TV Show of the Day: Myung Wol the Spy (2011)

Country: Korea
Directors: Hwang In Hyuk, Kim Young Kyoon
Starring: Han Ye Seul, Eric, Lee Jin Wook, Jang Hee Jin, Lee Duk Hwa, Jo Hyung Ki
Producers: Jung Sung Hyo, Im Kyu Yong, Kim Jin Woo
Screenwriters: Kim Eun Young, Kim Jung Ah

Romantic comedy series from Korea – 18 Episodes

An elite North Korean spy, Han Myung Wol, and her partner, Choi Ryu, infiltrates South Korea on a mission to disrupt the Hallyu Wave by kidnapping one of their top stars, Kang Woo. Despite her proficiency at her job, Myung Wol’s one weakness is her uncontrollable curiosity. Hijinks ensue when she falls in love with Kang Woo instead.

Link to the official site.

TV Show of the Day: Myung Wol the Spy (2011)

TV Show of the Day: Karei naru Spy (2009)

Country: Japan
Directors: Otani Taro, Iwamoto Hitoshi, Ishio Jun
Cast: Nagase Tomoya, Fukada Kyoko, Sekai no Nabeatsu, Fujiwara Kazuhiro
Guest Stars: Inoue Mao, Tezuka Toru, Shirahane Yuri
Producer: Sato Atsushi

Karei naru Spy is a Japanese television show which aired in 2009. Apparently there were ten episodes in the series, and a spin off movie that aired later.

Link to the official website.

TV Show of the Day: Karei naru Spy (2009)

Man v. Machine: Badguy Cybernauts

Peel and Steed encounter a Cybernaut

Today, we’ll be looking at the trenchcoat- and trilby-wearing metal automatons known as the Cybernauts! The bots made their first appearance in the October 1965 episode of The Avengers that was later the first one to be broadcast in the United States (in March 1966). The episode has proved to be popular on both sides of the pond, and many media critics cite it as an episode important to the thematic growth of the series.

James Chapman in Saints and Avengers: British adventure series of the 1960s (2002) suggests that the episode presents an about-face to earlier views of technology seen on the program, and stemmed from growing fears of a society ruled by technology:

While resistance to progress is dangerous, so too is progress itself if it remains unchecked. Whereas earlier Avengers episodes had advocated investment in science and technology as the key to securing the nation’s future, the series now suggested that in the wrong hands they could be used for diabolical ends. Again, The Avengers can be seen as responding to contemporary concerns, particularly the ideas expressed by academics such as Theodore Roszak that technocracy (the organisation of society based on principles laid down by technical experts) could all too easily lead to a form of totalitarianism. The danger of technocracy taken to the extreme became a prominent theme of the ‘classic’ period of The Avengers.

Jeffrey S. Miller, writing in his Something completely different: British television and American culture (2000) builds on David Buxton’s view that The Cybernauts, and similarly themed episodes, reflected a British class struggle that was mostly lost on Americans:

Of those narrative conventions coming out of the Bond movies and other secret agent shows, none was more important, as “The Cybernauts” would indicate, than the menace of technology. David Buxton argues that The Avengers represents a discourse on the place of technology in accommodating modernity to the traditional British class structure. A danger when used by a nouveau riche class (including scientist / entrepreneurs such as Armstrong) without regard to a traditional elite, technology is equally problematic when used by aristocrats to defend the old order against the rising welfare state. The middle ground, he argues, is technology in the service of consumption and fashion, a middle ground American audiences already found themselves occupying, thanks to Bond, UNCLE, Drake, and other secret agents….The narrative deployment of technology as the tool of evil, familiar to American audiences not only through previous secret agent movies and television programs, but through their own fears of nuclear holocaust, became the central motif of Avengers plots, superseding the Cold War even in many episodes in which Cold War concerns were directly referenced.

