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.

7 Comments Posted in Television
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  1. This is the only episode of the Saint that I remember watching when I was a kid, and I know I watched a bunch of them.

  2. Leslie Charteris, creator of THE SAINT, was quite fond of this episode, and praised the screenwriter in a private memo as follows:

    “The House on Dragon’s Rock” is an absolutely first class script and also a very good treatment of my story “The Man Who Liked Ants.” It shows what always could have been done with that story. You know what I have said on other occasions about Junkin, but he’s entitled to full credit for this one. I hope most seriously that the trend for these last two scripts will continue. If I never have any more drastic criticisms than I have just written, my views on TV will be in some danger of mellowing. “

  3. Thanks for the input Burl.

    I am greatly looking forward to seeing what you’ve got in store for us in the new Saint production.

  4. How strange was it that Charteris vetoed a Stephen Kandel script about vampires for ‘Return Of The Saint’, yet was happy to have had Templar battling a mad scientist who’d created giant ants?

  5. I’m intrigued to find the actual filming location of the village square which we see briefly about two minutes into this episode. The opening road shot seems very “Llanberis Pass”-ish, and is followed by a driveby of The Ugly House which is on the A5 between Cepel Curig and Betws-y-Coed (On Google street-view here: I’ve a feeling that the Prince of Wales pub isn’t on that square at all because when you look carefully at the cutaway, the pub is not there! So it seems that they tried quite hard to create this fictitious Welsh village. But the panning shot is real enough . . but where? :o)

  6. The square is Tremadog just outside Portmadog in north Wales, alas there is a pub and hotel there but the pub is not the prince of Wales, gotta feeling its fictitious.

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