Episode Eleven: The Ghost Who Saved The Bank at Monte Carlo

Original Air-Date:
Duration: 51'39m
Screenplay by: Tony Williamson
Directed By: Jeremy Summers
Availability: Try store

Starring: Mike Pratt (Jeff Randall), Kenneth Cope (Marty Hopkirk) and Annette Andre (Jean Hopkirk).

Guest-Starring: Mary Merrall (Clara Faringham), Brian Blessed (Lawsey), Veronica Carlson (Suzanne), John Sharp (Sagran), Nicholas Courtney (Max), Roger Delgado (Tapiro), Roger Croucher (Terry), Nicholas Chagrin (Andre), Clive Gazes (Claude), Michael Forrest (Verrier), Hans De Vries (Hibert), Colin Van Cao (French Croupier), Eva Enger (Young Lady), Richard Pescud (Hotel Receptionist) and Christopher Eedy (Bell Boy).

Technical Personnel: Ronald Liles (Production Supervisor), Brian Elvin (Director of Photography), Charles Bishop (Art Director), Cyril Frankel (Creative Consultant), Edwin Astley (Musical Director), Philip Aizlewood (Post Production), Rod Nelson-Keys (Editor), Malcolm Christopher (Production Manager), Jack Lowin (2nd Unit Director), Gerald Moss (2nd Unit Cameraman), Alan Willis (Music Editor), John Owen (Casting), Frank Maher (Stunt Co-Ordinator), Denis Porter/Bill Rowe (Sound Recordists), Rydal Love (Sound Editor), Roger Christian (Set Dresser), Bill Greene (Construction Manager), Cinesound (Sound Effects Suppliers), Chambers + Partners (Titles), Val Stewart (Camera Operator), Michael Meighan (Assistant Director), Sally Ball (Continuity), Peter Dunlop (Production Buyer), Elizabeth Romanoff (Make-Up), Janet Wadeson (Hairdresser), Laura Nightingale (Costume Supervisor), A. J. Van Montagu (Scenic Artist), Dennis Spooner (Creator/Executive Story Consultant) and Monty Berman (Producer). An ITC Production.

Jeff Scraps: While there's a notably high amount of fighting in this episode, Jeff's asleep throughout nearly all of it, not taking part in any form.

Marty: We meet Marty's Aunt, Clara Farringham in this episode. Although she appears fond enough of Marty to have gone to his detective agency, she didn't go to his funeral and has never met Jeannie, despite having heard of her.
Marty is seen hovering outside a plane window, though acknowledges limitations to his powers, with Jeff accusing him of rigging roulette wheel: "I couldn't control a ball at that speed even if I wanted to." However, at Jeff's insistence he later transposes a roulette ball two rows after it has stopped

Jeannie: Jeannie shows what could be jealousy or disgust at Jeff this episode when he notes lecherously that he must personally thank a pretty casino assistant. "Obviously" responds Jeannie, half smile, half grimace.

Story: Marty's Aunt Clara hires Jeff as a bodyguard for a trip to Monte Carlo where she plans to win 100,000 on her self-devised gambling system. With a thousand pounds, she plans to make 25,000 on the first night, 50,000 ("thereabouts") on the second night and the remainder on the third night. Although she professes to not like gambling, she claims to have studied every failed gambling system "since 1879" and has already won enough at a local casino to pay for her airfare. Having gone through "four years of theory" Clara is ready to put her system into operation, though is unknowingly tailed by suspicious staff from the first Casino. When she arrives at Monte Carlo, French gangsters clash with the English gangsters, both of whom are fighting over Aunt Clara's system. After much deliberation they join forces, holding Jeannie at gunpoint so that Jeff and Clara will go with them after Clara's third night of winning at the wheel. Jeff begs Clara to lose, and, when she won't agree, uses Marty to rig the roulette. With the assorted gangsters now believing Clara's system to be beginner's luck, they leave... only for Jeff to learn they were being watched the entire time by Casino security. Jeff, Jeannie, Marty and Clara take the plane home... only for Clara to speculate what to tackle next: horse racing or the stock exchange!

