Jan 27, 2013

Upcoming Spy DVDs: The Man in Room 17 (1965)

Last year, UK DVD company Network, who had put out so many great ITC spy series over the years, seemed to have eased up on espionage entertainment a little bit, and I was worried. There were still a lot of cult UK spy shows MIA on DVD. But in 2013, they've come roaring back! Hot on the heels of the recently announced Virgin of the Secret Service (a title I've been dying to see for years), Network have announced that they will release another ITV rarity on June 10: The Man in Room 17 - The Complete First Series. Kind of like The Man From U.N.C.L.E., The Man in Room 17 really focused on two men: Mr. Edwin G. Oldenshaw (Richard Vernon) and Ian Dimmock (Michael Aldridge); E.G.O. and I.D. Oldenshaw was the boss and the true titular Man; he had been one of Churchill's close advisers and an architect of D-Day. Now he's been employed by Her Majesty's Government to head up the Department of Special Research in Room 17 at Whitehall, answerable only to the Prime Minister. Said department consists solely of Oldenshaw and his younger partner, Dimmock, and they never leave that room. Like Nero Wolfe, they prefer to do their crime solving and spy smashing from the confines of a cozy office while engaging each other in the Japanese board game Go (the same one enjoyed by Nicolai Hel in Shibumi), leaving it to other agents to handle the legwork while they reach brilliant deductions in Room 17. Only the most perplexing cases make it to Room 17, after they've already baffled Scotland Yard and the Security Services. Some of the cases in The Man in Room 17 (which ran from 1965-67) focus more on crime than espionage, but even those ones tend to have international ramifications. Eventually, the series was spun off into The Fellows (Late of Room 17), which is already available on DVD from Network, but by then the espionage angle was greatly diminished. The Man in Room 17 features a number of familiar faces to spy fans among its guest stars, including Peter Wyngarde, Roy Marsden, Geoffrey Keen and the ubiquitous Vladek Sheybal. Denholm Elliott (A Murder of Quality) later replaced Aldridge when the latter became sick, playing another sidekick with the initials I.D. (albeit this time standing for a particularly unlikely name!), Imlac Defraits. Network's four-disc PAL Region 2 set will include all 13 episodes of the black-and-white show's first season and retail for £29.99; it can be pre-ordered on Amazon.co.uk.

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