Man In A Suitcase (1967/68 United Kingdom)

No, its not the Police song from their 1980 album ‘Zenyatta Mondatta’. Man in a Suitcase is one of those ITC colour series filmed in and around Pinewood Studios and on location in London during 1966/7. (Locals at the time must have been constantly interrupted by cameras, cast and crews preventing them getting from A to B). Its a rough, tough adventure series which, thanks to the strength, charisma, and capability of the leading player: a surly Texan method actor Richard Bradford, still continues to enthrall and entertain folk who lap up this nostalgia for swinging London, dollybirds in mini-skirts, green Hillman Imps etc.

He’s laidback and heavy-lidded to the point of seeming half-asleep, but you wouldn’t want to poke him with a stick. He’s been around too much to look young. (Hasn’t he heard of Grecian 2000?) He doesn’t even have a first name. He’s an American prowling London and the Home Counties during the Summer of Love , but he never seems very happy about it. One gimmick of the show is that McGill’s first name is never revealed. Some close friends simply know him as “Mac”. The battered title accessory is all he owns and he’s constantly on the move. All we know is that he stumbles from one adventure to another as a soldier for hire haunted by his past. But then the sixth episode rolls around, ‘Man From The Dead’ and this answers our questions by ironing out some of the ambiguities. Even the suitcase is given an explanation.

            (Mmmm….if this is what life brings living out of a tatty suitcase….sign me up!)

McGill is a no-nonsense hero, an ex-CIA Agent unjustly accused of treason by his own people. Subsequently he is compelled to travel the world making his living in the harsh and sometimes terrifying world of a modern-day bounty hunter, kicking unholy lumps of tar out of anyone daring to stand in his way. But its not all gravy and shit-kicking. This is a series very much about betrayal, mistrust and deceit. Because of his unofficial, semi-legal status, McGill often finds himself being hired by unscrupulous clients and unwittingly used for criminal ends, or set up as a fall guy. On several occasions, characters from his past with US intelligence draw him into dangerous situations. And the poor boy can be blackmailed or tricked into participating in espionage missions, as he is the perfect deniable operative.

As developed by Bradford, the characterisation of McGill is complex. As a man who feels betrayed by life and his country, he can appear outwardly as surly, moody and uncommunicative, but this masks a sensitive interior. McGill feels compassion for those who were the victims in his cases, and would try to help them, often at his own cost. The level of violence portrayed in the show was unprecedented for an ITC series. This was partly because of Bradford’s concerns that the stories and characters should remain real. Unlike most TV action heroes of the time, McGill would not get cleanly knocked unconscious and then recover without effect. Bradford took great pains to depict the character as wounded and concussed. In addition to the beatings, McGill is several times shot and stabbed, and ends more than one episode recovering in hospital. Just another day at the office for the Man In A Suitcase. 🙂

(I’ll get the blood stained kiss-off while he gets to staggers away with heroically sprained ribs.)

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Comments

  1. Sounds like an entertaining series (you had me at ‘bounty hunter’), I’ll be sure to check this one out!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks. despite this series being done on a shoestring, Bradford’s down to earth presence makes the whole thing work. I forgot to mention some of the scripts were rejects from more expensive shows of the time like The Avengers.

      Liked by 1 person

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