Norman Weiner
The use of the portmanteau term “cybernaut” appears to have originated with this episode, though later it was used by scientists in descriptions of potential robot-manned space flights, and more recently has come to mean anyone who explores digital space — the internet, virtual realities, MMORPGs, etc. The word draws its meaning from Norbert Wiener’s use of “cybernetics,” or technological mechanisms, in his 1950 book The Human Use of Human Beings : Cybernetics and Society. Wiener would later go on to be a major influence on those who pioneered the field of robotics, but, fittingly, worried about the effect that robots might have on society — not because they’d go evil and run amok, but because they’d put people out of jobs. As he wrote in The Human Use of Human Beings, “The automatic machine, whatever we think of any feelings it may have or may not have, is the precise economic equivalent of slave labor.” Wiener set forth ethical guidelines and ideas in his work that he hoped would guide inventors and developers of the future.

But what do mad scientists care of ethics? In their world, cybernauts are the economic equvalent of hitmen-for hire, as John Steed and Emma Peel soon discover. While investigating the murders of businessmen set to bid on a new kind of integrated circuit, the pair find themselves searching for someone who can walk through walls, crack down doors, and break necks with a single blow. Eventually, the trail leads to crazed wheelchair-bound inventor Dr. Armstrong, who is using the faceless steel strongbots to eliminate his competition (Wiener was right — early in the episode, Armstrong brags to Steed that he has no need for employees besides the cybernauts). To give you a taste, here’s a tension-filled clip from the finale of the episode (note the casual glance Emma gives as the cybernauts beat up on their creator):

Steed and Peel faced off against the Cybernauts again in a later episode, in which the mad scientist role was played by Hammer horror films veteran Peter Cushing. In the sequel, Cushing plays the brother of Dr. Armstrong, and uses a new wave of cybernauts to take revenge on Peel and Steed for his brother’s death:

But that wasn’t the end of the Cybernauts. They returned again, in an episode of The New Avengers, where Steed, Purdey and Gambit fight the robots sent on behalf of a former double agent, Kane, who blames them for his disfigurement. Kane teams up with the man who originally developed the cybernauts for Armstrong, and in the conclusion winds up becoming half cybernaut himself — a cyborgernaut, if you will:

The last of the cybernauts? Not hardly, though this marked their last time on television. John Peel and Dave Rogers revived the killer robots for his The Avengers: Too Many Targets, which found Steed teaming up with all of his former partners to take down a new cybernaut threat. In the book that, in his Spy Television, fellow COBRAS agent Wes Britton calls, “One of the most interesting literary incarnations of any secret agent venture,” The Avengers, all of them, are in Africa investigating the murder of two agents when judo punches start to resound with a familiar clang. Here’s a taste:

Steed stared down at the broken robot. “It’s familiar, wouldn’t you say?”

“Very,” Emma admitted, chilled. “It looks like a Cybernaut. But it can’t be.”

On his knee, Steed poked at the exposed circuits with the ferrule of his umbrella. “A new generation of Cybernauts,” he agreed. “Ones that look like people we know–and act like them. These are sophisticated, Mrs. Peel. Very sophisticated.”

Emma thought back to their previous two encounters with the Cybernauts. They had been cold, emotionless robots, built by the crippled Dr. Armstrong. Powerful, silent, and programmable, they had twice been turned against her and Steed. The first time had been by Amrstrong, and the second time by the late inventor’s brother, Paul Beresford. But Armstrong had died, killed accidentally by one of his own creations.

“How can they be?” she objected. “Armstrong was killed.” She didn’t like where Steed’s thoughts seemed to be heading.

“So were the Cybernauts,” Steed said softly. “But machines can’t die.”

The question I’ll leave you with is this: are the cybernauts badguys? Or are they just a reflection of the evil desires of their creators? Tomorrow we’ll take a look at the opposite — a cybernaut created by the forces of good.

This post first appeared on the Mister 8 website, 3rd June 2009,

Man v. Machine: Badguy Cybernauts

The Saint in Manhattan (1987)

Country: United States / United Kingdom
Director: James Frawley
Starring: Andrew Clarke, Kevin Tighe, Christopher Marcantel, George Rose, Holland Taylor, Caitlin Clarke, Ben Vereen
Music: Mark Snow
Based on characters created by Leslie Charteris

I’m a bit late on this, as it has been out for a couple of weeks, but Madman Entertainment have just released the last piece of the Saint on television jigsaw puzzle – the much sought after The Saint in Manhattan. This pilot for a proposed new television series had never been released before – and had only existed as a poor quality dupe – available from the gray market. But Saint fans can now rejoice. Below is my review from a few years ago (for that aforementioned poor quality dupe).