Production Order: This was the twenty-third episode to be filmed.

Trivia: Ironically, despite being the longest episode of the series, Monte Carlo ties with The Smile Behind The Veil as having the shortest pre-credits teaser. (just 1'43m).

What appears to be a joke reference to arguably The Twilight Zone's most famous episode, Nightmare At 20,000 Feet (1963) occurs when Jeff pulls his plane curtain to block out the sight of Marty hovering outside. When Jeannie asks why he pulled it shut Jeff replies "Nothing... I thought I saw a Gremlin."

Inspiration for this episode came from the real-life Man Who Broke The Bank At Monte Carlo, Joseph Jaggers (1830-1892). An English engineer, he used his background of mechanics and the aid of six clerks to study the six roulette wheels at the Beaux-Arts Casino in Monte Carlo. When one of the wheels was discovered to have a biased mechanism, he exploited it, winning $450,000 until the management modified the mechanism. Following this achievement in 1873, a song was written about it 18 years later by Fred Gilbert.

Long before the days of product placement, it's astonishing to see how many companies Randall & Hopkirk accidentally (?) gave free advertising to in its use of stock footage. In the first ten seconds of this episode alone there are free plugs for BP, SKOL, Double Diamond, Players and Coca-Cola.

"Did he take anything?"
"Only a liberty, that's all!"

TV series have a long tradition of transplanting their characters to overseas locations for specials, believing that it will enhance their appeal; only to find it often removes what made the series work so well in the first place. Randall and Hopkirk is no different, and The Ghost Who Saved The Bank At The ITC Backlot is almost my least favourite episode of them all.

It's an unusual hybrid, too, because while the series could never seem to decide if it wanted to be a straight series with a twist or an out and out comedy, this is not quite either convention. Instead they settle for a farcical shaggy dog story that's played alternately straight and silly from scene to scene. To its credit, the use of studio sets to recreate Monte Carlo isn't actually that bad, and a photographic background behind Marty on the balcony is surprisingly good. But the flat script fails to deliver, leaving me to struggle for a title quote, and I really have no time for the uninspired brand of ITC comic book punch-ups and hyperactive music.

There's also a curiously high amount of sexism in this one - considering Randall and Hopkirk is a show where Jeannie has to make the tea every week then that's some indictment. I talk not of the wonderful gratuitous bikini shots, but an unnecessary close-up of Jeannie's chest when she leans over to place the money in her aunt's bag. It does, in the final judgement, actually serve no purpose, because while Annette Andre is lovely and very appealing, she's not exactly the voluptuous type, thus negating the need for the crass exploitation in the first place. Staying with Jeannie (and her fifty million costume changes), look out for the scene where she puts her sunglasses on - it's so badly edited that she instaneously has them on her face and her arm down by her side. Okay, an anal observation there, as is the fact that there are two "revolving frames" in order to pep up some excitement

While the revelation of an undercover spy who had the villains covered by a gun all the time amuses, the rest of the episode falls flat, a one-note cyclical plot. Jeff effectively gives up and lets the bad guys get away with it, thus totally failing in his case. This is, of course, the one that gets Doctor Who fans excited as it features the Brigadier (Nicholas Courtney) and The Master (Roger Delgado) together - though they never meet - two years before they starred in that genre series. Delgado does his usual trick of trying to walk away with the whole episode (nearly does, too), while the rest of the cast are stock ITC types. In fact, that's partly the problem - considering this is supposed to be set in France, you only have to clock an episode of The Prisoner or Man In a Suitcase and you'll see the whole ensemble.

While repetitious, I'm sure there are plenty who find this episode highly amusing, and it is - like all of the original series - not without some charm. But less really is more in the Randall and Hopkirk universe, and the funnier they try and make Marty and co., the less funny they become. Just not really my cup of tea, I guess. So make another cup, Jeannie, there's a good dolly.