice sampler you would do fine with this collection or this one.

As for the television shows themselves, there are a number of relatively inexpensive DVD collections. Or you can surf the internet and turn up a few episodes streaming here and there if you just want to see what it’s all about.

Moore did lots of other cool non-Bond stuff too. I’m very fond of The Persuaders, the television show he did with Tony Curtis– post-Saint, pre-Bond.

It was wonderful tongue-in-cheek fun from Brian Clemens, in the tradition of clever eccentric British crimefighters like John Steed and Emma Peel. Not surprising, since Clemens created Steed and Mrs. Peel as well. (It’s pretty obvious Tony Curtis was drunk for most of it but that just adds to its early-seventies grooviness.)

Moore also was Sherlock Holmes once, in Sherlock Holmes in New York. With Patrick Macnee as Dr. Watson. Not a GREAT movie, but by no means was it the worst Holmes done for cinema. The movie’s flaws are certainly no fault of the cast. John Huston has a nice turn as Moriarty, as well.

And of course, before any of that he was Beau Maverick.

But– other than the Saint– my very favorite Roger Moore effort is ffolkes, or North Sea Hijack, depending on where it was released.

The poster’s a bit of a cheat, trading on the Bond reputation. Ffolkes was actually playing against type for almost the entire cast. Really it was Die Hard before there was a Die Hard. Moore plays Ffolkes, a demolitions expert who hates people and loves cats, who’s recruited to save an oil rig that’s been taken over by Anthony Perkins and his band of terrorists. (You can tell that both Perkins and Moore are having the time of their lives playing hard-as-nails for once.)

The movie was a favorite of Moore’s and it’s not hard to see why– he actually got to ACT, to play a character rather than just arch an eyebrow and drop a one-liner. And the movie is a fine piece of macho adventure, very much in the tradition of movies like Gray Lady Down or Guns of Navarone, you know, that Alistair MacLean vibe. Moore must have liked making this kind of thing because he did a bunch… The Sea Wolves, The Wild Geese, Shout at the Devil, and others. But ffolkes is my favorite of them.

Moore also wrote an autobiography that I enjoyed quite a bit, My Word is My Bond.

He followed that up with One Lucky Bastard and Last Man Standing, both collections of Hollywood anecdotes. All of them are, like the man himself, not terribly deep, but still irresistibly charming and fun.

There is one Roger Moore project that I am dying to see and have been for YEARS now.

The rebooted Saint with Adam Rayner and Eliza Dushku.

It was a pet project of Moore’s, and he was a producer on it. The pilot movie’s DONE, it’s sitting in a can somewhere, and though the rest of the TV series didn’t get made it’s just criminal that no one has made this film available, at least. Even just direct-to-video. Hulu. Something. As a fan of the Saint for going on forty years, I can tell you that the teases in the trailer are beyond tantalizing for those of us who know the books. It’s the first ever Saint adaptation to feature both the Saint’s girlfriend Patricia Holm, who’s in a great many of the books and just as cool as Simon himself, and also Rayt Marius, the villain so bad that it took two whole novels’ worth of adventures to put him away. Marius was the only Saint bad guy to come back for a return engagement.

I wish whichever studio is hanging it up would get over it and release it. Roger Moore’s last project and it’s the SAINT, for God’s sake. The world deserves to see it.

But in the meantime, we have all the other cool stuff. And Bond, of course. But do yourself a favor and check out some of the other stuff too.

Rest in peace, sir, and thanks for the years of adventure.

Back next week with something cool.

