Simon Templar was originally created in the 1920s and continued on for forty years in the novels of Leslie Charteris. The character has been portrayed in numerous films and television shows by a great many actors, most notably by George Sanders during the war. However, the character is best remembered in the television vehicle that turned Sir Roger Moore into a super star before he took over James Bond.
The show ran for 118 episodes between 1962 and 1969, switching to colour in 1966. Simon Templar, a.k.a. The Saint has always been something of a mystery. Nothing is known about his origins and in the novels, he is a criminal (in the Robin Hood vein) who lives by his own code of honour, which leads him to become an amateur detective and occasionally called upon by British Intelligence to take on jobs which can only be solved using his uniqueness and resources.
However, the television version of Simon Templar is even more of a mystery. He is famous for being himself and we never know if he is a criminal or a spy or a detective, since each episode is self contained and no back story is ever given. Simon is just a suave, charming, witty and sartorial swashbuckler who randomly shows up in the beginning of the episode and says "Excuse me, but my Savile Row suit and I were just passing and couldn't help but notice that you were having a spot of trouble with the counterfeiters/smuggling ring/missing whatsit/defecting important person/political unrest/assassins. Could I be of any assistance?" Cue theme music.
In addition to Simon's sartorial wardrobe (most of which is Roger Moore's own) there is also the wardrobe of this week's beautiful girl to consider. It's not as mod as some of the other '60's spy stuff was, but it is a showcase for the outfit of the everyday girl and, in the case of the wealthier ladies, has some wonderful examples of the changing fashions in gowns and jewels of the Sixties. Each episode also has many close-ups of some fabulous big (and I do mean big) hairdos and perfect eye make-up that never smudges and is still there the next morning.
The Saint is a light hearted adventure series. It's not as amusing or memorable as The Avengers or as believable as Danger Man and can occasionally parody the spy genre, but not as broadly as Get Smart. But since Simon as no assistant and only occasional superiors, he instead talks directly to the audience and includes us in this week's story. Since it's now all available on DVD, why not pick up a disc from your local rental outlet/library/torrent site and watch an episode or two. It's the perfect solution for when you want a little adventure and a wisecrack or two without having to watch too many explosions or the Cliffs of Insanity for the millionth time. If you don't know with which episode to start with, my favourite is The Queen's Ransom, which has a lot of witty banter, a bright pink coat and a rather wicked little old lady.
I had a great deal of trouble finding a clip on YouTube, which leads me to believe that the series isn't that well known among computer-savvy young people. Here is a trailer for the home video release.
And I finally found a clip: