lost_spook: (b7 - deva)
[personal profile] lost_spook
I decided that since I really like doing Fandom Overviews (or Manifestos, but that implies "everyone should watch" and really, they shouldn't), I should do one for everything I like that I haven't already done one for and it would be fun for me and maybe even useful for other people.

We'll see how that goes, but here's one of my latest in new old TV that I think is still worth watching in the 21st C:

Manhunt (1969/70)

"What is war?"/ "War is love..."

What is it? A one-off WWII drama serial set in Occupied France, consisting of 26 x 50 minute episodes, starring Peter Barkworth, Alfred Lynch and Cyd Hayman, with Robert Hardy, Philip Madoc and Maggie Fitzgibbon.

Nina a.k.a. Ann-Marie Poitiers is the sole survivor of a meeting between the British and representatives of various French Resistance groups. As secretary, she has an encyclopaedic knowledge of the names of the Resistance Leaders. London orders that their agent Vincent get her back to England - or shoot her. Vincent also has a newly crashed British airman called Jimmy Briggs who needs returning to London, so the three of them set out across France, pursued by Karl Lutzig of the SS, who is eventually joined in his mission by Abwehr Sergeant Gratz, while the trio of agents team up with an Australian singer called Adelaide who doesn't seem to have made up her mind which side she's on.

What has a tendency to start out as an occasionally tiresome action runaround soon develops into more of an intense, talky, gripping and powerful piece on love and war, and the price of resistance.

As I said when watching it, this is a show that takes a few episodes to get into its stride and I strongly recommend skipping ep2 (a clumsily handled rape storyline that you can live without and not miss anything at all, except T. P. McKenna and he's only in the last ten minutes anyway). But after that, it all got increasingly intense and gripping.

I found a fan-made trailer for it (although it does emphasise the action side more):

Warnings: a lot of the 60s does 1940s sexism and anti-semitism from multiple characters (often actually done pretty well, but occasionally in quite disturbing ways, and YMMV, as ever), a high body count, and one instance of animal harm. There's also a very WTH moment in episode 10 where there is actual random healing cock. Thankfully it never gets mentioned again so we can all pretend it didn't happen & it can be avoided by not watching the last 5 mins.)

Main Characters


"My code name is Nina. What else do you want to know? I'm nobody."

Cyd Haman as Nina (or Ann-Marie Poitiers). A twenty year old student who got into the Resistance more as a game than anything else, although she's also a quarter Jewish (but brought up as a Catholic). Nina wants to help, but is out first to save her own skin, and isn't keen on running about the countryside with two objectionable men, one of who keeps reminding her that he might have to shoot her. She may be the most likely to fall over and cry while doing the running about, but she's also probably the character who's the most likely to actually kill you. She has depths.


"When I hesitate, when I pause for thought even, people think it - ah, yes, Vincent, the son of a collaborator!"

Peter Barkworth as Vincent (or Joseph Arthur Reynolds). Half-French, half-English, he's now working for the British in the French Resistance. It's his responsibility to get Nina and Jimmy (both complete liabilities) back to London, and it's not one he's keen on. He's especially not keen on the idea of shooting Nina or Jimmy, never mind how many times he tells them that he will do it if he has to. His father was shot for being a Fascist and his mother is a Countess who still thinks it's WWI. (Vincent met all the best Fascists at Oxford back in the day when he sort of was one, and some of them are still willing to die for him. It's an unusual talent in a Resistance agent, but it has its uses.)


"We'll come out of this, don't you worry... it's a caper. It's a great big joke."

Alfred Lynch as Squadron-Leader Jimmy Briggs, who parachuted into this mess and wishes he hadn't. Whether he crashed accidentally or on purpose to get out of the war is unknown. But he's got his dog tags and the option of being a POW and isn't inclined to take all this Resistance stuff too seriously, which understandably annoys everyone else, especially Vincent.


"I have wrested secrets from other people..."

