CLASSIC AUSTRALIAN TELEVISION

SPYFORCE

027.jpg (16332 bytes)


Copyright © 2013 Don Storey.  All rights reserved.


SPYFORCE
EPISODE DETAILS

 

HOME

 

INTERVIEWS

 

CHRONOLOGICAL
OVERVIEW

 

F.A.Q.

 

LINKS


Spyforce was a wartime espionage adventure series produced by Roger Mirams. Unlike cliched American war films, most of which give the impression that the United States was the only country capable of saving the free world, Spyforce gives due recognition to the role Australia played while also avoiding formula battle stories.

During World War Two, Mirams was a newsreel cameraman and war correspondent, and later he became quite convinced that the war could provide an excellent setting for film drama. Although well known as a producer of children’s television drama, Mirams did attempt a war series in 1959, The Coastwatchers, which was semi-documentary in nature. It focused on the important role of Australians in hiding as ‘coastwatchers’ in New Guinea, radioing information back to Australia concerning Japanese movements. The concept never ventured beyond the pilot stage.

Mirams went on to produce several children's series, including The Terrible Ten, The Magic Boomerang and Adventures Of The Seaspray. Mirams worked with scriptwriter Ron McLean on another children's series, Woobinda (Animal Doctor), and the two kept in contact. In 1970 Mirams showed McLean a concept called ‘Sparrowforce’ and said he felt sure the time was right to do a Second World War story.

American film production giant Paramount Pictures were interested in the concept and, without seeing a script, gave Mirams the go-ahead to make a pilot. Mirams and McLean pooled their resources and made a pilot in November 1970 with a working title of ‘Spy Catcher’. The series became a co-production between Roger Mirams and Paramount Pictures, who were apparently quite impressed, and it was sold locally to the Nine Network. With an eye on world markets, the series was filmed in colour, Paramount picking up the overseas distribution rights.

Credits list Mirams as Producer of the series, Ron McLean as Associate Producer and Bruce Gordon (later owner of the WIN-TV network) as Paramount Production Executive, with the series devised by Mirams, McLean and Brian Wright. McLean wrote most of the scripts (35), others being contributed by Peter Schreck (3), Ralph Petersen (2) and Terry Bourke and Ted Roberts (1 each). David Baker and Howard Rubie directed most of the episodes (14 and 18 respectively, plus 3 jointly), with Ron Way (5) and Terry Bourke (2) handling the remainder.

Spyforce avoids the well-trodden path of Hollywood war epics. "It will show that the war was not entirely won by America," said Mirams. Spyforce concerns a special group of operatives working for Australian Intelligence, operating from a top secret headquarters in Sydney. Mirams pointed out that the series would not dwell on the torture of captured soldiers by the Japanese, nor would it paint the Australians as lily white.1

The premise of the series is based on fact, as the opening narrative explains:

Early in 1942 the Japanese Army swept through the South Pacific towards the Australian mainland. They overran the Malay Peninsula and reached deep into the jungles of New Guinea. As a result numbers of civilian planters and soldiers were formed into highly trained espionage teams by Allied Headquarters in Australia. These men were directed into sabotage operations deep behind enemy lines throughout the Pacific area. Much of their work must remain top secret. One of these groups may well have been called: Spyforce.

Initially 26 episodes were produced. Following talks in Honolulu in September 1971 between Mirams, the Nine Network and Paramount, concerning U.S. distribution of the series, it was decided to go ahead with a second series, making a total of 42 episodes.

Jack Thompson, in his first lead role, played the part of Erskine, an Australian planter who was living in New Guinea. Erskine is a boozing, wenching, don’t-give-a-damn type, to whom social rank matters little, and he accepts people for who they are. He was forced to flee by the advancing Japanese, and resents the fact that the Army were not able to stop the enemy before they got to his plantation. Thompson previously had a role in ATN-7’s soap opera Motel, and Mirams selected him for Spyforce after seeing him in a guest role as Lenny the stockman in Woobinda (Animal Doctor).