17 Comments

  1. Hal

    Nice tribute, Mr Hatcher. I was very saddened and shocked to hear of Roger’s death particularly as I had been talking about him recently (frankly I will trot out my Roger Moore impression for no apparent reason – it’s fun! I am enamoured of his story about a monkey – or ape really, I think – named Jimmy he sort of had as a child, just the idea of the adult Roger living in a house with Jimmy the Monkey cracks me up!), partly because The Persuaders is , somewhat spookily, being re-run in a loop over here in Blighty on a channel called True Entertainment along with the Honor Blackman (Goddess! *ahem*)-era Avengers, The Prisoner and briefly Man From U.N.C.L.E. Ridiculous and enjoyable The Persuaders is, it may be the weakest of those series but cigar-chompin’ clothes horse Roger – check out those self-designed threads, owtch! – and gloves-adorned Tony are fun to watch alongside the gorgeous likes of pillowy-lipped, doe-eyed Susan George and scorching-hot Anouska Hempel as well as various familiar character actors such as Bernard “M” Lee and Alfred Marks.
    There was a round table tv show a few weeks ago in which actor/comedian Sanjeev Bhaskar told of meeting and becoming friends with his inspiration and idol Sir Roger, he eventually gave him a gift from himself and his family to honour him, it was made out to “Dear (Hindu honorific) Roger”; Sanjeev was about to translate it for him when Roger interrupted and said (assumes “Roger Moore” drawl) “May I take a guess? “Shithead”?!” Bwahahaha! His sense of humour was certainly engagingly self-deprecating and, often, vulgar. Very funny.
    Interesting that you should mention The Saint, he owned the rights for years, didn’t he? One couldn’t getting anything past him where money was concerned. Heh. It’s fascinating to note The Saint-like qualities to be found in his first two Bond movies, specifically the rough-and-ready fight scenes. Also, the ludicrous (ly amusing) fact that many people appear to know who Bond is in the Moore-era nudges him closer to “the famous Simon Templar” (cue “Saint” musical motif and animated halo).
    Just a few days ago I was discussing Roger with a big fan of his and I mentioned how most of his friends were now gone (hence “Last Man Standing”)…and now he is. *heavy sigh* and on the day after the Manchester bombing. This Blue World.
    Although The Spy Who Loved Me and For Your Eyes Only are probably his best James Bond movies I have a great deal of affection for Moonraker (Corinne Clery, Drax, that double-taking pigeon, “Look after Mr Bond, make sure some harm comes to him”, “Devastated, Mr Bond.” “Heartbroken, Mr Drax!”) and Live and Let Die (Madeline Smith, Baron Samedi, a never-lovelier Jane Seymour, Yaphet Kotto’s jive-talking Mr Big, “My name is Bond…” “Names is for tombstones, baby! Y’all take this honky out and waste him!, “Are you some kind of DOOOOMZDAY machine, boyyy?!”) but also for the many, many dubious yet hilarious events and pieces of dialogue in all but A View To A Kill (which sucks apart from Christopher Walken and the hotness of the otherwise dreadfully wooden Tanya Roberts much too young for Roger who was also wooden in that lazy picture at least in terms of his skin looking teak-like); trapping poor murderous little person Nick Nack in a lobster cage (“I KEEL YOU!” and sticking him halfway up a mast (“Oh, James, you didn’t?!”, “I bloody well did!” *cut to Nick Nack in lobster cage far above deck*); saying to Britt Eckland’s brainless dollybird Mary Goodnight just before he shuts her in a closet in order to bed Maud Adams “Don’t worry, your time will come!” – so uproariously and knowingly sexist that one can’t help but laugh (Man With The Golden Gun is also the film in which Bond yells at Mary – of whose identity he is not aware at that time – “Madame, please move that bloody bedpan!” referring to her car. The fake sexism is amusing but the pervading air of *real* sexism is not. Mary is a complete moron who makes Tiffany Case look like a Mensa candidate. Oddly both Diamonds Are Forever and TMWTGH end with the heroine in bikinis. Jill wins!); the unbelievable comment that Bond makes in Octopussy concerning as sudden windfall keeping an Indian character “in curry for awhile!”, Holy Moly! It’s so politically incorrect it becomes inoffensive and hilarious – only Roger Moore and his delivery could get away with that. Genius!
    Um, enough blathering, thank you, again, for this post, Greg.
    P.S. One small correction: Brian Clemens wasn’t involved with The Persuaders, Terry “creator of the Daleks” Nation was; most of the better episodes were his; seek out Alwyn W. Turner’s biography of Nation, I think you would find it interesting.

