Tuesday, 26 April 2011

Classic Tele: Man In A Suitcase - 1966

Man In A Suitcase Man In A Suitcase

A British action series produced by ITC, filmed in and around Pinewood Studios (Sound Stages J and K) and on location in London, England during 1966/7. There were 30 colour one-hour episodes, originally screened from September 27th 1967. The eponymous hero was McGill, a former CIA agent, who had been framed and tossed out of the agency. He became a freelance operator working in Europe, using his skills as a private eye.

Man in a Suitcase was effectively a replacement for Danger Man, whose production had been curtailed when its star Patrick McGhooan had decided to create his own series, The Prisoner. Many of the Danger Man production crew moved over to the new series, which was initially to be titled McGill after its lead character. Like several ITC productions, the series would use an American star in an attempt to boost the show's sales in the US. An early choice was Jack Lord, but the part of McGill eventually went to Richard Bradford, a method Actor who was spotted after appearing opposite Marlon Brando in the 1966 movie The Chase. The series was created by Richard Harris and Dennis Spooner. Neither writer had any further involvement with the series - Spooner was mostly involved with producing his own series, The Champions - and the lead character changed somewhat from their original conception of a hard-boiled, wise-cracking detective.

McGill was a former US Intelligence agent, who had been forced to resign from the service six years prior to the opening episode, practically accused of treason. Unable to clear his name or return to the USA, McGill makes ends meet by working as a travelling Private Detective and Bounty Hunter, based in Britain, living out of his suitcase (hence the title). His cases generally took him to different parts of Europe (and on a couple of occasions Africa.)

A distinctive feature of the show was the theme tune composed by Ron Grainer, a catchy, jazzy number. This was later appropriated by Chris Evans as the theme for his entertainment show TFI Friday. The incidental music was supplied by Albert Elms.

British DVD release

In the Pilot episode, 'Man From The Dead' we discover the reason for McGill's disgrace. During an assignment six years previously, he discovered that a top Western scientist called LeFarbe was preparing to defect to the USSR. Though he planned to intercept the defector, he was ordered to stand down by his superior Harry Thyssen. Shortly afterwards, LeFarbe went over to the Russians. Accused of complicity in the defection, McGill was unable to call on Thyssen to clear his name, as his superior had been drowned in a sailing accident, and he was forced to resign from the service amid much negative publicity. Six years on, McGill discovers that Thyssen is still alive, his death having been faked. He is now working as a sailor on a Russian freighter, in which capacity he acts as a courier of secret information from LeFarbe. The scientist is in fact a double agent, now highly placed in the soviet scientific community to provide valuable intelligence. As McGill's diligence nearly blew open this important operation, his superiors had no choice but to make him a very public scapegoat, in order to maintain the illusion of the LeFarbe defection as genuine. On the series first broadcast on ATV Midlands 'Man From The Dead' was screened as the sixth episode, 'Brainwash' thought to be a stronger tale was in fact broadcast first.

ITC Video Trailer - Man In A Suitcase

As developed by Bradford, the characterization of McGill was complex. As a man who felt betrayed by life and his country, he could appear outwardly as surly, moody and uncommunicative. But this masked a sensitive interior. McGill felt compassion for those who were the victims in his cases, and would try to help them, often to his own cost.

The level of violence portrayed in the show was unprecedented for an ITC series. This was partly because of Bradford's concerns that the stories and characters should remain real. Unlike most TV action heroes of the time, McGill would not get cleanly knocked unconscious and then recover without effect - Bradford took great pains to depict the character as wounded and concussed. In addition to beatings, McGill is several times shot and stabbed, and ends more than one episode recovering in hospital.


BRAINWASH - September 27th 1967
Written by Francis Megahy and Bernie Cooper, Directed by Charles Crichton. Guest stars: Colin Blakely, Howard Marion-Crawford, Suzan Farmer.

- October 4th 1967
Written by Edmund Ward, Directed by Gerry O'Hara. Guest stars: Robinh Bailey, George Sewell, James Grout, Mark Eden.

DAY OF EXECUTION - October 11th 1967
Written by Philip Broadley, Directed by Charles Crichton. Guest stars: Donald Sutherland, Rosemary Nicols, Jeremy Spencer.

