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Reilly, Ace of Spies (ITV 1983, Sam Neill, John Castle)

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In Reilly – Ace of Spies, Sam Neill, in a career making performance, is Sidney Reilly, born into an aristocratic Russian family but working as a spy for the British in early Revolutionary Russia. The British Government want rid of the Bolshevik regime in order to install their own puppet government.

Written by the brilliant Ian Kennedy Martin and coming from a period in the early 80’s when the ITV Network were giving the BBC a really run for the money in the best UK drama producer stakes with Reilly, Brideshead and Jewel in the Crown all popping up around the same time. It’s a truly lavish production full of excitement and intrigue and with some top English acting talent involved including the likes of David Suchet, John Castle, Leo McKern, Kenneth Cranham and Peter Egan, also watch out for early roles by Bill Nighy and Joanne Whalley.

There was a real Reilly, albeit one not quite as glamorous as his TV counterpart and the 12 part series is in part based on his biography by Robin Bruce Lockhart.

production details
UK | ITV – Thames-Euston | 1×75 minutes and 11×60 minutes | Broadcast 5 September – 16 November 1983

Writer: Ian Kennedy Martin
Executive Producer: Verity Lambert
Producer: Chris Burt

cast
SAM NEILL as Sidney Reilly
IAN CHARLESTON as Bruce Lockhart
PETER EGAN as Fothergill
TOM BELL as Dzerzhinsky
KENNETH CRANHAM as Lenin
LEO McKERN as Basil Zaharov
DAVID SUCHET as Insp Tsientsin
JOHN CASTLE as Count Massino
JEANANNE CROWLEY as Margaret Reilly