British actor Ian Ogilvy has starred in numerous cult films that are getting a new lease on life on Blu-ray. The charismatic actor has acted alongside genre greats such as Barbara Steele, Vincent Price, Boris Karloff, Herbert Lom and Peter Cushing to name a few. Throughout the years he‘s kept busy with steady work in features and on television and, most notably, he stepped into Roger Moore‘s shoes as Simon Templar in „Return of the Saint“ (1978-1979). For a single season he portrayed The Saint and during this period Ian was mentioned along with other actors as a possible successor to Moore as 007 himself.
Most recently he‘s headlined a couple of notable british gangster films called „We Still Kill the Old Way“ (2015) and „We Still Steal the Old Way“ (2017). Currently Ian is starring in the third, and most likely final, installment titled „We Still Die the Old Way“.
Celebrating the Blu-ray debut of „Return of the Blood Beast“ in 2017; I contacted Ian and asked if he‘d be available for a Q&A interview about the film and his career. He graciously accepted and the following is my Q&A with Ian.
„Return of the Blood Beast“, a cult film from 1966, has recently been released on Blu-ray and it looks very good in High Definition. You star in the movie alongside horror icon Barbara Steele. What are your thoughts on the film and how did come to be?
I had made a couple of little amateur films with Mike Reeves when we were still schoolboys and then had lost touch with him. His offer of a leading role in a movie he was directing came out of the blue and we renewed our friendship during the making of the film. I think it’s a dreadful picture. A mishmash of different styles with an awful leading man. Inept comedy moments mostly inserted into the film by its producers. Pretentious script. Very much a first effort by all concerned and not worth watching now.
The film is getting very favorable reviews on Blu-ray review sites. Are you pleased that this film will gain a wider audience?
I’m somewhat appalled actually. As I say, I think it’s lousy and, like some of my other films which have been given decent burials, Revenge should have suffered the same fate.
In addition to Barbara Steele you‘ve starred with horror icons Boris Karloff, Vincent Price and Peter Cushing. How was it working with these titans of horror? Any one of them more pleasant to work with than the other?
Boris was more pleasant to work with than Vincent although in terms of film minutes spent together you’ll see that I hardly worked with them at all. In Sorcerers it’s just the two or three opening scenes with Boris – and Witchfinder it really only the last ten minutes with Vincent. Boris was grateful for film work, Vincent was not. Peter Cushing was a a grieving widower – a sad and gentle delight.
Two big movies in which you co-star; „Waterloo“ and „Wuthering Heigths“ have yet to see the light on Blu-ray. Do you think they‘re worth rediscovering?
Waterloo is spectacular. We had 20,000 extras in the form of the Red Army. No CGI back then. The battle scenes are extraordinary in scale. The last of the great epics I think. But not a very good film. Wuthering Heights is OK but not really worth the effort. I saw it again recently and it’s a bit lackluster.
A movie you made in 1970 called „The Invincible Six“, co-starring Curt Jurgens and Elke Sommer, seems like a hidden gem but is completely unavailabe. Is that film worth a re-assessment on Blu-ray in your opinion?
No. It’s another of my films which has disappeared forever and quite right too. A ridiculous knock-off of The Magnificent Seven. Not worth the price of admission.
You landed the much coveted, I imagine, role of Simon Templar in „Return of the Saint“ and succeeded Roger Moore as the famous character. How did you land that role?
Bob Baker, the producer of the Saint series, was looking around for a replacement for Roger Moore. His wife saw me in Upstairs Downstairs, a period TV series – and she thought I looked a bit like RM. Bob took me to lunch in the early 1970s and asked if I’d like to take on the part. I didn’t hear from his for several years – it took him that long persuade Lord Grade to invest in a remake. So no audition or anything, I simply walked into RM’s shoes.
Only one season of „Return of the Saint“ was made despite good ratings and critical applause. How come?
Lord Grade hated the cost of the show which was high for that time. Also he wanted to be a film producer and not a TV producer. He took the money from his TV productions and put it into a series of disastrous movies and finally lost his company to a South African entrepreneur. My show was simply a victim of that policy. And ‘critical applause’? It got some of the most awful reviews I ever read.
A favorite episode of mine on the „Saint“ is called „Armageddon Alternative“; a thrilling episode where a madman threatens to blow up London. Do you have a favorite „Saint“ episode?
Yes, the one set in Venice. Best location and a very good leading lady.
Around the time of „Return of the Saint“ your name was mentioned in relation to the James Bond franchise. How close were you to becoming the next 007?
Not close at all. My name was bandied about in tabloid newspapers whenever they wanted to speculate about who was to be the next Bond – but there were many other names as well that were considered. I was told eventually by an executive from the Bond franchise that if they wanted another Roger Moore I might have got the part but they wanted another Sean Connery – so I didn’t.
After „Return of the Saint“ your roles are mostly in TV movies or guest starring in television shows, among them five episodes on „Murder She Wrote“ always as a different character. Were you most comfortable working on the small screen? Any particular highlights in your opinion in this period?
Well in 1989 I moved to California and started to work there as an actor. I was almost entirely unknown in the USA, which suited me well. I liked the anonymity and the starting over. But I like films more than TV.
You play a small and somewhat atypical role in the mega budget yet somewhat cult-ish „Death Becomes Her“ with superstars Meryl Streep, Bruce Willis and Goldie Hawn. How did that come about?
I did an audition and made Robert Zemeckis laugh. Simple as that.
In 2014 you returned with a leading role in „We Still Kill The Old Way“, a semi-brutal gangster movie. There the old Saint has definately become a Sinner. How did that role come about?
That was a nice moment for me – playing something I’d never been asked to play before. I guess I finally got old enough and heavy enough and craggy enough to play old gangsters. I don’t know exactly how it all came about but I believe that Martin Kemp suggested me to the producer which was very nice of him since we’ve never met.
Next April the sequel „We Still Steal The Old Way“ will be released on Blu-ray. What are your thougths on that film? Is a franchise in the making?
A franchise? That would be nice – but I doubt it’ll happen. I haven’t seen the movie so can’t comment on it.
You wrote an Autobiography last year titled „Once a Saint“. How was it jotting down your life and career?
It was a fun experience. I knew the plot, so it was fairly easy to write. I hope everybody will read it – please. It’s good, I promise …
What‘s next for Ian Ogilvy?
Well, at my age the next big event will probably be death.