- Episode: The Legions of Ammak
- Broadcast: November 18th, 1966
Character: King Ibrahim/Ronald Noyes
PETER as Ronald Noyes impersonating the King
Made in 1966, The Legions of Ammak is an episode of the cult classic, The Baron and, as a rival to such legendary series as The Saint and The Champions, is very much shaded by its contemporaries. Overtones of Roger Moore’s Bond are the order of the day, for it lends of everything remotely espionage orientated, and Steve Forrest as the eponymous hero adds only his North America accent to the genre. That said, the episode is entertaining.
We begin by meeting Olaf Cossakian (George Murcell) – an obnoxious man, visiting his bank in the prologue. The teller attempts to wave him away, believing him to be a nutcase when he’s presented with a cashier’s cheque for $3,000,000. The intrigue begins when the bank manager arrives to greet him by name and ushering the teller to arrange the cheque. Cossakian laughs it off, exclaiming that he doesn’t understand what all the fuss is about: “It’s only three million dollars!”
Enter John Mannering (Steve Forrest) in his antiques shop where he’s discussing his client, Mr Cossakian, with his assistant, David Marlow (Paul Ferris). It transpires that the $3,000,000 cheque is in payment for the Legions of Ammak – a necklace from which hangs “seven perfectly-matched black pearls”.
At Cossakian’s squalid apartment his wife, Mira (Isa Miranda) has only just discovered that her husband is the third richest man in the world, such is his miserly nature, and she is understandably vexed. There is friction between the two and it’s difficult to ascertain why the relationship has endured – especially as Mira had been ignorant of her husband’s vast empire.
Later, as Cossakian talks with Mannering at his shop, Marlow enters and introduces the King of Ammak (PETER WYNGARDE) and Colonel Ahmed Bey (Michael Godfrey). The King naturally owns the necklace of his namesake and wishes to sell, utilising Mannering’s antique business as he’s seemingly dealt with him before. Ahmed ushers in a photographer to capture the moment and seems keen to complete business swiftly, but the King appears to be enjoying the exchange and takes his time – much to the distain of the Colonel. During the brief celebration, Marlow manages to spill champagne over the King’s clothes and notices His Majesties tie. The photo. The Tie. Ahmed’s nervousness. Something is obviously awry.
Back at the Ammak Embassy, the King and Ahmed enter via the tradesman’s entrance instead of the front door, and once inside the King removes his false moustache and eyepiece; toasts himself to his “magnificent performance” in an altogether different, and very British voice.
Meanwhile, Marlow has discovered that the tie the King wore earlier was Etonian, yet the King of Ammak actually went to Harrow. He realises all is not what it seems.
The imposter ‘King’ now stands without make-up, declaring that they fell for it “hook, line and sinker” for his recital. He is actually actor, Ronald Noyse. But Ahmed is displeased, claiming that Noyse gave an “inadequate performance” for his £1,000 payment. Undeterred, the actor demands more money, claiming he was unaware of the scale of the job when he agreed to it. The Colonel grabs him by the lapels and throws him up against the wall: “One word from me could destroy your entire plan!”, Noyse retorts. The Colonel threatens to kill him in such an event. At that, the real King of Ammak (PETER WYNGARDE) enters the room and claims that he’s “tired of being an invalid”. Ahmed quickly ushers Noyse out: “So that was the king!”
“But only for another twenty-four hours!” Ahmed replies.
PETER as Ronald Noyes
Mannering and Marlow are now on the case. They plan to make a social call at the Ammak Embassy; a ruse to discover if the ‘King’ is really who he claimed to be. “But what if I’m wrong?”, the decidedly uneasy David asks. “We all make mistakes,” Mannering replies. “You can get another job easy enough”. Cold comfort indeed!
Inside the Embassy, Noyse and Ahmed are still quibbling over payment when news of Mannering’s arrival interrupts them. The actor panics, but Ahmed tells him to go. Outside, Noyse hails a cab and asks to be taken to the “Sirocco club” – all of which is witnessed by Marlow. He trails the taxi, while Mannering is kept waiting as the real King and Ahmed plans for their return to Ammak. Irritated by the Colonel’s dominance, the King comments to his nurse that he’s “beset by tyrants!”
Mannering presses Ahmed to call the king, When Ahmed refuses, Mannering plays his ace: he mentions that the King had once been a student at Harrow. Why then would he be wearing an Old Etonian’s tie? Ahemed dismisses the point as a “waste of time”, and asks a bodyguard to escort Mannering from the premises.
Meanwhile, Noyse arrives at the Club, and after blowing a kiss to the belly dancer, Sirocco (Valli Newby), he disappears into a back room, swiftly followed by her. She asks if all went well and Noyse flashes the £1,000 as proof, and claims there might be more.
Marlow, having witnessed Noyse actions, returns to the Embassy, where he picks Mannering up outside. He reveals that he knows where the man who impersonated the King is.
Noyse celebrates with Sirocco by having their photograph taken by the very same photographer who’d captured the transaction at the Embassy earlier that day. Noyse is flattered that he’s not been recognised, and asks the photographer is he found the King to be handsome, but is miffed when the photographer says not.