Peter Sumner plays Gunther Haber, an erudite, cultured German, who had been interned in Australia. Like Erskine, Haber also owned a plantation in New Britain which he was forced to abandon ahead of the Japanese. Sumner had to adopt an appropriate accent for the role - actors with genuine German or Austrian accents were auditioned, but Sumner was chosen for his acting ability.

Redmond Philips portrays Colonel Cato, head of a special intelligence unit which is responsible only to the Prime Minister (the unit is never referred to by name). Cato is ruthless, calculating, and an excellent strategist with a gifted insight into situations.

Cato’s secretary is Lieutenant French, played by Katy Wild, whose pleasant looks and wide range of expressions make her perfect for the role. A petite 155cm (5 ft. 1 in.), Katy admitted to placing telephone books on her chair for scenes where she was seated at her desk. Lt. French’s part is usually limited to the office, but she does venture out into the field on various assignments. French has a subtle attraction to Erskine, however, despite Erskine’s wenching ways, their friendship is based on mutual respect and remains platonic. Katy previously had the role of Jenny Hamilton in the 0-Ten comedy series Good Morning, Mr. Doubleday. Prior to that she worked in England, where, among other things, she made guest appearances in The Avengers, Softly Softly Task Force and Z Cars.

Character development is pivotal in Spyforce. In pre-war days Erskine and Haber had both been in love with the same girl, and they dislike each other intensely. This evolves into a grudging mutual admiration, and later to friendship. They are both civilians who work for the Army reluctantly, being coerced by Colonel Cato because of their knowledge of the Pacific Islands. To ensure their co-operation, Cato fabricated damning evidence blaming them for an island massacre.

Gunther Haber is the only character of the four leads who is given a Christian name. He is nick-named ‘Adolf’ by Erskine, in a derogatory sense at first as Erskine finds it difficult to trust him, but later used with affection.

Sumner stated that an aspect of Spyforce he liked is that they could lose as often as they could win: "It is by no means predictable. We get as far away as possible from the cardboard cut-out stereotypes. Erskine and Haber are seen to have human failings, and there is a streak of dishonesty in both of them and a bit of the rogue."2

Roger Mirams: "It’s a series in which the characters are the most important factor. The scripts have surprises, of course, and action - but the series will stand or fall on the public’s interest in the characters."3

Mirams believed they had a winning team in Jack Thompson and Peter Sumner: "They are a good contrast and play off against one another marvellously well." Thompson had some reservations about the restrictions placed on the show because of the potential American market: "The Americans are dead scared of words like ‘bloody’ and ‘bastard’ on television, and we’ve had to adjust our colloquialisms for the U.S. market. But can you imagine a rough-hewn, paranoid Australian who wouldn’t say ‘bloody’ at least a few times?"4

David Baker, one of the directors on the series, commented on Peter Sumner’s accent: "I think he might have overdone the accent a bit in the beginning. I remember one scene in New Guinea when Peter and a young girl playing a German Lutheran nun delivered their lines with stage accents. But overall I think Peter plays the part with realism."5

Bill Hunter had a support role as Captain Pollock in 15 episodes. He appeared in all but one of the first 11 episodes, and was then seen infrequently until his final appearance in episode 31. For this role Hunter received a major credit in the original opening titles. His place was taken by Stuart Finch as Captain Bergen, who appeared in only four episodes.

Max Cullen also received a major credit on the original opening, which was used on 26 episodes. Like Bill Hunter, Cullen shared equal billing with regulars Katy Wild and Redmond Philips, but his character of Barrow, a criminal psychopath whom Cato uses for interrogation, was only featured in two early episodes.

Arna-Maria Winchester made occasional appearances as Jill Stewart, an undercover agent who could be disguised as anything from a schoolteacher to a native girl. She grew up in Burma, makes contacts with agents in places such as New Guinea, speaks five languages and is very capable with a gun. Arna-Maria was credited as a regular cast member in publicity releases, but in fact only appeared in three episodes.

