Back in the '70s, Appellate Judge James A. Stewart hung out with a British lord and went after criminals.
"Don't be a wiseguy, 'cause when I find the guy that's trying to kill you, I'm gonna team up with him."—Danny Wilde (Tony Curtis) to Lord Brett Sinclair (Roger Moore) after a threat on the noble's life
"We'll just have to wait till they try to kill you again, and then we'll ask them."—Brett to Danny, proposing a means of finding answers to a mystery
It looks enticing. The cover features stars Roger Moore and Tony Curtis, a big gun, a fast car, and a leggy beauty in a miniskirt. If the name doesn't mean anything to you, The Persuaders! 3-Film Collection will conjure up images of some classic movie trilogy that's slipped your memory. If the name is familiar, you know that these "movies" packaged by Lionsgate are really double episodes of The Persuaders!, a short-lived British action series from 1971-72.
Following shows like The Avengers and The Saint, The Persuaders! was the tail of a Sixties heyday for British action shows aimed at the international market and the last one to get a U.S. network berth.
Basically, it was about two rich guys who ran into trouble every week, often with the help of retired Judge Fulton (Lawrence Naismith), who tricks them into getting involved with criminals, justifying it with statements like this: "The mere thought of being involved in a good cause and they'd be off like greyhounds." Moore played the fussy (and very British) Lord Brett Sinclair and Curtis played the brash (and very American) Danny Wilde. Both have somehow acquired a taste—and skill—for fisticuffs.
I'm not sure where these "movies" appeared, but it was probably on your local late show or "Money Movie," perhaps in a "Roger Moore Week" with the pair of Saint two-parters that were repackaged as movies for local stations.
Facts of the Case
The Persuaders: 3-Film Collection! features three double episodes of the series:
"Sporting Chance": Lord Brett Sinclair is nearly run down with his own race car shortly before his Sinclair Special is to debut on the race circuit. There's a note: "That was just to show you how easy it is. Enjoy what's left of your life. It ends before Saturday." Next, buddy Danny Wilde is mistaken for a Soviet-bloc paymaster at a crooked casino.
"Mission: Monte Carlo": Brett and Danny find a dead woman in the water when they're out waterskiing. The police say it was an accidental drowning, but Brett noticed that the watch she was wearing wasn't waterproof. Next, a woman is shot while standing next to Danny on an airport tarmac, and police believe he was the real target.
"London Conspiracy": "Why do we have to break into your place?" Danny asks Brett, but he knows the answer: the family estate that Brett left in mothballs has seen a flurry of activity. Brett poses as his own double, and Danny portrays a Hungarian butler. Next, the local squire would kill to get Danny out of the cottage he just bought.
"This is where you're going to beat us up. It's traditional," Danny Wilde says to a bad guy at one point.
"Well, I wouldn't dream of breaking with tradition," the villain replies.
That's a good summary of The Persuaders!. This buddy action comedy has good rapport between its two stars, lots of action, and some sharp dialogue, thanks to veteran writers like Terry Nation (of Doctor Who fame), but the plots are paint-by-the-number reworkings of earlier British action hits. No one seems worried about it, even pointing to the silliness with lines like that above, and Moore and Curtis milk it for all it's worth. Curtis goes the farthest, switching between cowardice and pugnacious bravery depending on the writers' inconsistent needs and even resorting to the infamous "Walk this way" gag at one point.
My copy of this set has a big problem: Two of the movies, "Mission: Monte Carlo" and "London Conspiracy," are in black-and-white. I know that The Persuaders! was in color. The remaining double feature, "Sporting Chance," wasn't in perfect shape, with the flecks and an odd line running through at one point that looked like bad reception, but that's more typical of a '70s TV series.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
While the plots are generally weak (one even recalled a Honeymooners story!), The Persuaders! has a goofy charm that might get you hooked. It also has a successor with similar charms and flaws in Burn Notice.
It would have been good for Lionsgate to let potential buyers know which episodes were reworked, to avoid duplication with any other Persuaders! sets you might have.
The Persuaders! probably would have faded away completely, if not for the later fame of Roger Moore as James Bond. Although it is a rehash, The Persuaders! is likely to bring a few smiles to the faces of British action fans.
If it weren't for those movies that turned up in black-and-white, I'd recommend this set for casual fans who just wanted to see a few episodes again or anyone who wanted to check it out. I hope Lionsgate corrects the error.
I'm leery of packaging that doesn't tell you that it's TV episodes, but if you knew what it was and still wanted it, you could probably find it at a bargain price.
Brett and Danny aren't guilty, but Lionsgate is guilty of misleading
packaging and some unacceptable transfers.
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