Philip Madoc as the SS officier, Karl Lutzig, who has been tasked with finding and interrogating Nina. He is frustrated more by the efforts of the Abwehr than by the Resistance, but he begins to develop a fascination with the methods used by some of his more subtler colleagues, such as Gratz.


"The SS have a perverted sense of puritanism. They believe in the purgative effects of suffering. Martin Luther's got a lot to answer for, don't you think?"

Robert Hardy as Abwehr Sergeant Wolfgang Amadeus Gratz, the brilliant, devious former assistant librarian who develops an obsession with Nina. As I've mentioned, his performance in this is outstanding, and definitely one of the things that makes this worth watching.


"Let that be a lesson to you - it's dangerous to play games with the big boys."

Maggie Fitzgibbon as Adelaide Marchand, an Australian singer who's playing the SS and the Resistance against each other for as much money as she can - or so she claims. She is Lutzig's lover and feeds him variously information or misinformation, and it's hard for anybody to trust her, but she's too useful to ignore.

Why should you watch it?

Well, if you like old UK WWII dramas, or old British TV, this can be incredibly powerful and gripping at times, while its serial nature and high amount of location work makes it an easier series to binge on DVD than a lot of its contemporaries.

If you don't like slow old Brit TV, or you'd prefer something cheerful, this isn't the TV series you were looking for. You should go find something more modern, less beige, less problematic, and be happier for not having it in your life.

From a fannish point of view, it's very shippable: any variation on Vincent/Nina/Jimmy is not only plausible, it's pretty much canon, as is Nina/Gratz, and it's also very slashy. It may not be exactly PC that all Fascists (and public schoolboys and RAF officers who used to be public schoolboys) are all gay or bisexual, but that seems to have been their excuse and they didn't half run with it (even if they backtracked a little at the end, but either it was just a case of different writers, or perhaps someone noticed after one of the male leads prostituted himself to a Gestapo officer).

If you're [personal profile] executrix and you enjoy hunting for the most terrible British TV Resistance group ever: hurray, look no further, this is it! By the time the series is halfway through any new Resistance characters try to avoid our three like the plague because news of them and the trail of death and destruction they leave behind them has spread all over France. They are the worst Resistance trio ever. It's great.

Notable Episodes:

A Different Kind of War: guest-starring Julian Glover, with bonus incest, slashiness and murder in a specially depressing Christmas episode that is probably the first to really raise the series up to another level. (Don't you just love 1970s TV? Look elsewhere for tinsel and heart-warming moments.)

With a Sort of Love: Gratz begins his interrogation of Nina - the first episode made up of mind games, but not the last, although it remains one of the most gripping.

The Death-Wish: Three-hander between Peter Barkworth, Philip Madoc and James Maxwell, as Vincent is held by the SS.

Intent to Steal: shot on location with almost no dialogue, this covers the attack by the Resistance and the RAF on a munitions factory and the SFX team have a field day blowing up everything in sight.

Little Man, What Next? (Pt 1): Lutzig tries Gratz's own tricks against him (and Philip Madoc has a moment of ineffable smugness).

Guests include George Sewell, Nerys Hughes, Ian McCulloch, Julian Glover, Bernard Archard, James Maxwell (♥), Richard Hurndall, and most of the usual character actor crew of old telly. Milton Johns is a weaselly collaborator, and that guy who is always a vicar is a Catholic priest, just for a slight variation on a theme. And if you make it to the last five minutes, you'll be rewarded with bonus Paul Darrow.

Way to make Curse of Fenric even scarier, though: I don't think casting Alfred Lynch as Commander Millington (with the use of the code word "love") was entirely coincidental. *shivers*

Availability: Out on DVD from Network in R2. I don't know if it's available by any other methods, but maybe for those who can play R2 DVDs, it's worth keeping an eye out for in the next Network sale? Also available here (unlisted) on YouTube

Other Reviews:
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