Friday 29 April 2022

Curtis and Moore are… The Persuaders! Take 50, Network Blu-ray Box Set

Nitro and glycerine… A very potent combination...

Interviewed by Barry Norman for the 40th Anniversary, Roger Moore talked about hedging his bets by investing in fabric and clothes design, the lad from Stockwell always anticipating the acting work drying up. It never did though and pretty quickly after this series he was offered millions to play James Bond and the rest is history.

Moore had, of course, already played The Saint in one of ITC’s most successful series and one that epitomised their successful sixties formula from Danger Man, Department S to Randall and Hopkirk Deceased. Managed by Lew Grade, ITC carried on producing series up to Sapphire and Steel in 1979 but perhaps The Persuaders, produced by Robert S. Baker and an uncredited Moore, distributed by Grade, is one of its most ambitious peaks. Apart from Moore, the series included Hollywood royalty in Tony Curtis, featured a host of guest stars and character actors and was filmed on location as well as Pinewood.

The sheer hell of Monte Carlo...

When Roger and Tony race their beautiful cars around winding Mediterranean coast lines, it’s not all back projection, they’re actually there in Monte Carlo, Rome, Nice and all points in between, along with a good many interiors shot in Pinewood of course. This show was a travelogue as much as an adventure series and the whole family relished the class, the sophistication and the humour. A huge success in Europe the show fared less well in the US due to scheduling issues but the arrival of a new Aston Martin for Mr Moore also put paid to further series.

What we have left though are 24 episodes of polished adventure that showcases a real warmth between Tony and Roger… they may have worked in different ways but they were both funny as well as handsome leading men. Whilst Moore designed, Curtis often did his own stunts and, after extensive training for the likes of Trapeze, we see him climbing up buildings, somersaulting and generally getting stuck in a la Douglas Fairbanks. There’s great energy and abundant entertainment.

Laurence Naismith

As was common, some of the episodes were stuck together to present feature length films and this sparkling new box set from Network, collects together eight of these films, four of which have not been seen with the original English dialogue before. All are from remastered and restored 35mm negatives and look incredible on the Blu-ray digital transfer, our old TV could never has presented the originals in anything like this quality back in 1971-2.

In addition to the movies we also get the above interview from the 40th Anniversary along with some behind-the-scenes background to that event, then there’s an interview with Tony Curtis from 2006 as well as two individual episodes, Overture (1971) and Greensleeves (1971) both of which come complete with commercial breaks and classic adverts that bring the nostalgia flooding back; “can yer ride tandem?” asks the chimp in the PG Tips advert, how come we remember so much? There’s a whole evening’s viewing here if you want to be transported back to beige and teal living rooms, cocktail in hand and soda siphon at the ready. There’s also a handsome brand-new 140-page book with more merchandise and memorabilia to tempt you on eBay as you rebuild your early seventies bachelor pad complete with Dinky Ferrari and DBS…

The Ferrari Dino 246 GT top speed is 146 mph and the Aston Martin DBS 141 mph... yet, it was supposed to be a V8 which had a top speed of 150 mph!

Now to the “films” which, unlike with some ITC programmes have not been re-edited, merely joined together, which preserves the flow of the original episodes and just leave you waiting a little longer for John Barry’s magnificent theme music, one of his greatest and probably one of the best in TV history.


The Persuaders! (1972)

This film starts us off with the very first episode, Overture (1971), in which Judge Fulton (the legend that is Laurence Naismith) decides on bringing together two rich playboys to firstly act as his means of seeking out those who avoid the courts and secondly, enable them to become the men they could be… Whilst the series clearly presents the entire lifestyle as highly desirable, what is also key is that those with wealth must do good to earn moral authority. But one doesn’t want to raise Roger’s eyebrow too much over all that… we’re all here to have fun and the title sequence, packed with glamorous cars, locations and women, flavoured with Barry’s swaggering synths, tells us all we need to know.