The Saint in Manhattan is a Saint for the Magnum PI generation. Actually, its probably a few years too late for Magnum, but this pilot episode for a proposed new series has the same smirk and high living like Magnum, and added to that, Clarke has a moustache of Tom Selleck proportions.

Clarke copped a bit of flack for keeping the ‘mo’, but the Saint has had a moustache before. As always, though, in this day and age, any actor who takes on the role of the Saint is compared to Roger Moore, who was clean shaven. I must admit I like Andrew Clarke as an actor and he has been in some good productions – ANZACS springs to mind. But in the work I have seen he has always played a pretty down to earth Australian, so seeing him as a wealthy, womanising high roller, was a stretch for me. And maybe because I know him from his other work, I found his accent flittered between a fake Etonian and his natural Australian accent.

The show opens with a message sent from Special Branch, Scotland Yard to Inspector John Fernack of the New York Police advising him of the imminent arrival of Simon Templar (Andrew Clarke) in New York. Fernack rushes to the airport and watches as the passengers disembark from the Concorde that has just arrived from England. A stewardess walks up to Fernack and hands him a ticket folder, which he opens. Inside in Simon Templar’s calling card.

Meanwhile Templar is being chauffeured by helicopter to a heliport, where his car – with the number plate ST 1 – awaits him. It appears that times have changed, and Templar now drives a very sleek black Lamborghini, which he drives back to his palatial penthouse apartment in downtown Manhattan.

But soon Templar is bored and complaining of malaise to his butler, Woods (George Rose). His restlessness doesn’t last long with the arrival of a letter from an old flame, Margo. Margo also happens to be a world class ballerina. She is in New York to perform Sleeping Beauty, but she has been receiving strange threats. She requires a bodyguard and asks Templar to help out, which he gladly does.

As a promotional gimmick, during the opening night ballet performance, Margo is to wear the multi-million dollar ‘Empress of Austria’ diamond tiara, which belongs to two of the leading patrons of the ballet, Walter and Fran Grogan. After the show, Margo hands back the tiara only to discover it is a fake. As they search backstage, in the tiara’s original carry case there is a calling card – the Saint’s! So Templar is the prime suspect for the theft.

The Saint in Manhattan is essentially a formulaic whodunit, with the Saint investigating all the suspects in between sparring bouts with Inspector Fernack. The story itself may be nothing special, but the dialogue is pretty witty. It is a pity that Clarke doesn’t have the panache or charm to deliver the lines with the sly wink that they deserve.

As I mentioned at the top, The Saint in Manhattan was the pilot episode for a prospective series, but it would be my guess that the show didn’t generate the response and enthusiasm expected and no further episodes were made at the time. However the Saint would return two years later, but with Simon Dutton taking over as Simon Templar.

It’s interesting to compare the two. The Saint in Manhattan had pretty high production values, but was let down by Andrew Clarke’s performance. No maybe that’s unfair – let’s just say that Clarke was miscast in the role. Whereas the following Saint series, in Dutton they had a great Saint, but at times the series looked gritty where it should have looked glamorous and jet-setting. And some of the plots were just clunky, without any wit or panache.

I have probably made The Saint in Manhattan sound absolutely terrible. It is not, but it is what it is…one hour of network television. You can see the same formulaic storytelling in any mystery show of the same era (and probably many from today too).

A special ‘thank you’ to Tanner from the Double-O-Section for help with this review.

The blurb from the Madman DVD:

Simon Templar: lifestyle extravagant… Fingerprints: unavailable… Occupation: highly suspicious… Alias: THE SAINT.

The Saint, is back in New York, restless and bored. But the tedium is about to escalate to full-blown excitement when he is contacted by an old flame, Margo, a ballerina who is set to star in a high profile performance. She has received death threats in the guise of a mutilated doll being left in her dressing room, and as part of the ballet, she will don a million dollar tiara on opening night.

