Man in a Suitcase - Set 1
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“Mac” McGill (Richard Bradford, The Untouchables) is an ex-spy with a murky past and an uncertain future. Wrongfully dismissed by his bosses in U.S. intelligence, he decides to freelance as a private detective based out of London. McGill’s work takes him far and wide, yet seemingly always on a collision course with the British authorities, the Soviets, and his old colleagues in American espionage. Beset by enemies on all sides, he strives to clear his name and restore his reputation. But until he does, he remains on the run, taking jobs in the dark and dangerous corners of European society.
This action-packed Cold War drama aired on ABC in the late 1960s and features savvy writing and a host of superb guest stars, including Donald Sutherland (Pride & Prejudice), James Grout (Inspector Morse), Anton Rodgers (Lillie), Nicola Pagett (Upstairs, Downstairs), Peter Vaughan (The Remains of the Day), Stuart Damon (General Hospital), and Judy Geeson (Mad About You).
Bearing one of the miniskirt era's groovier theme songs, Britain's Man in a Suitcase presents a scenario similar to ITC's Danger Man (Secret Agent Man in the United Sates). After American intelligence gives him the boot for facilitating a high-profile defection, "Mac" McGill (Richard Bradford, The Untouchables) remains in London as a freelance detective. In the Charles Crichton-directed opener, "Brainwash," a band of political exiles pressures him to lie in order to get back what they've lost. When McGill refuses to play along, they torture him using the sort of mind-control methods featured in The Manchurian Candidate. (Best known for The Lavender Hill Mob, Crichton also directed "Day of Execution.")
A silver-haired chain smoker, McGill escapes by virtue of his fists and his smarts. Though he carries a gun, he prefers to use a well-placed karate chop. While Bradford's Method mumble adds to McGill's veneer of insouciant cool, his beach attire--tube socks!--is another matter. During the first season, the PI keeps an eye on an informer (George Sewell) in "The Sitting Pigeon," searches for the boss (John Barrie) who can clear his name in "Man from the Dead," and looks out for an old college buddy (a lanky young Donald Sutherland) in "Day of Execution." If he has time for a few girlfriends, a long-term commitment is out of the question.
Created by Richard Harris and Dennis Spooner (The Avengers), Man in a Suitcase ran for one 30-episode season. Other notable participants include actor Peter Vaughn and Room at the Top cinematographer Freddie Francis. McGill may be less sympathetic than Patrick McGoohan's John Drake, but the combination of visceral action and subtle humor makes for an enjoyable addition to the small-screen spy genre. This boxed set includes the first 15 episodes in the series plus four photo galleries, one for each disc. --Kathleen C. Fennessy
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Top Customer Reviews
What a pleasant surprise to discover a very unique show with a very talented method actor in the lead. The intensity of Bradford's performances are so that the viewer at first is simply taken aback by it. Rarely does one see this kind of method acting in a TV show, probably because it is so demanding to do it for the same character over and over again for a TV show. The demands on Bradford must have been emotionally and physically draining. It is no surprise therefore on this basis alone that the show only lasted two seasons.
Great entertainment. The performance of Bradford alone is worth the investment, not to mention the great theme tune of the show which has to be one of the very best ever written for a TV show.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
McGill will take any job, no matter how dirty it is, as long as he gets paid. This guy ain't Simon Pure. Money is his motivation. Wherever McGill goes he is a pariah. Nobody wants him around. Even his clients don't want him around. They just want him to do his job and get lost. He gets double-crossed by everyone, including his clients, and is punched senseless more times than he is able to smoke a cigarette. In fact, in one scene he trades punches in a brutal fistfight while he is smoking a cigarette. Somehow he manages to keep the cigarette in his mouth throughout the entire fight.
My favorite episode is the one called "Mariocki." A lot of the episodes are forgettable. Several of them are cut-and-dried. Some very good actors appeared in this series, including Donald Sutherland. American actor Richard Bradford is good as the sullen and explosive McGill, the man with a past. He's a sixties TV antihero who seems much more contemporary than other TV spies of the sixties such as the heroes Napoleon Solo and Ilya Kuryakin in "The Man from U.N.C.L.E."
"Man in a Suitcase" isn't as good as "Secret Agent Man," Patrick McGoohan's TV spy series in the sixties, but it's close. Even the theme song of "Man in a Suitcase" is catchy. And that old beat-up leather suitcase McGill carries with him wherever he goes. Who can forget that? It's a shame the series lasted only one season.
--Bryan Cassiday, author of "The Kill Option"
The series concerns an American secret agent bounced from the CIA for something he did not do. He now travels around Europe as a roving private-eye. (The series is sort of a great grandfather to the current "Burn Notice," shown on the USA network.) The main character with the tough-guy name of McGill is played by an American, Richard Bradford (who 21 years later would become more famous for his rough fight scene with Sean Connery in "The Untouchables.)
Bradford, who seems to have been influenced by the Brando school of method acting and walks with the kind of "I don't give a crap" gait that Vic Morrow had on "Combat," seems to smoke a cigarette in every scene, most of which he smokes down to the butt.
The thing I remember about this series is the cool theme music, which I have never forgotten and which I looked forward to hearing again.