    1. M-Wolverine

      Ha, I agree with a lot of what you say. But I might have to question “A never lovelier Jane Seymour.” I mean, YMMV, because, is there ever a not lovely Jane Seymour? Even today, that woman is amazing. She never ages. But as much as I love the hair, she almost looks a little too young for Bond in LALD.

      To me at least peek Jane is in Oh Heavenly Dog. A bit more maturity, all the charm, and oh yeah, you’ll never want to be a dog in a bubble bath more.

      1. Hal

        BWAHAHAHA! M-Wolverine, you are a very bad man! You have a point about LIVE AND LET DIE I think, more about the dubiousness of that cad 007’s behaviour in duping her to go to bed with him (that card trick – dirty pool, Mr Bond!) – but she’s so delectable in it and Moore was a fairly youthful-looking forty-four/forty -five year-old when he made that movie so he just about gets away with it (admittedly my Jane Seymour lust may be impairing my judgement! I never really thought about her age in LALD I must say.).
        She looks charming in Battlestar Galactica, as well, even if she is slightly balsawood acting-wise in it… Oh, and then there’s Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger! Wow!
        By the way, I never *have* wanted to be a dog in a bubble bath… However, the scene you mention might change my mind!
        Thank you for your courtesy, M-W.

          1. Hal

            Benji is, even now, crying…but let’s not feel to sorry for him, he had that bubble bath with Jane! Now, if it were Lynda Carter or Suzanne Pleshette or Heather Thomas I would really be jealous…

  2. P.S. One small correction: Brian Clemens wasn’t involved with The Persuaders, Terry “creator of the Daleks” Nation was; most of the better episodes were his; seek out Alwyn W. Turner’s biography of Nation, I think you would find it interesting.

    No doubt I would. But Clemens wrote the pilot and several other episodes. If he wasn’t the initiator, okay, but he was certainly INVOLVED.

  3. Hal

    Ha! My apologies, you obviously didn’t know I was the guy who wrote the Trivial Pursuit answer claiming Nation created *Doctor Who*! I do NOT know how I made that mistake, the perils of writing on no sleep I suppose (my dad is about to have a biopsy on his lung so I’m not at my best). Idiocy might also be a good bet… I did not mean to offend or anger you, as I wrote in my rambling comment I appreciated your post, in fact I stuck that bit at the end as an afterthought to be helpful, convinced as I was that I was right. As I said I do not know how I made that mistake, I saw the pilot twice recently. I knew Roger Moore’s production partner devised the series and got it in my head that Nation was involved but not Clemens (in truth despite having watched the series recently I could have sworn Clemens didn’t even write for it… Scary really to be so muddle-headed); I guess Nation’s prominent credit on every episode hypnotized me into stupefaction (the book on Nation is pretty good though. Well, as far as I remember which would appear to be not far at all.
    Anyway, sorry for the mistake – I truly meant no harm. Now, I must hang my head (well, I will after it grows back…you bit it off! Hah.) and hide down a well.

  4. Jeff Nettleton

    Scary. I always thought Moore was a better Saint than Bond, that he played Bond as The Saint, and that ffolkes was his best movie. We watched The Saint in syndication, before he got the Bond role; so, when I first saw Live and Let Die on tv (when it debuted), I kept waiting for the halo to appear!

    I love The Wild Geese; but, Moore was the least convincing mercenary of the bunch. And that includes Kenneth Griffith as the camp gay medic! He’s still entertaining; but, again, it felt like the Saint had infiltrated a mercenary band. Bob Denard he wasn’t. He provides a fine commentary for the film though, along with producer Euan Lloyd (who also produced The Sea Wolves).