At that point Mannering and his sidekick arrive, and on recognising them, Noyes bolts for the door. Marlow gives chase, while Mannering catches and quizzes Sirocco. She claims she doesn’t know Noyse, even when Mannering spots a signed and framed photo’ of the actor in her dressing room.
Noyse runs into the photographer’s dark room, where he sees recently developed prints of the transaction between the King and Cossakian, but there’s no way out. He makes a dart for Sorocco’s dressing room – casting a pot of talcum powder over Marlow on the way.
The actor finally returns to Sirocco, telling her that he has a plan for the two of them to get out of the country. She has her reservations, but he advises that this might be their last chance, adding: “I’ll not let anything or anybody stand in my way”.
When Cossakian learns of the bluff, and despite claiming that he has lawyers at his beck and call, Mira takes great delight in his losses and laughs hysterically.
Ahmed finally receives the photographs of the earlier transaction, and declares: “Let the King try and protest his innocence now!” However, when he opens the delivered package, he finds inside only Sirocco Club promotional leaflets. At that very moment, the Colonel receives a call from Noyes, who advises that he expects to be paid a further £10,000 for the prints and negatives. They arrange a meeting, and Ahmed leaves with his silence-equipped pistol.
In the meantime, Marlow has called on his girlfriend, who happens to own a stack of actors directories. The pair flick through the volumes until the happen upon a likeness of Noyse. He immediately calls Mannering with Noyse address.
Amhed and the bodyguard, Abdullah arrive at Noyse flat. Bursting through the door, the Colonel fires, killing the actor stone dead. They then begin to ransack the apartment in search of the photographs. It’s now that Marlow arrives and spots Noyse lying on the floor. As he attends the actors body to find an signs of life, he’s clubbed on the head from behind, and knocked unconscious. Ahmed carefully places the gun in Marlow’s hand. Mannering, who arrives moments later with Sirocco, manages to revive Marlow, but the dancer lies hysterically over Noyes body. She finally confesses that Ahmed had approached her in Cairo some months earlier to enquire if she knew anyone who might be able to impersonate the King. While Marlow makes a urgent ‘phone call, Sirocco quietly slips away with both the photographs and the gun.
PETER as the King
At the Embassy, Mannering manages to sneak into the King’s chamber, where he stifles an attendant nurses screams by placing his hand over her mouth. The King, however, has a gun trained on him, and demands to know what he’s doing there. Mannering quickly recounts the story concerning the scam and the Legions. The King maintains his aim and wants to know more. Together, he and Mannering work out a plan to retrieve the necklace. His Majesty reveals that he would be expected to wear the Legions at a forthcoming religious festival in Ammak. He doesn’t, he’s sure that Ahmed would attempt to overthrow him and take his place. He promises that if Cossakian is willing to help them, he would be willing to grant the millionaire special oil concessions.
Meanwhile, Sirocco calls Ahmed as asks him to come to the Club to collect the photographs. He agrees. However, in a bungled attempt to arrest Ahmed, the King, Mannering and the nurse are left in the company of Abdullah whilst Ahmed leaves to meet Sirocco. Thanks to the quick thinking by the Nurse who throws ether into the Abdullah’s face, Mannering chases after Ahmed, hoping to reach the Club before he does.
When Ahmed arrives at the nightclub he finds Sirocco waiting with the gun raised in his direction. He tries to manipulate the dancer by promising to give her the money meant for Noyes. At that moment, Mannering arrives, and a fight ensues between the two men.
Mannering reaches the King without a second to spare, bringing Cossakian with him. The latter assures the King that he had no part in the ruse, and points out that he too had been swindled. The King acquiesces – promising that any future bids for oil concessions would be looked upon favourably.
The King leaves for Ammak on his private jet, with the Legions safely in his possession.
As Ronald Noyes, PETER almost goes overboard as the exuberant thespian – an actor so excitable that it’s difficult to imagine him managing the impersonation without straining credence. The task calls for intelligence and flawless improvision, where just one mistake could cause the whole charade to collapse. Even though the oversight with the tie does set things in motion, Noyes performance does stay intact in the story. That said, it’s easy to empathise with him – he attempts to scam the scammers and the stakes are high.
PETER imbues Noyes with quite different qualities to the King himself, who is somewhat disconnected and cool, fringing on dull-witted at times. Although from a wider perspective, PETER WYNGARDE could be argued to have played mainly intelligent, upper/upper-middle class characters in much of his work, it is easy to understand why he was in such demand, since the skill he commands is impressive and the energy he invests is captivating.
One weakness is that Noyse is a bit silly in places, between astute actor and simple blackmailer, but the responsibility there is attributed more to the writers rather than to PETER’s execution of the part.
I can’t help wondering if he toned down King Ibrahim to intensify the contrast with the more colourful Noyse. Certainly from a dramatic viewpoint the actor would be more challenging and interesting to play. All the same, this episode of The Baron provided PETER with a double helping of lines and an opportunity to exercise his artistic abilities to the full.
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