Action/Adventure British Drama

Callan: The Richmond Files

Many Americans know Edward Woodward only as The Equalizer from television, but his career started long before that. Woodward was an extraordinarily gifted actor who was equally comfortable with classic Shakespeare plays, light comedies and grim dramas. Unlike some stage-trained actors, his dramatic skills didn’t wane when he made the move first to television and then to the movies. Beyond all that, he was even an outstanding singer! (Check him out on this Morecambe & Wise clip, he starts crooning about two minutes in and he’s bloody marvelous).

Woodward became a star playing David Callan, a tough, moody and smart British espionage agent from a working class background who tussled with his plummy superiors as often as he did his Soviet counterparts. I recommend here The Richmond Files, the three-part conclusion to the Callan television series.The mood of the series was set by an evocative set of images and guitar notes:

The glum tone and stark themes of Callan put it squarely in the cynical Le Carre camp of British spy stories, which funnily enough co-existed easily in the 1960s with James Bond-mania. The writing was consistently strong (more so than on the Callan-inspired TV series The Equalizer, which was made in America decades later) and the acting and direction were effulgent. The budget was clearly not large but this was well-used to convey the show’s point of view: Callan and his colleagues were doing dirty, unglamourous work. It made sense that the entire suite of offices of “The Section” looked like they cost less than M’s desk.