Wednesday, March 19, 2008

"Blood Under the Bridge": A Review of The Company

“Blood Under the Bridge”: A Review of The Company
(Sony Home Video, 2007)

by Wesley Britton

Time Capsules

While his 1962 play Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf had nothing to do with the Cold War, one phrase from Edward Albee’s award-winning script--“blood under the bridge”--can easily be used to describe the residue left behind from what the intelligence agencies of both East and West had inflicted on each other for over 40 years. In retrospect, there was considerable real and metaphorical “blood under the bridge” in the proxy wars, inter-agency turf wars, moles, traitors, defectors, and para-military operations from 1947 until the 1989 tearing down of the Berlin Wall. Bloodied remains include the reputations of the CIA and British Intelligence. There was the “blow back” and public failures of misbegotten adventures. Before the collapse of the U.S.S.R., there had been the Hollywood blacklists, civil rights violations during the 1960s, Congressional hearings into secret hanky-panky, and deaths of Western agents resulting from the betrayals of moles like Aldrich Ames and Robert Hanssen. Could all this blood be summarized in one book, one film, or—as in the case of TNT’s The Company, one miniseries?

Judging from Norman Mailer’s sprawling 1991 Harlot’s Ghost, Mailer didn’t think one 1,000 page opus would do it. The first part of his saga—from the creation of the CIA to 1963—was as far as Mailer went in Part One of his uncompleted exploration. However, in 2002 Robert Littell's best-selling The Company: A Novel of the CIA dramatized events from the formation of the agency after World War II to the foiled 1991 coup to oust Soviet leader Mikail Gorbochov by tracing the professional and private lives of three generations of agents on both sides of the Iron Curtain. Choosing watershed moments from each decade, Litell brought the careers of actual operatives and directors from Allen Dulles, James Jesus Angleton, Richard Helms, and William Casey into his dramatization of the covert world. Litell's own fictional characters were given creditability by the author's use of historic details from vacuum tube radios to watches that needed winding before the advent of new technologies. Readers saw the history of defectors and moles in Berlin, failed covert activities in Hungary in 1956 and Cuba in 1961, and the political jousting between elected policy makers and the intelligence community in the 1970s and 1980s. Graphic scenes of torture and assassinations, office debates over ends and means, and battlefield love affairs exhibited past behaviors while pointing to the future in scenes in Afghanistan and dead-drop exchanges between Robert Hanssen and his Russian handlers. In each section, the torch was passed from generation to generation, and with each change of characters a sense of purpose, history, and destiny made it clear the novelist saw the CIA as a force to be proud of and necessary in the ongoing battles between the good guys and those with less honorable intent. (note 1)

The year before, director Tony Scott had offered a much tighter retelling of the agency’s history in his Spy Game, a feature film starring Robert Redford as Nathan D. Muir and Brad Pitt as Muir’s younger protégée, Tom Bishop. Centering on their father-son relationship, Scott showed how two generations of spies engaged in the “Great Game” in flashbacks filmed to look like the movie styles of the period in which they were set. Spy Game dramatized espionage in Vietnam, Afghanistan, and ironically concluded with the climactic moment of a suicide bomber bringing down a building in Beirut. (note 2) That incident signaled the coming shift in geopolitical conflicts, leaving behind the East vs. West duels to look ahead to the new War on Terror. “The Great Game” had had its beginning, middle, and end, so it would be new blood to take on a very different enemy. Still, in Spy Game, Harlot’s Ghost, and The Company, questions remained about the past. What had been the meaning of it all? Had the good guys won or left standing mainly by default?