That title sequence also eloquently briefs us on the two main characters’ background, Lord Brett Sinclair (Moore) entitled but also physically brave and intelligent plus Danny Wilde, self-made and self-confident, now enjoying the fruits of his labour. The Judge throws them together and the sparks fly as they trash a restaurant in the ensuing clash of egos. Fulton says he can get them off if only they help him find out more about a beautiful young brunette, Maria (Imogen Hassall) who is being guarded by two members of a gang once run by her late brother…

The two episodes are in regular TV format...

There is a lot of opportunity to see Moore and Curtis fire off each other as their characters compete to win the girl and solve the puzzle. There’s also plenty of wit with Danny trying to persuade Maria that he’s Italian from a “Small little village outside Milan called Pasolini…” – how much is improvised is open to debate but what we do know is that his and Moore’s style and approach was quite different. As Roger said to Barry, he was pissed a fair amount which balanced out with Tony who was mostly stoned…

The story then runs into Episode 17 Five Miles to Midnight (1972), in which another gangster, this time an American in Rome, Frank Rocco (Robert Hutton) is on the run from the Mafia and Judge Fulton asks his boys to help out. Together with photographer Sidonie (Joan Collins), they head out into the Italian countryside whilst the Judge takes a dummy with him by train.

... but the films are widescreen. Tony and Joan.

Hutton and Collins, especially, have great chemistry with Curtis and Moore and this feels like a classic rom-com adventure with a fair amount of will-they-wont-they manoeuvring as Sid takes pictures for the papers and Rocco tries to go his own way. There’s one line about the “Scarlet Pumpernickel” from Curtis that I remember had us all in stiches watching in 1972… memories are, indeed, made of this.

Mission: Monte Carlo (1974)

We’re off to Monte Carlo next for two tales on the Cote d-Azure starting with episode five Powerswitch (1971) in which Danny and Brett discover a drowned go-go dancer as the water ski. Once again, the Judge has his local police encourage, nay, persuade, them to investigate her disappearance with the aid of her roommate Pekoo Rayne (Annette Andre, relishing the chance to play with two live partners for a change…). There’s some go-go action with Lionel Blair as the choreographer and a group of baddies including Terence Alexander

Back to episode two, The Gold Napoleon (1972), for the second half of the film as a beautiful young artist Michelle Devigne (the super-natural Susan George who is always so loaded with feeling) is shot in what looks like an assassination attempt on Danny. Things turn out to be far more complicated as Michelle’s uncle is being coerced into gold smuggling by turning the metal into rare “bronze” coins…

Cue a chance to hear Roger’s German accent as the boys swing in…

Annette Andre with Sinclair & Wilde (Not Deceased)


London Conspiracy (1974)

It’s a switch to the darkened streets of Blighty courtesy of episode four Greensleeves (1971) as the abandoned Greensleeves Manor is remarkably restored unbeknownst to its rightful owner, one Lord Brett Sinclair. With the aid of Department S’s Rosemary Nicols as Melanie Sadler Brett impersonates himself to get to the bottom of the mystery.

Another property forms the basis of episode 16 A Home of One's Own (1971), with Special Detective Lucy Scott (Hannah Gordon, one of my father’s favourites) helping Danny investigate the dark secrets if his new, very old, country cottage.

Rosemary Nicols and Andrew Kier

Sporting Chance (1975)

The boys maintain their Bruce Wayne existence and in episode eight, Anyone Can Play (1971), Danny attracts unwanted attention after winning a large sum at a Brighton casino. There are spies after him as he gets mistaken for a Russian paymaster. Contains Britain’s favourite Australian Ed Devereaux, glamorous Cyd Hayman and Richard Vernon as a posh person as per… I wonder if he really was?

It was only a matter of time before the boy racers get some speed in and they do so with episode 24, Someone Waiting (1971) as they get involved in the deadliest of races. This is one of a number of episodes written by the great Terry Nation and it involves Jenny Hanley too, what more could you want?

