This month, mega-niche distributor Network releases the complete first (and only) season of Virgin of the Secret Service, a 1968 Empire-spoofing obscurity remembered with fondness by at least one viewer. I was thirteen at the time, and in my autograph-collecting phase; I wrote to leading man Clinton Greyn and in return got a typed slip of paper that read, “I’m sorry but ATV say they can’t afford to print fan photographs.” But he’d signed it, so it went into the album anyway.
On Network’s website they’re marking the launch with an appreciation by Frazer Diamond of his father Peter, the series fight arranger.
Peter Diamond, who died in 2004, was a British stunt performer, arranger, and swordmaster with a staggering list of credits ranging from just about every piece of classic British TV through the Bonds, Star Wars and Highlander movies and every other big-budget blockbuster of the late 20th century. He was responsible for the swordplay in The Princess Bride and The Mask of Zorro. He acted, too; any time you saw a bald guy being punched, shot, or thrown down the stairs, there’s a fair chance it was him.
Back in 1997, when I was shooting the Oktober miniseries for ITV, I specifically asked for Peter to supervise the action. I was in awe of his reputation and saw it as a chance to work with a true legend. He was terrific, supportive to a novice director, and without any discernible ego; he’d listen to my ideas, quietly mould them into something better, and then present the results as if they were my own.
On more than one occasion, when a crew member challenged my judgement in the light of my inexperience, he’d catch my eye and quietly shake his head; he’d seen it all, and if Peter reckoned it would be OK, it would be OK.