DVD Review: The Saint: The Complete Series

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Devilishly handsome Roger Moore, all of 35 at the time, stars as “modern day Robin Hood” Simon Templar in the cult British TV series The Saint. Shout! Factory has made the entire 118-episode run available together for the first time as The Saint: The Complete Series. The stylish spy thriller ran for six seasons, beginning in 1962 and concluding in 1969. Home video releases in various regions around the world have resulted in different configurations, but Shout!’s new 33-disc DVD set brings everything together in one massive box.

While it’s certainly not a cheaply priced set, don’t be too intimidated by the $199.98 SRP since there are quite a few deals available (check out Shout!’s own website for starters).

Simon Templar is a thief with morals, in that he only steals from other criminals. Because of his lifestyle he often finds himself caught up in mysteries involving various members of the criminal element. Each episode sets up some sort of mysterious situation at the beginning of each story that must ultimately be solved by Templar. The first 71 episodes were shot in black-and-white, with a switch to color for the final 47. Though B&W TV may have been passé in the late-‘60s, the retro cool exhibited throughout the Leslie Charteris-created series is better exemplified in monochrome.

The Saint is quite entertaining, even weighing it against current shows, thanks in large part to clever humor and Moore’s performance. Granted, the dialogue is dated and often stiff. Some of the performances seem theatrical in their very deliberate line readings, as if each supporting actor was straining to be heard in the very back row of a large theatre. None of this really takes away from the genuine entertainment value The Saint continues to offer.

Black-and-white cinematography isn’t the only element distinguishing the first four seasons (or “series” in UK parlance). The switch to color for its final two seasons also brought about an end to Roger Moore’s breaking of the fourth wall at the start of each episode. While some actors wouldn’t pull off the potentially corny device of addressing the camera (the audience, in effect) directly, Moore did so with such sly charm that these cold opens were episode highlights. Color episodes utilized more traditional voiceover narration to set up the story.

Saint Complete Series box (254x380).jpgEight episodes of this set boast audio commentary tracks by various participants: “The Talented Husband” with Roger Moore, executive producer Robert S. Baker, associate producer Johnny Goodman; “The Saint Plays With Fire” with Roger Moore, Robert S. Baker, Johnny Goodman; “Luella” with director Roy Ward Backer, actress Sue Lloyd, “The Saint Bids Diamonds” with Roger Moore, Robert S. Baker, actress Eunice Gayson; “The Happy Suicide” with actress Jane Merrow; “Escape Route” with Roger Moore, Robert S. Baker, production supervisor Peter Manley; “The House on Dragon’s Rock” with actress Annette Andre; “The Ex-King Of Diamonds” with Roger Moore, Robert S. Baker; “Vendetta For The Saint” with Roger Moore, Robert S. Baker, Johnny Goodman.

There’s also a very brief ‘behind the scenes’ featurette. The box itself is sturdily put together, with several individual plastic cases housing the various seasons inside of the outer cardboard carton. On their website, Shout! explained that it is unknown if HD masters of this series exist (the episodes have not been remastered from previous DVD releases, the video quality is the same). As a result, Shout! opted for a DVD release rather than the extra expense that would come with a Blu-ray upgrade. Though they show signs of age, these transfers hold up pretty well.

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Chaz Lipp writes for The Morton Report.

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