Half a century ago, old money met with the nouveau riche in a glossy, high budget action-comedy series, bringing one of Britain’s biggest stars together with Hollywood royalty. The end result was only to run for a single series, but it was to be a truly memorable programme.
Now, five decades on, Network Distributing has served up a special golden anniversary treat for fans of The Persuaders!, with a pair of Blu-rays plus a commemorative book. The full 24-episode run was already released by them for the series’ 40th birthday, so in order to offer something just a little bit different, we have some previously unreleased material, plus movie-length compilations of episodes which were released theatrically and on video around the world.
The Persuaders! was inspired by an episode of the ITC series The Saint, ‘The Ex-King Of Diamonds’, with Simon Templar (Roger Moore) joining forces with an American oil tycoon. It looked to be a winning formula, so ITC wanted to produce a new show with that same dynamic, also starring Moore. His character, named Lord Brett Sinclair, was part of the British aristocracy, and he was to end up being drawn together with a rather brash, uncouth US playboy called Danny Wilde, with the aim of solving crimes which lay outside the law.
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A number of actors had been considered to take on the part of Wilde, with the role finally going to Tony Curtis, father of Jamie Lee Curtis. Production began in 1970, and to reflect the international jet set lifestyles of the two characters, the programme was filmed in a range of diverse locations across Europe. Usually, ITC series were set in different territories, but they tended to venture no further afield than the Côte d’Elstree, the backlot of the Hertfordshire studios ending up being strategically redressed as various countries.
Here, however, money was lavished upon The Persuaders!, with the first episode taking place – and filmed – in Monte Carlo, and subsequent stories being shot in France, Sweden, Spain, and the UK. It proved a hit everywhere except the key market of America, where it was buried in the schedules, so a second series was already looking quite unlikely when Moore got the call to play James Bond, and that was that. However, The Persuaders! is fondly remembered, and a remake for the big screen has often been mooted.
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Out of the two Blu-rays making up this commemorative set, The Persuaders! At 50, has the full contents from Network’s recent VOD event. Two remastered episodes – ‘Overture’ and ‘Greensleeves’ – are presented with ad bumpers and breaks full of genuine archive TV commercials of the era, making it a wonderfully nostalgic and authentic viewing experience, and clearly demonstrates all the extra effort taken by Network in delivering the most value for their audience, with thoughtful little touches like this making all the difference.
We also get a Q&A from the show’s 40th anniversary event, hosted by Barry Norman, interviewing Roger Moore, who is in fine fettle here, and speaking with surprising candour – as well as good humour – about his time spent working on The Persuaders!. It goes to show what a great raconteur he was, and how sorely missed he is today. Another archive interview comes from 2006, with Tony Curtis holding court, opening up with absolute frankness. His anecdote about working on an episode with Joan Collins – which takes a very risqué turn – is worth the asking price of the set alone.
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The other Blu-ray collection – Featuring The Persuaders! – has eight feature-length editions, splicing together sixteen episodes to make movie versions. Each of these has been lovingly reconstructed from HD masters and presented in widescreen, making the show look pin-sharp and pristine, better in fact than when it was first broadcast. Although not available for review, the set also has a 140-page book by Jaz Wiseman – The Persuaders: The Time And The Place – that looks at the show and its legacy.
The Persuaders! is tremendous fun, with this set acting as a great demonstration of its allure and appeal. The chemistry between Curtis and Moore, as well as all of their whip-smart interplay, is a genuine joy to behold, and really does elevate the production. Another triumph from Network, one which should be added to your collections without requiring much persuasion.
The Persuaders! Take 50 is out now on Blu-ray from Network Distributing.