Professionals MkII out on Blu-ray

Sunday, 28 September 2014 23:00 Written by 

The Professionals - MkII gets a substantial overhaulAnd so, out on the streets now, released in another example of immaculate restoration is The Professionals: MkII from Network. Available for the first time in Blu-ray format, and via iTunes if you really insist, is the second shooting block of episodes. Sort of. Stick with us to find out why that all becomes a little fuzzy!

As with the MkI release which appeared in March 2014, here we have brand new transfers from original film elements, all presented here in a previously never realised supreme quality. And when we say that, we mean even better than when it was first broadcast - 13 episodes from transmissions first made 1978 and 1979. Martin Shaw as Doyle, Lewis Collins as Bodie, the affable brace of special agents from law enforcement department CI5, with Gordon Jackson as their cantankerous boss George Cowley.

Being a huge hit, fans have always been numerous, and some current websites do the series a huge amount of justice. In particular, check out www.mark-1.co.uk/Professionals/ under the stewardship of Dave Matthews, which was incredibly useful in piecing together the story behind the production of ‘MkII’, not called a season per se, for reasons you will soon discover!

Producer for the first season had been Sidney Hayers, but Raymond Menmuir took over for the second season when Hayers went to America - he directed episodes of Magnum PI, The A-Team, Galactica 1980 and Knight Rider amongst a host of other series, before returning to direct a quartet of episodes of Gerry Anderson’s Space Precinct and an episode of the CI5: The New Professionals revival in 1999. Menmuir went on to produce CATS Eyes (1986-7) and Gentlemen and Players (1988-9), as well as Associate Produce the Lewis Collins 1982 big screen movie “Who Dares Wins” (aka “The Final Option” Stateside).

London Weekend Television had made additional funding available to the show’s producers for this new run. Unfortunately, this also meant they took a more direct control over the production. Meanwhile, in the early months of 1978 production had concluded on The Sweeney. This left many of the freelance crew from that show looking for their next job. LWT signed up as many of them as they could. Their experience meant far more outdoor shoots, and actual building interiors utilised rather than an excess of studio work.

Sound recorder Dave Crozier refined his equipment to make it much more portable, so the team could literally record dialogue live, and not have to redub it later in post-production as had been the case in many scenes for the first season. The only downside to this portability and added movement was the need for a switch to 16mm film - the smaller cameras couldn’t take the 35mm stock used for the first season.

These episodes saw Bodie and Doyle assigned their own permanent cars. Bodie got a Ford Capri, and Doyle a Ford Escort RS2000. Cowley was usually chauffeured around in a red Ford Granada Mk II.

There was also a new opening title sequence. This is the most familiar one, with the black Granada smashing through a plate-glass window, Doyle chasing a hood across a factory roof, Bodie working up a sweat in a gym, and Cowley waiting impatiently to be joined by his two star players. Producers Mark 1 were asked by an impressed LWT to apply this new sequence onto the existing first season episodes for repeats and overseas screenings. This is why the original sequence for the first run of episodes had faded so much in the memory.

The ‘London landscape’ of the original end titles was replaced, too, with a simple green-coloured caption card bearing a variation on the Professionals ‘silhouettes’ logo.

Producer Menmuir and show runner and creator Brian Clemens were keen to get all three leads involved in the action. Cowley's leg limp was miraculously ‘cured’ and forgotten about, and we saw the boss out at the scene a lot more, something you can see actor Gordon Jackson approach with relish.

Cowley's secretary, Betty, never appeared again following the first season. Ex-model Diana Weston was brought in as CI5 agent Ruth Pettifer instead, but was mysteriously dropped after just three episodes.

Thanks again to the website www.mark-1.co.uk/Professionals/ we are able to discover exactly why three of the episodes from this second shooting block of episodes were not screened until the back end of the following year, separated from the ten others in the group.

Shooting had commenced on 5th June 1978. Ten episodes were duly completed, and broadcast in the UK was between October and December 1978. “Backtrack”, “The Madness of Mickey Hamilton” and “Servant of Two Masters” had their completion delayed until 12 March 1979, eventually shown as part of the ‘third season’ between October and December 1979 in the UK.

