Codename Kyril on DVD

Tuesday, 27 July 2010 09:54

“Codename: Kyril” comes from an era where espionage menace comes from the deadly silence of its protagonists. This mini-series offers complex characterisations and an intelligent treatment of the theme of trust and betrayal. It’s not from the James Bond crash-bang school of spying, having been adapted by the award-winning John Hopkins – whose previous credits include “Smiley’s People” and Z Cars. One of the Executive Producers is Primetime Emmy Award winner Patrick Dromgoole (Robin of Sherwood). This release presents the complete two-part mini-series (usually only seen in a radically edited ‘TV movie’ form), originally screened in 1988.

Edward Woodward (Callan and The Equalizer) stars opposite Ian Charleson (“Chariots of Fire”) in this taut and skilfully plotted Cold War thriller. Providing star-studded support are the likes of Joss Ackland, Peter Vaughan, Richard E Grant and Denholm Elliott.

Codename Kyril on DVDWhen first screened in the UK, it played over two consecutive nights, with News at Ten sandwiched in to the middle of it on ITV. It’s one of the ‘old school’ of spy dramas, with the plot involving the Soviet KGB having an evasive spy to eliminate - a high-ranking Kremlin traitor who has been leaking crucial secrets to London.

Bucharensky, codename Kyril, is ordered to defect to catch the attention of the intelligence services of both East and West, setting himself up as a target and drawing fire from all sides as he makes his way across Europe to London. His mission objective is to panic the traitor into making a mistake. Waiting for him in London is his deadliest enemy - Royston, a KGB mole, whose life now depends upon silencing Kyril before he can disclose his identity as a Soviet double agent.

The late Edward Woodward filmed “Kyril” in between seasons of his huge hit series The Equalizer – in fact, some sources note that Woodward actually suffered a near-fatal heart attack around this time, which led to him taking time off from the third season of The Equalizer – actor Richard Jordan being drafted in as Harley Gage, a former CIA colleague, to assist in proceedings. Certainly, audiences who only knew Woodward from this American series would have been confused by his character’s evil intent in Kyril. Those who remembered him from Callan, however, would probably not have been so surprised by his status as villain.


His co-star in Kyril, the late Ian Charleson, has his own British theatrical award named after him.  It is run by The Sunday Times and the National Theatre, and was established in 1991 after Ian’s death from AIDS the previous year.  It is awarded to the best classical stage performances in Britain by actors under 30 years’ old - the award's current definition of a classical play is one written before 1918.

Richard E Grant as the solicitor Sculby takes his dress sense more from Miami Vice than he should, and plays a character obviously out of his depth very admirably. Certainly he shines from his co-starring vantage point in this production, and is a performance that gives a hint of what we can expect from him in the future. James Laurenson (Boney), meanwhile, puts in an excellent cameo appearance as an assassin on the trail of Kyril.

Overall, this is something of an oddity for the late 1980s, having the feel of being a product of either the late 1960s or early 1970s. The pacing is deceptive, with the plot moving forward without you actually realising it. The set piece stunts are admirably executed, and you get to see some of the true giants of the British acting fraternity chewing up the carpet in playing off each other. The print quality is not all it could be, but there’s no distracting film damage, just a little lack of clarity – you can probably put this down to expectations having been raised so much by the Blu-ray format!

“Codename Kyril” is a single disc DVD available exclusively from the Network DVD website. It has a running time of 210 minutes approx, a ‘15’ certificate, and a RRP of £14.99.



Producer: Beryl Vertue

Executive Producers: Patrick Dromgoole & Stein Monn-Iversen

Line Producer: Michael Guest

Writer: John Hopkins based on the novel by John Trenhaile

Director: Ian Sharp

Music: Alan Lisk

Filmed entirely on location in and around Bristol, London, Amsterdam and Oslo

Original ITV Transmission: Tuesday 29 and Wednesday 30 March 1988, 9.00pm


Edward Woodward as Michael Royston

Ian Charleson as Kyril (Colonel Ivan Bucharensky)

Joss Ackland as 'C' (Sir Richard Bryant)

Richard E Grant as Laurence Sculby

John McEnery as Loshkevoi

Peter Vaughan as Marshal Stanov

James Laurenson as Sikarov

Denholm Elliott as Colonel Povin

James Cosmo as Bonham

Espen Skjønberg as Michaelov

Catherine Neilson as Emma Stanton

Geoff (Geff) Francis as The Rastafarian

Sven-Bertil Taube as Stolynovitch

Hugh Fraser as Peter Jackson

Tor Stokke as Yevchenko

Dermot Crowley as Carter

Peter Wight as Evans

Charles Simon as Trumper

Terence Harvey as Chairman Magistrates’ Court

Alec Linstead as Williams

Hugh Ross as Detective Fitzgerald

Christopher Driscoll as Backman

Antony Carrick as Head of Staff

Julie Neubert as Woman Patient

Paul Kiernan as Young Policeman

Caroline Holdaway as Betty

Jason White as KGB Man

David Lyon as Burrows

Last modified on Thursday, 10 May 2012 16:37

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