I say old chap, I do fancy a good British TV show. Maybe, it is because I grew up with more than my share of shows like Monty Python and the Black Adder. Maybe, I just like their funny accents. There is probably a bloke in the next alley who is willing to give me a beating for that comment. However, I will hold out and share with you my take on Man in a Suitcase, a late 60’s British drama that aired on ABC. Could I possibly bribe this bloke with some fish n chips?
McGill (played by Richard Bradford) used to be a former US Intelligence Agent. In one of his assignments from six years, he saw the writing on the wall that a top American scientist was going to go work for the Russians. Mac tried to prevent the situation by trying to intercept. The agent was told to stand down by his superior. However, shortly after the superior disappeared in a sailing accident and the scientist defected, leaving McGill to hold the bag.
Much negative publicity later, McGill is forced to resign to avoid what amounts to a charge of treason. Mac can’t clear his name nor return to the United States of America, so he packs his suitcase and moves to Britain to try and make a wage. Once there, he doesn’t find the work very easy going. He can’t really be a legal citizen of the United Kingdom and most work (especially those using his expertise) would require that set of conditions.
So what does Mac do? Well, he does what any former secret spy would do. Odd jobs. We aren’t talking about roof work and candle stick maker positions either. If it involves underhanded espionage, criminal activities or perhaps a little bit of bounty hunting, then he is your man. Very often, he would become a fall guy and led into extremely dangerous situations. It would be a rough life for the once great super spy. Could he make it work or will he just become a disposable pawn against a mighty underworld?
If this reminds you of Burn Notice without a Fiona or Sam Axe to aid the main character, you aren’t the only one who thinks that. Richard Bradford does an exceptional job of portraying McGill and develops a very complex character. McGill has many layers and can often seem like a very rough character. But like an onion, once the episodes start to peel him away, you realize that most people would act very similar to him given the betrayal of one’s own country.
There are a few issues I did find with the show. The very first one is the first episode, Brainwashed which was the first aired episode, not produced. In this episode, McGill is knocked unconscious and drug into a car. Once he wakes up, he realizes he is part of a plot involved a former African President who believes McGill was a part of his downfall. Mac is subjected to all sorts of torture in an attempt to get him to sign a confession. On its own, that would have been an okay episode.
However, if you are introducing McGill, it is an absolutely awful way to do it. Arguably, the sixth episode Man from the Dead where he finds out that his superior may still be alive would probably be the way to go (or it could serve as a good cliff hanger down the line). That leads into my other issue for the show.
Comparing it to a show like Burn Notice, Man in a Suitcase isn’t very serial. We know the same basic setup every show. Mac works on a dirty job, he escapes with his life and maybe a couple of British pounds to his name. But we never dive into the past or move forward into the future to give the fans a moving plotline. The only reason this show has gained notoriety over the years is because of Bradford’s fantastic portrayal of McGill.
The video as expected is the 1.33:1 fullscreen ratio. This was made in the 1960’s and on television for that matter. So, realistically this is about as good as it gets. Colors are fairly basic and we have a fairly standard range of brights and darks. I do enjoy the look of the show very much, just be sure not to look too hard for little mis-forgivings because one will probably find them.
The audio is presented in 2.0 English Dolby Digital Mono. Audio fares a little worse. The first thing I noticed right away is that I had to turn up my receiver a good number of notches above what I usually have it set at. Dialog is okay, one will learn to understand the fair amount of British (and other nationalities) accents running all over the place. Don’t expect any worthwhile sound effects and when the action takes to the outside, it only seems to worsen. It does the job, but that’s about it.
- Automatic Trailers: Acorn Media, Life on Mars, and Callan.
- Photo Gallery: Each disc has a fairly short photo gallery that is played in a slideshow format to that groovy theme song. Apparently there is a UK release floating around that includes interviews with Richard Bradford and some other materials. But none of that is here which is a shame.
Honestly, I did enjoy Man in a Suitcase once I got past the first episode. Richard Bradford is a fantastic method actor and he does a great job here in his portrayal of McGill. The only issue is that the writing and lack of a serial nature keep the show from the makings of a cult classic.
The discs are unfortunately a weak effort as my personal copy had busted prongs and looks to be made hap-hazardly (luckily I have 4-disc case replacements). The audio and video is livable but basically average. The extras are missing key elements from the UK release and leave the US viewer with a bare bones set. Recommended if the price is right.
The Sitting Pigeon
Day of Execution
Variation on a Million Bucks Part One
Variation on a Million Bucks Part Two
Man From the Dead
Essay in Evil
The Girl Who Never Was
All That Glitters
Dead Man’s Shoes
Find the Lady
The Man Who Stood Still
Burden of Proof