The performance goes without mishap, however, upon leaving the stage the tiara has somehow been swapped with a fake, and The Saint’s calling card has been left in its empty box. Someone has framed Simon, and his old adversary Inspector Fernack is quick to point the finger. Has Margo set up her former flame, or is it an insurance rip-off? One thing’s for sure, whoever the criminal, they should have thought twice before setting up The Saint.

Australia’s Andrew Clarke won the highly-coveted role of Simon Templar in this big-budget, pilot episode for a proposed American series of the classic literary hero created by Leslie Charteris. It’s The Saint for the 1980s, but he still oozes charm, chivalry and heroism as he searches for the truth. The Saint doesn’t respect the law, but he does respect justice. Sometimes they’re not always the same thing.

Never previously available and rarely screened since its original broadcast, at last THE SAINT’s television legacy is complete with the release of this one-off adventure.

The Saint in Manhattan (1987)

Guns at Cyranos (1986)

Series: Philip Marlowe, Private Eye
Country: United States
Director: Robert Iscove
Starring: Powers Boothe, Roxanne Hart, Cec Linder, Mark Humphrey, Ken pogue, John Ireland
Music: Samuel Matlovsky
Title Theme: Moe Koffman
Based on the short story by Raymond Chandler

Guns at Cyrano’s is a short story by Raymond Chandler, which originally appeared in Black Mask, in January 1936, and the detective in that story was called Ted Malvern. Malvern was later changed to Ted Carmady for the Simple Art of Murder anthology. For this 1986 episode of the series Philip Marlowe, Private Eye, he evolves into Chandler’s most famous creation – as you would have guessed, Philip Marlowe.

The story starts in Benny Cyrano’s Gym with the arrival of Philip Marlowe (Powers Boothe). In voice-over, Marlowe describes the smell as having the power of a ‘Right Hook to the jaw’ (is Marlowe a Southpaw?) The gym is a hive of activity with many boxers slugging it out, and pounding the bags. The star attraction, Duke Targo (Mark Humphrey) is in the centre ring with a sparring partner. Watching him is his girl, Jean (Roxanne Hart), who is a nightclub performer. Marlowe introduces him self to her. She doesn’t seem too impressed.

Marlowe moves on through the gym, to the back, and to Benny Cyrano’s office. A gangster type, tries to stop him, but Marlowe slugs him in the gut and pushes him aside and enters the office. Marlowe is expected. Benny Cyrano (Cec Linder) wants to hire Marlowe to find out who has been sending threats to Targo. Targo’s record reads, twelve fights / twelve K.O.s – and his thirteenth fight is that evening. Cyrano is concerned that Targo may be forced to take a dive. Marlowe takes the case.

Marlowe doesn’t know where to start, so he begins with Targo’s girl Jean. He tracks her to her hotel room, but when he arrives, he finds her unconscious, laying in her doorway. Paging, Philip Marlowe – White Knight!

Meanwhile, the state has a new boxing commissioner, Senator Courtway (John Ireland), who vows to stamp out corruption in the fight game. Is he in anyway connected to the threats leveled at Targo? Is he responsible for the attack on Jean? Well, these are the questions that Marlowe must answer, as he tries to untangle the threads of this case.

Benny Cyrano also happens to run a nightclub called ‘Cyranos’, which is where Jean performs. The title, Guns at Cyranos refers to this nightclub, rather than the gym. And after the fight – well, I don’t really have to tell you, do I?

On a television show such as this, expecting a high level of fight choreography is probably a bit too much to ask. Most of the fight sequence is film in medium to long shot, and even then it is obvious that the punches are not landing. But ultimately this is a Philip Marlowe story – not a boxing story. It just happens to take place in the seedy world of boxing.

Guns at Cyranos is a tight little tale, with the usual Chandleresque bitter-sweet relationships, deceptions and twists. But they sit pretty well. It has been quite a few years since I have watched this Philip Marlowe series, from beginning to end, but I recall this being one of the better episodes, in a series that was generally of a high standard.

You can read the Carmady (Simple Art of Murder) version of the story by clicking here.

