McGuffin, The (BBC-2 1985, Charles Dance, Mark Rylance)


In thriller The McGuffin film critic Paul Hatcher gets caught up in murder and blackmail after agreeing to take an old lady neighbour’s dog for a walk. He is soon up to his neck in political skullduggery and violence involving indiscreet photographs of a prominent government minister.

A real homage to the world of Hitchcock taking in lots of his movies, everything from Rear Window to The Trouble With Harry not least the McGuffin of the title which was a word coined by Alfred Hitchcock for the vital plot twists in the his films. The end credits were right on the money too.

Made for the BBC’s single drama strand Screen Two. Based on a novel by the superb John Bowen. Less phantasmagorical than his TV work like Robin Redbreast or The Ice House but still with that slightly otherworldly vibe to it.

production details
UK / BBC Two / 1×105 minute episode / Broadcast 12 January 1986

Writer: Michael Thomas / Novel: John Bowen / Production Design: Jim Clay / Producer: Kenith Trodd / Director: Colin Bucksey

Series: Screen Two Season 2 Episode 1

Charles Dance as Paul Hatcher
Ann Todd as Mrs Forbes-Duthie
Mark Rylance as Gavin
Caliban (the dog) as Archie
Bill Shine, Neville Phillips, Paul McKenzie, Ray Shell as Rear Window Guys
Francis Matthews as Silver-Haired Gent
Stephen Ruff as Mickey Rooney
Roger Lloyd Pack as David Power
Sue Peacock as Newscaster
Brian Glover as Man In Brown
Chris Langham as Detective
Phyllis Logan as Anne
Anna Massey as Nina
Michael Aitkin as Rod Blue
Kenny Andrews as Phil
Ashok Kumar, Natasha Gomperts as Indian Teenagers
Giovanni Samaritani as Franco
Simona De Laurentis as Festival Hostess
Jerry Stiller as Marty de Rezke
Massimo Sarchielli as Fellaci
Issam El-Nasrawi as Egyptian
Mario Angelucci as Italian Juror
Ritza Brown as Celestia
Stephen Lewis as Sopwith
Mark Burdis as Alfie