As it happened, Tony Scott returned to these questions four years later through his brother, fellow filmmaker Ridley Scott. With screen writer Ken Nolan, Ridley had worked on Black Hawk Down (2001) and the two were reunited when producer John Calley began exploring the idea of making Littell’s The Company into a feature film. The Scott brothers and their collaborators determined a two-hour project wouldn’t be sufficient. They began expanding the project into a three-part, six-hour mini-series with director Mikael Salomon who’d helmed the 2004 TNT mini-series, The Grid. As he’d grown up in Berlin in the 1960s, he could bring a dimension of realism to the first segment when the producers considered using several directors for each part. Then, it was decided to use Salomon for all three parts for continuity even though each film would have very different elements. (note 3)


Broadcast on TNT from Aug. 5—Aug. 19, 2007, Nolan’s considerably streamlined script focused on three idealistic Yale graduates (class of 1950) and their evolution. Jack McAuliffe (Chris O'Donnell) and Leo Kritzky (Alessandro Nivola) were recruited into the newly created CIA. Russian-born Yevgeny Tsipin (Rory Cochrane), who likes Americans but hates what the country stands for, is recruited into the KGB by Starik (Ulrich Thomsen), a spymaster planning to destroy America’s economy. (As they younger characters would have to age over forty years in the series, the actors were asked to shave their heads so different wigs could be used.)

Setting up a relationship akin to that of Redford and Pitt in Spy Game, the first episode had McAuliffe and his mentor, Harvey Torriti, known as “The Sorcerer" (Alfred Molina) distressed to have their missions blown in Berlin in 1954. Torriti became certain there was a mole inside British intelligence leaking information and began setting traps to uncover him. At the same time, McAuliffe meets Lili, his principal informant and love interest (Alexandra Maria Lara) who’s feeding the CIA dis-information. Despite the disbelief of actual CIA counter-intelligence director James Jesus Angleton (Michael Keaton), Torriti’s scheme revealed MI-5 veteran Adrian “Kim” Philby (Tom Hollander) had been a KGB spy since the 1930s. Because Angleton had not seen through Philby’s “elegant artifice,” however, Philby was able to escape along with other members of his “Cambridge Spy Ring.” McAuliffe then tried to help Lili defect to the west before the KGB can take revenge for her mission being blown. Too late to save her, McAuliffe suspected her dis-information operation was one of the traps Torriti arranged to uncover Philby. He is correct, but Torriti denied the charge as the two toasted their mixed victory.

In the more action-oriented second episode, McAuliffe was involved in both the 1956 Hungarian revolution (filmed in Budapest) and the 1961 Bay of Pigs fiasco (shot in Puerto Rico). In Hungary (a setting that hadn’t been included in the first feature film script), the secret police captured McAuliffe when he tried to encourage local resistance to the Communist government. To get him out, Torriti let the Russians know if anything happened to the CIA agent, dead KGB operatives would be the result. After he is freed, McAuliffe learns he’d been captured due to a leak in the agency by a Soviet mole code-named “Sasha.” But he becomes resentful when the Hungarian revolution, spurred on by his labors and Western radio broadcasts, was crushed by Russian tanks as the American government refused to support their own propaganda with military power.

This circumstance repeats when McAuliffe is sent to work with Cuban rebels being trained to invade their home country while Toritti sets up failed plots to kill Castro. McAuliffe is in Cuba during the disastrous Bay of Pigs invasion and is angered when his government, again, failed to back up its own rhetoric with military support. We see the consequences in two very different conversations. On the Cuban beach, Roberto Escalona (Raoul Bova), a Cuban-born resistance fighter, tells McAuliffe he must leave despite his team being massacred as no American body should be found to discredit the invasion as being anything but true patriots seeking to take back their country. Back in Washington, Senator J. William Fulbright (Richard Blackburn) argues with CIA director Allen Dulles (Cedric Smith), saying the U.S. can’t complain about Russian involvement in other nations when the CIA was doing the same.