Nick Tate as Matt Parsons was another operative appearing from time to time. Some reference works6 claim that Nick Tate replaced Jack Thompson in the final episodes. This is not the case - Tate played Parsons in only three episodes (one of which was a very minor part in a single scene), and Thompson stayed with the series until the end. Consideration was given to making Tate's role a regular part, but nothing eventuated from the idea.

Every so often, particularly in later episodes, one of the regular cast members was not featured for some reason or other. Sometimes a part was obviously written for them and played by someone else, perhaps due to illness or some technical problem; at other times the script simply did not require the character.

The Japanese ‘army’ was made up of mainly Asian students from universities in Sydney. As it happened, almost every Asian nationality except Japan was represented in their ranks, but they filled the bill adequately. The students indulged in friendly rivalry, boasting how many times they had ‘died’ during filming. "To Westerners, all Japanese look alike," explained Roger Mirams. "We keep killing the same ones over and over and nobody knows the difference." 7

The theme tune was a modified version of ‘Waltzing Matilda’, which also assumed various forms as incidental music. Original music for the series was by Brian Rangott and Geoff Harvey.

Spyforce featured some location work in New Guinea, and two complete episodes were filmed there. Early in the piece the cast and crew travelled to Singapore, Macao, Thailand, Hong Kong and other Asian countries for a four-to-five week location shoot, to obtain background filming that would be worked into episodes later. One scene was even filmed at the infamous Changi prison, where, after several hours of negotiation, the Governor was persuaded to raise the Japanese flag for the first time since the war. Other scenes were filmed in Thailand, where an attempt to blow up a bridge was supervised by the Thai Army.

Many scenes were filmed in the older parts of inner Sydney, but most of the series was filmed in the bushland at Narrabeen, an outer northern suburb of Sydney, pretending it was the jungles of New Guinea. Sometimes this was made not so apparent by tying paper flowers on the bushes to resemble some exotic tropical flora, or by blending the scenes with film shot in jungles near Bangkok. At other times it looked like nothing other than Australian bush, such as the episode set near Japan which clearly showed gum trees in the background.

The location satisfied all the production requirements - it was close to water, had lush rain forest, thick scrub, palm trees, clearings and swamps. A production office was set up in a big old house on the edge of Narrabeen Lake, which was also used for interior scenes. The grounds were littered with palm leaf huts, 1940’s cars and trucks, and a mock-up of a Catalina flying-boat. Even a replica of the Burma-Siam railway was constructed on the site.

Japanese props, such as a machine gun, rifles and uniforms were flown in from Hollywood, courtesy of Paramount. Australian items were made up from research or borrowed from old Army stores.

The local residents soon got used to hearing gunfire and seeing soldiers charging round about the lakes. A bit of a stir was caused when some locals found live charges from one of the many explosions being filmed, but a promise of stricter supervision and a preview of the series soon placated local officials.

A big talking-point for the residents was the mock-up of an Australian wartime submarine, constructed from wood, fibreglass and metal. Although not built exactly to scale it could look pretty convincing. It had two outboard motors concealed at the stern to enable it to sail to the various 'battles' - at approximately three knots. The story is told of a phone call Roger Mirams received one day from the Department of the Navy in Canberra: "We have been told that there is a submarine in Narrabeen Lake," said the official, "and that you might be able to shed some light on this matter!"

Improvisation and shortcuts were commonplace on Spyforce. A set at their Narrabeen headquarters became the inside of a Catalina aircraft, inter-cut with wartime exterior shots; similar wartime footage was used to base a story around the attempted sabotage of the ‘Queen Mary’, and the blowing up of various bridges. A shot of a Japanese pilot in the cockpit of his plane was achieved by an angled close-up of an actor on the lake shore, who was seated on an old crate underneath a window frame propped up by two bedsteads and some driftwood.

Old war-time footage ranging from military subjects to street scenes of Sydney was often inter-cut with new film to enhance the period effect. ‘Day for night’ filming, in which night scenes are filmed in daylight using special filters, was also used extensively.

