Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased) – My Late Lamented Friend and Partner (21st September 1969)

Few ITC series have seen their fortunes rise quite so dramatically over the years as R & H (D). Today it’s a beloved example of the ITC adventure show genre but when the series was first broadcast it was a very different story.

The critical response was muted (but that was par for the course with most ITC series, which tended to be viewed with a mixture of contempt and irritation at their transatlantic aspirations). But there’s no real evidence that the series found an appreciative audience either, although the fact the show wasn’t networked didn’t help. It was very quickly packed off into off peak slots in many of the regions – either late night or morning/afternoon.

Two repeat runs (on ITV in the eighties and BBC2 in the nineties) were key to introducing the series to a new audience (and possibly reminding some of those who had caught it first time round that it wasn’t all bad).

Ralph Smart’s My Late Lamented Friend and Partner is an affective opener, in that the premise of the series is established quickly and efficiently. Marty Hopkirk (Kenneth Cope) is murdered, leaving his business partner Jeff Randall (Mike Pratt) and his wife Jeannie Hopkirk (Annette Andre) both bereft.

But Marty can’t rest easy until his murderer is brought to justice and so decides to return to Earth to help Jeff, who’s the only one who can see or hear him (although this rule is broken before a few episodes are out).

The series would always tread a line between drama and comedy, as Cope’s penchant for humour was never far from the surface. Mind you, Pratt deadpans very nicely, so it’s not quite a case of a comic and straight man.

This first case is played pretty straight though. John Sorrensen (Frank Windsor) has paid a fat fee to have his wife murdered and when Marty appears to guess the truth he has to die as well. Casting Windsor, an actor best known for working on the other side of the law, was a good move, even if he’s not called upon to do a great deal more than glower menacingly.

Several other familiar faces breeze through the story – notably Ronald Lacey as a beardy beatnik (given the once over by R&H) and Dolores Mantez.

The undoubted highlight of the episode is Jeff’s first meeting with the ghostly Marty. This is built up slowly, with the grieving Jeff receiving several disturbing phone calls from a beyond the grave Marty. Eventually he’s drawn to a wonderfully misty graveyard in the dead of night in order to meet his spectral friend.

Immediately after this scene ends we cut to Jeff waking up in bed, which poses the possibility that maybe it was all a dream. That’s quickly negated though, so the mystery of whether Jeff is really being haunted or is just hallucinating isn’t a major part of the episode. Which is a slight shame as there was some dramatic potential there.

The shadowy murder organisation is run to ground in a rather perfunctory fashion, but then the episode’s not really about the crime, it’s much more concerned with setting up the series’ format. And there’s no real problems on that score (although it takes a few episodes before Cope’s wig settles down).

11 thoughts on “Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased) – My Late Lamented Friend and Partner (21st September 1969)

  1. I was a big fan of all the ITC series in the 60’s and early 70’s except for this one, so I would agree with your comment about the “unappreciative audience”!

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  2. I do like Randall & Hopkirk (Deceased), but it wasn’t my favourite ITC series.

    The worst ITC series has to be a toss up between the Adventurer (with Gene Barry) or the Jason King series. Both were filmed on 16mm, the scripts were not best ever and the acting was dire at times.

    I seem to remember Randall & Hopkirk was rerun on BBC2 in the late 1980s or early 90s and it became part of my weekly TV diet.

    A new version of R&H was made several years ago with Vic Reeves & Bob Mortimer. It was awful to say the least – so the less said the better!!!!

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    • Vic and Bob’s R&H was never going to eclipse the original, but any show that features Tom Baker as an eccentric mentor can’t be all bad!

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  3. “I daresay no-one can like them all! Personally I find The Baron a bit of a slog”

    I agree. It must have been one of the first ITC series that I watched, and it was the one I had least memory of. Now I know why. I rewatched the Baron a couple of years ago, and found it a rather indifferent generic 60’s adventure series. Apart from a few episodes, It didn’t really take any advantage of Mannering’s expertise in antiques. Also it is quite different to the books and character created by John Creasey.

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  4. I loved Randall and Hopkirk and many other ITC productions. I used to enjoy The Protectors as well but recently saw an episode, and it hadn’t aged well! Generally it tried to cram too much into a30 minute (or less) episode, so the storyline didn’t breather.

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  5. I had never hears of Randall and Hopkirk until the late 1980s. The first episode I saw was the last one made, when ITV were showing it on daytime tv. And this was actually the first adventure, because it was the one where Marty is telling him about a crime he solved when he was alive.

    I saw the first episode on TV Heaven. It was the best programme shown on TV Heaven. And then a couple of years later BBC2 showed the whole series in production order.

    TV Heaven is now older than the programmes were at the time. But several of the programmes shown on TV Heaven got a repeat run later on. For example they showed an episode of The Prisoner, and later that year Channel 4 did a complete rerun.

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  6. Kenneth Cope reckoned that for the first few episodes they made, the makeup person inadvertently put the wig on the wrong way round. They did their best to comb it into style but eventually realised their mistake.

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