The first hour of the much praised third part focused on Michael Keaton’s portrayal as chain-smoking James Jesus Angleton and his obsession to uncover “Sasha.” The second half dealt with the revelations that brought the careers of Jack McAuliffe, Leo Kritzky, and Yevgeny Tsipin to their various climaxes. In a long, tense interrogation, Angleton grills Leo Kritzky as all the signs point to his guilt, but he is seemingly vindicated and freed. Then, mirroring the friendship of Angleton and Philby, McAuliffe learns his old friend Kritsky was indeed the traitor responsible for all his failed missions. By the series end, McAuliffe has become a lonely, childless veteran uncertain what he has accomplished. Yevgeny Tsipin learns his mission had been so ill-considered—that of bankrupting the U.S. economy—that his life’s work had only resulted in only one bad day for Wall Street. In the final moments, as the Cold War winds down, McAuliffe and Toritti discuss the meaning of their careers—despite the failures, the good guys won in the end. Or did they?

Evaluating the Series

The distinguished international cast featured actors able to mimic the mannerisms of historical personages, notably Tom Hollander who recreated Kim Philby’s famous stutter. (In 2003, Hollander had played another member of Philby’s ring, Guy Burgess, in the mini-series, The Cambridge Spies.) As with the 2006 film The Good Shepherd, which dealt with some of the same time period and themes, most critics recognized the series was more drama than history. In The Company, for example, Kim Philby’s cover was blown in 1954—in fact, he wasn’t discovered until 1963. While the producers said the film didn’t affirm the CIA but rather conveyed their respect for the lives of its agents, some reviewers noted the look back at the Cold War revealed that the duels between the CIA and KGB did not end with any clear-cut victors.

In Oct. 2007, the well-regarded miniseries was released by Sony Home Pictures on DVD and became available for download. Are the six-hours worthy of three evenings of your life?

Absolutely. As many have noted, the tone and pace of each episode is quite different, and each part can be viewed as stand-alone episodes or, better, in sequence. Some have complained the second film, with half set in Hungary, the second in Cuba, doesn’t have much character development. (note 4) Perhaps not, but each half of this film mirrors and reinforces the themes of the other—that while successive administrations were willing to give the CIA various marching orders to stir the Cold War pot, U.S. presidents weren’t willing to go to the brink of nuclear war. But Presidents Eisenhower and Kennedy had few qualms about inciting revolutions that left behind “blood under the bridge” in European streets and on tropical beaches. This, after all, is what kept the Cold War from becoming hot—contained battles that never led to a full scale holocaust.

True enough, the miniseries can’t match the complexity of the novel and the book remains one of the classics of all spy literature. But whether or not the events retold here are remembered history for older viewers or a Cliff’s Notes overview for younger watchers, the mini-series is heads above most other made-for-TV espionage productions. I’d deem it far superior to The Good Shepherd in terms of both character development and complexity. Highly recommended.


1. See Britton, Wesley. Beyond Bond: Spies in Film and Fiction (Praeger Pub., 2005). P. 209.

2. A review of Spy Game is included in my “THE INDISPENSIBLES: THE BEST 30 SPY FILMS OF ALL TIME” posted at this website.

3. Many details used here came from the interviews included on the 2007 DVD extras.

4. Useful, and informative reviews of the series include:

Eliason, Marcus. “TNT's `The Company' an ambitious effort.” Aug. 2, 2007. Accessed: Feb. 12, 2008.

Elber, Lynn. “Alfred Molina turns spy in `The Company.'” AP News. July 25, 2007. Accessed. Feb. 12, 2008.

For more reviews, interviews, essays, and explorations into literary, film, and TV spies, check out the other files posted at

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Geoffrey Jenkins, His Lost 007 Thriller, and the Hunt for a Continuation Novelist

Geoffrey Jenkins, His Lost 007 Thriller, and the Hunt for a Continuation Novelist

By Ronald Payne

Editor’s Note: The item below is very unique. First, it is an appreciation of neglected thriller writer Geoffrey Jenkins and his connections with Ian Fleming. Then, Ron Payne sheds some light into the history of the never published James Bond continuation novel, Per Fine Ounce. Finally, Ron makes an interesting appeal to thriller writers, biographers, and film makers—there’s a hot franchise waiting for some creative minds.


