The Saint in Manhattan (1987)

Country: United States / United Kingdom
Director: James Frawley
Starring: Andrew Clarke, Kevin Tighe, Christopher Marcantel, George Rose, Holland Taylor, Caitlin Clarke, Ben Vereen
Music: Mark Snow
Based on characters created by Leslie Charteris

I’m a bit late on this, as it has been out for a couple of weeks, but Madman Entertainment have just released the last piece of the Saint on television jigsaw puzzle – the much sought after The Saint in Manhattan. This pilot for a proposed new television series had never been released before – and had only existed as a poor quality dupe – available from the gray market. But Saint fans can now rejoice. Below is my review from a few years ago (for that aforementioned poor quality dupe).

The Saint in Manhattan is a Saint for the Magnum PI generation. Actually, its probably a few years too late for Magnum, but this pilot episode for a proposed new series has the same smirk and high living like Magnum, and added to that, Clarke has a moustache of Tom Selleck proportions.

Clarke copped a bit of flack for keeping the ‘mo’, but the Saint has had a moustache before. As always, though, in this day and age, any actor who takes on the role of the Saint is compared to Roger Moore, who was clean shaven. I must admit I like Andrew Clarke as an actor and he has been in some good productions – ANZACS springs to mind. But in the work I have seen he has always played a pretty down to earth Australian, so seeing him as a wealthy, womanising high roller, was a stretch for me. And maybe because I know him from his other work, I found his accent flittered between a fake Etonian and his natural Australian accent.

The show opens with a message sent from Special Branch, Scotland Yard to Inspector John Fernack of the New York Police advising him of the imminent arrival of Simon Templar (Andrew Clarke) in New York. Fernack rushes to the airport and watches as the passengers disembark from the Concorde that has just arrived from England. A stewardess walks up to Fernack and hands him a ticket folder, which he opens. Inside in Simon Templar’s calling card.

Meanwhile Templar is being chauffeured by helicopter to a heliport, where his car – with the number plate ST 1 – awaits him. It appears that times have changed, and Templar now drives a very sleek black Lamborghini, which he drives back to his palatial penthouse apartment in downtown Manhattan.

But soon Templar is bored and complaining of malaise to his butler, Woods (George Rose). His restlessness doesn’t last long with the arrival of a letter from an old flame, Margo. Margo also happens to be a world class ballerina. She is in New York to perform Sleeping Beauty, but she has been receiving strange threats. She requires a bodyguard and asks Templar to help out, which he gladly does.

As a promotional gimmick, during the opening night ballet performance, Margo is to wear the multi-million dollar ‘Empress of Austria’ diamond tiara, which belongs to two of the leading patrons of the ballet, Walter and Fran Grogan. After the show, Margo hands back the tiara only to discover it is a fake. As they search backstage, in the tiara’s original carry case there is a calling card – the Saint’s! So Templar is the prime suspect for the theft.

The Saint in Manhattan is essentially a formulaic whodunit, with the Saint investigating all the suspects in between sparring bouts with Inspector Fernack. The story itself may be nothing special, but the dialogue is pretty witty. It is a pity that Clarke doesn’t have the panache or charm to deliver the lines with the sly wink that they deserve.

As I mentioned at the top, The Saint in Manhattan was the pilot episode for a prospective series, but it would be my guess that the show didn’t generate the response and enthusiasm expected and no further episodes were made at the time. However the Saint would return two years later, but with Simon Dutton taking over as Simon Templar.

It’s interesting to compare the two. The Saint in Manhattan had pretty high production values, but was let down by Andrew Clarke’s performance. No maybe that’s unfair – let’s just say that Clarke was miscast in the role. Whereas the following Saint series, in Dutton they had a great Saint, but at times the series looked gritty where it should have looked glamorous and jet-setting. And some of the plots were just clunky, without any wit or panache.

I have probably made The Saint in Manhattan sound absolutely terrible. It is not, but it is what it is…one hour of network television. You can see the same formulaic storytelling in any mystery show of the same era (and probably many from today too).

A special ‘thank you’ to Tanner from the Double-O-Section for help with this review.

The blurb from the Madman DVD:

Simon Templar: lifestyle extravagant… Fingerprints: unavailable… Occupation: highly suspicious… Alias: THE SAINT.

The Saint, is back in New York, restless and bored. But the tedium is about to escalate to full-blown excitement when he is contacted by an old flame, Margo, a ballerina who is set to star in a high profile performance. She has received death threats in the guise of a mutilated doll being left in her dressing room, and as part of the ballet, she will don a million dollar tiara on opening night.

The performance goes without mishap, however, upon leaving the stage the tiara has somehow been swapped with a fake, and The Saint’s calling card has been left in its empty box. Someone has framed Simon, and his old adversary Inspector Fernack is quick to point the finger. Has Margo set up her former flame, or is it an insurance rip-off? One thing’s for sure, whoever the criminal, they should have thought twice before setting up The Saint.

Australia’s Andrew Clarke won the highly-coveted role of Simon Templar in this big-budget, pilot episode for a proposed American series of the classic literary hero created by Leslie Charteris. It’s The Saint for the 1980s, but he still oozes charm, chivalry and heroism as he searches for the truth. The Saint doesn’t respect the law, but he does respect justice. Sometimes they’re not always the same thing.

Never previously available and rarely screened since its original broadcast, at last THE SAINT’s television legacy is complete with the release of this one-off adventure.

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