I must have been about 10 or 11 years old when I stole...borrowed that first James Bond novel from my brother's bookshelf, reading it secreted beneath blankets, and lit by flashlight. I could barely wait for the next new Sean Connery Bond movie to come out, persuading my mother to take us to a downtown movie theatre so we wouldn’t have to wait until it finally made it out to the suburbs.
Between Bonds I'd indulge my female adolescent spy fantasties watching my favorite TV secret agents. The Man From U.N.C.L.E., Mission Impossible, I Spy, even the comedy series Get Smart, and cross-genreWild, Wild West were network must-see TV for me back in the day.
But I've always thought that the British really did the genre justice—even on television. After all, the Brits spawned an entire generation of great spy novelists in addition to 007's creator Ian Fleming. So it is no surpise that they also really knew how to produce memorable teleivsion espionage series like Secret Agent, The Prisoner, and The Avengers. U.K. production company ITC brought many of these series to the U.S. along with other British television that went on to attain cult status, including Man in a Suitcase.
Premiering here in 1968, the show immediately captured my interest; I remember being fascinated by the central character—the enigmatic (and quite dashing) loner known only as “McGill.” The series lasted only one season (30 episodes), but Acorn Media, the company responsible for bringing much British classic film and TV to DVD (and to America) is releasing the first 13 episodes of Man in a Suitcase January 25.
Richard Bradford (The Untouchables) plays McGill, a former U.S. intelligence agent forced to resign for reasons to which we’re not privy at first. But we learn in episode six (“Man from the Dead,” originally intended as the series pilot) that six years earlier, McGill had been accused of aiding a French scientist (LaFarbe) defect to the Russians. He stood down, declining to interfere, when he might have prevented the scientist from crossing over to the other side.