Of course, everyone knows about the fantastic world of agent 007 and his creator, Ian Lancaster Fleming. It is still hard for me to believe that the man who gave me such joyful and exciting reading as a teenager will soon be honored in centenary celebrations for his extraordinarily influential career.

However, Fleming did more than simply write “some of the livingest” thrillers ever created, in the words of British author O.F. Snelling who wrote about James Bond in his Double O Seven—James Bond Under the Microscope. Fleming also opened the door for his protégée at The Sunday Times, Geoffrey Jenkins, who created one of the most popular thrillers of his era, 1959's A Twist of Sand. What Fleming and Jenkins shared in common was the ability to project a reader forward into the most breathtaking adventure with what seems effortless aplomb. Jenkins's hero,

Commander Geoffrey Peace, is every bit as charismatic as agent “double-0-seven.” If one does not believe this, keep in mind, Peace was first portrayed in the 1966 film of A Twist of Sand by the British actor, Richard Johnson, who was producer Cubby Broccoli’s
second choice for Bond, after Cary Grant had graciously turned down the role, stating: "I can only play James Bond in one film and not a series." (Grant was best man at Broccoli's wedding to wife Dana in Beverly Hills in 1959, the same year A Twist of Sand was published to widespread critical accolades, both here and in the UK. In England,
the novel was an instant bestseller and Ian Fleming threw his name into the hat when pushing Jenkins's future as a “master of suspense.”)

Geoffrey Jenkins, like Fleming, had read the thrillers of John Buchan (The 39 Steps and Green Mantle), H.C. McNeil's "Bulldog Drummond" series, written under the pen name “Sapper,” and the works of Dornford Yates, featuring that dare devil adventurer, Jonah Mansel. What set A Twist of Sand apart from other books of the 1950s and early 1960s is that Jenkins intentionally updated the formula of his predecessors, just as Fleming had done only a few years earlier in such books as Casino Royale and From Russia, With Love.

As Fleming predicted, Geoffrey Jenkins was a master from the start. A Twist of Sand is, perhaps, his best written novel and would have been an ideal vehicle for a Hitchcock film. Jenkins, though a native of South Africa, lived in London and shared many of Hitchcock's views on how thrillers should be presented. As both a book and film, A Twist of Sand had all the ingredients. Greed. Gold. Bad guys who really are sinister and frightening. Yes, girls. On screen, we saw a beautiful and passionate blonde portrayed by Honor Blackman (“Pussy Galore" of Goldfinger and Cathy Gale of the pre-Diana Rigg Avengers.) And, of course, the darkly rugged Richard Johnson as Commander Geoffrey Peace, an actor who went on to play Bulldog Drummond in the technicolor films, Deadlier Than The Male and Some Girls Do. It’s high time, I should think, that Commander Peace gets a new lease on life.

I have been granted the great privilege of becoming the Literary Agent for the Estate of Geoffrey Jenkins. Indeed, it is a true honour for me. David Jenkins, the son of the novelist, is a wonderful gentleman and his wisdom regarding everything pertaining to his father's legacy has been most inspiring. He and I are in agreement about one thing that remains steadfast between us: "The novels of Geoffrey Jenkins, most of which are now out of print, need to be reissued by the best publishers in America and the U.K.. In addition, to me, it is extraordinary that Geoffrey Jenkins's original publishers,
HarperCollins, have not searched for a continuation novelist to keep the Geoffrey Peace character alive and robust--not to say, kicking. So, the Geoffrey Jenkins Estate and I are looking for the best thriller writer in the world to write the next Commander Geoffrey Peace novel. No easy task.

