REVIEW: The Man Who Liked Lions

  • Episode: The Man Who Liked Lions
  • Broadcast: November 18th, 1966
  • Character: Tiberio Magadino

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“Our sick, decadent society today, what has it produced?… Long-haired, self-absorbed effeminates. I’d like to see them all quietly exterminated!”  Tiberio Magadino

The teaser is set in the Coliseum in Rome, where the action begins immediately with Tony Allard – a journalist, who’s barely able to impart the information he has for his old friend, Simon Templar, before he falls to the ground with a knife in his back.

All Templar was able to take from the brief exchange was something about a girl and ‘The Man Who Liked Lions’. He notices that there’s a lion’s head carved into the handle of the knife; a connection, perhaps? With the assassin already lost in the crowds of tourists and onlookers, Inspector Galba of the Italian Police, is naturally suspicious of Templar, and demands that he hand over his passport to prevent him absconding.

The titles run and the show is off its lurid colours and hands guns, targets, martial arts moves and it’s all a bit James Bond-esque. Okay, so this is the watered-down, made-for-television Bond, and it does well considering but they not be so obvious about it.

It transpires that Galba had been trailing Allard for some time, but is evasive about why – claiming that he’d merely been protecting him. However, we’re given the impression that the Inspector is really interested in the ‘Man Who Liked Lions’ too. Templar asks more questions than they do, showing that he’s more skilled than they at detection. Irritated, Galba warns Templar to, “Do nothing about this incident. You’ll live longer.”

On arriving at Allard’s flat. Templar discovers that it’s been ransacked. His sidekick for the episode is Franco, a taxi driver, and together they manage to fend off the two burglars as they attempt to leave the property. We note Templar’s fighting skills in comparison to Franco’s bungling inadequacy. Nevertheless, it doesn’t prevent him being left unconscious, and the two men making their escape. Once Templar recovers his composure and fixes his hair, he snoops around and finds an invitation to a gallery presentation featuring artist Claudia Molinelli’s work. Naturally, this is the clue required for the next step in the investigation.

At the gallery we meet Claudia herself – a pretty but essentially weak character, and Tiberio Magadino, (PETER WYNGARDE), her mentor and sponsor. Tibero is strong and direct and quite possibly has Claudia under his influence. Upon arrival at the gallery Templar, who attempts to pass himself off as Allard, is confronted by Tiberio, who comments on a painting of a Roman soldier – indirectly making a critical appraisal of Templar as an opposite to the brave, strong and masculine warrior. Templar and Claudia talk and he starts to get a feel for her relationship with Allard, in spite her evasiveness. When Templar reveals that Allard has been murdered, Claudia runs from the exhibition, much to the consternation of Tiberio.

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Claudia goes to Allard’s flat and locates his note book, which had been hidden in the hem of the curtains. No doubt this is what the two burglars had been searching for. Templar arrives and takes the book from her. He checks inside and finds lists of dates, times and places… plus a reference to ‘The Man Who Liked Lions’. Claudia claims she knows nothing about the contents of the book, saying that the entries were probably in connection to the stories he’d been working on. Templar notes that an appointment with a Senora Zambetti has been pencilled in for the following day, so decides to go along and question the woman – against the better judgment of Claudia. In this scene she reveals herself to be rather fragile but intelligent characte

Claudia returns to her flat, obviously saddened by Allard’s death. Unbeknown to her, Tiberio is waiting for her. It’s obvious that he has some hold over her – like a master, who forces her to explain why she left the gallery in such a hurry. Holding her in his vice like grip, Tiberio demands to know why she’d gone to Allard’s flat. He appears to believe her when she tells him that she’d gone to retrieve love letters she’d exchanged with him, in case they were to fall into the wrong hands. Underneath this exchange is a hint that Tiberio wants more from her than information, but he lets it pass.

