Network on Air (studio)
255min approx (length)
11 March 2021 (released)
30 April 2019
This entertaining TV-series from the late 60s (with its multiple themes of crime and espionage) has been given the Blu-ray treatment. In a career-defining role, American actor Richard Bradford stars as ‘McGill’ – a former US intelligent agent forced to resign due to accusations of treason through no fault of his own. Unable to return to his homeland, he now makes ends meet by working as a travelling private detective (and occasional bounty hunter) living out of his suitcase.
In the opening episode (Man from the Dead) we learn how McGill came to be in this deeply unsatisfying situation: during an assignment six years earlier, McGill found out that a prestigious scientist by the name of LeFarbe had planned to defect to Russia. Obviously keen on intercepting LeFarbe’s plans, McGill’s own plans were scuppered when his then superior Harry Thyssen ordered him not to intervene - thus providing a safe platform for the scientist to defect! Despite his innocence, McGill suddenly found himself accused of treason and, to make things worse, could not get Thyssen to clear his name as he apparently drowned in a boating accident a short time later. Disgraced, McGill was forced to resign and got kicked out of the USA so to speak. That was six years ago. Now primarily based in Britain, the past has come back to haunt him when rumours emerge that Harry Thyssen (John Barrie) was spotted very much alive by his daughter Rachel (Angela Browne)… who happens to be McGill’s former girlfriend! And it’s not before long that McGill is drawn back further into the past via British intelligence when it emerges that Rachel did indeed see her father and not a ghost: Thyssen never died in a boating accident but was in cahoots with Le Farbe, who turns out to be a double agent (hence Thyssen’s order to McGill not to intervene with the planned defection). Things soon spiral out of control because now, it’s not just McGill on Thyssen’s trail but the Russians too…
Obviously unable to have cleared his name, McGill takes on the next assignment (episode 2: All that Glitters) about the apparent kidnapping of a village boy. He soon discovers that there seems to be more behind the kidnapping than meets the eye, especially since aspiring politician Michael Hornsby (Michael Goodliffe) takes a keen interest in the case and it is him who commissioned McGill in finding the boy… who comes from humble background. Could Hornsby’s apparently happy marriage to his ultra-wealthy wife Dolores (Barbara Shelley) be a mere façade? Or could political rivalry have something to do with the crime?
In Sweet Sue, Judy Geeson stars as Sue Mandel, a spoiled brat with more money than sense who lives off daddy’s wealth. Forever bored and forever in search of the next kick, Sue has fallen in with two particularly nasty confidence tricksters called Charles (David Cole) and Colin (Peter Blythe) who steal 20,000 from the safe of her dad. No wonder he hires McGill for help, who not only uses fist and brains but also his considerable charms to outsmart the two young rogues though it isn’t as easy as it would seem.
The Bridge is an oddball episode about an eternally suicidal and irritating young man called Tim Gormond (Rodney Brewes), the son of Lord Gormond (Bill Owen) who hires McGill in the hope that he might bring his troubled son back to his senses after yet another suicide attempt trying to jump off a bridge… but never quite displaying the courage to finally do so. Through determination and homework, McGill establishes as to why Tim seems plagued by thoughts of suicide. It all goes back to an incident which occurred on said bridge several years earlier during which Tim pushed his apparently best mate to his death. However, nothing is as straightforward as Tim claims to be. Soon McGill finds out that Tim and his mate were not the only people on the bridge during the incident. Further investigations lead McGill to a posh nightclub in Chelsea where he meets glamorous model Annabelle Fenchurch (Jane Merrow), the daughter of influential Sir Walter Fenchurch (Anthony Nicholls). Could Annabelle be the link to the tragedy and, more importantly, could there be a cover-up of sorts?
The final episode, Find the Lady, takes McGill to Rome where he gets embroiled in a particularly tricky case involving the theft of some priceless gems called the Rossini jewels by master thief Guilio (Maxwell Shaw). McGill enlists the help of an informant called Mori (John Garrie), who looks little more than a tramp, to retrieve the stolen goods but the plan goes spectacularly pear-shaped and sees Mori killed by Guilio. While the local Commandante (Patrick Cargill) piles on the pressure and urges McGill to catch Guilio and the jewels (or else McGill won’t get his confiscated passport back!), a mysterious hotel guest called Francesca (Jeanne Roland), who claims to be an on/off actress, leaves no stone unturned in her efforts to catch the eye of McGill and seduce him. Is she really after him, or is there another, more sinister, reason for Francesca’s interest in McGill?
Richard Bradford’s portrayal of ‘McGill’ simply couldn’t be bettered. He plays a man who glides between stoicism, cynicism, ice-cold calculation, charm, human warmth, wit and self-pity with ease and utter conviction. The cases are always very different which keeps this series exciting though the one re-occurring factor seems that no matter what, McGill never seems able to clear his name and reputation.
The Blu-ray edition is fantastic to look at with crisp colours and a sharper than sharp picture, while the feverish theme tune by Ron Grainer perfectly sets the tone.
Please not that MAN IN A SUITCASE is a Network Exclusive and can be purchased only via www.networkonair.com directly.