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A&E Home Video presents
The Persuaders! Set 1 (1971)

Judge Fulton: Two adult men, both with immense quality and potential, and what do you do with it? You fight over an olive.
Danny Wilde: Two olives.
Judge Fulton: You're both foolish and facile and a useless waste of humanity, but you like to fight.

- Laurence Naismith, Tony Curtis

Review By: Mark Zimmer   
Published: December 09, 2003

Stars: Roger Moore, Tony Curtis, Laurence Naismith
Other Stars: Susan George, Ian Hendry, Bernard Lee, Larry Storch, Suzanna Leigh, Geoffrey Keen, Suzan Farmer, Leo Genn, Nicola Pagett, Jan-Michael Vincent
Director: Basil Dearden, Roy Ward Baker, Sidney Hayers, David Greene, Roger Moore, Leslie Norman, Val Guest, Peter Hunt

Manufacturer: Blink Digital
MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (moderate violence)
Run Time: 11h:14m:08s
Release Date: November 25, 2003
UPC: 733961710731
Genre: television


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
A- B+B+B B

DVD Review

In between his stint starring as Simon Templar in The Saint and his term as James Bond in the 007 films, Roger Moore found time to star in this slightly peculiar British television export. Adding flavor to the mix is Tony Curtis as the co-star. Though they seem like an odd couple indeed, the contrast is memorable and highly amusing. This four-disc set contains the 13 episodes that make up the first half of this short-lived cult series that ran but a year.

Moore stars as Lord Brett Sinclair, an Englishman of privilege; Curtis is his foil as the self-made millionaire from the Brooklyn streets, Danny Wilde. Both are irresponsible playboys until they meet Judge Fulton (Laurence Naismith) while on the Riviera. The Judge blackmails them into assisting him with one case, and they get to like having a purpose to their lives other than chasing girls. As the series proceeds, the Judge recedes a bit into the background, only occasionally assigning tasks for the pair; more frequently they stumble into situations of crime and espionage themselves and take matters into their own hands. This lends the series somewhat of an awkward character; unlike The Avengers (and the similarity of the names is surely no coincidence), the pair have no official status, since the Judge seems to be acting as a free agent himself. While this makes for situations where the pair are in trouble and can't call on officialdom to help, the stories also seem a bit forced at times.

The two leads play off each other in a grand manner, with terrific comic timing. Curtis is clearly improvising all over the place, and he generates plenty of laughs in this way. The best scripts make hay out of the contrast between the English and American attitudes and personalities. Particularly noteworthy is episode four ("Greensleeves"), in which Lord Sinclair's estate has been taken over for nefarious purposes and he masquerades as an actor who will impersonate him, while Danny substitutes as a butler. The chafing at the roles creates a good deal of amusement. Similarly, episode 12, "That's Me Over There," finds Danny impersonating Brett as he tries to make connections with a young woman with evidence to incriminate a criminal mastermind.

Also entertaining is episode eight, "Anyone Can Play," which gives Tony Curtis the spotlight as he accidentally stumbles into giving a secret code phrase that results in him winning vast amounts of money in a casino. But then the intended recipient shows up and Danny's life is forfeit. There are numerous funny bits and the whole is quite suspenseful. The fifth episode, "Powerswitch," is rather perfunctory with the team's discovery of a dead girl leading to financial hanky-panky; even though Danny is supposed to have substantial financial acumen, he derives far too much information from a glance at the books to be credible. Similarly, "Take Seven," episode three, is a rather contrived story about an inheritance gone awry. A few episodes have interesting in-jokes, such as the echo of Curtis' star-making performance in The Defiant Ones in the episode "Chain of Events," only this time he's handcuffed to a briefcase. That same episode features a British secret agent named Emily (Suzanna Leigh) who happens to look a good deal like the original Avengers' Honor Blackman. Hmmm.

Worthy of note is John Barry's distinctively haunting theme song, with its intriguing arrangement that melts from harpsichord into brass and then strings in the midst of phrases; the result is like an aural version of a kaleidoscope. It's one of the most noteworthy television themes ever. Having a cinematic composer writing a theme is quite in line with the use of film stars for leads; the directors were mostly film veterans as well, with such noted Brits and Hammer alumni as Basil Dearden, Roy Ward Baker, Val Guest, and Peter Hunt (not to mention Moore himself) helming episodes. The Avengers connection is underlined by the fact that numerous scripts are written by Brian Clemens, producer and frequent writer for that earlier series. Production values are generally very high, with several episodes shot on location on the French Riviera. The one really weak spot is the effects work; sloppy rear projection is often visible during the frequent driving shots.

When the program first aired in 1971, I was a devoted viewer. Though the wardrobes have a certain dated character to them, the entertainment value remains constant. Definitely worth a look for anyone who likes the combination of action and comedy found in Moore's 007 films.

Rating for Style: A-
Rating for Substance: B+

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyes
Anamorphicno


Image Transfer Review: The image starts off well; the source prints are in impeccable condition, without a bit of frame damage to be seen and hardly a speckle apparent anywhere. Color is extremely vivid and black levels are quite satisfactory. On the down side, there is substantial video noise and aliasing visible on larger sets, and mild edge enhancement to boot. But for a thirty-year-old television series, it's hard to imagine it looking too much better.

Image Transfer Grade: B+

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
MonoEnglishno


Audio Transfer Review: The 2.0 mono audio sounds equally good. The sound is very clean, with only nominal hiss. At reference levels the ADR-replaced dialogue seems a little boomy, but the music sounds excellent and the foley effects sound very natural. Again, for old television this sounds first-rate.

Audio Transfer Grade: B

 

Disc Extras

Animated menu with music
Scene Access with 104 cues and remote access
Cast and Crew Biographies
Cast and Crew Filmographies
1 Feature/Episode commentary by star Roger Moore, creator/producer Robert S. Baker, executive in charge of production Johnny Goodman
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
4 Discs
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extra Extras:
  1. Still galleries
Extras Review: Two episodes bear commentaries. The first is on the pilot, "Overture." Moore seems to be new to commentaries, since he tends to fall into the trap of narrating what's on the screen, although the other two participants keep trying valiantly to keep him on task. Someone must have taken him aside before taping the commentary for episode six, "The Time and the Place " (directed by Moore), because he launches directly into anecdotes and refrains from narration. He also discusses his approach to directing and notes his dislike for rear-projection auto scenes, pointing out that the car scenes in his episode are almost all actually shot in-car. One hopes that for the second set, A&E will be able to persuade Curtis to take part.

On the fourth disc, we find episode still galleries, a gallery of pictures of the Aston Martin car Moore drives, and fairly substantial bios and filmographies of both Moore and Curtis. Chaptering is good, with 8 stops per episode. There's also an easter egg hidden on Disc Four of the botched first attempt at a commentary, which is good for a laugh, playing over a photo of the three commentators. A&E has learned from criticism and now presents the stills filling the entire screen, which is a big improvement over their earlier efforts that were at times only tiny insets. Four (occasionally five) stills are presented for each episode. The Aston Martin photos are from a restoration of the car, and feature the three commentators posing with it.

Extras Grade: B

 

Final Comments

An amusing and thoroughly entertaining (though occasionally far-fetched) adventure series that jumps into the first rank on the strength of its leads, who are hugely entertaining. First-rate directors help, and the vast quantity of gorgeous women makes the episodes easy on the eyes. A surprising amount of extras and a decent transfer make this well worth checking out.

 


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