Not as much back projection as you'd expect... locations are generally real.


The Switch (1976)

The series did pack in a range of storylines despite the constraints of the playboy settings and in episode 10 Angie... Angie (1971), Danny bumps into an old pal form the Bronx, Angie (Larry Storch) who turns out to be a real friend in need.

Next up from Russia with love/back in the USSR and episode 22 The Ozerov Inheritance (1971) in which the legendary Gladys Cooper plays the former Grand Duchess Ozerov who is looking to establish her family’s right to a jewellery collection. We also get to see Arnold Ridley as Uncle Rodney together with the statutory appearance of Anoushka Hempel in an ITC series.

Jenny Linden get's sandwiched.

The following films have not previously available in English…

The Last Appointment (1972)

This starts with episode 14 The Man in the Middle (1971) and features the wonderful Terry-Thomas as Brett’s cousin Archie who has to help when the boys get targeted by an MI5 agent played by the luminescent Suzy Kendall. There’s a traitor in the camp and Archie needs to step up before it’s too late.

Heiress Shirley Masterton (Jennie Linden) is the feature of episode 23 To the Death, Baby (1972), as she is targeted by conman Carl Foster (Terence Morgan) but things are not as they seem… a game of triple bluff, or is it?


Death Becomes Me

Roger Moore revisits the theme of his well-regarded doppelganger feature, The Man Who Haunted Himself, in episode seven, Someone Like Me (1971). Brett is kidnapped and it looks like he has been used to create a perfect copy with cosmetic surgeon’s materials found where he was held. The other Brett starts doing violence and Danny has to work out what is actually happening fast. The cats include Bernard Lee, Johnny Briggs and the ill-fated Vivian Neves as Danny’s girl.

Tony and Vivian Neves

Everything turns Ealing with a nod to Kind Hearts and Coronets in episode 21 A Death in the Family (1972). Roger appears in a number of familial roles – although is not too convincing as his aunt – it’s still great fun. Someone is bumping off the Sinclairs and Brett is on the list unless he and Danny, plus Diane Cilento can find out which member of the increasingly small Sinclair clan is responsible. Another gift from Terry Nation.

Sadly, as a methodical assassin has been killing off the noble and honourable members of the Sinclair Clan one by one, Brett who is next in line, must find a way to flush him out, of course with the aid of Danny and possibly the last Sinclair standing...

Of course some might say that Willie Rushden and Tony Curtis would have been just as good...


Another superb guest star here in episode 15, Element of Risk, with Peter Bowles as a crook planning a gold robbery who mistakes Danny for a criminal mastermind as a result of a microfilm – I love microfilms! – in an attaché case dropped in Danny's luggage; don’t you just hate it when that happens? Danny goes undercover to foil the theft at risk to life and limbs.

Danny goes undercover again in Episode 12 That’s Me Over There (1971), this time impersonating Brett to comedic effect in an effort to bring a crooked entrepreneur, Thaddeus Krane (the ace Geoffrey Keen) to justice. The boys have come full circle and whilst they still enjoy the La Dolce Vita, they continue to bring the Judge’s justice to those who could, like them, afford to avoid it should they chose.

This humour and sheer likability of Moore and Curtis ensures the series’ continued success but also this moral driver for their activity. We celebrate their adventurous, rich lives precisely because they are willing to risk everything to do the right thing. It’s only a comedy drama I know but these things are important… especially if you drive the cars they do in the way they do it!


The extras are superb on the final disc with that 40th Anniversary Event Q&A along with an interview with Tony Curtis from 2006 and the two episodes with adverts. An evening of Persuaders awaits and you can leaf through Jaz Wiseman’s superb 140-page book that's full to bursting with merchandise and memorabilia as you watch.

Another superb package from Network and one that does full service to this series. You can order it now, I just have as my sister, who met both Tony and Roger, wants if for her birthday. Details on the Network site.


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