The Saint: Sophia

Back in much more classic Saint territory here, for an episode set on a Greek island, although very obviously actually filmed in Elstree!

As always I read around other people's opinions on the show before getting as far as writing a post, with the intention of writing something different to what's already out there and getting a sense of what people think. Most of the commentary on this episode is dominated by Oliver Reed and Imogen Hassall and interestingly they completely overpower any comment on the actual show. To me this episode is the perfect example of why using big names is not conducive to good TV.

There are a few other things to say about it, firstly that this show reminded me of how much the TV of this era fed into British jingoism, largely because I suspect a lot of viewers would have watched this show and concluded that the behaviours and events it depicts were typical of Greeks, 'Continentals', as my aunt called them, or even foreigners full stop. The particular British stereotype of Europeans it feeds into is the strangely contradictory one that on the one hand they're supposed to be passive and lazy (modelled by the father), fiery and continually dramatic at the drop of a hat (modelled by the daughter, played by Imogen Hassall) and couldn't tell the truth to save their own life (modelled by the cousin, played by Oliver Reed). That there is some serious stereotyping going on is accented by the fact the truth and resolution have to be mediated by the Brits, namely Templar and the professor. They even have to point out to the Greeks that they can't just take the gold figure that the outsiders have dug up, because Greece has a law it has to go to the government. Lucky the Johnny Foreigners had some British people there to tell them what was right and let's not mention any of the stuff in the British Museum. This is about as jingoistic as you get, and despite Greece being depicted as a functioning state with laws and shit it still takes us to tell them.

I think I've just realized why I like the sixties TV shows set in Britain so much.

It's also fairly obvious that the family depicted here is screwed and really are well beyond the reach of family therapy! There is the pervasive problem of poverty, which of course is what made Aristides emigrate to the US in the first place. And then of course we have the pretty much terminal difference of opinion between father and daughter about how to run their bar and hotel. 

And then there is the slight problem of having only one member of your family who is obviously, definitely, a crook. If your entire family is criminals that doesn't present half as much difficulty because you are well outside the law and will be accustomed to resolving things as you think fit. That's how crime families work. Here you have one member of the family who is clearly totally unboundaried to the extent of coming on strong to his sister. And this is in addition to the existing beef the dad has with him. Phew, what a mess.

I won't avoid it any more, I can't really just ignore the guest stars. I only discovered yesterday that Imogen Hassall suffered from depression and ended her life by suicide, largely because she was worried about getting work. So despite having an IMDb page as long as your arm she's a tragic presence. 

And what can one say about Oliver Reed? I don't really have anything constructive to say except what on earth was going on with his accent? The reviews on IMDb of this show keep mentioning it, one saying that his accent is a caricature of American gangsters and another one saying that he's playing John Travolta. Either way, what is that about? I am not aware of any internal evidence in the show that it was intended to be a caricature. In fact the rest of the actors manage to do their accents without standing out like a circus act. I have to say it - Reed's act here is a poor one because he doesn't come across as the character, he comes across as someone doing a caricature of the character. What was he thinking of? And why did nobody give him a good hard slap? And why is the entire population of a Greek village talking accented English? And why isn't the local boy who's come back from the States doing the same instead of trying to be the Fonz several years before he existed?

A crappy act breaks the whole thing open and when it's some celeb it's like they get away with it and everyone goes, Oh look it's Oliver Reed trying to be John Travolta and nobody but me comments that this is wrong.

Nobody expects actors not to be tortured, that goes with the territory, but it's perfectly reasonable to expect them to play their part without too much Tod Slaughter.

Despite the hammering I've given this, it's a nice thoughtful episode of The Saint, which carries some significant cultural significance in retrospect and has a major problem of portrayal. Neither of these things are terminal in my opinion, and it's well worth watching.

Now if this ends up being one of the most popular posts on the blog I'll know you're all leg men and really don't go for my moobs.

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