DVD Review: Manhunt – The Complete Series: Part Two

Following his in-depth analysis of the first seven episodes of 1960’s drama Manhunt, Walter Dunlop continues his mission behind enemy lines to bring us his thoughts on the further adventures of Vincent, Jimmy and Nina. Let the examination commence…and beware of spoilers.

Right, here we go again! I seem to be watching this series in batches of seven episodes, which makes for neatness if nothing else.

Doing so makes plain some alarming leaps about in continuity, with one major cliffhanger glossed over the next week, and some chopping and changes in characters. Rather wonderfully, the opening titles change to reflect this, so you can play a little guessing game as to which character is going to turn up this week.

Dealing with the age old problem of who-gets-top-billing? Lynch and Barkworth’s credits swap over each week more or less from this point, with each being credited first on every-other episode. Cunning, although I’d hate to think there was any backstage rivalry between those two – the chemistry onscreen is just so strong.

Following his introduction in episode nine, Robert Hardy gets two credits – initially a title card reading “As Gratz”, followed by his name emblazoned in white-on-red glory on a second card. Presumably this is to reflect the absolutely bloody seismic effect his appearance has on the series.

The initial chase, evade capture, chase a bit more format of the earliest episodes gives way to something altogether darker, more disturbing and even more intriguing than the show’s already been.

Before all that though, at least one of our intrepid heroes has some difficult questions to face as we career into episode eight – A Different Kind of War. This – unbelievably enough – is what passes for a Christmas episode in Manhunt, as Jimmy, Nina and Vincent pitch up at the house of one of Vincent’s oldest friends on Christmas Eve.

Greeted with suspicion at first by the female occupant of the house, Vincent’s name produces a surprising warmth and affection, before the introduction of Vincent’s old friend following a delayed build-up.

And no wonder, because no British drama series is complete without an appearance by good old Julian Glover, as “Paul”. Bristling with Bonhomie, hospitable to a fault, and guaranteeing a safe haven for our fugitives, Paul seems the perfect host, but before Christmas Eve is out, we’ll discover a very different man behind the facade.

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DVD Review: Manhunt – The Complete Series: Part One



Following an abortive attempt to breathe new life into this blog back in January (my time has been spent over on itsonitsgone.com and with my Edinburgh Evening News work),  I’ve now realised that the current dire state of UK television means we all need more pointers towards decent new and classic television than ever before.

To this end I recently asked friend, neighbour and TV guru Walter Dunlop to cast his trained eye over 1969 ITV series Manhunt, out now on DVD, and tell me what he thought of it.

Rather than write a few hundred words on this near-forgotten show, Walter sent me over 2,500, devoted to the first seven (out of 26) episodes…

Strange thing, the way television gets remembered. It seems almost random sometimes. A handful of series get chosen for posterity, and repeated into oblivion while others, despite their own merits, languish after their initial broadcast, watched by millions but remembered by a few.

There are any number of shows that deserve another airing, to be enjoyed all over again. I’m slightly Reithian in my view of television and radio – sometimes, people don’t know that they want something. But if they get the chance to sample it, they’ll find that they do. So don’t give ‘em what they want, give ‘em what they don’t know they want yet as well.

If only there was some sort of durable, mass-produced, commercially viable format onto which these series could be placed, and unleashed upon a hungry public!

Hello then to Network and their marvellously eclectic collection of DVD releases.

Network has probably attacked my credit card more often than any other company. Every new release seems to bring even more television arcana shuffling back into the light, blinking sleepily and ready to be enjoyed again. I’ve lost count of the number of shows I’ve discovered, rediscovered or simply caught up with thanks to them. Not all of them have been undiscovered gems, but most of them have had something to recommend them.

Occasionally, they’ve been so good, so heartstoppingly compulsive that it beggars belief that they’ve slipped from the public consciousness so completely. ITV drama, especially – the thing that ITV were always fantastic at was that particular strand of drama that everybody watched. Your Sherlock Holmes’s, your Brideshead’s.

But for every series that sticks in the mind, there’s one that wiped the floor with the opposition and then disappeared.

Public Eye, for example, effortlessly brilliant for nearly ten years, top of the ratings or thereabouts every season. Now, apart from a repeat of the colour seasons back at the dawn of UK Gold, it’s only thanks to the DVDs that anyone’s had the chance to appreciate it at all.

Which brings me to Manhunt.  Made in 1969 for LWT, and broadcast from January of the following year, to the best of my knowledge it’s only had a single repeat since when the hugely uncharacteristic episode, Intent To Steal, was aired as part of TV Heaven in the early nineties. Manhunt  was (so I’m told, Frank Muir said so on TV Heaven, and who am I to argue?) compulsive viewing for the entire nation, and yet it disappeared without trace. I’ve spoken to numerous people about it over the last few weeks and without exception the response has been a blank stare and a query of “what’s that? Never heard of it…”

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