May sees the launch of King of the Outback, the sixth book in the popular Fightcard series – and my literary debut (writing as Jack Tunney). Accordingly, in a month long celebration, Permission to Kill will be looking back and some of the highlights – and lowlights – of boxing in film and literature – and in music too.

For an up-to-date direct connection with the Fightcard series check out the home page, or for you youngsters, you can follow the Facebook Fan Page.

Guns at Cyranos (1986)

Remo Williams: TV Series Pilot (1988)

A little bit more on the Destroyer. In 1988, an attempt to launch a Remo Williams television series was made. Only the pilot was completed – obviously not good enough (or popular enough?) to garner the support to proceed to a fully fledged series.

I haven’t seen the Pilot myself, but below a few clips from Youtube.

Uploaded by Sosaix:

And a golf sequence uploaded by supersandor:

Have a good weekend!

Remo Williams: TV Series Pilot (1988)

The Saint: The House on Dragon's Rock (1968)

Country: United Kingdom
Director: Roger Moore
Starring: Roger Moore, Anthony Bate, Annette Andre, Melvyn Johns, Alex Scott, Glyn Houston, Richard Owens, Talfryn Thomas, Heather Seymour
Music: Edwin Astley
Based on characters created by Leslie Charteris

Roger Moore takes the helm as director in what is possibly the silliest episode in The Saint TV series. And naturally, being so silly, it is also one of the most entertaining episodes, and therefore I recommend it highly.

The episode starts with Simon Templar (Roger Moore) arriving by car at a small village in Wales. I wont attempt to tell you the name of the village as it is unpronounceable to my un-cultured tongue. This village seems deserted, and Templar seeking life of any kind heads to the local pub, the Prince of Wales. It too seems strangely deserted. However there is a fire burning, half drunken pints on the table, and smoldering cigarettes in the ash trays. Where ever the inhabitants of the village are. It would appear that they left in quite a hurry.

The House on Dragon's Rock
'We don't like strangers in our village!'

A young girl opens an adjoining door to the main bar and walks in. Templar asks her where the townsfolk are and she says that they have gone to search for Owen. At that moment, the girl’s father arrives on the scene brandishing a shot-gun. When Templar explains that he was invited to the town by the local doctor, Rhys Davis, then the hostility ceases. And soon he has joined the search party looking for Owen.

Who is Owen? Owen Thomas is a shepherd who has gone missing over at Devil’s Gorge. As the search party is about to give up, Owen staggers from the shrubs, disheveled, shaking and as pale as a ghost. He has seen something that has frightened the living daylights out of him. As the search party is called off by radio, the high pitched squeal from the walkie-talkie sets Owen off. He clutches his head and begins to scream. This is practically the last sound he makes, because due to shock, he has lost the power of speech. Therefore he is unable to describe what has frightened him so.

The House on Dragon's Rock
The ubiquitous Simon Templar

Doctor Rhys Davis explains to Templar that a lot of strange things have been happening in the area. A two tonne tractor was upturned in a field, a stable was torn apart, many cows have been found dead, and trees have been torn out by their roots.

No one is sure what is causing the mayhem. The locals all have an idea though, and at the pub they discuss them. Some believe it is a monster from outer space, others believe it is a werewolf or a vampire. However more reasonable minds suggest that it possibly has something to do with a group of scientists, calling themselves the Western Research Laboratory, who operate out of a mansion on top of Dragon’s Rock.

The House at Dragon's Rock
Dr. Sardon and Dr. Armstrong - the men from the Western Research Laboratory

The contempt and mistrust that the locals hold for the laboratory is evident when Carmen Grant, from the laboratory drops into the pub to enquire about the well being of Owen. As many locals believe the laboratory is responsible for his condition, they refuse to talk to her. However, Templar is never one to ignore a lady and updates her on Owen’s progress. Then he escorts her to her car. Along the way he finds out that she is the niece of the director of the laboratory, Dr. Charles Sardon – and if Sardon doesn’t sound like the name of a mad scientist, I don’t know what does!