Per Fine Ounce

Which brings us to Per Fine Ounce, the lost Geoffrey Jenkins James Bond novel. In 1966, Geoffrey Jenkins was contracted by Glidrose Productions, Ltd. to write the first James Bond Continuation Novel under the pen name “Robert Markham,” later used by Kingsley Amis when he published 1968's Colonel Sun. Anne Fleming, Ian's widow, had some reservations about copyright problems if a continuation novelist were brought in. Peter Fleming, Ian's brother, was the top man on the board of directors at Glidrose (now Ian Fleming Publications) when the Jenkins contract was finally drawn-up and signed. The novel, which would have taken 007 to South Africa, would have dealt with gold smugglers in much the same way Diamonds Are Forever dealt with the diamond pipeline. Peter Janson-Smith, who was Ian Fleming's British agent and one of Glidrose’s editorial directors remembered that the Per Fine Ounce manuscript was rejected, though he was never clear on exactly who did the rejecting or why. There had been some concerns as to who would publish the book, whether it would be Fleming's original publisher--Jonathan Cape, Ltd.--or Jenkins's publisher, William Collins and Sons or some combination of the two joining forces for maximum exposure and leverage in the literary market place of 1967 England.

The rejection created hard feelings between James Bond film producers Harry Saltzman and Albert R. Broccoli toward the board of directors at Glidrose. In 1979, I asked Reginald Barkshire why Cubby Broccoli had not filmed the continuation novel, Colonel Sun by Kingsley Amis. Mr. Barkshire--a delightful man and generous with his time with me, said simply: "Mr. Broccoli will never film a continuation novel." Before that statement, Saltzman and Broccoli had every intention of filming the Jenkins novel. In the meantime, Geoffrey Jenkins's second Commander Geoffrey Peace thriller, Hunter Killer, was published in America and England. In the opening pages, Commander Peace is believed dead. His body is on board a British nuclear sub. It has not been confirmed, but has been widely speculated that Harry Saltzman bought this scene from Hunter Killer for the 1967 James Bond film, You Only Live Twice, as some small recompense to Geoffrey Jenkins after the rejection of Per Fine Ounce.

As the agent for the estate of Geoffrey Jenkins, I am now on a mystery hunt. The original manuscript of Per Fine Ounce has simply disappeared. David Jenkins and I now possess 18 pages of the original story and it is quite good. However, we are missing some 300 odd pages of what might have been the best James Bond thriller after Fleming. We are searching the archives of many universities and there is still the possibility that the Harry Saltzman Estate might have a copy of the unpublished manuscript. After all, it was Harry Saltzman who personally championed Jenkins's story to Glidrose. It was Saltzman, who more than anyone else, wanted to film Per Fine Ounce.

A New Franchise?

Well, where does all this lead? I have had several New York publishers contact me about publishing Per Fine Ounce. It cannot be published as a James Bond novel, of course, because of copyrights and trademarks belonging to Ian Fleming Publications. However, "Commander Geoffrey Peace" can be easily substituted for "Commander James Bond" and what an exciting story we would have, if the pages David Jenkins and I possess are any indication of the skill and high level of literary craftsmanship. Jenkins was
in top form in 1966. Some of his best thrillers were still ahead of him.

So the extant pages of Per Fine Ounce offer us all an intriguing possibility. If a continuation novelist were to pick up the gauntlet, a thrilling new story with a heavy dose of Jenkins with a dash of Fleming could excite readers once again. At the same time, there should definitely be a biography of Geoffrey Jenkins, not only one of the world's greatest thriller writers, but one of South Africa's greatest novelists. After all, Jenkins's books sold 50,000,000 copies during his life time and there is still life in his creation, Commander Geoffrey Peace, not only in literature, but also potential films.

So, as literary agent for the Jenkins estate, I would like to hear from all serious writers and their agents. Once contacted, we will do our best to read your proposal in a timely manner. We are looking for three things at the moment:

(1.) a good continuation novel, based upon the Commander Geoffrey Peace character, which means the writer must read A Twist of Sand and Hunter Killer and be previously published by a commercial house.

(2.) we are interested in a professional biographer for an in depth biography of Geoffrey Jenkins.

