The Vise: Mark Saber Volume 1 – Review

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By Sarah Morgan

It’s one thing starting a TV station, but what do you put on it?

That was the question facing schedulers during the 1950s, a time when the people of Britain were really beginning to embrace the medium.

The advent of ITV in autumn 1955 meant that even more content was needed, and luckily for them, low-budget film producers the Danziger brothers were on hand to help out.

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“Cautionary tales”

Although American, Edward and Harry based themselves in the UK and began creating a selection of series, beginning with The Vise, an anthology show with each 26-minute episode introduced by Australian actor Ron Randell.

These were standalone stories in which someone found themselves caught in a trap of their own making. More than 60 tales were made, 22 of which are being made available on Blu-ray for the first time. Each cautionary tale features a cast comprising of familiar character actors, including Laurence Naismith and Mexborough-born Kenneth Haigh. Just a year later, Haigh became famous for originating the role of Jimmy Porter in Look Back in Anger before appearing with The Beatles in A Hard Day’s Night and taking the lead in Man at the Top.

The Danzigers then rebooted the show, renaming it The Vise: Mark Saber, with Donald Gray playing the titular one-armed private detective in, once again, more than 60 episodes. Around half are being released on Blu-ray.

“Familiar faces”

the vise review coverA year after that show ended, the Danzigers dusted it down and retitled it again, this time as Saber of London, which lasted for 91 episodes before the private eye hung up his trilby for the last time – 36 of them appear in volume 1 of a new Blu-ray collection.

As ever, a host of familiar faces popped up in guest roles before finding fame elsewhere. Look out for a pre-Avengers Honor Blackman and Gordon Jackson, several years before Upstairs Downstairs made him a star.

None of the show’s incarnations feature groundbreaking storytelling, but they’re well worth a look, if only for the chance to spot stars-in-the-making. Good writers used them as a training ground too, including Brian Clemens who, like Blackman, would have a major success with The Avengers just a few years later.

Plus, with such a short running time, if one episode proves dull or uninteresting, something more enthralling is probably just around the corner.

‘The Vise: Mark Saber Volume 1’ is released on Blu-ray by Network, £30

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