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Savant Pal Region 2 Guest Review:

Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased)

Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased)
Carlton Video
1969 / colour / 4:3 flat / 195 mins
Starring Mike Pratt, Kenneth Cope, Annette Andre
Cinematography Brian Elvin, Eric Coop
Art Direction Charles Bishop, Bob Cartwright
Film Editors Rod Nelson-Keys, John Ireland, Alma Godfrey, Harry Ledger
Original Music Edwin Astley
Writing credits Tony Williamson, Ralph Smart, and Donald James
Produced by Monty Berman
Directed by Jeremy Summers, Roy Ward Baker, Cyril Frankel
Series created by Dennis Spooner

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
Sound:All Excellent
Supplements: Six page booklet, onscreen ITC brochure, stills gallery, behind the scenes featurette
Packaging: Keep case
Reviewed: August 30, 2001

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Text © Copyright 2007 Lee Broughton
DVD Savant Text © Copyright 2007 Glenn Erickson

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