The trio of stories came unstuck as Lewis Collins had suffered a broken ankle performing a parachute jump on 5 November 1978 – an exercise unconnected to the series. Production came to a screeching halt as if he had applied one of his handbrake turns. The decision was taken to recommence in March 1979, when the third series was originally planned to have begun filming.

It is said that, despite having a leg in plaster, Collins turned up on set on the morning of Monday 6 November 1978, but it was immediately clear he was in no fit state to continue.

The disconnection of episodes from their natural home continued in the following season. That block commenced filming on 23 April 1979, following the finishing of the three outstanding Season Two stories, and was again planned to be thirteen episodes. Stories filmed in this block included “The Acorn Syndrome”, “Fugitive”, “Involvement”, “Need to Know”, “Takeaway”, “Slush Fund”, “Mixed Doubles” and “Weekend in the Country”, but all these were put off until the fourth ‘season’, shown between September and December 1980.

And so it went on. In the next filming block, more episodes were bumped back again to the following ‘season’, these being “Foxhole on the Roof”, “Operation Susie”, “You'll be Alright”, “Discovered in a Graveyard”, “The Untouchables” and “The Ojuka Situation”. These became part of what was called the ‘fifth season’ of stories screened from November 1982 to February 1983.

The fifth and final filming block, from March to May 1981, had just five episodes within it. These were “Lawson's Last Stand”, “Spy Probe” (the last completed), “Cry Wolf”, “A Man Called Quinn” and “No Stone”. These rounded up what was now known as the ‘fifth season’. The short filming block was due to LWT apparently feeling the series was now too expensive. This might have been true in a round-about way, as the completion of the fifth story in May 1981 coincided with the end of the four-year contracts for the three leads. Collins and Shaw were not going to renew, but apparently Jackson would have been happy to continue. Clemens even mooted bringing in two new leads – after all CI5 was a big department. However, the other factors were enough for LWT to walk away.

And here’s you thinking that Family Guy had the exclusivity in bizarre ways their seasons are split up, in their case from one side of the Atlantic to the other!

And that’s why this release is known as “MkII” rather than Season Two!

Special features on these new releases include:

  • Brand new, High Definition transfers and restorations from the original negatives
  • Brand-new, exclusive book written by archive television historian Andrew Pixley, fully detailing the history and production of series two.
  • Episodes are presented on the discs in their original production order.
  • Brand-new Dolby 5.1 mixes along with original as-broadcast mono and music-only tracks
  • Series Two Ad Bumper.
  • Outtakes and Behind-the-Scenes footage.
  • US Sales Trailer – for those of you familiar with the late-1970s early-1980s ‘mash-ups’ of Supermarionation favourites to promote the movie-length Amercian cable TV releases of such ‘product’, this is a promo film in much the same vein – gawdy 1980s graphics and cheesy library music is mixed in with extracts of original footage and music to create something that may well have you watching it through clasped fingers. Strong alcohol may well assist in its appreciation.
  • English HOH subtitles.
  • Image galleries - sourced from the Mark 1 archive, these feature brand new scans of hundreds of images, many previously unseen – including pictures from the first few days’ of shooting.
  • PDF materials.

It’s worth pointing you in the direction of an article on the restoration work done on the first season. You can discover it by CLICKING HERE.

Without doubt, the second ‘season’ is a much slicker action series than what had preceded it. The three leads are very comfortable with their characters, the off-screen friction between Shaw and Collins converting into a sublime on-screen chemistry being Doyle and Bodie. The triumvirate at the heart of the format are all believable in both themselves and their interactions.

