Man in a Suitcase

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For the song by The Police, see Man in a Suitcase (song).
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
Country of origin United Kingdom
Original language(s) English
No. of series 1
No. of episodes 30 (list of episodes)
Producer(s) Sidney Cole
Running time 49 mins
Production company(s) ITC Entertainment
Distributor ITC Entertainment
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 1967–1968 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 1968, 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. 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 before 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 to Africa.

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

Story and style[edit]

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, 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.

Building on this foundation, Man in a Suitcase was a series very much about betrayal, mistrust and deceit. Because of his unofficial, semi-legal status, McGill often found 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 drew him into dangerous situations; and he could also be blackmailed or tricked into participating in espionage missions, as he was 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 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.

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 from "Man from the Dead", Albert Bridge from "The Bridge" and Kingston upon Thames from "Day of Execution", the latter a setting for a remarkable (for its time) night-time car chase.


Richard Bradford is the only regular actor in the series. Guest stars include some ITC stalwarts 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 and Donald Sutherland.

Episode list[edit]

Airdate is for ATV Midlands[2] ITV regions varied date and order.

Ep # Prod # Title Directed by Written by Original airdate
1 106 "Brainwash" Charles Crichton Francis Megahy and Bernie Cooper 27 September 1967
2 115 "The Sitting Pigeon" Gerry O'Hara Edmund Ward 4 October 1967
3 110 "Day of Execution" Charles Crichton Phillip Broadley 11 October 1967
4 108 "Variation on a Million Bucks" — Part one Pat Jackson Stanley R. Greenberg 18 October 1967
5 109 "Variation on a Million Bucks" — Part two Robert Tronson Stanley R. Greenberg 25 October 1967
6 101 "Man from the Dead" Pat Jackson Stanley R. Greenberg 1 November 1967
7 103 "Sweet Sue" Robert Tronson Phillip Broadley 8 November 1967
8 120 "Essay in Evil" Freddie Francis Kevin B. Laffan 15 November 1967
9 107 "The Girl Who Never Was" Robert Tronson Donald Jonson 22 November 1967
10 102 "All That Glitters" Herbert Wise Stanley R. Greenberg 29 November 1967
11 118 "Dead Man's Shoes" Peter Duffell Edmund Ward 6 December 1967
12 105 "Find the Lady" Robert Tronson Phillip Broadley 13 December 1967
13 104 "The Bridge" Pat Jackson Robert Muller 20 December 1967
14 116 "The Man Who Stood Still" Peter Duffell Raymond Bowers 27 December 1967
15 122 "Burden of Proof" Peter Duffell Edmund Ward 3 January 1968
16 119 "The Whisper" Charles Crichton Morris Farhi 10 January 1968
17 121 "Why They Killed Nolan" Charles Crichton Donald Jonson 17 January 1968
18 113 "The Boston Square" Don Chaffey Wilfred Greatorex 24 January 1968
19 117 "Somebody Loses, Somebody...Wins?" John Glen Jan Read 31 January 1968
20 112 "Blind Spot" Jeremy Summers Victor Canning 7 February 1968
21 125 "No Friend of Mine" Charles Crichton John Stanton 14 February 1968
22 114 "Jigsaw Man" Charles Frend Stanley R. Greenberg and Reed De Rouen 21 February 1968
23 111 "Web with Four Spiders" Robert Tronson Edmund Ward 28 February 1968
24 126 "Which Way Did He Go, McGill?" Freddie Francis Francis Megahy and Bernie Cooper 6 March 1968
25 124 "Property of a Gentleman" Peter Duffell Wilfred Greatorex 13 March 1968
26 127 "The Revolutionaries" Peter Duffell Jan Read
Story by Kevin B. Laffan
20 March 1968
27 123 "Who's Mad Now?" Freddie Francis Roger Parkes 27 March 1968
28 128 "Three Blinks of the Eyes" Charles Crichton Vincent Tilsley 3 April 1968
29 129 "Castle in the Clouds" Peter Duffell Jan Read 10 April 1968
30 130 "Night Flight to Andorra" Freddie Francis Jan Read and Reed De Rouen 17 April 1968

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.


The entire series has been released on DVD in Britain as a digitally re-mastered box set by Network DVD. There are 8 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 4 disc, Region 1 box sets in 2010.

Other media[edit]

The Police include 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 "alternative" 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]


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

External links[edit]