Up until the moment I saw this episode of the long-running 'Mark Saber' series, I did not even know it still existed. I had toddled along to the British Film Institute to watch three shows scripted by Brian Clemens. One of the three was advertised as being an episode of a different series called 'Rendezvous' - the episode being 'The Executioner' which I had seen a few years before but was happy to go to see again. My review of that show can be found elsewhere in my IMDb portfolio of McGoohan work. When I arrived at the venue, the blurb stated that the third show on the bill would be "Blood in the Sky".... But I had never heard that this film even still existed and thought there must be some kind of mistake. But there wasn't, so here is a subjective memory of something I watched in a whirl of excited bewilderment.
The show opens with the man trapped in a giant vise - harking back to the original title of this series back in 1954/55: The Vise. By 1957 it had transmogrified into a vehicle for the popular one-armed detective Mark Saber. He is a private investigator, based in London. There is an airport scene - holidaymakers heading for sunnier climes - a plane is in the air - an explosion - a whirling newspaper headlined with disaster. Such is the prologue and next we are taken to the office of the private detective. He is struggling to make ends meet it seems - he's chatting to his faithful assistant about the lack of business but, just then, one persons disaster becomes another's salvation. An executive from the air company called Tom Vance arrives, he needs Saber to discover the cause of the disaster. If it is caused by a failure of the aircraft his company could be doomed. Patrick McGoohan is Tom Vance. He's an efficient, precise and clear talker. He explains the dilemma with clarity to Donald Gray's Mark Saber. His company is convinced the disaster is caused by sabotage, but they have no proof and without proof they could be ruined by the claims against their technical standards. Vance gives Saber the list of passengers. The interview ends and Vance leaves, reminding Saber of the importance and secrecy of this assignment. We won't see Vance again, but within three years or so, the man playing him will become one of the most recognised and popular TV actors in the country.
The remainder of the episode is as much by the numbers as McGoohan's performance. Saber gets to interview all the relatives and business associates of the dead people on the plane. He finds more than one red herring but no rotten fish. It's looking like failure. If Saber cannot find the solution then Vance's airline will go bust and nobody will be getting paid. Just as all seems hopeless..... Saber has a brainwave! It's all to do with big cats you see; lions live in Africa, tigers only in India. The plane was flying to Africa but the business associate of one of the victims remarked that he hadn't minded missing out on the trip because he had shot tigers before. On such small slips does the vise of fate squeeze, and as Saber declares, because of one man's greed there was........... blood in the sky.......
Blood in the Sky was merely an apostrophe in the career of Patrick McGoohan, but has been quite a punctuation mark in my small mission to watch him. After all, I have now seen what I had believed no longer existed. It doesn't get any better than that really. Be seeing you next time.
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