Naturally Templar delves deeper into the mystery, and finds out that indeed, Sardon is carrying out some very strange and terrifying experiments – experiments that are getting way out of hand. When Carmen is attacked by a large creature, whose tracks lead to Sardon’s laboratory, Templar finds that the madman is breeding giant insects.

The House on Dragon's Rock
Unspeakable Terror!

The House on Dragon’s Rock is an absolute riot, and beyond the mad scientist plot device, the story bears more than a passing resemblance to James Cameron’s Aliens. I am not for a second suggesting any plagiarism from the writers of Aliens, after all this story is pretty derivative of many old fashioned thrillers, but the plot similarities are quite striking – but to reveal more would constitute major spoilers.

The House on Dragon's Rock
Dr. Sardon with his creation

For those readers who have never seen this episode of The Saint, I hope you chose to seek it out. It is thoroughly entertaining, presenting the kind of far-fetched thrills that only a UK television show from the 1960s could provide. The Saint is often considered the ‘straight man’ of British TV when compared to The Prisoner or The Avengers, but this episode shows, when put to it, The Saint team could be just as ‘out there’ as the rest of them.

The Saint: The House on Dragon's Rock (1968)

I Spy: The Lotus Eater (1967)

Robert Culp and Bill Cosby

Country: United States
Director: Christain Nyby
Starring: Robert Culp, Bill Cosby, Vivienne Ventura, Michael Evans, Sheldon Leonard
Writers: Elick Moll, Joseph Than

Of course, the television series, I, Spy needs very little introduction here. The Lotus Eater is an episode from the third series and the scholarly among you are probably aware that in Homer’s Odyssey IX, the Lotus Eaters were a people whose land Odysseus visits. They live on the lotus-fruit, which makes those who eat it, forget their home and they desire to remain in Lotus-land forever.

Here’s a snippet of Odyssey IX (translated by Samuel Butler) via Wikipedia which relates to the Lotus Eaters

“I was driven thence by foul winds for a space of 9 days upon the sea, but on the tenth day we reached the land of the Lotus-eaters, who live on a food that comes from a kind of flower. Here we landed to take in fresh water, and our crews got their mid-day meal on the shore near the ships. When they had eaten and drunk I sent two of my company to see what manner of men the people of the place might be, and they had a third man under them. They started at once, and went about among the Lotus-Eaters, who did them no hurt, but gave them to eat of the lotus, which was so delicious that those who ate of it left off caring about home, and did not even want to go back and say what had happened to them, but were for staying and munching lotus with the Lotus-eaters without thinking further of their return; nevertheless, though they wept bitterly I forced them back to the ships and made them fast under the benches. Then I told the rest to go on board at once, lest any of them should taste of the lotus and leave off wanting to get home, so they took their places and smote the grey sea with their oars.”

This episode, The Lotus Eater unashamedly follows a similar story structure, but with an I, Spy twist. As the episode begins, Alexander Scott (Bill Cosby) arrives by boat at a seaport on a small Mediterranean island. He asks a local fisherman, if he has seen an American (who plays tennis) in the village. The fisherman responds in the affirmative and that the man that Scott seeks, is living in a building high up on the cliffs overlooking the seaport. Scott begins the long winding up-hill walk.

As you have guessed, the man that Scott is seeking is his partner in espionage, Kelly Robinson (Robert Culp). Robinson had been scheduled to meet Scott in Athens ten days previously to start a new assignment, but did not show up.

When Scott reaches the top of the cliff, he finds Robinson sitting casually on a whitewashed wall, swinging his legs like a child. He is incredibly relaxed and speaking in riddles like he is drunk or as if he has been drugged. But a happy kind of drug. Scott claims that he has ‘come in from the cold’ and is ‘not in the spy business anymore’.

Robinson is living with a beautiful nightclub singer named Irena (Vivienne Ventura), who continually plies Robinson with large amounts of Ouzo. Ventura, in her fairly short career – she only appeared in nineteen productions – was quite a ‘spy girl’,  chalking up appearances in The Persuaders, Get Smart, The Man From Uncle, The Wild Wild West, The Saint and she also appeared in the movie, Battle Beneath the Earth. All in all, a pretty impressive resumé.