At Senora Zambetti’s house Templar discovers that she’d passed away recently – from a broken heart, her niece asserts. It’s emerges that her Uncle, Vincenzo Zambetti, had stolen 80 million lire and had latterly taken his own life. She, however, says that she refuses to believe that he could’ve done such a thing. Another clue is revealed when Templar notices a portrait of Zambetti which had been painted just a few weeks before his death by none other than Claudia Molinelli. Could there be a connection? And where is the money?

Driving from the house, Templar and Franco realise they’re being followed, but manage to lose their tail after a deft manoever. When Templar eventually arrives at a hotel, he finds Roberto Berinin – Zambetti’s accountant, holed up and drinking himself into a stupor. Hearing Templar’s approach, Berinin calls out: “I didn’t tell anyone!”, before jumps through an open window. Templar, however, manages to catch up with him, and uses his powers of persuasion to get Berinni to reveal how he’d been forced into setting up Zambetti by fixing the books. It’s not difficult for Templar to conclude that this ‘Organisation’, to which Claudia is connection, has had something to do with it.

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With few other options left open to him, Templar visits the lion enclosure at the zoo for inspiration, where he happens to bump into Tiberio, who is himself admiring the beasts. To Templar’s surprise, Tibario all but admits that he is the elusive ‘Man Who Liked Lions’. It’s then that Templar admits to having Allard’s note book, for which Tiberio offers to pay $50,000. “You must want it pretty badly”, Templar observes. “I do”, admits Tiberio. Templar asks if that’s why he’d had Allard killed. Tiberio flashes a knowing smile, and decides it’s time to leave – realising that Templar is going to be a formidable opponent

In the next scene, we find Tiberio his private sauna having a massage, when his hired hand (who we recognise as Allard’s assassin) enters and reports that he’d lost Templar whilst tailing him. Tiberio, however, already knew where he was and suspects Claudia of telling too many secrets. He intends to confront her that evening

While back at Allard’s flat, Templar receives some interesting information, and announces to Franco that they’re on to something big. At that moment, Inspector Galba arrives to return Templar’s passport and wish him an enjoyable visit to Rome. This change in attitude comes as something of a surprise, given the Officers manner at their first meeting

Outside Galba talks with his partner. He reveals his plan to allow Templar to continue with his investigation in the hope that he’ll eventually succeed in smoking out the elusive ‘Man That Liked Lions’. The police could then pick him up.

At Claudia’s flat, Templar decides to use a more aggressive technique to pry out some answers from her. How did she manage to rise to fame so quickly, and how well did she know Zambetti? Her attempts at eluding his questions fails, so she resorts to threats and warnings; if he keeps prying, she announces, he could end up getting himself killed! Undeterred, Templar begins to quote various dates and locations from Allard’s note book. Claudia insists that she knows nothing of the contents of the book, despite the fact that Templar has already linked them with Tiberio. He then suggests that it was Claudia herself who’d had Allard killed, just as she’d had Zambetti murdered via her links to the ‘Organisation’. In a moment of appalling sexism, Templar threatens to place a few “well deserved” whack s on her delectable posterior unless she tells him what he wants to know. No doubt wishing to avoid such a humiliation, Claudia pulls a gun on him and demands he hands over Allard’s book. But this is The Saint, and as one might expect, he easily disarms her, and drags her off to confront Tiberio.

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It’s now abundantly clear that Tebirio Magadino is the ‘Man Who Liked Lions’, and Templar it’s becoming clearer how all the pieces of this intricate jig-saw will eventually fit together. But he requires evidence, not speculation. Templar and Claudia are deposited at Tibario’s home by Franco, where they discover a fancy dress party taking place with an ancient Roman theme. Naturally, the host request that Templar don a suitable garment and while he changes, Tiberio expresses his displeasure with Claudia

Templar eventually appears in his Roman Centurion costume and checks the microphone he has attached to his watch, which is linked to a recorder in Franco’s taxi. As Tiberio presides over a party that is quickly descending into an orgy, Claudia is instructed to mingle with the guests, which prompts Templar to quip: “It looks like they’re mingling already!