Sometimes scripts were re-written on the spot during filming. One scene, which featured Erskine and Haber pinned down in a bunker by enemy shells, was entirely improvised by the two actors. "It emerged as a very real scene," said Sumner, "and, I think, illustrates the rapport which Jack and I have achieved."8

Improvisation was necessary due to the degree to which the production was underfinanced. As with his earlier series Adventures Of The Seaspray, Mirams could only provide money for the pilot. Each episode cost approximately $23,000 for a return of only $18,000, which over 42 episodes amounted to a loss of almost a quarter of a million dollars. At one stage cash flow became so tight that Thompson and Sumner went ‘on strike’ until they got paid.

To cover his debts Mirams sold his rights in the series to Paramount Pictures. Consequently, Mirams made nothing from the show despite excellent overseas sales.

Spyforce was scheduled to premiere in Melbourne on July 23, 1971, and finally made its debut on August 26. Sydney viewers saw the series earlier in August, and in Brisbane the series premiered the following month. Adelaide viewers, however, had to wait until 1975 - after the introduction of colour television - before the series was finally screened. Critics gave Spyforce a mixed reception - most liked it, although they had some reservations about the first episode, citing a patchy script and stilted dialogue. Other critics brought up issues of authenticity, although they couldn’t agree on them. ‘Veritas’ in Truth maintained the Japanese soldiers didn’t look Japanese;9 the Listener In-TV critic thought they did.10 Most critics agreed that the series had settled down by the second episode and were predicting its success.

Authenticity was a slight problem. The critics didn’t notice in the first episode, as it was screened here in black and white, that the Japanese officer’s uniforms were the wrong colour. Wardrobe man Ron Williams freely admitted they should have been khaki, not grey. He added that if viewers thought the boots worn by the Japanese troops looked like they came from an Army Disposals store, they were right - there simply was not enough money to fly in Japanese boots, especially not knowing the size of the actor’s feet.

Director David Baker responded to allegations of lack of authenticity: "I think that the series depicts the 1942 wartime period realistically. It’s difficult to find locations which express Sydney and Melbourne as they were then. Australia during the past 30 years has changed much more than we realise. It is quite probable that we might have made a few slip ups with regard to medals on uniforms. But we have always tried to be faithful to the period."11 For the most part they got it right, and the series faithfully replicated the wartime era - although in some Sydney scenes television aerials were quite visible on houses in the background!

There was action aplenty in Spyforce, and spectacular explosions were commonplace, the largest of which rattled the windows of houses half a mile away. Jack Thompson commented that the going was tough: "Peter Sumner and I went through hell making the series. Producer Roger Mirams, to give the series authenticity, made us wade through muddy swamps, scale cliffs and fight our way through the tangled undergrowth of jungles."12

The first episode was also the pilot, evidence of its orphan status being the different lettering style on the title, and the reference in the script to the working title ‘spy catchers’. Like most openers, it introduces all the characters and explains the circumstances that bring them together. For the next five episodes Erskine and Haber actively dislike each other, and Cato uses many devious methods to ‘persuade’ them to go on missions. After that they are resigned to working for Cato, and grow to tolerate and trust each other.

Many guest actors of note appeared in the series, in well-drawn character roles. More memorable examples include Ewan Solon as a German General in ‘27 Hours’ (ep. 8); Peter Whittle as the surviving member of an artillery unit in ‘The Gunner’ (ep. 15); Judy Lynne as a nursing sister in ‘The Mission’ (ep. 37); Johnny Lockwood as an island merchant in ‘The Trader’ (ep. 6); and John Meillon as a drunken explosives expert in ‘The Raiders’ (ep. 32) and a cowardly engineer in ‘Death Railway’ (ep. 2).

Chips Rafferty gave a fine performance as an Australian in New Guinea waging his own private war in ‘Reilley’s Army’ (ep. 20), which was his last professional role before he passed away. Maori actor Kuki Kaa appeared regularly as a Japanese soldier, playing various roles in several episodes. Perhaps his best performance was as a Japanese politician in ’The Diplomat’ (ep. 26).