(Part 1) - October 18th 1967
Written by Stanley R. Greenberg, Directed by Pat Jackson. Guest stars: Anton Rogers, Yoko Tani, Ron Randall, Mike Pratt.

VARIATION ON A MILLION BUCKS (Part 2) - October 25th 1967
Written by Stanley R. Greenberg, Directed by Robert Tronson. Guest stars: Anton Rogers, Yoko Tani, Ron Randall, Mike Pratt.
(These two episodes were syndicated to make a TV movie in the U.S. titled 'To Chase a Million')

MAN FROM THE DEAD - November 1st 1967
Written by Stanley R. Greenberg, Directed by Pat Jackson. Guest stars: John Barrie, Angela Browne, Stuart Damon.
(The original working title for this episode was 'Man in a Suitcase' but this was used as the series title instead of just 'McGill')

SWEET SUE - November 8th 1967
Written by Philip Broadley, Directed by Robert Tronson. Guest stars: Judy Geeson, Peter Blythe, George A. Cooper.

ESSAY IN EVIL - November 15th 1967
Written by Kevin B. Laffin, Directed by Freddie Francis. Guest stars: Donald Houston, Peter Vaughan, John Cairney
(The working title for this episode was 'The Mine')

THE GIRL WHO NEVER WAS - November 22nd 1967
Written by Donald Jonson, Directed by Robert Tronson. Guest stars: Bernard Lee, Priscilla Morgan, Harold Goodwin.
(The working title for this episode was 'Love of Venus')

ALL THAT GLITTERS - November 29th 1967
Written by Stanley R. Greenberg, Directed by Herbert Wise. Guest stars: Michael Goodliffe, Barbara Shelley, Eric Thompson.
(The working title of this episode was 'Mad Dogs and Englishmen')

DEAD MAN'S SHOES - December 6th 1967
Written by Edmund Ward, Directed by Peter Duffell. Guest stars: Derren Nesbitt, John Carson, James Villiers.

FIND THE LADY - December 13th 1967
Written by Philip Broadley, Directed by Robert Tronson. Guest stars: Patrick Cargill, Maxwell Shaw, Jeanne Roland.
(The working title of this episode was 'My Brother Giulio')

THE BRIDGE - December 20th 1967
Written by Robert Muller, Directed by Pat Jackson. Guest stars: Bill Owen, Jane Merrow, Rodney Bewes.

THE MAN WHO STOOD STILL - December 27th 1967
Written by Raymond Bowers, Directed by Peter Duffell. Guest stars: Rupert Davies, Cyril Shaps, Ricardo Montez.

BURDEN OF PROOF - January 3rd 1968
Written by Edmund Ward, Directed by Peter Duffell. Guest stars: John Gregson, Nicola Pagett, Gerald Sim.

THE WHISPER - January 10th 1968
Written by Moris Farhi, Directed by Charles Crichton. Guest stars: Colin Blakely, Patrick Allen, Sheila Brennan.
(The working title of this episode was 'The Mercenary')

WHY THEY KILLED NOLAN - January 17th 1968
Written by Donald Jonson, Directed by Charles Crichton. Guest stars: Sam Kydd, Ursula Howells, Griffith Jones.

THE BOSTON SQUARE - January 24th 1968
Written by Wilfred Greatorex, Directed by Don Chaffey. Guest stars: Rex Everhart, Peter Arne, Ed Bishop.

SOMEBODY LOSES, SOMEBODY... WINS? - January 31st 1968
Written by Jan Read, Directed by John Glen. Guest stars: Godfrey Quigley, Jacqueline Pearce, Philip Madoc.

BLIND SPOT - February 7th 1968
Written by Victor Canning, Directed by Jeremy Summers. Guest stars: Marius Goring, Felicity Kendal, Derek Newark.

NO FRIEND OF MINE - February 14th 1968
Written by John Stanton, Directed by Charles Crichton. Guest stars: Peter Williams, Clive Morton, Allan Cuthbertson.

THE JIGSAW MAN - February 21st 1968
Written by Stanley R. Greenberg and Reed DeRouen, Directed by Charles Friend. Guest stars: Maurice Kaufmann, Paul Bertoya, Mike Sarne.

