Magazine article The Spectator

Ring of No Confidence

Magazine article The Spectator

Ring of No Confidence

Article excerpt

The Saint (PG, selected cinemas)

Twin Town (18, selected cinemas)

My memory of The Saint boils down to little more than de-doodle-de-doo-dooding!, at which point the Colgate ring of confidence appeared above Roger Moore's head and he would be shown landing at Birmingham Airport, though mysteriously, it would usually be labelled 'Rome' or 'Basle'; at his hotel, the concierge would say, 'Bonsoir, Herr Templar' and then speak to him in English with an amazing fluency, considering his inability to translate words like 'Bonsoir' and 'Herr'. However, they've now released some episodes on video and the ones I've seen are really rather good. I especially like his way with the birds: 'I shall wait ten seconds, and, if nothing is forthcoming, I shall place a few well-deserved whacks on that delectable posterior of yours.'

Needless to say, this robust interrogation technique does not survive into the Hollywood version. But nor does anything else from Lew Grade's television series or Leslie Charteris's original -- except, that is, the Volvo. Little did we know, back in the Sixties, that Roger Moore's careless disdain of the MG and the TR4 was an uncanny portent: now everything British about Simon Templar has been junked. You can't see why they bothered to call it The Saint; presumably, they just wanted a proven hit title, and Abbott and Costello Meet the Wolfman and Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm were unavailable.

In this version, the delectable posterior is Mr Val Kilmer's, and the whacks were administered long ago, when he was an orphan boy being beaten by a Catholic priest: in other words, he's that familiar American type, the tortured loner. Nobody could have been less tortured than Roger Moore: the only way any Catholic priest could have tortured him would have been to pluck his eyebrows and destroy his acting career. But, as a sign of his own deep psychological confusion about his past, Kilmer's Templar, now a master of disguise, names his aliases after different saints. It's just as well because, otherwise, his German spy, Russian industrialist, Afrikaner poet and nerdy English scientist are absolutely indistinguishable: because Val can't do accents, they all sound the same, and, because of Val's pretty-boy beestung lips, they all look the same, with a vague homoerotic quality.

The love interest is, naturally, a nuclear physicist from Oxford who likes reading Shelley. …

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