Other guest actors of note included Helen Morse, Kirrily Nolan, Serge Lazareff, John Bonney, John Fegan, Rowena Wallace, John Hargreaves and Buster Fiddess. Scriptwriter Ron McLean stepped in front of the cameras as an extra, and Producer Roger Mirams played the non-speaking role of a German assassin in ‘The Countess’ (episode 11).

Arna-Maria Winchester was at the centre of some controversy concerning two nude scenes. In ‘The Trader’ (episode 6), she is seen topless taking a shower, and the scene was almost deleted for fear of offending viewers. There was much deliberation on whether it should be included in the episode, and it was finally decided that it was too good to be deleted, although Channel Nine requested that it be trimmed of the more daring segments. TV Week spoke to Arna-Maria, who expressed amazement that any of the episode should be censored: "I can’t really understand what would have been offensive," she said. "There was a shower scene, but I understood it was taken out during editing of the episode. It was quite inoffensive."13

Arna-Maria’s second nude scene was in episode 23, ‘The Major’, which showed her climbing into a bathtub. Although it was only a fleeting glimpse, it was quite unnecessary, and was in fact edited out of some copies with no detrimental effect on the story at all.

Episodes 7 & 8, ‘The Escape’ and ‘27 Hours’, was a two-part story, structured so that each episode could stand alone. ‘The Escape’ comes to a logical conclusion within itself, and anyone viewing ‘27 Hours’ without seeing ‘The Escape’ would not know it was the second part of a two-part story. The latter episode features some excellent character exploration when Haber’s loyalties are tested and Erskine is forced to trust a German prisoner.

Ep 9 & 10, ‘The Volunteers’, was a proper two-parter. It was based on the true story of a daring Allied raid on shipping in Singapore Harbour, which in 1989 formed the basis of the mini-series Heroes. Some ocean footage in the episode was strongly reminiscent of Miram’s earlier production Adventures Of The Seaspray.

In ‘The Cripple’ (ep. 12), Erskine is recovering from a serious injury, and is glad to see Haber when he pays a visit. Erskine calls him Gunther for the first time, causing Haber to ask, "Whatever happened to Adolf?" The two had become friends, and although Erskine continued to call Haber ‘Adolf’, it was no longer out of malice.

‘The Bunker’ (ep. 19) cemented the friendship between the two, when Erskine risked his life to save Haber, who had been injured by enemy fire. Character development is taken to a new height when they are forced to spend Christmas Eve in a bunker with two Japanese soldiers, and come to regard them as people rather than the enemy.

Episode 20, ‘Reilley’s Army’, saw running order thrown out the window when Nine substituted it in place of episode four due to the death of Chips Rafferty, who had the lead guest role in the episode. As the series progressed the screening order became more and more erratic, making the character development almost impossible to follow.

New opening titles were introduced with the second series, changing the theme tune, dropping the narrative and using new red graphics on a black background. Stencil-type lettering was introduced, however the closing credits retained the original music and footage. A different commercial integration was also introduced at the same time - on all episodes the commercial integration was optional, various prints included or excluded them so that television stations could choose according to their requirements. The new opening was much shorter and had more impact, and some prints of earlier episodes were modified to include the new opening, which confused the ‘fans’ no end when trying to sort out the correct running order. (The running order [the sequence the episodes are intended to be viewed] differed considerably from the production order [the sequence the episodes were made], and bore no resemblance at all to the screening order [the ‘dog’s breakfast’ sequence in which the episodes were aired]).

The original stock opening boasted location filming in Hong Kong, Singapore, Bangkok, Ceylon, Australia, New Guinea, Fiji and New Zealand, and acknowledged the assistance of the Royal Australian Air Force, the Royal Australian Navy, Australian Military Forces, Fiji Military Forces, the NSW police and Qantas. The new opening simplified the filming locations to Australia and the South Pacific, and acknowledged only the RAAF, RAN, AMF and Qantas.

