|The Persuaders! is something of an enigma in British television: as legend has it, it was a huge hit in many countries, but in the United States they never took to it, apparently because of poor scheduling. Therefore, you had a show that did extremely well, snared two big stars to lead it with Tony Curtis and Roger Moore, was one of Lord Lew Grade's ITC's most expensive productions, but it never went to another series past the first one, all because of American audiences. Mind you, if it hadn't been a one season wonder, Sir Roger would not have secured the James Bond gig and Tony... well, he might have done The Manitou anyway.
To celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of the show, Network release a Blu-ray box set featuring the "movies" based on it, re-edited from original episodes, as well as disc holding the Persuaders! Evening, a mixture of two specially selected episodes and interviews, most notably with Moore (interviewed by Barry Norman for the fortieth) and Curtis (interviewed at his home and true to form, with a warning for profanity at the beginning). The episodes are the first one, which introduced the premise of putting Lord Brett Sinclair and Danny Wilde together to fight crime, and a later one where Brett posed as himself when his estate was taken over by dangerous conmen.
The rest of the set consists of "movies" made up of feature length presentations as was the habit of ITC for a while: make the film versions edited with a couple of episodes and sell them to cinema chains or television stations - the Italians were keen on them, for example. On Disc 1 there is The Persuaders!, which takes the first episode where Brett and Danny meet and uncover the identity of guest star Imogen Hassall, and in the second Joan Collins is the even bigger guest star on a trip around Italy to shake off Mafiosi as a gang boss is taken into custody. It is this second that Curtis tells his sweary anecdote about in that interview, well, they seemed to be getting along famously...
Also on Disc 1 is Mission: Monte Carlo, which does not open with John Barry's indelible theme tune. That music was a reason fans kept tuning in week after week, the shows themselves are the easiest of easy watching, aside from a couple of serious instalments they were light-hearted, even goofy capers, but that theme sounds like it's from another planet. Annette Andre is the guest star in the first half, seeking the killer of her friend whose Brett and Danny's body they find while water-skiing, and in the second art student Susan George apparently takes a bullet for Danny, but there's more to her wounding than meets the eye (she does spend most of the time in the hospital, however).
On Disc 2 is London Conspiracy, again, editing an episode seen on the bonus disc onto another. The instalment in question was the one where Brett finds an impostor or three dominating his estate, and is notable for being the first in which Curtis got to show off his fencing skills, as learned in the likes of The Black Shield of Falworth. The latter episode had Danny buying a tumbledown cottage in the English (or Welsh?) countryside which happens to be on the land owned by a Dennis Wheatley-style evil Lord, though Hannah Gordon as a mystery woman was probably the bigger guest star. The horror elements went nowhere in particular, but this seemed to be enjoyed by the cast.
Disc 2's second extravaganza is Sporting Chance, kicking off with the world of motorsports which naturally Brett has a perfect affinity for, it being regarded as a pastime of the wealthy. But someone is out to sabotage his latest bid for a win, and may be prepared to commit murder to do so. Penned by Terry Nation, this was a harder-edged story than most, especially compared to the second in the film, where the boys uncover a Communist plot when Danny visits Brighton for a spot of gambling. Believing he hit a lucky streak, it was a fix intended for an enemy agent to raise funds for their latest scheme. One of the most comedic yarns they ever performed, it still raises laughs.
Disc 3 starts more seriously with The Switch, for the first half anyway, as it featured one of the more sober minded episodes - maybe that's a poor choice of words given how much booze the two leads put away. Larry Storch guest starred as Danny's childhood friend who Brett takes an instant dislike to, which turns their usually kidding relationship rather frosty - but is Larry really a hitman as Brett believes? Then second up, we are embroiled in the world of Russian aristocracy as an elderly Duchess who is being supported by her equally impoverished (but putting a brave face on it) family is the victim of fraud that Brett could help with. But importantly, Curtis got to do lots of fencing.
Second up on that disc is The Last Appointment! - exclamation mark theirs - which edits together two episodes, the first of which has a bigger guest star than usual. Step forward Terry-Thomas who may have seen his career start to slide in the seventies (for health reasons mostly) but was always good value and here we're supposed to believe he is a distant cousin of Brett's. They get involved in an espionage mix-up - Suzy Kendall is there too, as an agent - segueing neatly into our heroes trying to prevent wealthy heiress Jennie Linden from signing her fortune away to unscrupulous characters. As ever, the amount of champagne quaffed is incredible (and supposedly real!), any excuse.
The final disc starts with Death Becomes Me, essentially a double bill of Terry Nation-scripted instalments that initially has what seems to be the old series television standby, the evil double story when Brett is kidnapped on his way to his estate's annual jumble sale (!) and made to think he is in hospital. However, there was a very decent twist that owed something to The Manchurian Candidate and made this a solid "serious" one. Second was a whodunit as Brett attends a family meeting only to discover his relatives are being bumped off, somewhat like Kind Hearts and Coronets, and about as mischievous - check out that punchline, there's any excuse for that, too.
Last up on Disc 4 is The Masqueraders, which commences with a plot from the master of this form, Brian Clemens of The Avengers fame, and has one of those improbable coincidences beloved of this show's writers as Danny is mistaken for a master criminal and brought before gold hungry, posh heist organiser Peter Bowles who enthusiastically embraces him. But what happens when the real mastermind arrives? Next, we had a little more to do for the oft-forgotten Persuaders' boss Laurence Naismith who gets stuck into the thrills of bringing down a corrupt and murderous business tycoon. This is one where Brett and Danny get to pose as each other, accents and all.
Overall, The Persuaders! was one of the smoothest to watch adventure series from the Golden Age of such television properties. This set may leave you wanting more, in which case you can purchase whole shebang on Blu-ray, but as a welcome reminder of an entertainment that wanted nothing more than to divert you for a while, these feature length versions won't disappoint. If nothing else it's a great source of "Hey, it's that guy/gal!" thespian recognition, but you will find it's a lot more than that. Click here to buy from the Network website.