The choice of guest stars is also top-drawer.  Michael Billington relishes his villainous role in “The Rack”, demonstrating every sinew of his method-acting training. Look out for excellent turns from the likes of Pamela Stephenson, Ed Bishop, Tony Steedman, Bryan Marshall, Vicki Michelle, George Pravda, Jenny Lee Wright, Robert Dorning, Nadim Sawalha, John Carson, Rachel Herbert, Bill Fraser, Duncan Preston, Liz Fraser, Michael Elphick, David Calder, John Savident, Pamela Salem, Robert Urquhart, George Murcell and even Athar ‘Art’ Malik!

The Professionals MkII (‘15’) with a running time of 650 minutes approx, is out now on Blu-ray (4 discs - RRP £39.99), or get it for less at www.culttvstore.com - it is also available on iTunes, at £24.99 (or £2.49 per episode). The DVD version (5 discs - RRP £29.99) is due to be released on 30 March 2015.

 

EPISODE GUIDE

2.01. “Rogue”

Original broadcast: 11 November 1978 (18 in broadcast order)

Barry Martin was a founder member of CI5 with Cowley, but has he turned 'rogue'?

Writer: Dennis Spooner

Director: Ray Austin

Guest starring: Glyn Owen (Barry Martin), Pamela Stephenson (Maggie Briggs), Tony Steedman (Paul Cuthbertson), Neil Hallet (David Hunter), Robert Gillespie (Steve Ballard), Teddy Green (Doctor in Mortuary), Diana Weston (CI5 Girl), Andy Ho (Old Chinaman), Larrington Walker (Geronimo), Athar Malik (Doctor in Hospital), Martyn Whitby (Policeman)

 

2.02: “Hunter/Hunted”

Original broadcast: 7 October1978 (13 in broadcast order)

Doyle is on a date with Kathie Mason when his flat is burgled and a powerful laser rifle is stolen. But who knew it even existed, and where to find it?

Writer: Anthony Read

Director: Anthony Simmons

Guest starring: Cheryl Kennedy (Kathie), Bryan Marshall (Preston), John Stratton (Brownie), Tony Caunter (Maurice Richards), Diana Weston (Ruth), Frank Barrie (Martell), Martin Wyldeck (Jack), Malcolm Hayes (Forensic Man), Jeillo Edwards (West Indian Woman), Maria St Clare (Singer), Vicki Michelle (Jo)

 

2.03: “First Night”

Original broadcast: 21 October 1978 (15 in broadcast order)

Israeli minister Asher Biebermann is kidnapped from outside the Festival Hall whilst under police protection. Can CI5 find and free him in time?

Writer: Gerry O’Hara

Director: David Wickes

Guest starring: Tony Vogel (Kidnapper 1 [Frank]), David Howey (Kidnapper 2 [John]), Arnold Diamond (Biebermann), Julian Holloway (Harvey), John Nettleton (Minister), George Pravda (Hirschfield), Nadim Sawalha (Arab Diplomat), John York (Local Police Chief), Diana Weston (CI5 Girl), Robert Hamilton (Kidnapper 3 [Mac]), Brenda Cavendish (Divorcee), Pearl Ann Turner (Blonde WPC), Susan Derrick (2nd WPC), Jean Gilpin (Debra), John Patrick (Soldier), Jack Elliott (Marksman)

 

2.04: “The Rack”

Original broadcast: 14 October 1978 (14 in broadcast order)

Informant 'Nosey' Parker is on the run after giving a tip-off about the drug-dealing of ex-boxer John Coogan. But a death in police custody could lead to CI5 being closed down. The episode was originally known as “'An Inquiry into Violence”.

Writer: Brian Clemens

Director: Peter Medak

Guest starring: Michael Billington (John Coogan), Lisa Harrow (Geraldine Mather), Allan Surtees (Minister), Cyril Luckham (Judge Hall), Robert James (David Merlin), Trevor Adams (Benny), Ken Campbell (Parker), Pater Marinker (Frank Williams), Jenny Lee Wright (Lorna), Christopher Ellison (Paul Coogan), Michael Mundell (Reporter), James Hayes (McKay), Jonty Miller (Carter), Charles Pemberton (Big Man)

 

2.05: “Man Without a Past”

Original broadcast: 28 October 1978 (16 in broadcast order)

Was Bodie the target when a bomb goes off in a restaurant where he is eating with a girlfriend? Or is it actually to do with the couple that were originally booked in at the table he was sitting at?

