The Persuaders: Overture (1971)

Director: Basil Dearden
Starring: Roger Moore, Tony Curtis, Lawrence Naismith
Music: Ken Thorne
The Persuaders Theme by John Barry

Overture is the first episode of the twenty-four episode series of The Persuaders starring Roger Moore and Tony Curtis. In the mind, the thought of teaming Moore and Curtis seems rather clunky. They shouldn’t make a good ‘buddy’ pairing, and this aspect is played upon in the opening twenty minutes of this show. But once the guys resolve their differences the show works against type. Moore and Curtis make a formidable duo. They play off each other very nicely and there seems to be some genuine chemistry between the two men.

The episode opens on the Cote d’Azur and we are in a huge luxurious mansion owned by Judge Fulton (Lawrence Naismith) – well, ex Judge really – Fulton has retired. Fulton is concocting a scheme where he will bring together two men to battle evil-doers who slipped through his legal court, or got off on technicalities. The two men he wants are both womanizing dilettantes. They are Lord Brett Sinclair (Roger Moore) – an aristocratic Englishman; and Danny Wilde (Tony Curtis) – a self made American millionaire.

The first dilettante we meet is Danny Wilde. He is on his private jet, surrounded by a bevy of beauties. The jet is about to land at Nice airport. Also traveling to Nice, but in his car, is the second dilettante, Lord Brett Sinclair (his car number plate happens to be BS 1, which of course reminds us the Roger Moore was previously the Saint – who had a car number plate of ST 1). Sinclair is dropping off some female traveling companions at the airport.

Wilde has now landed, and gets into his motor car – which happens to be an electric orange 1969 Dino 246 GT (made by Ferrari). As he tries to leave the airport, his path is blocked by Sinclair who is farewelling his passengers. Once done, he gets back into his car which is a Bahama Yellow 1970 Aston Matin DBS.

Both men have been sent invitations and offered pre-paid accommodation in a luxurious hotel in Monte Carlo. So naturally, they are both heading in the same direction, which leads to a car race along the coast of the French Riviera. Once they arrive at their destination, simultaneously, the ‘niggle’ between these men is palpable. Later that evening in the bar, they start disputing the correct amount of olives apportioned to a Creole Scream (a cocktail). Neither refuses to back down and a fist fight erupts resulting in the destruction of the hotel’s bar and dining area.

The brawl results in the arrest of both Sinclair and Wilde, but rather than taken to the local police station, they are taken to Judge Fulton’s palatial residence. Fulton had guessed that such strong personalities in close proximity would come to blows. The Judge threatens both of them with three months jail for their little indiscretion; that is, unless they perform a small service for him. The Judge’s attempt at blackmail works, and the boys agree to team up.

The mission itself, isn’t too much of a stretch for Wilde and Sinclair. It involves the seduction of a beautiful woman named Maria (Imogen Hassall). Unfortunately there is more to it than that, because Maria happens to be the sister of a mobster.

There’s a lot to enjoy in The Persuaders, and because this is the first episode and sets up so much of what the series is about, including the relationship between the two men, this is easily one of the best episodes. The show features plenty of early seventies, jet-setting excess. There’s exotic location, seventies super cars, and women in skimpy costumes. It all adds up to perfect entertainment. Overture is a great introduction to a splendid series.

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