Episode 27, ‘The District Commissioner’, was filmed almost entirely in New Guinea. The people of the Asaro District were used extensively as ‘extras’, for which they received a major credit. One local, Martin Nolo, who had never even seen a television before, proved to be such a natural that an extensive part was written for him. The rugged New Guinea scenery together with the natives in full tribal dress made for some excellent footage; unfortunately too much was included, which tended to bog down the pace of the episode.

Another nude scene made headlines, this time featuring former Contrabandits regular Janet Kingsbury in episode 34, ‘The Correspondent’. TV Week described the topless scene as ‘daring’, which it wasn’t - it was much too brief and out of focus to warrant such a description. Janet said of the scene: "Director Ron Way asked me if I would be willing to appear in an episode of Spyforce involving a nude scene and I had no hesitation in saying yes. I must admit I was a little nervous - it was my first nude scene, but everyone was ordinary about it."14

In the episode Janet played a Lieutenant who let slip secrets to a war correspondent after being plied with liquor. It was written by Ralph Petersen (previously a writer and Producer of the McGooley series) who, like Roger Mirams, was a war correspondent himself. Mirams could relate to the script: "I know how ruthlessly some of the correspondents went about getting stories."15

‘The Trail’ (ep. 41) was another episode filmed mostly in New Guinea. Set on the famous Kokoda Track during the wet season, the cast had to endure fairly harsh conditions during the ten day shoot. The Army co-operated in filming of the episode - most of the time the actors were in wet clothes from the rain, and when it wasn’t raining the Army would douse actors with fire hoses during filming. The Army also helped by constructing a field hospital for use in the filming. The episode was originally titled ‘The Angels’, a reference to the New Guinea locals who brought wounded soldiers out of the jungles, and were dubbed the ‘fuzzy-wuzzy angels’ because of their heroism.

Former Miss World Anne Sidney, who had a guest role in the episode along with former Long Arm regular Lyndall Moor, said of the New Guinea trip: "I had a fabulous time. It was the monsoon season and we seemed to be drowned in water most of the time. I loved seeing all the different tribes and hearing about the history of the Kokoda trail from Ron McLean, who wrote the story."16

Production of Spyforce had finished by March 1972 when the 41st episode was completed. Filming then commenced on what was to become the 42nd and final episode, ‘The Rolls That Went To War’, which was actually the pilot for a new series. A spin-off from Spyforce, ‘The Rolls That Went To War’ was intended to be a lighter, more humorous war-time adventure.

Jack Thompson was cast in one of the lead roles, together with Anne Sidney, Max Cullen, Marilyn Mayo, Tony Wager, Tina Cornioley and Don Barkham. Peter Sumner, Katy Wild and Redmond Philips would not be appearing in the spin-off. Roger Mirams explained one of the reasons for making the new series was that ratings showed Spyforce did not have a consistent appeal for women viewers: "That’s why we decided to reduce the heavy drama for the new programme, play it in a lighter vein and use more women."17

‘The Rolls that Went To War’ is about a group of Allied officers and nurses whose aircraft is forced down in a remote part of Malaya. They set up residence in an old mansion that they stumble across deep in the jungle, left as is when the owners fled from the advancing Japanese. The name for the series refers to an old Rolls Royce which is found in the mansion’s garage, to which they fit a machine gun for use as an armoured car to thwart the Japanese.

Jack Thompson, as Erskine, becomes involved with the group when one of their number finds him washed up on a beach after his plane is shot down. Erskine calls himself Jack Weston, and the characters of Haber, French and Cato are not referred to at all. Erskine is on a mission and enlists the help of the ‘stranded’ group, who for the most part are enjoying the good life they have found and are reluctant to leave. The episode ends with Allied Intelligence ordering them all, including Erskine, to stay where they are and carry on their campaign of harassing the enemy, thus providing the transition between Spyforce and the proposed new series. The lack of references to Erskine’s past meant the episode could stand alone as the first of a new series, and would not require viewers to be familiar with Spyforce.

