The Glory Boys – Episode Three

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Helen reports back to Jones and is scathing about what she’s witnessed, describing it as a shambles.  As for Jimmy, she tells her boss that he’s “a knight in shining bloody armour ” setting off in hot pursuit.

Jimmy’s desire to finish the job is self evident.  Despite the fact he told Sokarev he’d be right beside him every step of the way, once he can scent blood in the air he’s off and running.  Although it’s probable there wasn’t a backup terrorist team in place – designed to take Sokarev out on his way back to the hotel maybe – Jimmy didn’t know this for sure.  But his dereliction of duty is never really remarked upon.

He tracks McCoy and Famy to a quiet cul-de-sac.  And when we see McCoy force his way into Norah’s house it becomes obvious that he wasn’t simply driving at random.  Before that, there’s a brief gun battle with Jimmy and the British agent hits him in the shoulder.  McCoy responds by lobbing a grenade under Jimmy’s car, which causes quite an explosion (although it’s odd that the neighbours are slow to investigate).

That we’re very much in the pre-mobile age is shown via a nice scene with Jimmy and an old man in one of the adjacent houses.  Jimmy’s desperate to use the phone but the man, no doubt spooked by the gunfire and explosion, tries to close the door on him, trapping Jimmy’s foot in the process!

The juxtaposition between a quiet suburban house and the onslaught of loud, ugly violence is striking.  McCoy, dripping with blood and brandishing a rifle, quickly rounds up Norah and her mother and father.  Famy darts out the back door, heading to Heathrow where he’ll have one more chance to complete his mission.  So for McCoy the position is clear – he has to stay holed up as long as possible.  The longer he can last out, the more time he buys Famy.

Because of his injury, he forces Norah to tie up her mother and father.  Although maybe this is also an exercise in control and fear – it’s certainly an effective moment as we see the girl attempting to bind her mother’s legs with a pair of tights.  As Norah is instructed to pull tighter, her mother reacts with distress.

When Jones arrives, Jimmy asks if he can go in with the assault team.  Jones, naturally enough, refuses.  Jimmy’s request reiterates his desire to be in at the kill – it isn’t enough to be close by, he wants to be right in the thick of the action.  He heads off to slump dejectedly in the back of a patrol car, another nicely played scene by Perkins.

Torture is seen several times in The Glory Boys.  The opening scene of episode one features Elkin and Mackiewicz brutally torturing a suspect whilst in this episode Jimmy indulges in a milder form of abuse following McCoy’s extraction from the house.  In some ways this makes Jimmy a proto Jack Bauer – a single-minded agent determined to do whatever it takes to complete his mission.  But Jimmy’s not acting without authority – Jones tacitly gives his approval (in front of McCoy) to do whatever he has to do.

So in the world of The Glory Boys, the ends justifies the means.  If the rights of prisoners are abused then so be it – provided it happens behind closed doors.  As is seen later, Jimmy’s downfall occurs after he decides to demonstrate his methods in public.

A little psychology and pain forces McCoy to admit that Famy’s going to make a last-ditch attempt to kill Sokarev immediately before he boards the plane.  But the security cordon is tight enough to nullify Famy’s attempt.

As Famy lies helpless – already downed by several shots from the ring of armed soldiers around the plane – Jimmy comes rushing over.  He couldn’t take part in the mission to extract McCoy and he wasn’t close enough to prevent Famy from launching his attack at the airport, but now he can finish the job.  As Famy struggles to get up, Jimmy aims his gun at his opponent’s head and pulls the trigger.  A quick cut to a roaring jet engine is a clever way of hiding the fact that we don’t see the fatal shot fired, but the power of the moment is still strong as we see Jimmy walk away, with a ring of onlookers behind him.

This most public of executions means that Jimmy is now highly toxic and the Minister (Ian Cuthbertson) tells Jones to fire him.  So Jimmy’s out of a job and Sokarev has safely left the country.  But there’s a final ironic twist, quite in keeping with the bleakness of the tale, which amuses a drunken Jimmy. We leave him as he slowly wends his way through the darkened London streets (with the haunting title music by Philip Japp and Julia Downes playing).

The Glory Boys has an excellent cast, although it’s pity that several familiar faces have very little to do.  The likes of Anthony Steel, Ian Cuthbertson, Alan MacNaughton and Robert Lang were all good enough actors to have taken major parts, but instead they only make the briefest of appearances.  Steiger and Perkins naturally dominate, although Alfred Burke has a quiet assurance as Jones.  Bur Joanna Lumley, despite being fourth billed, has little to do – Helen’s main usefulness seems to be that she can sense the real Jimmy behind the heroic façade.

YTV were no doubt hoping that this serial would repeat the success of their previous Gerald Seymour adaptation (Harry’s Game, 1982).  This didn’t really happen and the critical reaction was muted (with some newspaper reviews, latching onto the gunplay and violence, unimaginatively dubbing the series “The Gory Boys”).  The fact that it’s never been released on R2 DVD is another reason why it maintains a fairly low profile (although it’s available in R1).

As a time capsule of the mid eighties and also as a vehicle for both Rod Steiger and Anthony Perkins it’s well worth seeking out though.  It’s not perfect (and the 105 minute “movie” edit is tighter and more satisfying than the 3 x 50 minute serial) but the themes and characters continue to resonate down the decades.

3 thoughts on “The Glory Boys – Episode Three

  1. The thing I always remember about this serial, strangely more than anything else, is that when The Video Collection, which was the first really high profile budget VHS label in the UK, launched just a few months after this was transmitted this was amongst their first releases.

    TV programmes on videocassette were still quite rare in 1985 compared to cinema films so to see anything was a pleasant surprise, but to see a programme on sale for around £6.99 rather than over £20 was rather earthshattering. The fact that it was the only UK TV title in the range, surrounded by lots of old John Wayne and Astaire & Rodgers films and peppered with obscure American animation series, made it all the odder.


  2. Yes, that’s one of the main reasons why I’ve always had more than a soft spot for The Glory Boys. It was the first VHS cassette I bought with my own money and, as you say, for a while it was out on its own.

    As far as I recall, it wasn’t until late 1986 that the BBC entered the sell-through market, with titles priced at £9.99, which really opened the floodgates for affordable archive television programmes on VHS.

    Since my collection of tapes was rather small to begin with, I tended to watch what I had an awful lot – which explains why I can still recite large portions of this story verbatim. The Video Collection trailer (narrated by Simon Bates) has also stayed with me down the decades –


  3. I lived in that quiet Cul de sac (For real). As regards to why the neighbours never came out to investigate the grenade explosion… we were all told to stay indoors by the film crew 😛

    Liked by 1 person

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