Branded a traitor by U.S. intelligence, McGill makes a living doing free-lance work in Europe and Africa--dealing with blackmailers, protecting stool pigeons, finding kidnapped victims, recovering lost art treasures, etc. He charges $300 to $500 a week, depending on the job, plus expenses. When a potential client gripes about the high fee for a "disgraced American agent with a gun for hire," McGill quips: "I'm expensive...I call it my self-respect bonus."
McGill's backstory is revealed in the series' sixth episode (originally intended as the first and best viewed that way). It explains that his government superiors framed him as a traitor to protect a mole behind the Iron Curtain. Proving his innocence is not an option--McGill recognizes that his false disgrace is a price that must be paid. These kinds of difficult decisions and realistic conclusions elevate Man in a Suitcase above its more conventional rivals. It's not unusual for clients being guarded by McGill to be murdered anyway. And in one episode, after McGill fails to secure blackmail evidence, the victim sacrifices his ethics to protect his reputation.
Much of the show's success, though, can be attributed to Bradford, a relative unknown when ITC signed him for Man in a Suitcase. A graduate of the Actors Studio, Bradford's previous biggest part was as a cheating husband and bigot in a small Southern town in Arthur Penn's The Chase (1966). The role provided Bradford the opportunity to play opposite one of his acting idols, Marlon Brando (in one scene, Bradford brutally beats up Brando).
|McGill's Hillman Imp.|
In an interview in Acorn's second DVD boxed set, Bradford criticizes the quality of some of the scripts. There are a handful of weak episodes, such as the first one, which features a brainwashing plot that goes on too long. However, for the most part, the plots are inventive and the writing is very strong, as shown in this dialogue in which a politician's wife (Barbara Shelley) reveals to McGill that she has long been aware of her husband's illegitmate son:
|Guest star Barbara Shelley in the|
episode "All That Glitters."
The production values in Man in a Suitcase are higher than most ITC productions of the late 1960s. Exterior locations and stock footage are well integrated with the studio-shot scenes. Ron Grainer composed the incredibly catchy, jazz-infused title theme (hummed in my household for weeks). The Acorn DVDs look sharp and, surprisingly, the color shows little fading.
|Checking for broken teeth after a fight.|
Acorn Media provided a review copy of Man in a Suitcase Set 2.