A major hurdle to overcome was finding the main prop - a vintage Rolls Royce. The problem was solved when Mirams was informed about a Rolls enthusiast, George Sevenoaks, who had been dealing with the cars for years. Sevenoaks provided a suitable vehicle for filming: "I thought it was all a bit strange at first, but they convinced me. The arrangement we came to is that I will do most of the driving - that way I can keep my eye on her."18

‘The Rolls That Went To War’ never got beyond the pilot stage, and consequently ended up becoming the final Spyforce episode. It featured a completely different opening, with different theme music, but retained the stencil-type lettering on the title and episode credits.

Ratings-wise, Spyforce was not a runaway success, but by no means was it a failure. The show improved as it went on - the episodes became tighter and faster, and the directing proved more imaginative. The lead cast gave excellent performances, and the special effects got better - all testimony to the short-cuts and improvisation which the series is legendary for.

However, Spyforce was badly programmed by the Nine Network. It underwent many timeslot changes, and the erratic screening order made a nonsense of the character development. Surveys showed that while men and children enjoyed the series, apparently it did not interest women. Peter Sumner also felt that its emphasis may have been wrong: "The producers were trying to get a documentary feel about it and it didn’t work as well as everybody thought it would. The times we got the most reaction was when Jack Thompson and I had to play it for laughs. We should have done that more often."19

Sumner also stated that if the series did not end he probably would have left anyway: "I don’t like doing any acting job in which you find yourself starting to get typed."20 And that was beginning to happen - he had been offered parts in other series which called for a German accent, and played a German in two episodes of The Lost Islands, a 1976 Roger Mirams produced series.

Jack Thompson summed up the series for TV Week: "There hasn’t been a lot of money to play with, and sometimes we’ve had to make do with equipment which was inadequate. But the point is that we all knuckled down and got it done. We got it done because we cared. We got it done because we believed in what we were doing. I think we’ve proved something with Spyforce - we’ve proved that we can turn out a good product working in a tough situation."21

Spyforce sold well overseas, including Britain, America and South-East Asia. In Yugoslavia it was the second most popular show, and Katy Wild became the pin-up girl of male viewers. Even Germany and Japan bought the series – Germany bought only the episodes showing the Japanese as the enemy, and Japan bought only those episodes in which the Germans were the enemy!

Roger Mirams and Ron McLean later teamed up again to produce the police doctor series Silent Number, and individually worked on a number of projects for the Grundy Organisation. The cast moved on to a variety of television and film work, Jack Thompson in particular becoming well-known for his film roles. Katy Wild appeared in Our Man In Canberra / Our Man In The Company and Peter Sumner worked as an actor, writer and director on many films and television series, including Certain Women and Trial By Marriage.

Spyforce has been repeated many times, and episodes are still likely to be screened at ridiculous times in the early hours of the morning, albeit wildly out of sequence. The complete series was released on DVD in April 2013.

 

SPYFORCE EPISODE DETAILS

 

1. TV Week, Aug 7, 1971.
2. Melbourne Listener In-TV, July 31, 1971.
3. Ibid.
4. Melbourne Listener In-TV, July 31, 1971.
5. Melbourne Listener In-TV, Jan 29, 1972.
6. Albert Moran, Moran’s Guide To Australian TV Series, (Australian Film Television & Radio School 1993), p.433 (this work contains many errors); Tony Harrison, The Australian Film And Television Companion, (Simon & Schuster, Sydney 1994), p.321 (this work often perpetuates errors made by Moran).
7. TV Times, Aug 28, 1971
8. Melbourne Listener In-TV, July 31, 1971.
9. Veritas, Melbourne Truth, Sept 4, 1971.
10. Melbourne Listener In-TV, Sept 4, 1971.
11. Melbourne Listener In-TV, Jan 29, 1972.
12. Melbourne Listener In-TV, Sept 25, 1971.
13. TV Week, Aug 28, 1971.
14. TV Week, Dec 11, 1971.
15. Ibid.
16. TV Week, Jan 29, 1972.
17. TV Week, March 18, 1972.
18. TV Week, April 15, 1972.
19. TV Week, May 13, 1972.
20. Ibid.
21. TV Week, Sept 11, 1971.