Naturally Scott is very suspicious. Over his career, Robinson has had plenty of pretty girls throw themselves at him, and drunk his share of booze, but it has never effected him before. Scott’s suspicions are confirmed, when after leaving a nightclub, two thugs try to jump him. He fights them off, but recognises them as minions of a master criminal named Sorgi. Producer, Sheldon Leonard plays Sorgi (that’s how it is spelled on IMDb), however it should be noted that Leonard played a character called Sorge in the Season 1 episode, Three Hours on a Sunday Night (which is an episode I haven’t seen). The character name is undoubtedly a a reference to infamous Russian spy Richard Sorge.

It is more than a coincidence that Sorgi, who deals in information, happens to be anchored in his luxurious yacht, off the same island where ex-spy Kelly Robinson is having his Odyssian breakdown – with wine, women and song.

The Lotus Eater is a fine episode, carried by Culp’s performance as a drug addled ex-spy, and then later as his defences wear down, a man falling apart. On the opposite side of that ledger, Cosby’s performance is good too – as a complete professional / no nonsense spy, which is completely at odds with the image that he (post Cosby Show) projects today. The only thing that dampens Cosby’s performance – and to be honest, I am sure that this is a part of the shows formula – is the semi-comedic sign off at the end of the episode. So Cosby goes from professional ‘hard bastard’ to ‘knock around guy’ in one scene. It seems out of place, but as I said, it’s formula. Fine entertainment.

I Spy: The Lotus Eater (1967)

Spyforce: Reilley's Army (1971)

Country: Australia
Director: David Baker
Starring: Jack Thompson, Peter Sumner, Redmond Phillips, Katy Wild, Chips Rafferty, Bill Hunter, Diana Davidson, Denys Piggott, Patrick McCarville
Music: Brian Rangott and Geoff Harvey

As a boorish, parochial Australian, I often wonder what my island nation’s contribution to world espionage cinema and television is. Sure, there’s been quite a few actors, George Lazenby and Rod Taylor readily spring to mind, but actual shows are few and far between. Spyforce was an Australian television series that ran from 1971 to 1973 and starred Jack Thompson as archetypal Aussie, Luke Erskine, and Peter Sumner as his German born partner Gunther Haber (who Erskine constantly refers to as ‘Adolph’). The show depicted the exploits of a highly trained team of soldiers who carried out covert missions behind enemy lines during World War II.

The series was buoyed by an injection of money from Paramount Pictures, and benefited from actual location shooting in Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, Bangkok, Ceylon and New Guinea.

Despite Spyforce being a local production, I have found it extremely difficult to find episodes to review. Hopefully, this episode, Reilley’s Army (Episode 20) is indicative of the series. The episode begins in New Guinea during 1942. Roberts, is a Coast Watcher for the military. His job is to radio in descriptions of any enemy activity in the area. Upon observing a convoy of thirty-eight Japanese ships, he radios headquarters. Midway through his report, Japanese soldiers burst from the foliage and open fire. Outnumbered, and outgunned, Roberts attempts to flee. As he runs, he is shot in the leg, but he continues to evade capture, scampering deeper into the jungle. He makes his way to another hidden radio and continues his report, detailing the ships in the convoy. It is feared that the Japanese are about to move against Port Moresby or the Solomon Islands. As Roberts winds up, he is shot and killed.

Chips Rafferty as Reilley

Back at Headquarters, Colonel Cato (Redmond Phillips) interviews Mrs. Reilley (Diana Davidson). Cato asks her to radio her husband in New Guinea and ask him to come home. Her husband, Liam Reilley (Chips Rafferty) is living with the natives. Mrs. Reilley isn’t happy about her husband’s choice of lifestyle and refuses to help.

Reilley has gone renegade, blatantly refusing to follow orders from HQ. Deep in the jungle, he has created his own army, and they wage their own war against the Japanese. This would be fine, but it appears that they are too good at it. The Japanese attempt to strike back, but cannot catch them. Instead they turn their attention to men that they can catch – the coastal natives. In turn, the natives do not appreciate the attention that they receive from the Japanese. To alleviate the harassment, they expose the Coast Watchers. Robert’s happens to be the sixth Coast Watcher killed in the last week.