WEB WITH FOUR SPIDERS - February 28th 1968
Written by Edmund Ward, Directed by Robert Tronson. Guest stars: Ray McAnally, Jacqueline Ellis, Ralph Michael.

WHICH WAY DID HE GO, McGILL? - March 6th 1968
Written by Francis Megahy and Bernie Cooper, Directed by Freddie Francis. Guest stars: Donald Sutherland, Jennifer Jayne, J.G.Devlin.

Written by Wilfred Greatorex, Directed by Peter Duffell. Guest stars: Terence Alexander, Justine Lord, Gordon Gostelow.

Written by Kevin B. Laffin, Directed by Peter Duffell. Guest stars: Hugh Burden, Ferdy Mayne, Sonia Fox.

- March 27th 1968
Written by Roger Parkes, Directed by Freddie Francis. Guest stars: Robert Hutton, Audine Leith, Philip Madoc.

Written by Vincent Tilsey, Directed by Charles Crichton. Guest stars: John Gabriel III, Faith Brook, Drewe Henly.

CASTLE IN THE CLOUDS - April 10th 1968
Written by Jan Read, Directed by Peter Duffell. Guest stars: Gerald Flood, Edward Fox, Gay Hamilton.
(The working title of this episode was 'The Adventuress')

Written by Jan Read and Reed DeRouen, Directed by Freddie Francis. Guest Stars: Peter Woodthorpe, Zia Mohyeddin, Luanshya Greer.

London 60s Week - 1961

March 1961: Jaguar Cars launch the Iconic E-Type Jaguar series 1, Described by Enzo Ferrari as "The most beautiful car ever made", London celebrity owners include, George Harrison, John Barry, George Best and 007 film set designer Ken Adam.

May 1961: The Sound Of Music London production opens at the Palace Theatre, Cambridge Circus, London.

A small batch of 24 Routemaster RMLs London red buses are released onto the capitals streets for the first time. (30ft compared with the older standard of 27ft 6in).

Alexis Korner and Cyril Davies form Blues Incorporated, which will feature many influential sixties London musicians. They secure a residency at the original Marquee Club 165 Oxford Street, London.

Harold Pendleton, the manager of the Marquee Club in Soho sets up ‘The National Jazz and Blues Festival’ held at Richmond Athletic Ground in Richmond. the precursor to the Reading Rock Festival.

September 1961: Formed in London in 1958/9,The Shadows release Their debut LP ‘The Shadows’ the very first instrumental LP to reach #1 in the UK charts.

September 1961: 60,000 CND protesters staged a “Ban the Bomb” sit down in Trafalgar Square.and in the ensuing chaos the police made 1300 arrests.

October 1961: Peter Cook co-founds the satirical night club,’ The Establishment', at 18 Greek Street, Soho, London.

October 1961: The first edition of Private Eye, the British satirical magazine, is published.

December 1961: The Pill’ becomes available on the National Health Service. Few realised the social impact it would have. The oral contraceptive set off something of a sexual revolution and helped change women's position in society.

The Ipcress File: 1965

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In November 1962, shortly after the release of Dr. No (d. Terence Young, 1962), Len Deighton's spy novel The Ipcress File was published to enormous critical acclaim and brisk sales. Producers Harry Saltzman andAlbert Broccoli approached Deighton to script the next Bond film From Russia with Love (d. Young, 1963). Although little of his work was used,Saltzman eventually decided to use Deighton's novel, and its sequels, as the basis for a new series of spy movies.
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The Ipcress File (d. Sidney J. Furie, 1965) was designed to be in direct contrast to the Bond adventures, although Saltzman ended up employing much of the same production staff, including production designer Ken Adam, editor Peter Hunt and composer John Barry. Superficially, there are many similarities, even to the extent of beginning the film with a dramatic pre-credit sequence. Like Bond, the hero is clearly his own man, has a taste for fine foods and is popular with women, and even carries a non-standard-issue weapon. But the similarities end there. The protagonist, named Harry Palmer in the film (the book's narrator is anonymous), wears spectacles, shops in a supermarket (still a novelty in 1965) and is a sergeant working off a two-year sentence for black market activities in Berlin.
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Deighton took the Ian Fleming spy formula and grafted on the anti-authority attitude, first person narration and wisecracking dialogue of the 1930s and '40s hard-boiled detective novels of Dashiell Hammett andRaymond Chandler. Director Sidney J. Furie and cinematographer Otto Heller adopted an equivalent visual style, using distorting lenses, unusual angles and high contrast photography. Essentially they used the noir style of 1940s Hollywood thrillers to tell a story set in 1960s swinging London. In addition, Furie and Heller took their cue from Palmer's poor eyesight. The camera is often out of focus, or shoots through objects, such as a pair of cymbals, lampshades, a parking meter and even a keyhole, creating a visually abstract world that contrasts with the otherwise gritty and realistic look of the film.
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Although he had already played a supporting role in Zulu (Cy Enfield, 1964) and had appeared in a few other films, Michael Caine's career really took off with his starring role in Ipcress. He would reprise the role of Harry Palmer in two interesting though inferior sequels, Funeral in Berlin (d. Guy Hamilton, 1966) and Billion Dollar Brain (d. Ken Russell, 1967).



