Review: Roger Moore in conversation

Last night, the NFT was running an evening dedicated to Roger Moore’s TV career. Starting with a double bill of TV shows that Moore directed and starred in, it was followed by an interview with the man himself, complete with eyebrow-raising and celebrity audience members.

The Double Bill
The evening started with an episode of The Saint, The Miracle Tea Party, in which Moore starred as master thief and crime fighter Simon Templar. Aided by a surprisingly foxy Nanette Newman, ST does a Bourne Ultimatum-esque stroll among spies at work in Waterloo station before heading off to the middle of nowhere to unearth the rotters.

It’s a pretty daft episode, even by Saint standards, and with an audience not knowing what to expect of the show, there was plenty of laughter at all the wrong places for all the wrong reasons. Moore as actor was quite surprising, giving his Simon Templar a surprising temper and love of fighting; Moore as director was equally surprising, and the episode felt far more modern than many shows of the time or even those of the 70s and the 80s. Whether it was the limitations of the camera, deliberate choice, or the fact it was being shown on a giant cinema screen, it made The Bourne Ultimatum‘s shaky-cam seem almost rock solid.

The Persuaders! episode The Time and the Place was even dafter – as indeed the series was – with Moore and Tony Curtis trying to prevent a British coup d’etat they accidentally find while (of course) chasing after women in short skirts. Ian Hendry gives a great performance as a duplicitous lord, and Curtis gets to deploy a fun variant of his Some Like It Hot Cary Grant English accent.

Moore’s direction, again, proves good, even if the story itself is very padded and mainly involves running around and hiding behind/under/beneath things. He goes for some intriguingly arty compositions, although the film quality wasn’t quite up to the job of a full blow-up compared with The Miracle Tea Party‘s pristine print.

In conversation
Moore was interviewed by long-time collaborator Gareth Owen and was an entertaining but easily diverted interviewee. After a somewhat chaotic tour around his early career and his work on US shows The Alaskans and Maverick, the interview mainly focused on working on The Persuaders!, with The Saint a close second.

For anyone who knows much about ITC shows, there weren’t any new nuggets of information to be gleaned, with the usual stories of why Simon Templar ended up driving a Volvo instead of a Jaguar and how Moore was persuaded to do The Persuaders! being trotted out. But there were enough anecdotes about the rest of his career to provide some interest, even though there was relatively little meat.

More interesting was the input from various celebrity audience members, including leading lady Sylvia Sims and producers Johnny Goodman and Bob Baker, and the clips chosen. Starting out was a very rare clip of the incomparably bad Ivanhoe, Moore’s first starring TV role, which was just wretched. But there was a surfeit of clips from The Saint, including one of Stuart Damon as a Texan partner for Templar in the prototype for The Persuaders! The Ex-King of Diamonds, and from The Persuaders! itself.

Not a bad evening, although I’d have been interested to hear more from the audience members and for greater time to have been spent on Maverick. BTW, don’t ever book seat B1 at NFT1 – there’s no view of the screen and the air conditioning’s freezing.