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Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased) 1.7 – The Smile Behind the Veil

Last time, I mentioned how pleased I was to recognize a familiar location in an episode of this show. Tonight, Jeff’s been beat up again and the bad guys drive him out to throw him in the river, and before I could say anything, Marie exclaimed “It’s that bridge again!” For they had taken him to the very same bridge that Mrs. Peel had hid underneath in the Avengers story “You Have Just Been Murdered,” and which Tara had run across in the second title sequence of her series. I recognized Alex Scott, the story’s villain, immediately as well, but suddenly it’s not as amusing as spotting locations. I wonder whether there are people blogging about Doom Patrol and The Walking Dead and The Vampire Diaries and Stranger Things and noticing the same hotels and bridges and buildings popping up in each of them. (But they shouldn’t be too iconic. If you stick the Krog Street Tunnel in your TV show and try to tell me it ain’t Atlanta, I’m going to laugh at you.)

Speaking of laughing, our son’s favorite scene came about halfway through. Jeff, who’s recovered from his first attempted drowning (in a river) and is about twenty real-time minutes from his second attempted drowning (in a well), is rifling through the desk drawers of the bad guy’s big country house when he hears someone coming and so he hides in the big closet. It’s the old maid, who’s figured out this guy’s up to no good and is ready to rifle through the desk drawers as well. Then she hears someone coming and hides in the same big closet. This show’s a lot funnier than I was expecting!

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Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased) 1.6 – Who Killed Cock Robin?

I’m always impressed by viewers and fans who can spot reused props and costumes and locations. Just last night, I got a great laugh when Lex Lamb pointed out on Twitter that a key piece of the Swine Trek set from The Muppet Show‘s “Pigs in Space” started life as part of the mad scientist’s control room in the Doctor Who adventure “Invasion of the Dinosaurs.” I will never be that good with the details, but tonight I could point out that the big country house in this evening’s Randall and Hopkirk adventure doubled as the hotel in the Avengers story “Wish You Were Here,” which was filmed the same summer.

Tonight’s story was written by Tony Williamson, and Cyril Luckham plays a lawyer who hires Randall to keep several dozen birds alive, because some greedy relatives won’t inherit anything until the last bird is dead. Jane Merrow plays one of the relatives; she had auditioned for the role of Tara King in The Avengers, and so in another world, it would have been her stuck in that hotel in “Wish You Were Here” instead of Linda Thorson.

I figured there’d be a story where Marty goes for help by finding somebody playing with a Ouija board, and this was it. That scene’s pretty funny, but the one that we loved the most had Marty saving the day. One of the greedy relatives decides to pour gas all over the aviary and kill all the birds in a fire. But it’s awfully hard for a match to stay lit when there’s a ghost standing next to you! Honestly, this was the least of the three episodes that we’ve watched so far, but it was still very entertaining.

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Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased) 1.5 – You Can Always Find a Fall Guy

Deeply weird coincidence alert: I broke disk 1 of this set the other night, and so we started the second disk tonight. That means that this morning and this evening we happened to watch two separate programs that were filmed on the grounds of Grim’s Dyke Hotel. It appears in several episodes of The Champions, including “The Mission,” and was also the villain’s stately manor in the Avengers episode “Game.” I kept thinking to myself “Man, this big house looks familiar.” Well, that’s because you just saw it ten hours ago, Holmes.

I deliberately don’t know a great deal about Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased), but I’ve read many times that Jeff Randall gets clobbered more than your average TV hero. In Donald James’s “You Can Always Find a Fall Guy,” he gets one heck of a beatdown, not a simple club on the back of the head like Simon Templar often received. Amusingly, Jeremy Young plays a character who owns the houseboat where Randall gets the daylights thrashed out of him, but he’s an effete dandy who cowers against the wall when the real bad guy storms in to do the business. Since we’ve seen Young cast as a villain and give a good account of himself in so many other programs, usually with a sword in hand, I found that funny.

Joining Young this week are several other familiar faces, including Patrick Barr, Juliet Harmer, Garfield Morgan, and Tony Steedman. None of these actors took me out of the experience nearly as much as a throwaway sign on a grocery store window. The episode is packed with lovely location filming on the streets of London, and in one scene, finished back in the studio with rear-screen projection, Mike Pratt and Garfield Morgan are having a conversation in a parked car. There’s a sticker on the grocers’ window for Findus. I don’t know that Findus products were ever sold in North America; I only know them as the purveyors of fish fingers with a crumb-crisp coating. Takes me right out of the action when I’m replaying Orson Welles commercials in my head. At least I didn’t subject my family to my poor Welles impression.