Published by


Volume 32, No.376, May 1965, pages 70-1


Intelligence man Harry Palmer is transferred from the military discipline of Major Ross's unit to the more casual civilian outfit run by Dalby. Their job is to investigate a "brain drain" among scientists, and to recover one particular missing scientist, Radcliffe, kidnapped from a train after the murder of his bodyguard. Palmer gets a lead to a man with the code-name Bluejay, the only crook likely to be dealing in the sort of merchandise Radcliffe represents. Although this trail peters out, another clue encourages Palmer to mount a security raid on a deserted London factory. Radcliffe is still missing, but they find a piece of recording tape with the word "Ipcress" punched on it. Meanwhile, Dalby has fixed things up with Bluejay, and the scientist (brainwashed, as is later discovered) is exchanged for £25,000 cash down. During this operation, Palmer accidentally shoots an American agent who has been keeping a watch on all parties. One of Dalby's unit cracks the Ipcress mystery, and is promptly murdered. A frame-up is arranged for Palmer himself, when another C.I.A. man is killed in his flat. Palmer takes to his heels, but is kidnapped by the opposition and delivered to the derelict factory (carefully disguised as a Balkan gaol) to be put through the brainwashing processes used on the scientists. Eventually he escapes, and summons both his employers, Dalby and Ross, to a showdown at the factory. Dalby, revealing himself as the traitor, is shot dead when he goes for his gun.

It is almost touching to see the care that has gone into establishing the anti-hero of the spy game, the man who will show us what goes on behind the 007 facade. Spectacles, London accent, taste for cookery and Mozart, supermarket shopper, hater of authority - Palmer's characteristics might have been laid down by a computer. When it comes to the point, however, it's off with the spectacles and on with the old Bond ability to withstand torture and also to escape at will (why wait to be tortured first?) from the guarded hide-out. And in fact, with Mr. Saltzman in command, and with John Barry and Ken Adam of the Goldfinger équipe both much in evidence, it is not exactly surprising that new-style spies look rather like the old lot. Mr. Adam's sets are, as usual, fine. His personality is beginning to come through so strongly that, when the film stages the exchange of the scientist in the atmospheric location of the big underground garage off Park Lane, one would be quite prepared to believe that he had designed that too.

Sidney Furie's direction is unremittingly mannered, and almost passionately concerned with the finding of odd camera angles: shots through clashing cymbals, or the tops of parking meters, have a kind of wearisome charm. Nor does the film really get very far in its effort to show intelligence men monotonously labouring among files and forms, when the office scenes are shot and recorded with such aggressive emphasis as to suggest that a gunman is concealed behind every filing cabinet. It is all a kind of sophisticated game, enjoying (like Mr. Deighton's own novel) its familiarity with the jargon of the trade and its quirks of characterisation, and tending to lose sight (also like Mr. Deighton's novel) of the thrills. An easy film to criticise; but also an easy film to be amused by, at least as far as its central performances, its minor jokes (villain's henchman caught in the sinister act of feeding a parking meter), and its London locations are concerned.

The Monthly Film Bulletin was published by the British Film Institute between 1934 and 1991. Initially aimed at distributors and exhibitors as well as filmgoers, it carried reviews and details of all UK film releases. In 1991, the Bulletin was absorbed by Sight and Sound magazine.