 



Peter Sumner as Gunther Haber and Jack Thompson as Erskine.


001.jpg (13980 bytes)
A publicity shot of Peter Sumner, Jack Thompson and Katy Wild.

002origopen.jpg (63134 bytes)
The original Spyforce opening titles.


Jack Thompson and Peter Sumner.


Redmond Philips as Col. Cato.


Katy Wild.

004.jpg (17573 bytes)
Katy Wild as Lt. French and Redmond Philips as Col. Cato.

005.jpg (23653 bytes)
Producer Roger Mirams (centre), with Peter Sumner and Jack Thompson.

007.jpg (64682 bytes)
A scene from ‘The Diplomat’ (ep. 26). With Peter Sumner (centre) are Kuki Kaa (back to camera), Shito Shega (left) and I. Sujimoto or I. Shimotu (right) - his name was spelt differently on both episodes he appeared in. (Guest actor credits were usually incomplete and often contained spelling mistakes).

009.jpg (37407 bytes)
Spectacular explosions and location filming were commonplace, balanced by ingenious improvisation and shortcuts.

010.jpg (18546 bytes)
Jack Thompson as Erskine and Peter Sumner as Gunther Haber.

006.jpg (59279 bytes)
Filming ep. 2, ‘Death Railway’, at Narrabeen, recreating the construction of the Burma-Siam railway. The director is seated between the rails, with actors (l to r) Kuki Kaa, John Meillon, Peter Sumner, Martin Vaughan and Jack Thompson.

011.jpg (9057 bytes)
Katy Wild as Lt. French.

008.jpg (35763 bytes)
Filming a scene on board the mock-up submarine, which was constructed of wood, metal and fibreglass. It was fitted with two outboard motors to enable it to sail to various ‘battle zones’ around Narrabeen Lake.

012.jpg (13300 bytes)
Redmond Philips as Col. Cato.

015.jpg (6689 bytes)
Katy Wild.

014.jpg (38717 bytes)
Peter Sumner, Richard Lupino and Jack Thompson in a scene from episode 25, ‘The Chase’.

017.jpg (31181 bytes)
Peter Sumner and Jack Thompson in a scene from episode 6, ‘The Trader’.

022.jpg (43147 bytes)
Jack Thompson was greeted by local tribesmen when he arrived to film episodes in New Guinea.

013.jpg (33740 bytes)
Episode 20, ‘Reilley’s Army’, was Chips Rafferty’s final role. He is seen here with Jack Thompson.

016.jpg (14042 bytes)
Arna-Maria Winchester appeared in three episodes in a support role as Jill Stewart.

019.jpg (31142 bytes)
John Meillon and Peter Sumner in a scene from episode 32, ‘The Raiders’.

018.jpg (13671 bytes)
Jack Thompson as Erskine.

002secondopen.jpg (43645 bytes)
Second series opening titles.

020.jpg (16203 bytes)
Above: How viewers saw a scene of a Japanese pilot in the cockpit of his Zero fighter. Below: How it was done - a canopy propped up by a piece of driftwood, two bedsteads and some wire. The pilot is seated on an old crate, his hands gripping a non-existent joystick.
021.jpg (37844 bytes)

023.jpg (35573 bytes)
Lyndall Moor (left) and Anne Sidney, with an Army officer dousing the rest of the cast in water, during filming of '‘The Trail’ (ep. 41). Segments were filmed in New Guinea.

025.jpg (40156 bytes)
A scene from the pilot episode of ‘The Rolls That Went To War’. Kuki Kaa and Jack Thompson ride the vintage Rolls Royce that was to form the basis of a spin-off series.

026.jpg (29202 bytes)
Jack Thompson with Tina Cornioley (left) and Anne Sidney in ‘The Rolls That Went To War’.


Peter Sumner as Gunther Haber roughing up a Japanese soldier.

024.jpg (22959 bytes)
Katy Wild.



Spyforce advertisements that appeared in magazine programme guides.