With it’s groovy theme written by Paul McCartney (released as the B-Side of Band on the Run trivia fans) Zoo Gang is prime era ITC entertainment at its best.
Unusually for this type of show it only ran for 6 episodes. Normally such shows would run for at least 26 eps – maybe the producers were worried about the longevity of some of the cast, all of whom were nearing or past retirement age.
Like an action adventure version of Dad’s Army the show follows the escapades of a former world war II resistance unit who find themselves getting back together when one of their number spots a former Nazi adversary and they decide to bring him to justice.
The gang’s codenames are all based on zoo animals , hence the title of the show, John Mills heads up the cast as Tommy “Elephant” Devon, whilst the other members of the gang are Brian Keith as Stephen “Fox” Halliday, Barry Morse as Alec “Tiger” Marlowe, Lilli Palmer as Manouche “Leopard” Roget who was actually the widow of Claude “Wolf” Roget. Her son, policeman Lt Georges Roget, is also on hand for much of the action.
Each member of the team is also an expert at various things, so Fox is the electronics whizz whilst Tiger has the mechanical know how.
Like any good ITC series much of the action in Zoo Gang takes place in Europe. This time with quite a bit of location filming as opposed to the oft derided backlot, back projection. There are also the great guest stars such as the gorgeous Ingrid Pitt in episode two’s Mindless Murder. There are also appearances from Peter Cushing, Jacqueline Pearce (Servalan from Blakes 7) and Philip Madoc (all of whom feature in episode fours The Counterfeit Trap).
Plotwise, apart from the opening episode which sets the scene nicely, they are all pretty much stand alone and could have come from any ITC series such as The Saint or Man in a Suitcase. It’s a hugely enjoyable series though and has that glossy, shot on film look that mark out all the ITC series from their competition.
UK | ITV Network – ITC – ATV
RUNNING TIME: 60 minutes | NUMBER OF EPISODES: 6 | AIRDATES: 5 April – 10 May 1974
CREATOR: Paul Gallico | THEME MUSIC: Paul and Linda McCartney | PRODUCER: Herbert Hirschman
BRIAN KEITH as Stephen ‘Fox’ Halliday
JOHN MILLS as Tommy ‘Elephant’ Devon
BARRY MORSE as Alec ‘Tiger’ Marlowe
LILLI PALMER as Manouche ‘Leopard’ Roget
SERETTA WILSON as Jill Burton
MICHAEL PETROVITCH as Lt Georges Roget
1. REVENGE: POST DATED (5 Apr 1974)
2. MINDLESS MURDER (12 Apr 1974)
3. AFRICAN MISFIRE (19 Apr 1974)
4. THE LION HUNT (26 Apr 1974)
5. THE COUNTERFEIT TRAP (3 May 1974)
6. THE TWISTED CROSS (10 May 1974)