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Man in a Suitcase, Sets 1 & 2

Release Year:   1968
Studio:   Acorn Media
Format:   Boxed Set; Color; DVD; NTSC
Rated:   Not Rated
# of Discs/Episodes:   Set 1: 15/4  Set 2: 15/4
Running Time:   Set 1: 779 minutes  Set 2: 780 minutes
DVD Release Date:   Set 1: January 25, 2011   Set 2: January 3, 2012

Creators:   Richard Harris, Dennis Spooner
Actors:   Richard Bradford, Donald Sutherland, John Barrie, Timothy Bateson, Angela Brown, Colin Blakely, Philip Madoc, Felicity Kendall
DVD Features:   SDH subtitles; Set 1: photo gallery; Set 2: photo gallery and 69 minute interview with Richard Bradford (2005)

E:Top Picks Rating:   10/10

Acorn Media Write-up:

Brimming with mystery and suspense, the conclusion to the atmospheric Cold War-era spy series, MAN IN A SUITCASE stars Richard Bradford (“The Untouchables”, “Cagney & Lacey”) as the savvy and adventurous “Mac” McGill, a cynical yet honest spy who has been disavowed by his American bosses and is on the run from a host of international enemies. Sharply written and featuring a host of superb guest stars, the intriguing drama had national broadcast exposure on ABC in 1968.

After 10 years working for U.S. Intelligence, “Mac” McGill knows a thing or two about living by his wits and getting the job done. But after his employment is terminated under mysterious circumstances, he has to look for work among those prepared to pay for his services. From his base in London, McGill travels all over Europe and beyond, taking on the jobs no one else can handle, tracking down the people no one else can find.

Jon Ted Wynne Review:

Ah, the sixties. The ultimate in cool. With current shows like “Madmen” out there, a resurgence in sixties’ cool is in the public awareness. Well a lot of really great television shows were made in the sixties that helped define cool in that era. MAN IN A SUITCASE was one of them.

Produced in England and starring an American actor, MAN IN A SUITCASE was about a disgraced secret agent having to adjust—and survive—in a  life with significantly fewer resources than in his former life as an American agent. Talk about living by your wits! And, of course, living out of a suitcase. The star of MAN IN A SUITCASE was the ultra-cool Richard Edwin Bradford, known professionally just as Richard Bradford, a native of Texas who shares the same birthdate as another great sixties star, (albeit on the big screen) and another Richard–Richard Burton.

Bradford is an intriguing combination of James Dean, Clu Gulager and Clint Eastwood. There’s may be even a touch of Marlon Brando in there (who Bradford beat to a pulp in the odd melodrama “The Chase”, just prior to beginning production on this series). Bradford said about his one-season stint on MAN IN A SUITCASE that he was putting his heart and soul into trying to create a realistic character the audience could really latch on to. He saw McGill, his first-nameless character as much more grounded in reality than his contemporary TV spies like Roger Moore in “The Saint” and especially Patrick McGoohan in “Danger Man” (also known as “Secret Agent”). In fact it was McGoohan’s departure from his hit series (he wanted out to do “The Prisoner”) that opened the door for a replacement series. The result was MAN IN A SUITCASE, envisioned as a sort of noirish, gritty, man-without-a-country type of show produced in England but with enough appeal for American audiences (by having an American star in the lead).

Unfortunately, though, Bradford wasn’t really a star. He’d only done a few high profile roles prior to this series. And the show didn’t really have a chance, being up against such staples as “Gomer Pyle” and the Friday Night Movie. I have vague memories of the show as a kid, though I don’t remember watching it.

Throwing myself full-tilt into the vintage TV mindset, I was delighted to find that this series really holds up. Bradford’s McGill isn’t as enigmatic as I might like him to be, but he is very interesting to watch. Bradford’s got the James Dean intensity, the Clu Gulager mumbling (which is curiously compelling when it isn’t unintelligible) and the Clint Eastwood swagger down pat. You can’t take your eyes off him. And given he’s in virtually every scene, that is critical.

The only drawback to the Set 1 DVD release was that only the first 15 episodes were included. This was a one-season series. Anticipation for the rest of the episodes is a good thing, but also a little frustrating. It would have been nice to at least give us some extras to tide us over, including an interview with Bradford, who is still working today in character roles. With the release of Set 2, however, all these issues have been resolved. The Set 2 DVD boxed set includes the last 15 episodes, an additional photo gallery (also included on the Set 1 DVD), plus an intimate interview with Bradford, filmed in 2005. Problem solved! The entire series is now available on the two boxed sets and well worth the wait.

MAN IN A SUITCASE achieves a nice balance between secret agent/espionage types of storylines and those with a more noirish/private detective slant. The mixture keeps things reasonably fresh. And the guest stars are certainly nothing to sneeze at. From Donald Sutherland at his gawky, pre-star best to the voluptuous yet still wholesome Judy Geeson, there are excellent performances from all and sundry. Many of them seem to eye Bradford with a sort of “what’s this American Method actor going to do next?” In this case, that’s not a bad thing. It’s easy to find shows of this type from the sixties to be a little bit hokey. But I really found that MAN IN A SUITCASE sustains its dramatic premise very well. That is almost entirely due to the artistic integrity of Richard Bradford. Maybe he is a star after all, in hindsight. Regardless, MAN IN A SUITCASE travels very well. Recommended.

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