Tuesday, February 28, 2012

McGill Fills the Bill

video
Opening from Man in a Suitcase. Theme by Ron Grainer.

It’s funny how one’s curiosity about a subject can sometimes be quickly and serendipitously fulfilled.

Just the other day, I mentioned on this page that Mysterical-E columnist Jim Doherty had included in his recent rundown of the “10 best private eyes created specifically for TV” a disgraced U.S. Intelligence agent turned P.I. by the name of McGill, who was played by American actor Richard Bradford in the UK drama Man in a Suitcase. Of Doherty’s 10 picks, McGill was the only one with whom I had no experience. In fact, I knew little about Bradford’s 1967-1968 series.

I was therefore well primed to notice a new post in the blog Classic Film and TV Café titled “Man in a Suitcase: The Best Spy TV Series You May Have Never Heard Of.” Contributor Rick29 acquaints us with the series’ premise:
Branded a traitor by U.S. intelligence, McGill makes a living doing free-lance work in Europe and Africa--dealing with blackmailers, protecting stool pigeons, finding kidnapped victims, recovering lost art treasures, etc. He charges $300 to $500 a week, depending on the job, plus expenses. When a potential client gripes about the high fee for a “disgraced American agent with a gun for hire,” McGill quips: “I’m expensive ... I call it my self-respect bonus.”

McGill's back story is revealed in the series’ sixth episode (originally intended as the first and best viewed that way). It explains that his government superiors framed him as a traitor to protect a mole behind the Iron Curtain. Proving his innocence is not an option--McGill recognizes that his false disgrace is a price that must be paid. These kinds of difficult decisions and realistic conclusions elevate Man in a Suitcase above its more conventional rivals. It’s not unusual for clients being guarded by McGill to be murdered anyway. And in one episode, after McGill fails to secure blackmail evidence, the victim sacrifices his ethics to protect his reputation.
You can read Rick29’s full article here. And it appears that Man in a Suitcase can be purchased in two DVD sets (here and here).

So now I come before The Rap Sheet’s highly discriminating audience with a simple question: Is it worth buying or else renting Man in a Suitcase on DVD? Comments are welcomed below.

READ MORE:TV on DVD: Man in a Suitcase: Set 1, by Scott Malchus (Pop Dose); “Man in a Suitcase,” by Jason Whiton (SpyVibe); “Man in a Suitcase,” by Johnny Swoonara (Fanderson Forum); “Scorpio Rooms: Victor Canning on TV,” by Tise Vahimagi (Mystery*File).

6 comments:

Gary Phillips said...

Jeff,

For sure Man in a Suitcase is worth renting. It's been many years since I've seen the show -- lasting only one year as I recall. But there was something about Bradford's (from Texas) relaxed disenchantment with it all I always dug...LeCarre meets Willeford Don't remember any one episode sticking out though maybe Donald Southerland was in one?

Walker Martin said...

I can recommend MAN IN A SUITCASE which I first started watching a few years ago when I bought the British box set. Very violent and not your usual PI Tv show.

Sergio (Tipping My Fedora) said...

If you liked the Patrick McGoohan show SECRET AGENT (originally DANGER MAN in the UK) then you shoul really like this - it's like a more soulful and violent version, without any gadgets. Indeed it shared much of the same crew or rather, the half of the crew that didn;t follow McGoohan, at the end of the DANGER MAN run, to go and make THE PRISONER. The show shows really have a lot in common (loner secret agent is let loose from his agency and each week has to decide who to trust) - I wrote a piece about this series a few yeas ago that may be of interest - you can find it here:
http://www.screenonline.org.uk/tv/id/512060/index.html

Ray Banks said...

Absolutely worth renting and/or buying. One of the great ITC series, alongside Danger Man and The Prisoner. Bradford was rarely better - nobody took a beating like him, and few other actors could dish one out with quite the same aplomb - and the scripts were more hardboiled than anything else.

So yeah, highly recommended.

RJR said...

Jeff,

Man In A Suitcase is in my top 3 all time favorite t.v. shows (Harry O and The Outsider being the other 2). I have the whole set in one box. When it was shown in the US they only showed about 18 episodes, but the entire season was 36.

It's worth getting.

Martin Edwards said...

I watched this when it was first shown in the UK and really loved it. Not sure if it has worn well, but Bradford was terrific. Very good laconic humour and decent stories, as I remember.