The Glory Boys – Episode Two

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Famy’s inexperience is demonstrated at various points throughout the serial. McCoy is appalled to discover that he doesn’t have a plan to kill Sokarev – Famy has to weakly admit that the others (now dead) had the plan – and he further complicates matters by killing a woman who was rifling through his possessions at the flat where he and McCoy were holed up.

This means they’re on the run – which delights Jones, as he believes this leaves them in no shape to make the hit. Jimmy isn’t convinced and Jones quickly picks up on the vibe that Jimmy’s hoping that they’ll attack anyway. “You want to be in work, cheering them on. That makes me sick.” For Jimmy, the thrill of the chase (not to mention the kill) is all.

Although Rod Steiger’s performance can be florid at times, he still manages to throw in some subtle touches. One occurs as he prepares to say goodbye to his wife, prior to flying to London (she’s been forbidden from traveling with him). As they embrace, his eyes dart around in a worried fashion, but he manages to put on a brave face as they pull apart.

We see Norah’stifling home-life, complete with a father (played by Hubert Rees) who reacts to the news of Famy’s murder of the girl by muttering that the killer should be strung up. Of course, neither he or Norah’s mother realise that their daughter’s boyfriend is involved. But although Norah now knows what sort of man McCoy is, her love for him overrides every other consideration. But does he have any feelings for the girl, or is he simply using her?

The difference between Famy and McCoy – the one who’s prepared to give up his life for the struggle he believes in and the other who has no interest in a suicide mission – is restated. Famy tells him that “because my people have suffered, are suffering now, they trust me, for what I will do for them. In my country, the martyrs of our movement are honoured”. McCoy responds by telling him to shut up, proving that the ideological gulf between them is too wide to be breached. But while McCoy doesn’t share Famy’s hope for a glorious martyrdom, he does seem to have some sympathy for him.

Whilat a modern terrorist would probably plant a bomb, Famy’s eventual plan is much more old school – a rifle through the window and, hopefully, a clear shot at the podium where Sokarev is speaking. It’s possible to see the ease with which Famy and McCoy breach the elaborate security procedures set up to protect Sokarev as a weakness of the story or it could be deliberate.

Windows from the lecture room are accessible from the street outside, but although the street is cordoned off no thought seems to have been given to positioning substantial numbers of police or security officers outside these very vulnerable spots. Jones suggests it’s due to lack of resources, but that seems strange given the number of officers deployed elsewhere.

So the pair are able to run across the road and – as McCoy gives him a leg up – Famy breaks the glass in the window and takes aim at Sokarev. His lack of experience is highlighted again as he fires off multiple shots but isn’t able to hit the target. In desperation he throws a grenade in, which is leapt on by Mackiewicz.

Mackiewicz therefore protects both Sokarev and the others, but at the cost of his own life. It’s a chilling moment which brings home the point that often a bodyguard’s job is to take the bullet (or grenade) intended for the person they’ve been charged to protect.

With McCoy now injured from a brief gun battle with one of the security officers outside, he and Famy make their escape. Once more Famy’s inadequacies are displayed when he admits he can’t drive a car – forcing the badly injured McCoy to take the wheel as Jimmy follows close behind.

The Glory Boys – Episode One

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Palestinian terrorists hatch a plan to assassinate Professor David Sokarev (Rod Steiger), an Israeli nuclear scientist, during his forthcoming visit to Britain.  He has his own people protecting him – Maciewicz (Michael J. Jackson) and Elkin (Ron Berglas) – but the head of SIS, Mr Jones (Alfred Burke) plans to put his own man next to Sokarev every step of the way.

Jimmy (Antony Perkins) was the best, but in many people’s eyes he’s yesterday’s man.  His skill with a gun is still razor sharp, but he’s also inclined to be reckless and insubordinate.

Three terrorists attempted to reach Britain.  Two were killed in France, leaving one survivor – Famy (Gary Brown).  He makes contact with McCoy (Aaron Harris) a member of the Provisional IRA and together the mismatched pair begin to hatch a plan …..

The Glory Boys was a three-part serial, based on the novel by Gerald Seymour, made by Yorkshire television and broadcast over three consecutive evenings during October 1984.  That it was stripped across three nights indicates that it was seen as “event” television, and no doubt the two star names at the top of the credits helped to strengthen this feel.

Both Rod Steiger and Anthony Perkins were bona fide film stars, although it would be fair to say that their stock had fallen a little by the mid eighties, which probably explains how YTV were able to snag them.  But it was still a coup to see Steiger (On The Waterfront and In The Heat of the Night) and Perkins (Psycho) in a British television drama.

Steiger plays Sokarev in a very deliberate, ponderous way.  Sokarev is not a politician or a soldier, he’s a scientist and in his early scenes gives the impression that he’s somewhat unworldly.  He treats the news about the threat on his life with alarm and is keen to cancel his British trip.  But he’s told in no uncertain terms that this is impossible – it would send out a signal to the terrorists that they’ve won and Israel would then become a country under siege.  He eventually sees the logic in this.

Perkins’ British accent has met with mixed opinions down the years.  I think it’s pretty good and Perkins certainly impresses as the alcoholic, chain-smoking, cold-hearted killer.  If Steiger tends to be a bit wooden, then Perkins’ easy charm (although always with the sense that there’s something nasty lurking just below the surface) provides a nice counterpoint.

It’s no surprise, especially for this era of television, that the Palestinian terrorist Famy was played by a British born actor, Gary Brown.  It’s not a problem though as Brown is quickly able to sketch out Famy’s character quite effectively.  He was the youngest of the three terrorists and the most inexperienced.  But like them he has a fanatical desire to carry out his mission, even if it costs him his life.

This desire to die for a cause will be something that’s unfortunately all too familiar from modern acts of terrorism, but for British audiences watching thirty years ago it would have been more unusual.  The point is driven home by McCoy who tells Famy that he’s not prepared to throw his life away – McCoy might be IRA, but that doesn’t mean he has any desire to die.

Famy’s political ideology remains somewhat nebulous.  At one point he does attempt to explain his views to McCoy, but is cut off.  As for McCoy, in this first episode we learn that he has a British girlfriend, Norah (Sallyanne Law).  She seems an odd choice for an IRA terrorist, since she’s in her late teens and very innocent (with her love of cuddly toys she seems little more than a child at times).

The SIS we see is very much in the pre-computer age and for all intents and purposes it could just as easily been a snapshot of the 1950’s.  The offices are large, gloomy and old fashioned, complete with furniture that’s seen better days.  When Jones prepares to sleep in overnight, Helen (Joanna Lumley) makes up his camp-bed, complete with a hot water bottle.  To complete this very British picture, he spoons Ovaltine into a mug.

The first time Jones mentions Jimmy he looks at a picture on his wall, showing a wartime scene.  It’s a cliché moment for sure, and later the story is spelled out.  Jones and Jimmy served in Malaya back in the 1950’s and Jimmy saved Jones’ life.  So Jones feels he owes Jimmy a debt ever since, even up to and including today.  Did Jones chose Jimmy for this job because he’s still haunted by the events of Malaya or did he really think Jimmy was the best man to carry it out?

Alfred Burke, even with a fairly small part, catches the eye – as does Joanna Lumley.  Helen works for Jones and is Jimmy’s girlfriend, so her loyalties are somewhat divided.  Lumley has even less to do than Burke, but like him she’s a notable presence.