It’s a great story with some really amusing ghost business. Our son really enjoyed the scene where Marty puts the frighteners on a pair of guard dogs, but I most loved the moment where Marty visits several hospitals in London looking for just the right surgical situation. I think this would be a fine little show even if one of the detectives wasn’t a ghost, but since he is, the writers are finding a lot of humor in the situation.

Numbering note: Not that I imagine anybody’s all that bothered, but we’re watching The Champions in broadcast order and Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased) in production order because I have no idea what The Champions’ production order is, and there’s a downright terrific R&H site that you should visit and bookmark that confirms the Network DVDs have the episodes in the sequence that they were made.

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Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased) 1.1 – My Late Lamented Friend and Partner

Disaster struck this afternoon. I’d been looking forward to finally digging into ITC’s famous Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased) for ages and ages. I sent the kid upstairs while I put the disk in to make sure nothing in the menus or anything gave away the surprise that not only is the Hopkirk of the title deceased, he’s also a ghost. That’s right, our son may well be the first viewer in TV history that didn’t know that Marty Hopkirk is a ghost.

And I gingerly popped the DVD out of its spindle and the blasted disk snapped with a crack.

So since this is a show where the setup is a big part of the fun, we watched a copy on YouTube, and then – assuming disk two doesn’t snap (and here I pause to check… whew) – we’ll skip ahead to episode five next and circle back to the others once I get a replacement set! The YouTube copy was pretty crummy – it reminded me of what I could have expected from a third or fourth gen copy had I got this in a tape trade in the early nineties – but it did the trick. I’ve been wanting to watch this forever and it was worth the wait. This was such fun!

Assuming that the second, third, and possibly fourth viewers in TV history who didn’t know about Marty Hopkirk’s afterlife are reading this blog, Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased) is a detective show where Jeff Randall, played by Mike Pratt, is a private eye and his partner Marty, played by Kenneth Cope, is murdered. As a ghost, Marty comes back to help his partner solve the murder and make sure that his beloved wife Jeannie, played by Annette Andre, is provided for. Marty stays out of his grave too long and gets on the receiving end of a century-long curse for ghosts who don’t follow the rules. This show was made in the spring of 1968, so Marty has another 49 years stuck here with us before he can return to the afterlife.

Speaking of the spring of 1968, Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased) was made by many of the same talents and crew who had made The Champions the previous year, and who were making Department S at the same time as this. It was created by Dennis Spooner and produced by Monty Berman, and we’ll see lots of the same writers, directors, locations, and guest actors, including Frank Windsor and Ronald Lacey in this one. The script for this first episode was by Ralph Smart.

And it’s huge fun. I really enjoyed watching this with our son. He was admittedly a little restless at first, watching what appeared to be an ordinary detective show. I confess to having fun with the program’s name. He asked a few days ago why it had this name and I reminded him of Miles Archer’s death in The Maltese Falcon, and how Sam Spade might have chosen to rename his business Space and Archer (Deceased). He didn’t make the mental leap to “ghost,” of course, but he probably grumbled inside that this was going to be another moody program for grownups who’d have to explain everything to him.

He came around in a big way once Marty started figuring out his powers, and we all got a huge laugh when Ronald Lacey’s character tries to surprise Jeff, not knowing that our hero has a pretty amazing early warning system. Our son was in such good spirits (ha!) and enjoyed it so much that he was cracking jokes over the end credits, asking why they got a guy named Innocent – Harold Innocent – to play an assassin. If the rest of the show’s just half as entertaining as the first episode, I’ll be very pleased. Does it live up to the legend? So far, absolutely!

Photo credit: Stuff Limited

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Adam Adamant Lives! 1.12 – Beauty is an Ugly Word

There’s a scene about halfway through this morning’s episode where Adam has a “who’s gonna break first” standoff with the villain, played by Peter Jeffrey. They’re challenging each other over weightlifting, adding twenty pounds each time. Flatly, it’s one of the best directed moments of any sixties BBC program that I’ve seen. You could hear a pin drop in our den, because we were all silent with our eyes wide. The rest of the hour didn’t quite live up to that, but there’s a really hilarious moment where the Ministry Twit of the Week tries to explain beauty pageants to our Victorian hero, and a couple of familiar faces from the period, Annette Andre and Roy Stewart, have small roles.

(Note: I can play them, but I’m not presently able to get screencaps from Region 4 DVDs, so many of these entries will just have a photo of the set to illustrate it. Click the link to purchase it from Amazon UK.)

Photo credit: https://excusesandhalftruths.com

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