Hauling Like A Brooligan

Stephen Gallagher

Network DVD Sale

Thanks to Ian Dickerson for the news that Network DVD have cut their stock prices for online sales by 40% until Sunday 25th January. I’m caving in and going for the Department S boxed set now it’s under thirty quid. Though for the moment I’m still working my way through forty-seven hours of Danger Man after Guy Adams nudged me into adding it to my Christmas wish list.

Danger Man was a show that I never really appreciated the first time around, probably because it was too grown-up for me then… whereas now, for my adult self, it’s scratching the ITC itch perfectly!

I’m also tempted to maybe a season or two of The Sandbaggers. This is the espionage show that the producers of Spooks (US title: MI5) went to such great trouble to hunt down. Haven’t seen anything of it in years, but I remember it being impressive when it first came out.

My very first literary agent, Yvonne Heather, also represented creator Ian Mackintosh for published work. I’ve a certain fondness for the light-touch husband-and-wife detective series that he created, The Wilde Alliance (not available on DVD, as far as I know). John Stride and Julia Foster were a kind of modern-day Nick and Nora Charles, only sober; he was a thriller writer, they were stinking rich, and they lived in a gorgeous house around the back of York Minster. If that doesn’t date it, I don’t know what would.

And while we’re at it, has anyone ever seen or heard anything of Mister Jerico? It appears to be a TV movie starring Patrick Macnee and “produced, written and directed by some of the mainstays behind the phenomenon that was The Avengers.”

Forgotten gem or lost dog?

Moving away from Network, but inspired by the contribution of director Don Chaffey to Danger Man (and rather fancying Jan Francis lookalike and guest star Georgina Ward) I started to look out his B-movie crime thriller With These Hands… a bizarre underworld number, written and produced by the equally bizarre partnership of soap creator Hazel Adair and wrestling commentator Kent Walton… only to find that it had been repackaged as Sex Clinic and released as 70s soft porn for the grubby mac brigade. It’s part of a DVD double-bill with a Norman J Warren movie but now I’m waaaay too embarrassed to order it!

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9 responses to “Network DVD Sale”

  1. SANDBAGGERS is terrific. It takes an episode or two to get used to all the acronyms and job titles that fly around…and to get comfortable with the cheapo production values. But it’s compelling stuff. Neil Burnside is one of the coldest, and most complex heroes, I’ve ever seen in a TV series. It’s certainly one of the best spy series ever produced for TV. Ten years ago, I tried to get Granada USA to consider a U.S. remake. The executives were interested (I believe it was Dan Pasternak or Bill Hamm at the time) but we couldn’t get it off the ground. If memory serves, there was a rights problem.

    I also went nuts on the Network sale…my purchases included soundtracks to Department S and Man in a Suitcase, the complete Persuaders, and the tape of Mister Jericho (I’m a sucker for unsold pilots).

  2. I'm going through my wishlist, deciding where to splash the cash. So far FOX; BIG BREADWINNER HOG; THE STRANGE REPORT, and ARTHUR OF THE BRITONS are looking good.

    And yes, SANDBAGGERS is brilliant -but has a far more faithful descendant than SPOOKS in Greg Rucka's QUEEN & COUNTRY comics, which might as well be a direct continuation of SANDBAGGERS.

  3. I saw ‘Mr Jericho’ seven or eight years ago but…I can’t for the life of me remember if it was any good or not! It was for work so I hope I can be excused. I’m sure if it was really duff, it would have stuck in my mind. I may dig it out, have another look and let you know (unless someone else does first).

    As for embarrassing films, I recently bought ‘Vampyres’ a 1974 horror film about lesbian vampires because it features some locations close to where I live. That’s my excuse anyway…

  4. I’ll probably grab Jerico anyway — at the sale price it’s dirt cheap — but more out of curiosity than with high expectations. Though MacNee as Steed was clearly the irreplaceable ‘spine’ of The Avengers, he doesn’t quite seem to work as a leading man away from the show.

    I can see the logic of the Avengers team trying to create a new format out of the same clay, but I can’t quite get my head around Diana Rigg’s post-Avengers involvement in THE MINIKILLERS, a series of amateurish super-8 movies for the home cinema market, shot like home movies, without any sync sound, and looking nothing short of dire; I mean, it’s not as if the woman didn’t have any career options at the time!

    A clip has surfaced on YouTube (http://tinyurl.com/7okylf) and what little is known is summarised here:


  5. THE SANDBAGGERS is stunning. I saw it for the first time earlier this year, and here I’m quoting from my blog review : it’s got the cynicism of Callan, the tradecraft of Tinker, Tailor… , the ambitious Yorkshire moors-standing-in-as-Russian-steppe locations of an ITC action adventure, and the internecine politicking of Yes, Minister.

    Ian McIntosh, the writer-creator, has a gift for plots that unfold in unusual directions, and dialogue that creates a convincing world of cut outs, station chiefs, political crises and bureaucracy. (The Ops Room crisis scenes are some of the best that I’ve seen outside of The West Wing.) I particularly liked ‘C’ ordering Burnside to resolve something by ‘close of play’, a weaselly phrase I’ve become quite familiar with recently. (There’s usually absolutely nothing playful or sportmanslike in a task to be resolved by ‘close of play’.) But it’s not all spook gobbledegook : McIntosh can come up with a line like “Hard to realise your tomorrows can be so different from your yesterdays” that stays in the mind.

    Because I knew absolutely nothing about the series, the high attrition rate that affects the Sandbaggers themselves took me by the surprise – none of them have a close encounter with a deep fat fryer, but Burnside is complicit in the deaths of at least two of them.

    One of the incidental pleasures of watching the first series (as with most TV drama of this period) is the opportunity to spot Doctor Who guest actors before the end credits roll. There’s Professor Stahlman as the head of the Norwegian Secret Service in the first episode, and better still, Nyder as an Arab prince being seduced (!) by Diane Keen. But best of all is the recurring starring role for Jerome Willis as Roy Marsden’s slightly less-than-capable superior, Peele. He looks so little changed from his appearance in The Green Death that it’s almost as if he survived the events at Llanfairfach and, with his personality completely re-engineered by BOSS, got himself a nice job high up in the civil service.

  6. SPOOKS/M15, I note fairly irrelevantly, has begun running on US public stations in January, where its audience might surpass that of its A&E cable run.

    Thanks for mentioning THE PERSUADERS…that might have had the ITC theme that's occasionally recurred in memory from childhood, which I've not been able to place.