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Three episodes of the TV Series "Espionage" (1964) that Michael Powell directed
Now available on DVD from Network

Reviews and comments from:

Steve Crook wrote:
I've just finished watching the three Espionage episodes. I thoroughly enjoyed them, even though there are few directorial flourishes. The Frantick Rebel was a lovely light-hearted romp. Roger Livesey really should have done more comedy. Never Turn Your Back on Friend was a bit predictable but very well done, some nice interplay and psychology between the scientist and the others. And of course a delightful turn by Pamela. A Free Agent worked very well, typical Leo Marks plots within plots and complexity.

They are of course very 1960s, staged TV; more like stage plays with little scope for MP to do very much. I remember he once did a Channel 4 opinion piece that was very scathing about the creative possibilities of TV compared with cinema.

All in all, enjoyable and worth watching for the kind of thing TV used to do very well - the one act play.

Steve Crook also wrote:
I thought they were all quite good and quite interesting. Not great, not missing masterpieces by any means. But a good job of work by all concerned.

It was great to see Roger Livesey in The Frantick Rebel as Dr. Samuel Johnson with Stanley Baxter as Boswell. They were working for the British government, trying to prevent an American Revolutionary spy from getting some information to Benjamin Franklin. Right from the start I guessed that the spy would succeed. It was an American series even if these episodes were filmed in England.

Never Turn Your Back on a Friend was a strange story. It was a bit too much cold-war for a story set in wartime. But my early schooling in physics came to the fore and spotted a few flaws.

The Professor said that he could make a bomb from a pile of Uranium-230 (spoken as "two three oh"). But there isn't an isotope of Uranium with an atomic weight of 230. Thorium 230 is one of the by-products of the breakdown of Uranium 238. And yes, he definitely said "two three oh". I went back over it to make sure.

And when they went to the Prof's lab he demonstrated the mighty power of the atom by dipping some Uranium in a pool of heavy water. It glowed when he dipped the pile in the heavy water. Errm, it doesn't work like that. An atomic pile can be stabilised by heavy water. It wouldn't speed up the reaction, it would slow it down.

If only Leo Marks had written that one (as well as A Free Agent). Leo knew a bit about science and at least he knew when he didn't know something and would do his research (as would Emeric). The writer of this episode (Blacklisted writer Waldo Salt, credited as Mel Davenport) just thought he could bluff his way through the technical stuff.

A Free Agent was another interesting story. But I guessed it was doomed from the start. It's post-war and a British agent and a Soviet agent fall in love and get married. I don't think either side is going to let them get away with it and live happily ever after.


All quite adequate and very interesting to watch. But very few real "Powell touches" in the direction.

But they were all a lot better than his film of The Queen's Guards :)

Nicky Smith wrote:
I enjoyed the Frantick Rebel - it had nice touches like the keyhole opening, the vgetarian heroine and the bit where Graham Crowden and pal decide they're in a musical comedy and start talking in unison. I though Never Turn Your back on Friend was fairly routine though except for the schoolroom scene at the start. Would a highly educated Russian (as presumably Julian Glover was meant to be, what with the fluent English and everything) really put up with a rubbish nickname like Tovarich?

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