Tiberio comments that he greatly admires the lifestyle of the Ancient Romans, and insinuates that Templar is a long-haired effeminate in comparison. Amid the insults, Tiberio slips a drug into Templar’s drink, as his guest is treated to a bout of Greco-Roman wrestling. Templar confronts Tebirio with the evidence he’s so far acquired; the dates and places in Allard’s note book that coincide neatly with the deaths of prominent individuals and businessmen. He adds that, on each and every occasion Tiberio had been in the vicinity on the day of each of the murders. The last of these coincided with the death of Vincenzo Zambretti.

While the banter between Templar and Tiberio continues, Claudia sneaks from the party to call the police, only to be apprehended by one of Tibero’s men

As the wrestling concludes, Tiberio decides it’s time to confess. He tells Templar that he’s a contract killer, and quite proud of it. Templar produces a gun and orders Tiberio to come quietly, but not before the drug begins to take effect and Templar collapses

He wakes to find Claudia watching over him. She tells him that Tiberio had been responsible for the death of her father, after sabotaging his plane in Paris. The date of the ‘accident’ had been recorded in Allard’s book. Tiberio had then taken her for his own, and changed her name to Molinelli

A guard arrives, so Templar pretends to be unconscious. His ruse works, and he’s able to knock out the guard, whereupon both he and Claudia make good their escape. Their liberty is short-lived, however, as they’re soon recaptured and brought before Tiberio. When Templar sees the tape recorder, and Allard’s book, he realises that Franco has also been apprehended. The situation turns even more ominous when Tiberio opens a trap door in the floor to reveal a pitiful of hungry lions. For entertainment’s sake, Tibero tosses a dagger on the floor in front of Templar to give him a fighting chance.

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In the ensuing fracas, Templar succeeds in getting the upper hand and challenges Tiberio to a duel – Roman style; with a Gladius’. The climax sees Templar and Tiberio struggling in a fight to the death, but in a fit of anger and determination Tiberio manages to overpower his foe – only to fall backwards into his own lion pit

With yet another case solved and the villain defeated, Templar leaves Rome with the girl. And why not

OVERVIEW

“Marvelous archetype: the sort of men who raised Rome to the peak of her power.” Tiberio Magadino

Anyone who’s familiar with PETER’s body of work will appreciate the diversity of his talent. In Night of the Eagle, he plays a strong, level-headed college professor. In Sherlock Holmes: The Three Gables, he’s the enigmatic and almost omnipresent Langdale Pike. As Jason King, he was the charming lady-killer we all know and love.

In this episode of The Saint, he plays a character who’s both lethal and more than a little violent. PETER certainly conveys the danger and force driving his character. His passion is in contrast to some of the other actors in the piece, who appear to think that acting is nothing more than just reading one’s lines correctly and looking pretty

One thing that most people immediately recognise about PETER is his screen presence and ease in front of the camera. He plays Tiberio as he needs to be played, but I feel that the script rather let him down in places. For instance, it was rather lame to have Templar ‘bump into’ Tiberio outside the lion enclosure at the zoo. Why would he be there when he has his own lions at home?

Also, if Tiberio is a contract killer, it would’ve been no problem for him to have had Templar removed from the equation instead of allowing him to get to the heart of things so easily.

Roger Moore too is capable but not very impressive – languishing too much in the suave playboy type part for my personal liking, while Suzanne Lloyd as Claudia wouldn’t have been missed if Lady Penelope had hijacked the part! And I dare say she’d have fared a lot better

That said, the episode was entertaining and watchable. Especially if you fancy viewing your favourite actor in Roman garb, showing off his knees…!


The Hellfire Club: The OFFICIAL PETER WYNGARDE Appreciation Society: https://www.facebook.com/groups/813997125389790/

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