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Spyforce (Channel 9 1971-1972 with Jack Thompson and Katy Wild)

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Australia / Channel 9 – Roger Mirams – Paramount Pictures Co-Prod. / 42×60 minute episodes / 1971-72

Creators: Roger Mirams, Ron McLean, Brian Wright / Producer: Roger Mirams / Music: Brian Rangott, Geoff Harvey

Wartime drama series. Exploits of a group of soldiers, specialists in espionage, as they work deep undercover behind enemy lines performing acts of sabotage.

The genesis of the series lay in the fact that creator Mirams had been involved in similar acts during world war II and was convinced his background would make a good series. The original working title of the series was Sparrowforce. Paramount became interested in the project and agreed to co-finance it, Mirams decided to film the series in colour (even though the home market was still broadcasting in black and white) in the hope of overseas sales.

In the TV Week of 7 August 1971 Mirams was quoted as saying “It will show that the war was not entirely won by America”.

Lead characters in the show were the typical Australian Erskine, the German (and one time internee) Gunther Haber and head of their unit Colonel Cato. Also heavily involved was Cato’s secretary Lt French. Matt Parson was another member of the team who appeared only occasionally.

Erskine and Haber have a bit of a love hate relationship having at one time both been in love with the same girl. Although the series was set in many an exotic Earstern locale (and in fact there was location shooting in Singapore, New Guinea and Hong Kong) much of the production was filmed in Narrabeen in Sydney, with the crew making much use of Narrabeen Lake too. The production also made use of stock footage of actual wartime events in another bid for realism although these always tended to look slightly different from the rest of the footage.

The show was expensive costing some $23,000 per episode to film and only making $18,000 back causing Mirams to sell his interest in the show outright to Paramount.

Guest stars included John Meillon, Ewan Solon, Helen Morse, Kirrily Nolan, Rowena Wallace, Judy Lynne and Chips Rafferty amongst others.

Season two featured different opening credits and theme music but the show was much the same as the previous season, altogether a hit with the critics and viewers there were a few concerns raised at the time about the violence aspect and several “nude” scenes featuring the actresses Anna-Maria Winchester and Janet Kingsbury.

The final episode of Spyforce (The Rolls That Went to War) was in fact an attempt to make a pilot for a new series, this never emerged.

One interesting fact is that Russell Crowe made his debut on the show at the age of six (his parents were caterers on the set).

cast
JACK THOMPSON as Erskine
KATY WILD as Lt French
REDMOND PHILIPS as Colonel Cato
PETER SUMNER as Gunther Haber
NICK TATE as Matt Parson

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