Man In A Suitcase, Set 1
by Del Harvey
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Man in a Suitcase was a 1967 television series produced by Britain’s ITC. It was created as a replacement for Danger Man, also known as Secret Agent Man here in the US, which ended when Patrick McGoohan decided to make his own series, The Prisoner. Since The Prisoner also played against everything the secret agent series stood for, ITC was trying to fill a void left by the then-highly popular Danger Man series.
The series revolved around its lead character, McGill, played by American actor Richard Bradford. McGill was a former US Intelligence agent who had been forced to resign from the service six years prior to the opening episode, practically accused of treason. Unable to clear his name or return to the USA, McGill made ends meet by working as a traveling 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 Africa.)
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, in order to maintain the illusion of the LeFarbe defection as genuine.
The action-packed Cold War drama features savvy writing and a host of superb guest stars, including Donald Sutherland, James Grout, Anton Rodgers, Nicola Pagett, Peter Vaughn, Stuart Damon, and Judy Geeson.
As a kid I was a huge fan of the Secret Agent Man series and tuned into Man In A Suitcase religiously. To my great surprise, I found it immensely enjoyable when re-viewing the episodes these many years later.
Man In A Suitcase, Set 1, is available on DVD January 25, 2011 from Acorn Media. Set 1 includes the first 15 episodes of this engaging and stylish series (DVD 4-Disc). For more information or to purchase, click here.
Del Harvey is the founder of Film Monthly, a film teacher, a writer and a film critic in Chicago.
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