Monday October 10, 2016
Written by Andy Roberts
In 1965 ITC, the television production company that specialised in men of mystery pursuing fez-wearing villains across ‘Somewhere foreign’ (aka Elstree Studios’ car park), commenced filming of The Baron.
This was their first colour adventure show and it co-starred Steve Forrest as one John Mannering, a square-jawed antiques dealer/solver of crimes, with an Oyster Grey Jensen CV8 Mk. II. Supporting our hero were lovely Cordelia (Sue Lloyd) who favoured Daf Daffodils as transport and David Marlowe (Paul Ferris) whose main role in the show was to be beaten up by the forces of evil on a regular basis, thereby making the leading man look even more macho.
The Baron was first aired on the 28th September 1966 and it soon became apparent to viewers that the Jensen was the most interesting aspect of the show; a decent motor car was essential for any self-respecting ITC hero when he was battling crime and/or shaky back projection. Forrest, an agreeable Hollywood B-film leading man, gave every impression of wishing to be 10,000 miles away from Hertfordshire and some of the scripts were, to be charitable, ludicrous. I have particularly fond memories of Enemy of the State which was set in East Germany and therefore gave the guest star Anton Diffring the chance to shout ‘Escape is impossible!’ yet again. It also had our hero evading the baddies by traveling on the rear bumper of a red Beetle. Surprisingly the VW’s driver didn’t notice a marked change in handling characteristics due to a 6 foot 3 American who managed to evade detection despite his failing to crouch below the back screen.
However, The Baron did establish a major legacy to British television with the third show, Something for a Rainy Day. The setting was ‘France’ (actually the Home Counties as there was never any overseas shooting) and so Mr. Forrest drives a Citroen DS19. Meanwhile, the villainous Derek Newark and Patrick “voice over king” Allen are attempting to flee in their white 1957 Jaguar 2.4 Mk.1. Shots of the getaway car careering around the road, with the fiendish duo over-acting as if their Equity Cards depended on it, were filmed in the Chilterns and a second 2.4 departed from Box Hill in Surrey to land in Betchworth Quarry. ‘Arrgh!’ remarked Derek and Patrick, no doubt thinking of their lost no claims bonuses.
By the standards of 1960s British television, this was a very elaborate and well-executed stunt; the film crew mounted an automatic camera on the dashboard giving viewers a driver’s eye view of the Jaguar’s descent. It was also phenomenally expensive to execute, so in order to gain maximum value from the footage ITC recycled it for the next decade, the Jaguar crash landing in any number of shows. Happily, the CV8 has survived the years while The Baron is now available on DVD. I can thoroughly recommend it as relaxing viewing, a colourfully predictable world where chaps were chaps and where the character development of damsels in distress rarely extended beyond the wearing pale lipstick and mini-skirts with aplomb. And where white Jaguars were destined to be driven off of cliffs.
You can buy the DVD boxset of The Baron HERE.