Compiled from two episodes of the British television series The Saint which aired in January of 1969, Vendetta For The Saint finds Simon Templar (Roger Moore of James Bond fame) in Naples, Italy. When he heads out to a swanky bar for a nightcap, he is the unfortunate witness in a kafuffle between two of the bar's patrons. He leaves that evening, not thinking much of it, and is surprised the next morning when he wakes up to read in the local newspaper that one of the patrons, who happened to be a former bank employee, has been murdered in cold blood.
When Templar takes the case on as one of his saintly crusades and starts poking around Naples for clues, he soon unravels a connection to the Sicilian mob. He also finds that not too many of the locals are really keen on the idea of helping him sort this all out, as many of them live in fear of the gangsters he's trying to bring to justice. He does find out that the other man who was responsible for the bar fight is named Alessandro Destamio (Ian Hendry) and that he is supposedly of rich blood – and sadly he also finds out that if he befriends Destamio's pretty girlfriend, Lily (Aimee MacDonald) he'll wind up in the local jail for a crime he didn't commit. Soon enough the Saint teams up with the local authorities to prove Destamio's true identity and motives, but in order to make that happen he's going to have to take on the mafia and that's never an easy thing to do, especially when it becomes obvious that Destamio has some pretty dangerous connections.
Directed by Jim O'Connolly (who also helmed The Valley Of Gwangi and Circus Of Blood), this movie is a blast. It moves along at a nice fast pace and injects the mysterious wealthy avenger theme with some much-needed doses of humor and wit. Roger Moore is perfectly cast as Templar, the wealthy playboy who wants to do right and is never afraid to play things a little less straight when the movie calls for it – he almost seems to be winking at the camera a few times, knowing that he's the slickest, coyest man on the planet, or at least in this movie's fictional world.
Aside from Moore, Vendetta For The Saint benefits from a great supporting cast including a young Ian Hendry of Captain Kronos – Vampire Hunter and Theater Of Blood, who does a great job as the dastardly protagonist of the film. His girlfriend (soon to be Templar's, if you catch my drift) is played perfectly by the gorgeous Aimee MacDonald, who had a very brief part in Clive Donner's Vampira and did some British TV work in the seventies, only to disappear from the public eye in the later part of the decade until 1988 when she was back on TV again.
Fans of sixties pop culture should find much to love about the visuals in the film. While much of it may seem cliché thanks to films like Austin Powers, the movie really does look like a living breathing piece of pop art from Templar's slick roadster to the city settings in which he drives it. The eye pleasing cinematography by Brendan Stafford (who worked on similar English shows like The Prisoner and Secret Agent ensures that it all looks great and the movie looks very fluid and is much more interesting on a visual level than many other television shows from that period.
Seeing as this 'movie' was culled from two episodes of the television series, it makes sense that MPI's DVD is shown fullscreen (though it did play theatrically and may have been shown in a different aspect ratio, 1.33.1 looks correct on this presentation). The image is crisp and clean and free of any major defects with only some mild print damage in the form of an occasional dust speck creeping into the frame. Colors are nice and bright (which is important in retaining the 'pop' look and feel of the movie) and flesh tones look life like and natural. Black levels are stable throughout and aside from a few moments where there is some obvious edge enhancement and a few seconds of the dreaded shimmer action this transfer looks very, very nice.
The disc comes with a basic but effective Dolby Digital Mono soundtrack in English, as it should be. There are no subtitles available, nor is there is a closed captioning option. Dialogue and background music are mixed in nicely with the sound effects and everything is well balanced and clear. There were no problems understanding speech and aside from the odd moment where a tiny bit of hiss works its way into the audible portion of the presentation, there are no problems with this mix.
Roger Moore lends his charismatic voice to a full length commentary track, where he's joined by producer Robert Baker. Moore, always charming and fun, has quite a bit to say about this made for TV movie and how it fits in with the rest of his work on the series. He seems to be having some fun with the track, and seems to remember his work quite fondly. It's a fun commentary track that fans of the series should find fun and enjoyable – it's also the only extra feature on the DVD (unless you count chapter selection).
Saint fans rejoice, Vendetta For The Saint arrives on DVD in style and sports a fun commentary track from Moore and company. It looks good, it sounds good, and it holds up very well providing plenty of slick sleuthy action, laughs, and fun. Recommended.
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.