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Man in a suitcase follows the exploits of an American in London and Europe
after her get kicked out of the CIA. I first came across this show on a day
time TV run years ago and watched it expecting something cheesy. I was very
pleasantly proved wrong and having been trying to buy or tape as many
episodes as I could get my hand on ever since.
Although produced by Lew Grade's ITC company, it shares little in common with stablemates such as "Champions", "DangerMan" or even "The Prisoner". What made it different was the quality of the plots, the acting (especially Richard Bradford's)and the way it managed to combine elements of glamour and gritty realism...oh, and the title music (although all ITC shows had good title music and sequences).
An excellent series.
Richard Bradford in the 60s was the Steve McQueen of TV, laced with a healthy dose of Marlon Brando. It's a real pity we only got to see him in one series of this excellent series before he disappeared into limbo land for nearly 20yrs, re-emerging to appear in films like 'The Untouchables' and the under-rated 'Mean Season'. Bradford's performance as McGill carries this series from start to finish and is the reason it is the least dated of the ITC stable. McGill is a real person ... vulnerable, prone to mistakes but never giving less than 100 per cent for the right cause. No super heroic 'Champion' - like exploits for him. The stories vary in quality but Bradford is the core to all of them and his on screen persona carries them off with credibility intact. It is good to see that an excellent 8 disc DVD set (inc extras) is available worldwide with a UK edition coming in August 2005. Dip deep into your pockets (the distribution companies know the value of this series and have raised the price considerably) and enjoy the best PI series ever made.
I first saw "Man in a suitcase" in 1967-I loved it then and still
do.This is one of the A.T.V."action" series of the 60's,but it differs
from the likes of "The Saint" or "The Baron",in the cynical edge to the
plots and the vulnerability of the hero.Richard Bradford as "McGill"(no
first name!),was simply the coolest TV detective ever.He looked
great(in fab "pre hippy era 60's" suits,with narrow lapels and thin
ties),was as tough as nails,moody and unpredictable,and acted like
Brando playing Peter Gunn-oh,and made smoking a cigarette into an art
form.One amazing thing is he didn't always win either,and when he did
he might well come out of things half beaten to death,many of the
endings of episodes were pretty downbeat.The producers did make one
ghastly mistake though-a guy like McGill should never have driven a car
as totally uncool as a Hillman Imp!
Best episode for me-"Brainwash".
This show is a strong candidate for the best ever theme tune and titles.
Back in the 60's it was common for UK produced action adventure shows to feature an American leading man.The excuse was that this policy helped to sell the shows internationally but I suspect that the real reason was that then as now producers could not find a British leading man who looked as though he could punch his way out of a paper bag. Richard Bradford as hard as nails investigator McGill in MAN IN A SUITCASE looked and sounded like he could punch his way out of an iron bag and punch his way through this super enjoyable show he did in every episode.McGill took his beatings manfully as well and I have rarely seen an actor so convincing at portraying the after effects of being the victim of a beating.Shortly before filming this series Bradford had appeared with Marlon Brando in THE CHASE and seemed to have picked up some of that actor's mannerisms and verbal inflections.This did not detract from his McGill persona however,on the contrary,it added an extra dimension to it. In SWEET SUE,one of the best episodes,a villain refers to McGill as "the last of the bare-fisted heroes" and perhaps he was.No high-kicking martial arts shenanigans from McGill;his fists did the talking and most eloquently at that.A shame that the exciting and evocative theme music was purloined by the arrogant and self-seeking TV presenter Chris Evans for one of his lame shows in the 90s.
Only one actor is listed as a regular cast member and that is Richard
Bradford who starred as the man and his suitcase, McGill. That, and his
wits, were all that were left to him after the CIA kicked him out to fend
McGill had a rougher ride in this series than any other spy or
before or since and, to his credit, Richard Bradford made sure it showed.
The effort he put into his characterisation, the generally high level of
supporting cast, writers and crew which backed him up, was well worth it
over thirty years, later this series is still as fresh as the day it first
aired. I am glad I found it, and I can't stop watching it.
