Man in a Suitcase

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Man in a Suitcase
Series titles over a suitcase
Created by Dennis Spooner
Richard Harris
Starring Richard Bradford
Opening theme Ron Grainer
Composer(s) Albert Elms
Freddie Phillips
Country of origin United Kingdom
Original language(s) English
No. of series 1
No. of episodes 30 (list of episodes)
Production
Producer(s) Sidney Cole
Running time 49 mins
Production company(s) ITC Entertainment
Distributor ITC Entertainment
Release
Original network ITV
Picture format 35 mm film 4:3
Audio format Mono
Original release 27 September 1967 – 17 April 1968

Man in a Suitcase is a British television series produced by Lew Grade's ITC Entertainment. It originally aired in the United Kingdom on ITV from 27 September 1967 to 17 April 1968. ABC broadcast episodes of Man in a Suitcase in the United States from 3 May to 20 September 1968.[1]

Origins and overview[edit]

Man in a Suitcase was effectively a replacement for Danger Man, whose production had been curtailed when its star Patrick McGoohan 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. As with several ITC productions, the series was to 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 before the opening episode, having been 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 to Africa.

The theme tune was composed by Ron Grainer—it was later reused as the theme for Chris Evans' entertainment show TFI Friday. The incidental music was supplied by Albert Elms.

Story and style[edit]

In the pilot episode, "Man from the Dead", the reason for McGill's disgrace is revealed. During an assignment six years earlier, 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, to maintain the illusion of the LeFarbe defection as genuine. On the series first broadcast on ATV Midlands[note 1] "Man from the Dead" was screened as the sixth episode; "Brainwash", thought to be a stronger tale, was in fact broadcast first.[citation needed]

Building on this foundation, Man in a Suitcase is a series very much about betrayal, mistrust and deceit. Because of his unofficial, semi-legal status, McGill often finds himself being hired by unscrupulous clients and unwittingly used for criminal ends, or set up as a fall guy. On several occasions, characters from his past with US intelligence draw him into dangerous situations; and he can also be blackmailed or tricked into participating in espionage missions, as he is the perfect deniable operative. A number of the series writers were new to ITC, and this resulted in a show that was markedly different from the usual light-hearted adventure and espionage fantasy of such series. It highlighted character-based drama grounded in a cynical view of the real world, making it more akin to the spy novels of John le Carré and Len Deighton.

As developed by Bradford, the characterisation of McGill is complex. As a man who feels betrayed by life and his country, he can appear outwardly as surly, moody and uncommunicative, but this masks a sensitive interior. McGill feels compassion for those who were the victims in his cases, and would try to help them, often at 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.

One gimmick of the show is that McGill's first name is never revealed. Some close friends instead know him as "Mac".

As with the other ITC series of the era, although the plots took McGill far and wide around the world, in reality the majority of filming was done in and around Pinewood Studios. The series was unusual in its use of night-time filming (as opposed to the day-for-night approach common at the time). Actual locations included London's South Bank and White City Stadium in "Man from the Dead", Albert Bridge, London in "The Bridge" and Kingston upon Thames in "Day of Execution", the latter a setting for a remarkable (for its time) night-time car chase.

Cast[edit]

Richard Bradford is the only regular actor in the series. Guest stars include some ITC regulars such as Stuart Damon, Jane Merrow, Basil Dignam, Ed Bishop, Anton Rodgers, George Sewell, Philip Madoc and John Gregson; and such actors as Barbara Shelley, Rodney Bewes, Felicity Kendal, Rupert Davies, Colin Blakely, Ray McAnally, Bernard Lee, Jacqueline Pearce, Edward Fox and Donald Sutherland.

Episode list[edit]

Airdate and episode order is for ATV Midlands;[citation needed] other ITV regions varied date and order.