The plots are, for the most part, interesting although many of the episodes end rather abruptly. The show is in color and like the color of most 1960's tv series far nicer and preferable to me than the color today. The disc quality is good.
As stated, I never expected to see this series again as it was not particularly successful and did not run long. However I am happy that it has been released and have enjoyed making McGill's acquaintance again.
Another fine series from the ITC Television Network, responsible for shows like "The Prisoner" and "Gideon's Way," this is a gritty, realistic and exciting set of episodes well-written with fast-moving plots and never short on action.
Bradford plays McGill with a degree of toughness and a laconic ease so well that he seems to be perfectly cast for the role. Trained at the NY Actor's Studio, Bradford was a Method actor and claimed Brando as his inspiration; in fact, Bradford had a supporting role with the Academy Award winning actor in the controversial film, "The Chase" (1966), directed by Arthur Penn. Supporting players, all fine character actors from ITC's stable, like Donald Houston, Angela Browne, and Judy Geeson, raise the bar of this rarely seen, but popular, detective series.
Compared to 'Danger Man's" John Drake, McGill is the antihero--a man for hire, keen and distrustful of others, with an eye for the ladies, but a man not without scruples. Shot in color, the series is markedly violent and in the fisticuffs McGill often finds himself in, the blood flows freely. But there is more: the stories and assignments McGill takes on are interesting as they are unusual at times. The international locales also add a bit of flair in contrast to the typical "Mannix" episode that was limited to that metropolis called Los Angeles.
This is from the original Network DVD set that should be held up as a model of what all DVD sets should aspire to: pristine transfers from the original print (so clean they look as if they were shot yesterday), tons of extras including trailers, foreign titles, bumpers, behind-the-scene stills, a Richard Bradford interview (today, a mere shadow of the lean, handsome actor he was 40 years ago!), a full-color booklet, and more.
Nonetheless, "Man in a Suitcase" is a tight and shut case to hours of viewing enjoyment. And if the incidental music in "Man in a Suitcase" seems awfully familiar to that of 'The Prisoner" it should be--both were composed by Ron Grainer.
In the first episode "Man From the Dead", it is learned that McGill (no first name stated) was an American agent who was disgraced about six years previously, and is regarded by some as a traitor. McGill discovers that his reputation was sacrificed as part of a scheme to plant agents behind the iron curtain. Rather than endanger those operatives, McGill chooses to remain in disgrace. He makes his living doing investigative work, and other jobs that usually involve intrigue, and danger. The title of the series comes from McGill's somewhat nomadic lifestyle, as he frequently travels from place to place carrying his worn tan suitcase.
McGill may travel light, and doesn't always go first class, but he is seldom in dire financial straits. Even with a tarnished reputation in some circles, McGill seems to have no shortage of employment opportunities, and is sometimes selected to be the fall guy. McGill is ruggedly handsome, but has some rough edges, and lacks the refinement and sophistication of a Simon Templar. His prematurely graying hair makes him look older. Because he has received a raw deal, McGill often has a huge chip on his shoulder, and his headstrongness seems to cloud his judgment at times. He can be a fierce fighter, but still takes a number of beatings, and is also badly wounded on several occasions. This may add an element of realism, but fortunately McGill appears to be a fast healer.
Operating as a lone wolf, and only occasionally employing high tech "Bondlike" gadgets, McGill is a tough operator who has a tendency to be stubborn, and doesn't always take the sensible course of action. Similar to Danger Man, the series has as a dark cynical tone, with very little humor. McGill was apparently originally conceived as more of a light hearted wiseguy, but Bradford preferred taking a more dark, low key approach, and also changed his lines without approval, which apparently didn't endear him to many in the writing and production staff.
The adventures are set in mostly European locations, and feature a lot of variety, from different types of crimes, to political intrigue, to international espionage. The episodes are generally well written, and pretty lively. For those acquainted with other ITC series from the era, the subject matter will seem quite familiar, as will many of the guest stars. And become accustomed to the series' downbeat vibe, and McGill's at times sour attitude, the lack of happy endings won't be as much of an issue. McGill may never be the most popular guy, but his determination and personal integrity are admirable.
Albert Elm's music and cues for the series, are very reminiscent of Edwin Astley's work on The Saint. Image quality is quite good for a program over forty years old. Unlike the import release which contained some substantial extras on each disc, this Acorn Media collection is a bit skimpy on extras. In this reviewer's opinion, the writing in the series improves as the series progresses, and in general, the stories in the later 15 episodes are a bit stronger overall, than those in this set. Given a choice, Set 2 would probably be the one for the casual fan to consider first. For the really hardcore fan, the import release (Man in a Suitcase: The Complete Series), with the additional bonus material, would be the one to look for. Be advised that these episodes are not subtitled, and you will need a region free DVD player that plays DVD's in PAL format.
For those that enjoy ITC Productions' mystery and suspense programs, Man In A Suitcase is a series that is well worth your time. Similar to The Baron (1965-66), ITC was hoping that an American in the lead role, would result in commercial success when broadcast in the USA, but unfortunately neither series garnered a substantial audience, and were cancelled.