- Episode: The Sicilian
- Broadcast: April 21st, 1958
Produced by Sapphire Films for ITC, and recorded at Alliance Studios in Twickenham, England, ‘Sword of Freedom’ ran for three series (39 x 30-minute episodes), which were broadcast from 1958 to 1960. It was set in Renaissance Florence, and followed the swashbuckling adventures of artist, Marco del Monte (Edward Purdom), and his friends Sandro, played by Rowland Bartrop, and Adrienne Corri as Angelica. The villains of the piece included semi-regulars, Derek Sydney as Captain Rodrigo and Martin Benson as the evil Duke de Medici. The series tells the story of the trio of freedom-fighters and their campaign against the ruling Medici’s and Machiavelli’s.
⇑ PETER as Colonna with Adrienne Corri as Angelica
When Sicilian, Colonna (PETER WYNGARDE) arrives at the gates of Florence, he does so with one object: to relieve as many people of the great City of their money. The young man, we soon learn, is a hustler and confidence trickster who, armed with a marked deck of cards, seeks out a suitable dupe to scam.
A suitable mug soon appears in the form of Sandro, who has been entrusted with money raised by a group of freedom-fighters to print protest literature denouncing the ruling de Medici family. Colonna immediately homes in on the tipsy chump, and professes to know nothing about gambling for which the City of Florence is so renowned. Inviting the young stranger to join him at Niccolo – his favourite watering hole, the trusting Sandro doesn’t see that Colonna has switched the house cards for his own deck.
After just a few hands, Sandro’s friends and fellow member of the Republican Campaign, Angelica and Marco del Monte, arrive just in time to see the hapless stooge play his last coin. When reality finally bites, the brawny Sandro is too shamefaced to face his comrades, and leaves the inn under a cloud. Meanwhile Colonna, believing that no one is watching, switches the cards again – leaving the ‘good’ deck on the table. However, unbeknown to him, del Monte has spotted his deception, and instructs Angelica to use her feminine wiles to get the cards from the Stranger “by any means” she can. In the meantime, he follows Sandro outside.
Sandro, it transpires, has decided to throw himself into the River Arno. Marco leaves just in time to see his friend leap into the murky waters below, where he’s forced to follow and drag him safely to the bank.
When Sebastiano (Basil Dignham) – another member of the rebel gang, learns of Sandro’s stupidity, del Monte pledges to recover the coins on his thoughtless friend’s behalf, and immediately sets about devising a plan.
The dice-makers of Florence are renowned across Europe for the great pride they take in their workmanship and honesty, so it’s no easy task for Marco to find one who’s willing to sell him a weighted set. The Craftsman tells Marco that he’s only willing help if he promises to destroy the dice the moment they’re no longer needed, to which he agrees. The next thing on the agenda is to find Colonna and to earn his trust.
Marco and Angelica manage to track down the cunning rogue, who is just about the leave the City. After first threatening to report him to the authorities – the punishment for cheating at cards being hanging or strangulation, they then make him an offer; to join them in a scam of their own. In view of the alternative, the Sicillian gladly agrees. Del Monte tells Colonna that a meeting of the city’s bankers and merchants is planned to take place at Niccola’s that evening, where the three of them could make a fortune at their expense.
Later that evening at the inn, del Marco produces the modified dice he’d acquired earlier in the day, and challenges Colonna to a game of chance whilst they wait for the wealthy personages to arrive. He offers he young man the bagged and sealed dice to inspect, and once he’s happy with them, the game begins.
Colonna, however, is entirely bemused can’t by how his luck has changed, when Marco repeatedly throws one double-six after another. Nevertheless, he continues to lay his bet in the hope that his fortunes will improve. They don’t, and soon he’s lost every Florin he’d taken from Sandro.
In a fit of rage, Colonna accuses del Monte of cheating, but the artist is unrepentant – saying that he’s only taken back the money that Sandro had been tricked out of. The coins are immediately returned to Sebastiano, who plans to use it to print a batch of anti-de Medici pamphlets.
Of course, Colonna isn’t the type of man to let del Monte and his group get away with ‘his’ money, and so he follows Marco, Angelica and Sebastiano back to the artist’s studio on the banks of the river. Once alone Colonna – dagger drawn, confronts del Marco, and the two men contest a deadly fight, until the Sicilian card shark is inevitably disarmed and plunges to his death in the river below.
As always PETER steals the episode from what is otherwise a lacklustre and mediocre cast.
It was interesting to see that he was wearing the same (red) jacket as Colonna as he did in the ‘Lucy in London’ segment during which he played Petruchio to Lucille Ball’s Kate. He also looked rather strange with one earring in his left ear.
The episode was unremarkable, yet enjoyable. It was clear from the opening scenes that crafty scoundrel would, inevitably, be beaten at his own game by the lantern-jawed hero, Robert Purdom. But, who cares! The pleasure of seeing a very young PETER in tights was worth purchasing the ‘Sword of Freedom’ DVD set for on its own.
The Hellfire Club: The OFFICIAL PETER WYNGARDE Appreciation Society: https://www.facebook.com/groups/813997125389790/