Summarizing, indirectly, Reilley’s Army is responsible the death of the Coast Watchers. Military Headquarters have repeatedly asked Reilley to cease and desist, but he refuses. They have no other option to send men in to retrieve him. And if he refuses, then he is to be killed.

Jack Thompson as Esrkine and Peter Sumner as Haber

The men chosen for the job are Luke Erskine (Jack Thompson), and Gunther ‘Adolph’ Haber (Peter Sumner). A cursory overview of the plot reveals an ‘Ocker’ spin on Joseph Conrad’s Heart Of Darkness – years before Coppola’s Apocalypse Now. Now that may not seem like much of a spy story – but the story is double pronged. Not only do we follow Erskine and Haber’s exploits deep in the New Guinea jungle, we also follow Lt. French (Katy Wild) who is sent to observe Reilley’s estranged social climbing wife. Let’s just say ‘loose lips – sink ships!’

Spyforce is actually a pretty good show and I’d love to catch a few more episodes. Most Australian productions from this time were done on the cheap and have not survived very well. It’s biggest asset, of course, is that it has two charismatic leads in Thompson and Sumner. Thompson’s career is still going strong – I think I last saw him in The Good German. If I had to pick one spy show to represent my nation on the international stage, I say that Spyforce isn’t a bad representative.

Spyforce: Reilley's Army (1971)

Spyforce: Portuguese Man Of War (1971)

Country: Australia
Director: Ron Way
Starring: Jack Thompson, Peter Sumner, Redmond Phillips, Katy Wild, Bill Hunter, Victoria Anoux, Alister Smart
Music: Brian Rangott and Geoff Harvey

Here’s just a quick review from the Australian television series Spyforce. Despite Spyforce being a local production, I have found it extremely difficult to find episodes to review. This episode, Portuguese Man Of War is the third episode in the series and suggests that German born Gunther Haber is in fact a German double agent.

The episode begins as a two man team of German saboteurs plant an explosive device at a military facility in Sydney. As they carry out their dirty work they are discovered and captured. One of the guards finds the bomb and disposes of it at the last minute.

The next scene shows Colonel Cato (Redmond Phillips), the head of ‘Spyforce’ questioning the loyalty of one of the men under his command – Gunther Haber (Peter Sumner). Haber is arrested for being a German spy and is taken away and imprisoned at Fort Dennison, which is a small island fortress in the middle of Sydney Harbour – think of it as a miniature Alcatraz.

After Haber’s incarceration, Cato assigns Luke Erskine (Jack Thompson) to investigate the activities of a group of Portuguese fishermen who have been docked in Sydney Harbour. Even though Portugal is a neutral country, it is suspected that these guys are not quite what they seem, particularly in light of the recent increased activity by the Germans in the area.

Erskine pretends to be an army deserter and ingratiates himself upon Domenica (Victoria Anoux), who is a girl employed to fix the fishing nets on one of the boats. Domenica is also the object of affection for one of the fishermen named Carlos (Alister Smart). Carlos is not happy about Erskine moving in on his woman, but strangely – maybe to keep an eye on him – he offers Erskine a job on his boat.

Erskine’s first trip involves sailing out past Sydney Heads to a buoy with Carlos. At the buoy they reel in a suitcase full of cash – German – and a large amount of explosives. Erskine is told they are for a very special mission!

Meanwhile, poor old Gunther is given a proper working over at the prison and is then thrown in a cell with two other German spies. I know you can guess where this is going so I won’t say too much more, but the episode plays out the ‘Gunther the traitor’ story for as long as it can. As Sumner is one of the two main stars of the show, there are no prizes for guessing which side he is on. The episode ends with an over melodramatic ending which features plenty of stock footage of the Queen Mary ocean liner, which in this story is docked in Sydney preparing to take a boat load of troops to Africa.

Portuguese Man Of War is a pretty simple little story and it takes it’s sweet time building up to a climax which most astute viewers would have seen coming from miles away. But still, It’s nice to see spy stories played out on home territory.

Spyforce: Portuguese Man Of War (1971)