Sandbaggers - Set One (1978/BFS DVD
C Sound: C Extras: C+ Episodes: B
the late 1970s, when the James Bond films became a hit again, spy
revivals from The New Avengers with Patrick Macnee &
Joanna Lumley to The Nude Bomb (the theatrical Get Smart
revival) to Return of the Saint sprung up. There were a few
new shows and films. On TV, NBC tried A Man Called Sloan,
while the British had The Sandbaggers. Unlike Sloan, a
James Bond knock-off that was done as a TV movie pilot, then starred
Robert Conrad (the original and only Wild, Wild West) in the
title role, The Sandbaggers was one of the rare moments in the
Spy genre when the bureaucratic side of the business was shown.
Marsden is Neil Burnside, the head of the Special Intelligence Sector
that handles these special agents. The idea is that they are the
few, elite who can carry out important missions when all else fails
or something unique is called for. He's a smart spymaster, but the
adjoining agencies and his own personality flaws can get in the way.
complicating things is that his ex-father-in-law is a top official,
his ex-wife someone he simply never wants to see again, and he is
having a problem getting new recruits to be Sandbaggers. He was once
one himself, which helps give him a better understanding than other
bureaucrats of the matters at hand.
is one of the smartest Spy shows ever made, as complex (and hard to
follow) as early episodes of Mission: Impossible, The
Prisoner or feature films like The Ipcress File (1965)
with Michael Caine. It is stunning that this series has not had more
U.S, airplay, but a few boxes of the show have already been issued by
BFS and now everyone can catch this buried treasure. There are seven
episodes in this first box, including a seventh 'bonus' show that was
never aired, yet is the best in the set. The shows have to be
watched in their original order, or you will be lost. Like Dr.
Who, and so many other TV shows from the U.K., this is a series
where the indoors are videotaped, while the outdoors are filmed (shot
on 16mm color film). This series uses actual film for that part. It
was produced when color videotape (PAL format in this case) was still
a new thing, so that makes what you see all the more unique.
1.33 X 1 full screen images are in color and a disclaimer about
quality trouble appears at the beginning of each DVD. There are
video images that briefly shake sometimes, but the picture is usually
stable. Producer/director Michael Ferguson knows how to construct
this world most convincingly, while Ian Mackintosh's teleplays are
some of the brightest ever created for television anywhere. It is
amazing how well this particular series endures, over a dozen years
after the end of The Cold War. That situation often plays second
fiddle to the games afoot in this most-complex world of espionage.
lossy Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono is average as well, showing its age, but
it is about as clear as it is going to get. Obviously, the British
accents sometimes get slightly distorted, so the audio fails there,
and the DVDs do not have captions or subtitles of any kind.
Otherwise, it is serviceable and Roy Budd's music and theme song is
really good. The unbroadcast Special Relationship episode is
considered an extra and so be it, it's so good, but there is also a
brief guide to the alphabet soup of abbreviations the characters use
throughout the series worth using to better understand what is going
episodes here are:
Proper Function of Government
Your Journey Really Necessary?
Most Suitable Person
Glad To Help
is the point where we usually give synopsis of each show, but we
cannot in this case, or we could give away too much. In general, we
are introduced to most of the characters in episode one, each show
after offers a few new ones and increasingly flushes out this
often-dark world, and then we get really good character development.
I should also point out that this is an exceptionally cast series,
including Ray Lonnen (Sandbagger 1), Alan MacNaughtan, Richard
Vernon, Elisabeth Bennett, Diane Keen, and a parade of top talent
that ups the suspense level with their convincing work.
series this reminded me of outside of the Spy genre was U.F.O.,
the early 1970s Science Fiction show with Ed Bishop as Commander
Straker, often in the same position. The show got just as dark as
this one. The Sandbaggers is a pleasant surprise and highly