Friday September 8, 2017
Viewing too much late-night television can often lead to your mind playing tricks. Did Harry H Corbett once play a gangster with a taste for Ford Consul Mk. IIs? Was there really a British Z-film in which the private eye anti-hero drove an Austin A30 saloon? And did I dream a 1972 adventure series packed with FE-Series Vauxhalls in which the leading man appeared to have covered himself in glue and then ran through the nearest branch of Brentford Nylons?
The answers to all these questions are ‘yes’ – respectively The Shakedown, Clegg and The Adventurer. The last-named was yet another in a succession of ITC ‘International Men of Mystery’ series and one of the most entertainingly bad programmes I have ever seen. The premise is that one Gene Bradley, a swinging and ultra-groovy film star (even if he looks approximately 98 years old) who is also a spy working for British intelligence in between bouts of fighting stuntmen and disco dancing. To be honest, it is quite hard to distinguish the two. There is also a John Barry theme for the opening credits in which the leading man scowls fetchingly throughout.
General Motors provided many of the vehicles for the show - in the USA, The Adventurer was sponsored by Chevrolet – and there is plenty of footage of a Camaro Rally Sport and a Corvette 454 Stingray. Meanwhile, the heavies sometimes use FE Ventoras while the scenes filmed on location in France, The Netherlands and Germany are an Opel-spotters delight; Rekord Sprint Coupés, Ascona and Manta As, a splendid Commodore GS Coupe and even a mighty Diplomat. Sometimes Gene takes to the wheel of an Alfa Romeo 1600 Junior Spider and, naturally, there will be stock footage of a white Jaguar Mk. 1 descending from a cliff.
These fine motorcars help to distract from some of the more glaring issues of The Adventurer. To lend the programme overseas’ appeal ITC imported the Hollywood actor Gene Barry, who spends much of each story either growling his lines or ensuing that his toupee is in place, some of the film stock looks as though it is held together by Sellotape, the continuity can be so bad as to verge on the avant-garde – and then there are the fashions. All I will say is that Mr Barry’s taste for duffle coats and Rupert Bear style flared trousers, mercifully, never caught on.
I would be hard-pressed to claim that The Adventurer is a masterpiece but it is highly enjoyable for all the wrong/right reasons. Ben Kingsley, Paul Eddington and Jim ‘Bishop Brennan’ Norton all appear as the guest villains who will inevitability be defeated by the macho leading man and if I had to pick a stand-out from the 26 episodes it would have to have to be either The Bradley Way, with its trio of Citroen ID19 Ambulances, or Return to Sender. Any programme which begins with a Fiat 2300/Peugeot 403 chase and concludes with an MGB Roadster crashing into a conveniently arranged pile of cardboard boxes cannot be all bad. And that is why I am going to watch it again…