Ep # Prod # Title Directed by Written by Original airdate
1106"Brainwash"Charles CrichtonFrancis Megahy and Bernie Cooper27 September 1967 (1967-09-27)
2115"The Sitting Pigeon"Gerry O'HaraEdmund Ward4 October 1967 (1967-10-04)
3110"Day of Execution"Charles CrichtonPhillip Broadley11 October 1967 (1967-10-11)
4108"Variation on a Million Bucks" — Part onePat JacksonStanley R. Greenberg18 October 1967 (1967-10-18)
5109"Variation on a Million Bucks" — Part twoRobert TronsonStanley R. Greenberg25 October 1967 (1967-10-25)
6101"Man from the Dead"Pat JacksonStanley R. Greenberg1 November 1967 (1967-11-01)
7103"Sweet Sue"Robert TronsonPhillip Broadley8 November 1967 (1967-11-08)
8120"Essay in Evil"Freddie FrancisKevin B. Laffan15 November 1967 (1967-11-15)
9107"The Girl Who Never Was"Robert TronsonDonald Jonson22 November 1967 (1967-11-22)
10102"All That Glitters"Herbert WiseStanley R. Greenberg29 November 1967 (1967-11-29)
11118"Dead Man's Shoes"Peter DuffellEdmund Ward6 December 1967 (1967-12-06)
12105"Find the Lady"Robert TronsonPhillip Broadley13 December 1967 (1967-12-13)
13104"The Bridge"Pat JacksonRobert Muller20 December 1967 (1967-12-20)
14116"The Man Who Stood Still"Peter DuffellRaymond Bowers27 December 1967 (1967-12-27)
15122"Burden of Proof"Peter DuffellEdmund Ward3 January 1968 (1968-01-03)
16119"The Whisper"Charles CrichtonMorris Farhi10 January 1968 (1968-01-10)
17121"Why They Killed Nolan"Charles CrichtonDonald Jonson17 January 1968 (1968-01-17)
18113"The Boston Square"Don ChaffeyWilfred Greatorex24 January 1968 (1968-01-24)
19117"Somebody Loses, Somebody...Wins?"John GlenJan Read31 January 1968 (1968-01-31)
20112"Blind Spot"Jeremy SummersVictor Canning7 February 1968 (1968-02-07)
21125"No Friend of Mine"Charles CrichtonJohn Stanton14 February 1968 (1968-02-14)
22114"Jigsaw Man"Charles FrendStanley R. Greenberg and Reed De Rouen21 February 1968 (1968-02-21)
23111"Web with Four Spiders"Robert TronsonEdmund Ward28 February 1968 (1968-02-28)
24126"Which Way Did He Go, McGill?"Freddie FrancisFrancis Megahy and Bernie Cooper6 March 1968 (1968-03-06)
25124"Property of a Gentleman"Peter DuffellWilfred Greatorex13 March 1968 (1968-03-13)
26127"The Revolutionaries"Peter DuffellJan Read
Story by Kevin B. Laffan
20 March 1968 (1968-03-20)
27123"Who's Mad Now?"Freddie FrancisRoger Parkes27 March 1968 (1968-03-27)
28128"Three Blinks of the Eyes"Charles CrichtonVincent Tilsley3 April 1968 (1968-04-03)
29129"Castle in the Clouds"Peter DuffellJan Read10 April 1968 (1968-04-10)
30130"Night Flight to Andorra"Freddie FrancisJan Read and Reed De Rouen17 April 1968 (1968-04-17)

The two-part story "Variation on a Million Bucks" was edited into a feature film for theatrical release in Europe, entitled To Chase a Million.

DVD and Blu-Ray[edit]

The entire series has been released on DVD in Britain as a digitally re-mastered box set by Network DVD. There are eight discs (Region 2 UK). Extras consist of commercial bumpers, both US and UK, a music-only track on one or two episodes, and an interview with series star Richard Bradford where he sometimes vehemently describes the working conditions and former producers of the show.

Prior to this, Carlton Video had released a single disc with the first two episodes.

The series is also available in Australia from Umbrella Entertainment in a box set.

Acorn Media released both seasons in two four-disc, Region 1 box sets in 2010.

In October 2017 Network DVD announced that the series was to be remastered for a UK Blu-Ray edition, with the first volume due for release in December 2017.[2]

Other media[edit]

The Police included a song of the same title on their 1980 album Zenyatta Mondatta.

British sludge metal band GZR released an eponymous homage to the series as the first track on their 1997 album Black Science.

British comedian Ted Chippington's 1986 debut album on Birmingham's Vindaloo record label was also entitled Man in a Suitcase.

Writer Rodney Marshall and television historian Matthew Lee produced the first critical guide to the series in 2015.

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Before 1968 ATV transmitted weekdays in the Midlands and weekends in London. See History of ITV.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Brooks, Tim, and Earle Marsh, The Complete Directory to Prime-Time Network and Cable TV Shows, 1946–Present, Sixth Edition, New York: Ballantine Books, 1995, ISBN 0-345-39736-3, p. 636.
  2. ^ "Man in a Suitcase: Volume 1 [BLU-RAY]". Network On Air. 

External links[edit]