Reviewed by Lee Broughton
Carlton Video in the UK are currently issuing PAL Region 2 DVDs of the classic TV shows produced by
the legendary Incorporated Television Company. Although Patrick McGoohan's The Prisoner
remains the best remembered and most critically acclaimed ITC show, Lew Grade's outfit were also
responsible for several other popular titles. After The Prisoner, their most offbeat
and intriguing series was Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased), which played in the US as
My Partner the Ghost.
Shot on film, ITC's action shows always looked pretty good and their use of good interiors, decent
location shoots, carefully edited stock footage, flash cars and Carnaby Street
fashions made them seem as impressive as any US import. Hitting TV screens in 1969,
Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased) dropped some of the requisite ITC bluster and replaced
it with flourishes of strangely downbeat, but typically British, quirkiness.
Jeff Randall (Mike Pratt) and Marty Hopkirk (Kenneth Cope) are friends and partners in a London
based private detective agency. Strictly small-time, a seemingly routine case takes a sinister
turn and Marty is targeted by a team of ruthless hit men. To Jeff's astonishment, Marty returns
as a ghost, who can only be seen and heard by Jeff, and he is determined to help his former
partner track down the hit men and their employer. In doing so, Marty is late returning to his
grave and so must remain earthbound for 100 years. Since his widow, Jeannie (Annette Andre), has
inherited his share of the business and has become Jeff's secretary, Marty decides to stick around
and help Jeff with future investigations.
Those future investigations included all manner of weird and wonderful characters and scenarios
including haunted houses, a stranger claiming to be Marty reincarnated, a doctor who used hypnotism
to defraud his patients, the ghost of a vengeful Roaring Twenties gangster, pretenders to the British
throne and a psychic villain who tried to exorcise Marty, as well as slightly more mundane assignments.
In common with The Avengers, the adversaries that Randall and Hopkirk encountered in their
more serious adventures were particularly brutal and ruthless types, who would stop at nothing in
their determination to succeed. Whether they be underworld thugs or devious members of the British
upper classes, these villains meant business. And while Marty's powers were useful checking the
contents of locked rooms or eavesdropping on suspects, there wasn't much he could do, apart from
summoning up some mild paranormal activity if the conditions were right, to help Jeff
when things got physical. The fourth DVD of this highly original series, featuring episodes 11
to 14, has just been released. The episode lineup is as follows:
The Ghost Who Saved The Bank At Monte Carlo
Written by Tony Williamson, Directed by Jeremy Summers
Marty's aunt Clara has perfected a winning system for playing Roulette. When she hits the tables
in Monte Carlo, with Jeff, Jeannie and Marty in tow, British and French gangsters are determined to
get their hands on her winning formula.
For The Girl Who Has Everything
Written by Donald James, Directed by Cyril Frankel
An eccentric ghost hunter is baffled by the events surrounding his latest assignment at a remote
castle. He hires Jeff to keep an eye on his employers while he tackles the terrifying ghost.
But when the ghost kills the ghost hunter, Jeff has a real mystery on his hands.
But What A Sweet Little Room
Written by Ralph Smart, Directed by Roy Ward Baker
A phoney medium is convincing her rich clients that they should contact a Mr de Crecy for financial
advice and he's capable of doing anything to get his hands on their money. Marty is furious when
Jeff asks Jeannie to work undercover on the case.
Who Killed Cock Robin?
Written by Tony Williamson, Directed by Roy Ward Baker
An eccentric old lady's will stipulates that her £2,000,000 estate must remain in trust while ever
her pet birds are still alive. Her expectant beneficiaries all live together in a country mansion,
which also houses the birds' aviary. When the birds come under attack, Jeff is hired to guard
them but it isn't long before somebody is attacking the individual beneficiaries too.
Monte Carlo is fairly lighthearted but is well executed. Brian Blessed appears as a villain
and Nicholas Courtney and Roger Delgado, who would go on to
feature in Doctor Who together, also make strong appearances. Everything
features good performances from Freddie Jones and Lois Maxwell (James Bond's Miss Moneypenny)
while director Cyril Frankel's handling of the appearance of the malevolent ghost is suitably
spooky. An interesting subplot has Marty meeting a psychic who can see and hear him.
Sweet Little Room features a particularly chilling and callous villain and some eerily
shot seance sequences. This episode, like several others, manages to successfully evoke
the strange ambience of Victorian parlour room-style spiritualism. Cock Robin features
David Lodge and Leslie Schofield and has a slightly more bizarre feel. It's the best
of this selection, hinting at the sometimes strained relations forced upon Jeff, Jeannie
and Marty, and reinforcing the latent sense of sadness that runs throughout the series. All four
episodes presented here are well directed, briskly fitting everything needed
into their allotted fifty-minute time slot.
The series was created by Dennis Spooner, who had worked on everything from The Avengers
to Doctor Who, but ITC supremo Lew Grade almost turned the show down, feeling that it was
too macabre. Luckily, Danger Man producer Ralph Smart saw Spooner's draft and convinced
Grade that the show would work. A deal was struck which resulted in a reasonably lighthearted
adventure being featured every few weeks to prevent the proceedings from becoming too sombre. Even
so, a good number of the 26 episodes filmed possessed an undeniably melancholic feel at
times, for obvious reasons.
Much of the credit for the success of the series has to go to the actors involved. For the
most part, Kenneth Cope is physically present in nearly all of the scenes involving Marty
(albeit dressed all in white) but everybody does a great job of acting as if he's not really
there. Which can't have been easy in the sequences where Marty is trying to butt into Jeff's
conversations with third parties or is impatiently pacing around them or angrily squaring
up to them. The special effects are simple but highly effective. The camera was simply
paused to allow Cope to step in or out of a shot, though a few scenes required a transparent
Marty to walk through walls etc. and the effects employed in these sequences are good, too.
Cope had appeared in genre features like X the Unknown, These Are the
Damned and Night of the Big Heat but he also had a penchant for
comedy, which was reflected a little in his portrayal of Marty. Mike
Pratt was best known as a songwriter and musician but he was perfectly
cast as Jeff Randall, a convincing British variant of the traditional,
down at heel, private investigator. Annette Andre was firmly rooted in
television and appeared in virtually every ITC show at some point.
The BBC produced an updated version of the show last year. Starring Vic
Reeves, Bob Mortimer, Emilia Fox and Tom Baker, this new version was
good, and added some interesting new touches, but it was always going to
suffer from comparisons to the original.
The picture and sound quality of all four episodes on the DVD is excellent and there's even
room for a few extras. An original ITC publicity brochure is reproduced on screen (the
text, too small to read, is reprinted in a fold out booklet) and a stills gallery features
shots from each episode and one behind the scenes shot. A silent featurette shows behind the
scenes footage which reveals that the second unit used cleverly positioned look alikes of the
main stars when filming certain location based links. Composer Edwin Astley's incredible theme
tune plays over the disc's main menu display.
On a scale of Excellent, Good, Fair, and Poor,
Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased) rates:
Movie:TGWSTBAMC: Good FTGWHE: Very Good BWASLR: Good WKCR?: Excellent
Video: All Excellent
Supplements: Six page booklet, onscreen ITC brochure, stills gallery, behind the scenes
Packaging: Keep case
Reviewed: August 30, 2001
Text © Copyright 2007 Lee Broughton
DVD Savant Text © Copyright 2007 Glenn Erickson
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