THE end of British summertime is the official start of those long dark winter evenings, when a glowing fire beckons us to sit in the comfort of our favourite chair, slippers keeping our feet snug and warm, and persuades us to carefully select a programme or two on the little box on the corner.
Alan Keeling is our resident TV buff of yesteryear, and after a number of weeks spent deep in research he has returned with a few choices of his own, of shows that he hopes will reignite a few memories across the Black Country.
“Does anyone recall Man in a Suitcase, with newcomer Richard Bradford making his TV debut and starring as a freelance private investigator called McGill — first name unknown, although in one episode he was called Ricky? McGill was an ex-C.I.A. man kicked out of the American Intelligence Service through no fault of his own, and this injustice prompted him to began his adventures as a modern day bounty hunter, complete with a gun, a change of clothes, his all important trademark suitcase, and a daily fee of 500 dollars for his services, plus of course expenses.
McGill would solve cases both in London and abroad which involved blackmail, theft, murder, virtually the whole spectrum of crimes, during 30 hour-long episodes that were filmed on location and at the Pinewood Studios by I.T.C. in 1966 and 67. Produced by Sidney Cole, and boosted by a memorable theme tune written by Ron Grainger, Man in a Suitcase was an immediate hit and made its debut on Midlands ATV in the autumn of 1967. Like many other I.T.C.
TV series of that era the show boasted a fine array of British and American guest stars, including Rodney Bewes, Colin Blakeley, George Sewell, Donald Sutherland, Ron Randell, Judy Geeson, Donald Houston, Bernard Lee, Marius Goring, Patrick Cargill, Bill Owen, John Gregson, Sam Kydd, Felicity Kendall, Mike Sarne and Faith Brook.
Gorillas “Garrison’s Gorillas is another show to remember from the 1960s, and this wartime series was very similar in format to the 1967 film The Dirty Dozen.
Lieutenant Craig Garrison, played by Ron Harper, brings together a bunch of convicts from various federal penitentiaries to work with him on missions behind enemy lines during the Second World War. They include men like ‘Casino’ (Rudi Solari), a safe breaker and master thief; ‘Actor’ (Cesare Danova), a smooth con-artist; ‘Goniff’ (Christopher Cary), an expert pickpocket and cat burglar; and finally ‘Chief’ (Brendan Boone), a professional switch-blade artist and street-fighter.
Twenty-six hour long technicolor episodes were shot during 1967/68 at M.G.M.’s Studios in California by Selment Productions, but when the programme arrived from across the Pond only thirteen episodes were shown on Midlands ATV, with screening starting on 7pm on Saturday evenings from January 1969. A few of the guests stars deserve a mention, and they include Barry Sullivan, Telly Savalas, Julie Harris, Claude Atkins, Gilbert Roland, John Saxon and William Campbell. The show proved popular with American audiences and was nominated in Hollywood for two separate Golden Globe awards.”