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Sunday 23 November 2008

The Saint on TV

Ian Dickerson has drawn my attention to this DVD, the perfect stocking-filler for the certain-kind-of-TV-geek of which I am one.

Available as a web-only exclusive and currently on pre-order offer at £9.99, The Saint Steps in... to Television is an expanded documentary based on the interviews and extras gathered for Network's boxed-set releases of The Saint and Return of the Saint. There's more than two hours of material and you can view some sample interview footage on the Network website.

Here's how the blurb puts it:

"Previously only available with the best-selling Saint and Return of the Saint DVD box sets, this series of highly acclaimed documentaries has now been revised and expanded with new interviews to form one feature-length documentary. The Saint Steps In... To Television is the definitive look at the series’ production for Lew Grade’s ITC company, as told by those involved in its creation. It covers the full story of how Simon Templar came to the small screen in the early 1960s, the series’ evolution into colour and its revamping and reformatting to fit the shifting trends of a late 1970s audience. Featuring extensive contributions from Roger Moore, Ian Ogilvy, Robert S. Baker, Johnny Goodman, Patricia Charteris and many more, this two-hour documentary is the final word on Simon Templar’s time at ITC."

Network is a bit of a national treasure; unashamedly devoted to the 'other' classic TV, the mainstream popular stuff whose showbiz nous and solid craft are only now getting the appreciation they deserve, their releases can be pricey but are put together with knowledge and care. I've written before about their Man in a Suitcase set, but it's their release of Strange Report that opened my eyes to this short-lived, late-flowering series that now emerges one of the most interesting and forward-looking of the ITC shows.

"Criminologist Adam Strange (ANTHONY QUAYLE) takes on the cases that are too difficult, delicate or politically sensitive for Scotland Yard. With the assistance of forensic expert Ham Gynt (KAZ GARAS) and pretty young artist Evelyn McClaine (ANNEKE WILLS), Strange unravels some of London's most complicated crimes..."

While on the Network website I found myself eyeing wistfully their Edwin Astley soundtrack releases. These aren't your usual soundtrack albums, but comprehensive multi-CD sets containing the entire library of music cues composed for the show in question. As well as Astley's work on Danger Man, Department S and Randall and Hopkirk, Deceased, there are sets for Man in a Suitcase and The Prisoner and I'm told that an equally comprehensive set for The Saint is upcoming.

It takes a more specialised taste than mine to engage with every single sting, bumper and bar of incidental music from a show, and while I'm happy to see that someone cares enough to release these sets and that aficionados care enough to buy them, I'd be even happier to see a "slob's digest version" with the themes gathered together on a single CD! All my Astley material is on old cassettes, or on CDs with re-recorded cover versions that mean well but often miss the mark.


Tom Murphy said...

Thanks for the link to the Network site - I'd never realised Out and Fox were even available on DVD - never mind complete with PDFs of all Trevor Preston's scripts. Even as a kid, I used to get a thrill seeing that something was made by Euston Films.

I love the ITC adventure series. The BFI recently showed eps of The Saint and The Persuaders on the big screen, followed by an interview with Roger Moore about his TV work. He can still spin a great yarn.

Lee Goldberg said...

I ordered the "The Saint Steps in to Television" DVD a week ago and can't wait to get it.

One of my great TV geek pleasures was hiring Ian Ogilvy to guest-star on DIAGNOSIS MURDER a few times and chatting with him about all things Saintly. I'm pleased to say that we have remained friends ever since.

The recent release of the MAN IN A SUITCASE and DEPARTMENT S soundtracks are tantalizing but, alas, I think they are too expensive for what they are...even for this TV geek.

Guy Adams and John L. Probert said...

Network are like a devil on my shoulder... I just don't have the money to keep up with their naughty ways.

Having said that: it's well worth signing up to their mailing list as their 'deal of the week' offers are rather good. The entire colour set of Saint episodes for £30 for example...

Lee Goldberg said...

I just watched the documentary...there's some real gold in it, but you have to slog through a LOT of padding to get to it. They've talked to everybody who was anybody on the show...and that's great... but there's an enormous amount of repetition. And the section on going from black-and-white to color episodes is unbearably dull. I'm sure that the short, original versions of the documentary are much better.