Writer: Michael Armstrong (Original story by Jeremy Burnham)

Director: Martin Campbell

Guest starring: John Carson (Brian Forrest), John Castle (Peter Crabbe), Rachel Herbert (Madge Forrest), Rod Culbertson (Arthur), Ed Bishop (Braddock), John Bay (Haskell), Deirdre Costello (Sally Pendle), Robert Rietty (Gino), Robert Dorning (Padgett), Hilary Ryan (Carol Forrest), James Bree (Grant), Alan Leith (MacNeil), Anthony Bailey (Phipps), Peter Pacey (Attendant), Neville Barber (Inspector), Ann Michelle (Girl), Gloria Walker (Nurse), Maya Woolfe (Claire)

 

2.06: “In the Public Interest”

Original broadcast: 4 November 1978 (17 in broadcast order)

Chief Constable Green operates a zero tolerance policing system bordering on fascist dictatorship. He and the corrupt Inspector Chives are about to find out they have picked on the wrong people, known to the rest of the world as Bodie and Doyle.

Writer: Brian Clemens

Director: Pennant Roberts

Guest starring: Paul Hardwick (Green), John Judd (Chives), Stephen Rea (Pellin), Allan Surtees (Minister), Colin McCormack (Edwards), Tom Georgeson (Reed), Tony Calvin (Terry), Pamela Manson (Sally), Saba Milton (Female Clerk), Fredric Abbott (Big Man), Fraser Cains (Cop)

 

2.07: “Not a Very Civil Civil Servant”

Original broadcast: 18 November 1978 (19 in broadcast order)

A nervous accountant murdered to stop him confessing all. Jury members are bullied into returning a ‘not guilty’ verdict. Now an undercover fraud officer has been beaten up. CI5 are determined to convict all of those involved. This episode was originally known as “Housing and Estates”.

Writer: Edmund Ward

Director: Anthony Simmons

Guest starring: Maurice Denham (Sir James Temple), Bill Fraser (Col Summerville), Robert Swain (Logan-Blake), Harold Innocent (Repton), Peter Woodthorpe (Councillor Webb), Tony Church (Minister), Lyndon Brook (Gillam), Derek Martin (Renshaw), Anthony Heaton (Singleton), David Hargreaves (Halloran), Linda Goddard (Jenny Burton), Andrew McCulloch (Bradford), Frank Jarvis (Musgrave), Donald Bisset (Judge), Brian Hall (Sam Burton), Duncan Preston (Karl Drake)

 

2.08: “A Stirring of Dust”

Original broadcast: 25 November 1978 (20 in broadcast order)

Thomas Darby was a spy who sold out and defected to the Russians. On his return to England, Cowley wants to extract the names of other double agents from him.

Writer: Don Houghton

Director: Martin Campbell

Guest starring: Robert Urquhart (Darby), André Morell (Brig Stadden), Alan Macnaughtan (Sorenson), Carol Royle (Helen Pierce), George Murcell (Yashinkov), Billy Boyle (O’Leary), Robin Parkinson (Taxi Driver), Shelagh Fraser (Elsa), Myles Hoyle (Lewis), Michael Petrovitch (Callinari), Chris Dillinger (Russian Aide 1), Terence Mountain (Russian Aide 2), Norman Rutherford (Cleric)

 

2.09: “Blind Run”

Original broadcast: 2 December 1978 (21 in broadcast order)

'Mr X', middle-eastern diplomat Hanish, is being protected by CI5, but no safe house is safe, and the pursuers know their every next move. The episode was originally known as “Play Up and Play the Game”.