    The Sea Wolves is a delight, though more for Patrick MacNee, David Niven, Gregory Peck and the other older British character actors. Moore plays an intelligence officer, and it was obvious they were trying to play off his Bond connection, in a part that felt a bit like it was shoehorned in. He’s good; but, his part and the rest feel like two different films.

  5. M-Wolverine

    I also agree. I actually saw the Saint after Bond, because it starred Roger Moore. Though my mother had seen it. And he was great in it. He played a lot of himself, obviously, and he was much more like the Saint than he was Bond. And he was a great Saint on a great show. Underrated theme music too.

    But now I’m entranced by this lost pilot that never aired. That looks…good. And not just Dushku in a swimsuit (aren’t revealing one piece suits always sexier than a bikini?) Throw in Roger and that’s something I’d see. It looks like someone saw it because it’s actually got an IMDB rating, if not any actual air dates or releases. (There’s it listed as 2016, so it was made back in 2013, but released overseas maybe that year?) The reason we’re not seeing it is Paramount is trying to make it into another movie.

    https://deadline.com/2016/06/the-saint-new-paramount-movie-1201769894/

    http://variety.com/2016/film/news/saint-movie-reboot-paramount-1201798157/

    So they’ve got the rights and probably don’t want a (now) made for TV movie messing with their “IP.” But really, the show looks like it has the right idea. A movie is probably another Man from Uncle no matter how good it is. It seems to fit the format of episodic TV better, and seems like a modern retelling there would be a better angle. But no one pays me to greenlight anything in Hollywood, so what do I know?

    Maybe if the movie does come out, and it is a big success, (if if if) they might flood the market with Saint stuff and this could get a DVD release. It’s a stretch, but I’m guessing we’ll be waiting awhile. Or until it gets leaked to the Internet. (I just read they’re saying they are no plans to release the original Star Wars pre-special editions any time soon, and that’s printing money by Disney’s money printing machine, so who is going to push for this?)

      1. That is an interesting question. Simon Templar isn’t really an action hero in the traditional sense, though he can hold his own in a fight. But he is sly, a smiling chess master with a wicked sense of humor and a burning anger at injustice.

        And he is quintessentially British. More even than Bond. The Saint is the last of the true gentleman adventurers, not a private eye or a government operative.

        So that is the target. Who can carry that off?

        Russell Crowe is probably too old. I still like Rayner, but the studio probably wouldn’t. Someone who is leaner than the traditional leading man, probably. Maybe what’s his name, the guy on Elementary. Jonny Miller. If he was less twitchy and smiled more. But that’s the type. Someone who can go from urbane to righteous rage in an instant, who can act with his eyes. I don’t know younger actors so I don’t have many names. But that’s the approach.

        1. M-Wolverine

          I’m cheating because I think I saw it in one of those articles, but I saw someone suggest Tom Hiddleston would make a better Saint than the talk of him being the next Bond. But I haven’t really thought about it and didn’t want to influenced other ideas in case someone came up with a great one.

  6. Jeff Nettleton

    The ironic thing of becoming Bond was in the two-part Saint episode (later edited into one of the Saint movies), “The Fiction Makers.” The story starts out with Simon Templar watching and giving sarcastic commentary about a secret agent, in a film, in an action sequence. It’s obviously lampooning Bond. The film is based on a series of spy books by one Amos Kline, a recluse whose publisher approaches the Saint about protecting his client from some strange goings on. It turns out that Kline is a woman and she and Simon are kidnapped by some men who have emulated the villainous group SWORD, from the books, to carry out crimes. They’ve kidnapped Kline to devise a way to break into a high security vault built underground, in a disused coal mine. The film version was released on vhs. Great movie, in and of itself and an excellent two-parter, during the color years of the series.

  7. Hoppy Uniatz

    I’m sure you’ve seen the news by now that the TV pilot with Adam Rayner will be getting a DVD release later this year. It’s not the first adaptation to feature Patricia Holm – she was also in the 1943 film The Saint Meets the Tiger.

    For the record Roger never owned the rights to the Saint. He was, however, a partner in the production company that had an option on the rights.

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