Richard Bradford is mesmerising to watch as McGill and throughout the series he is consistently good, never giving less than his best so a lot of the credit for the success of this series must surely go to him. He has made many appearances in films and on t.v. in character roles since which shows his scope as an actor, but I believe his talents deserved better. The star of Man In A Suitcase is surely the one that got away.
It never ceases to amaze me how a quality series like this has been neglected in favour of lesser and more dated ITC shows of that genre. Getting Texan Richard Bradford in the title role was a master stroke! His interpretation of the hero of the piece was spot on, making McGill 'human'. He wasn't ruthless, but he was tough, he had integrity and was loyal to past associates - even if they didn't always mirror the same courtesy to him. When he occasionally let down his guard and gave us an insight into why he was the way he was, the characterisation became even more intriguing, and to use Richard Bradford's terminology, 'made him real'. I love this series and I'm forever grateful to Mr Bradford for making such an effort to get his performance just right. I think its a fine tribute to his dedication for his craft that the work he did on this production continues to excite people all these years later - can't think of a greater legacy for any actor!
Richard Bradford plays this role absolutely on the nail. It sets a
standard that can only have been copied in the Prisoner, Callan, the
Professionals, The Avengers ..... The list would go on, right through
to Bond and Vin Diesel. An understated and genuine creation that has
set the scene for years after. Any actor who now wants to play the
disenfranchised but preeminent secret agent has to watch this or fail
The production is carried by Bradford's acting and presence, but it has to be acknowledged, he has the medium of inspired writers who are clearly "under the cosh" to deliver tight, cogent and robust scripts.
Mcgill, and I suspect Bradford as well, would have hated the internet and the modern film industry as a communications medium, given its requirement for many words where one short meaningful statement would do - Ernest Hemingway - you're not forgotten.
One statement to sum it up? - Great intelligent, high integrity production.
McGill mostly drove a Hillman Imp (green and red), but was so cool that
he could do that and not appear bland. I think it's a huge credit to
the producers that they chose an Imp for McGill. A flashier car would
have detracted from his character a great deal.
My very first car was a 1966 Hillman Imp and I felt really cool in it too.
The other thing I liked about Lew Grade's 1960s TV series is that the main characters - except The Saint - usually drove British cars, which for me made them more real.
According to an interview I saw recently with Johnny Goodman (production manager on The Baron) no British manufacturer would donate a car for Simon Templar - not even Jaguar. Hence that VOLVO P1800, which started moving out of showrooms real fast shortly after its film debut.
Obviously British car manufacturers in the 1960s weren't as clued up about how this kind of product placement could do wonders for their sales figures.
I have recently seen all the episodes of Man in a Suitcase again and I must say that they look as hip today as when I first saw them in 1967 as a boy of ten on black and white TV. In fact - they look even fresher in colour.
There's no doubt that Man in a Suitcase was/is a true classic.
Mcgill is a man of the sixties who is on a different case every week. He cannot and will not get too close to the opposite sex because of his travels and his occupation. However, he does run into some old friends along the way and Mcgill always comes out on top. With his cigarette in his mouth and his American accent his mcgill is an anti hero that seems a million miles away from Simon Templar but underneath the rugged exterior he is actually quite similar to the saint. The locations are varied and the standard of the writing and the acting is very good. All in all Mcgill is a man of the sixties and you cannot imagine him ever settling down, he is truly a man in a suitcase.
McGill has to be the coolest man on the planet. I love the way he takes
a beating and looks like it was real and his Hillman is a car of
beauty. Fantastic sixties feel to the series and he wears suits as
sharp as a knife.
After watching every single episode, the high standard is maintained throughout. I think this is because it was shot over a short period with strong casts and it is really interesting to see British actors at all sorts of stages in their careers.
I think a lot of the tension in the series is to do with McGill being an American in England. He brings a breath of fresh air to the stilted English society.
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