Writer: Ranald Graham

Director: Tom Clegg

Guest starring: Jasmina Hilton (Leia), Tommy Boyle (Charlie), Sandra Payne (Phillipa), Tony Jay (Foreign Observer 1), Steve Plytas (Foreign Observer 2), Kevin Brennan (Minister), Ahmed El-Shenawi (Bodyguard), Kevork Malikyan (Hanish [Mr X]), Rowland Davies (Male Secretary), Tariq Yunus (Georgio), Yashar Adem (1st Official), Neville Rofaila (2nd Official), Gabor Vernon (Ambassador 1), Nayef Rashed (Ambassador 2), Ian Liston (Security Man)

 

2.10: “Fall Girl”

Original broadcast: 9 December 1978 (22 in broadcast order)

Marikka Schuman is an East German film star and an old flame of Bodie’s, but he’s unaware that Marikka's husband and henchman have set him up to take the fall for an assassination.

Writer: Ranald Graham

Director: William Brayne

Guest starring: Pamela Salem (Marikka), Frederick Jaeger (Schuman), Michael Latimer (Willis), Sandor Elés (Kreiber), Patrick Malahide (Security Man 1), Phillip Joseph (Security Man 2), George Irving (Security Man 3), John Larsen (Security Man 4), Eamonn Jones (Barman), Christine Shaw (Barmaid), Lydia Lisle (Julia), Frederick Marks (Knowles), Gregory Floy (Technician), Michael Redfern (Vic), Astrid Frank (Anna), Lewis Wilson (Old PC), Vivien Stokes (WPC), Myrtle Devenish (Old Woman)

 

2.11: “Backtrack”

Original broadcast: 3 November 1979 (24 in original broadcast order)

Sammy Layden is a cat burglar who is way out of his depth when he stumbles upon a smuggling ring connected to an Arab Embassy.

Writer: Don Houghton

Director: Christopher King

Guest starring: Liz Fraser (Margery), Michael Elphick (Garbett), John Bennett (Truitt), Brian Gwaspari (Pulman), Brian McDermott (Miller), Stacy Davies (Sammy), Michael Halphie (Gunman 1), Charlie Price (Gunman 2), Kevork Malikyan (Sniper), Luke Hanson (Alf), Rudi Patterson (Herbie), Antony Scott (Kabil Kammahmi)

 

2.12: “Servant of Two Masters”

Original transmission: 15 December 1979 (30 in broadcast order)

Cowley appears to have stolen two canisters of a new nerve gas and is recorded trying to sell them to German Otto Hahn. Bodie and Doyle are asked to keep surveillance on him.

Writer: Douglas Watkinson

Director: Ferdinand Fairfax

Guest starring: David de Keyser (Otto Hahn), Glynn Edwards (Alfred Cole), Christina World (Jutta), John Savident (Robert Pumb), Dennis Burgess (Dr Forbes), James Lister (Karl), Kenneth Owens (Groves), Will Stampe (Ted), Ryan Michael (Wilf), Tony Scannell (Man 1), Frank Ellis (Man 2)  

 

2.13: “The Madness of Mickey Hamilton”

Original broadcast: 24 November 1979 (27 in broadcast order)

Mickey Hamilton, an ex-soldier shoots and kills doctors in the local hospital, believing them to be responsible for the death of his wife and for the brain damage of his daughter.

Writer: Christopher Wicking

Director: William Brayne

Guest starring: Ian McDiarmid (Mickey Hamilton), Marjorie Yates (Kay Costa), Barry Stanton (Frank), Shaun Curry (Sgt Bellager), Clifton Jones (St Jacques), David Henry (Captain Tepper), David Calder (Inspector Shannon), John Saunders (Mr Pagett-Munro), Dick Sullivan (Priest), Maurice Thorogood (Doctor 1), Olu Jacobs (Sylvester), Kevin O’Shea (Dr Dyson), Anni Domingo (Sister Noel), Myrtle Moss (Nun), Benjamin Feitelson (1st Doctor), Rufus Collins (Mr Lemon), Shelagh McLeod (Toni), Lynne Ross (Pat), Susie Jenkinson (Nurse), Lydia Lisle (Computer Operator), Andrew Hawkins (Dr Norris)

 

 

Last modified on Thursday, 02 October 2014 14:08

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