(3.) we are interested in working with a studio/film director with a track record in Hollywood or London for a proposed film series based on the Peace character, ala James Bond. Producer/director/writer
credentials are essential. We will be blunt about this: a producer, director, screen writer with attached 'financing' will be given carte blanche treatment.

David Jenkins and I are big fans of
and will keep all Geoffrey Jenkins fans posted.

Ronald Payne for The Geoffrey Jenkins Estate

To learn more about Ronald Payne, check out his “Untold Tales of 007” articles as well as his archives of O. F. Snelling material in the “James Bond Files” at

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Sleepers, Moles, and The Piglet Files: British Spy Comedies on U.S. DVD

In America, TV spy comedies have not always been a rich barrel of laughs. Of course, the bar was set very high in 1965 with Get Smart!, the standard by which everything since has been measured. We got the forgotten Double Life of Henry Phyfe and occasionally short-lived offerings like the Canadian produced Adderly. Mostly, we got a plethora of children’s shows from Lancelot Link, Secret Chimp to The Adventures of Dynamo Duck. Not until Seth MacFarlane’s 2005 animated American Dad! did U.S. viewers get another long-running half-hour satire of the espionage genre. In the main, TV spy humor has been an ingredient in cliché ridden hour-long “dram-odies” of varying quality as in NBC’s 2007 recycling of old premises—Chuck-- and USA’s clever summer series, Burn Notice.

Not so in England. Of course, they’ve created the lion’s share of the best spy dramas ever aired from Danger Man to The Sandbaggers to Reilly, Ace of Spies. They’ve given us the templates for the best in escapist fare from The Avengers to Department S to The Saint. Along the way, U.K. studios have produced nuggets few Yanks have seen or even heard of beyond the devoted followers of cult TV. How about Jason King or The Top Secret Life of Edgar Briggs? In Britain, they’ve enjoyed DVD releases of many of their homegrown favorites like Man in a Suitcase and The Ghost Squad. They even beat Hollywood to the punch, issuing The Man From U.N.C.L.E. movies still not available on this side of the pond.

But, of late, some notable comic DVD nuggets have come out suitable for region 1 players, available for purchase or rental via Netflix. Here are two offerings worthy of any lover of witty yarns and satirical digs into the ribs of British—and American—intelligence.

The Piglet Files

For decades, PBS stations have thrived on Saturday and Sunday evenings re-broadcasting classic British sit-coms. Monty Python, Good Neighbors, To the Manor Born, and Keeping up Appearances have all enjoyed long shelf-lives and been the focus of many an annoying pledge drive. But public broadcasting missed a good bet by not offering The Piglet Files.

Originally broadcast from Sept. 7, 1990 to May 10, 1992, 21 half-hour episodes were produced by London Weekend Television. For three years, ITV aired 7 of these satires each season centered on gawky gadget expert Peter "Piglet" Chapman (Nicholas Lyndhurst). Chapman was drawn into the world of espionage at a time when the Cold War was winding down and Britain’s professional spies were falling behind in technical competence.

Billed as “A spy in search of a clue,” Chapman was not the only secret agent worthy of this description. In the pilot, “A Question of Intelligence,” aristocratic MI5 chief Major Maurice Drummond (Clive Francis) became exasperated with his agents’ ineptitude in surveillance missions. When asked to monitor one suspected home of a Russian spy, for example, they discover they are not only watching the wrong house, they are watching it from inside the very house supposed to be under surveillance. When asked to place a bug inside the wall of another home, his agents mortar in the receiver instead of the microphone.

In scripts by Brian Leveson and Paul Minett, Drummond decided to solve these problems by having local university professor Chapman fired from his job so he has no choice but to agree to become a technological trainer for the agency. Delighted to become a spy of sorts, Chapman insists on a code-name, even though no one else is using one. MI5 finds the last available designation—the embarrassing “Piglet.” Chapman would quickly rue the day he accepted that moniker.

Modest and average in intelligence, Chapman was smarter than most of his co-workers, but only by degrees. They included Major Andrew Maxwell (John Ringham) and the buffoonish Dexter (Michael Percival). Piglet’s wife, Sarah (Serena Evans), was convinced her husband was having affairs as he tried to keep his secret life hidden from her. Throughout the series, she found herself screaming in frustration when she can’t get simple answers to simple questions, even when she is kidnapped and no one will tell her why.

Outside of Get Smart!, not many spy shows have a laugh track—or deserve one. But with a mix of witty dialogue, Unusual scenarios, and characters that turn the realm of John Le Carre on its head, it’s hard not to join in with the taped audience response. Perhaps the post-Cold War scripts are a bit dated, but only by a degree or two.

The major quibble I had with the May 2003 DVD release of the first season from Bfs Entertainment is that, for some reason, each disc only has three or four episodes. Why not all 21 episodes in a full box set? Despite this strange packaging, The Piglet Files is well worth exploring and adding to your espionage collection.

Trivia notes: The original Music for the series was provided by Rod Argent, a former hitmaker with the groups The Zombies and Argent. An accomplished caricaturist, Clive Francis’s humorous drawings of himself and Lyndhurst can be seen in the show's credits.


In the case of Sleepers, PBS didn’t miss the boat. From Oct. 27 to Nov. 17, 1991, this high-quality miniseries was aired on Masterpiece Theatre after it was broadcast on the BBC in the spring of that year. In a far different vein from Piglet, the satirical plot of Sleepers is more like a well-done adaptation of a well-written novel. Still, like Piglet, it satirizes the post-Cold War intelligence realm in which international spy agencies don’t
seem to know exactly what the adversary is doing—or why.

In the first episode, “”The Awakening,” an opening montage use stock footage from the 1960s (showing then Prime Minister Harold Wilson, Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev among others) to evoke the year 1966. Then, 25 years later, a hidden room is discovered beneath the Kremlin, revealing a complete recreation of a 1960s British town.

In the script by writers John Flanagan and Andrew McCulloch, the puzzled Reds investigate the room and uncovered a long-forgotten plot by Andrei Zorin (Michael Gough) to place two sleeper agents in Britain, one in the industrial north, the other in the commercial South. From the point of this discovery, a chain of events spins out in many comic directions involving the Russian secret services, the American CIA, and the British MI-5. All of them are uncertain of what is happening with many misinterpretations of what they’re finding.

At the center of the storm are the two agents who, after 25 years, have become British in every way and have no desire to be KGB agents. Vladimir Zelenski is now Albert Robinson (Warren Clarke), a Union official at a factory in Eccles, happily married with three children. Sergei Rublev has become Jeremy Coward (Nigel Havers), a great capitalist success in London. Meanwhile, Zoran has been living in an insane asylum and still carries his secrets.

Then, one of Robinson’s children accidentally activated his antique radio in his attic, and the sleeper was surprised to hear a Russian voice commanding him to reactivate his life as a spy. He ran to meet with his old contact, and the pair learn Major Nina Grishina (Joanna Kanska) is flying to London to bring them home. Her arrival prompted both the CIA and MI5 to investigate what the KGB is after. Things just don’t add up. Why would two ordinary Brits do a Cossack dance on a dam after throwing an old radio into the water? Why is Robinson determined that he keep track of his daughter’s toy monkey, “Morris,” which was left on his car seat when he left home? Why is a top security KGB agent poking around sleepy English hamlets and why does the CIA care? This is no place for spoilers—suffice it to say Acorn Media released the mini-series on DVD and it’s a genuine nugget.

For trivia buffs: Warren Clarke’s other espionage roles included work for The Avengers, Callan, and Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy.


The Piglet Files

According to

The Piglet Files is currently out of stock. However, I can attest that

has the series for rent. Another favorable review is posted at: -


Amazon has both used and new copies for sale:

And Netflix has the two discs for rent.

For other reviews of TV, literary, film, and even radio spies—check out—