Wednesday, 15 February 2012


CALLAN (Edward Woodward) returns one last time in Wet Job. Images: NETWORK DVD/ITV


Written by James Mitchell

Produced and directed by Shaun O’Riordan

Available on DVD from NETWORK

Reviewed by Scott Weller

You never leave the British Secret Service-seven years on that’s a fact that the once seemingly retired David Callan, as iconically portrayed by Edward Woodward, finds out the hard way in the 1981 one-off resurrection TV film Wet Job, written by the CALLAN series originator James Mitchell for ATV, and finally released on DVD, after years in archive limbo, from NETWORK.

The antithesis of James Bond, CALLAN, the late sixties/early seventies series, had become additive viewing for millions of British audiences and quickly made Woodward a big star, long before his later eighties American success with THE EQUALIZER. And his lonely but ruthless character may indeed be a spy, often reluctantly for Queen and Country, but he’s certainly nothing like the kind of fantastical agent seen working for Her Majesty in Ian Fleming’s famous novel and film series. In stark contrast to Bond, Callan’s world is a brutal and unforgiving mistress, who takes more than she gives.

Callan meets the new spy boss, Hunter (Hugh Walters)

Now a shopkeeper selling millitaria, and with an on/off relationship with his indecisive landlady, Margaret Channing (Angela Brown), Callan soon has his trusty Walther PPK back in his hand, brought back into “The Business” by the new Hunter (a creepy and manipulative performance from the always enjoyable Hugh Walters), to settle an unwanted problem against a dangerous businessman named Haggerty (UFO’s George Sewell) who’s threatening to name names, including Callan’s (whom he blames for the death of his daughter years back), in an explosive upcoming biography.

Woodward, as the isolated and complex lead, weary of his return to killing but soon relying on his prior survival instincts, and Russell Hunter as his “smelly friend” Lonely, now out of the burglary career and running a plumbing outfit called Fresh and Fragrant! (though coerced into doing one last service for his intimidating old friend), both effortlessly slip back into their roles, and Mitchell’s dialogue for them is as sharp and memorable as ever (Lonely, in particular, has some great dialogue: “I never pong when I’m Happy!” and “It’s like the good old days. Gawd help us!”). Both actors had also aged well in the seven-year gap and look like they’ve never been away (clip: Callan: Wet Job - starring Edward Woodward - YouTube). This one-off’s main protagonist, George Sewell as Haggerty, is also excellent, though it’s a shame that he and Woodward have very little time to spar in the production, which at times gets a little bogged down with the ex-spy’s bittersweet relationship with Margaret, to the detriment of the story.

Russell Hunter returns as smelly Lonely.

Overall, there are still touches of the old classic CALLAN from Mitchell, but ultimately the story doesn’t sustain its one hour and twenty minutes length. I think it would have been much better if it had been a lean, mean and condensed episode of the original series.

Watched by 12.8 million viewers on its original debut, producer/director Shaun O’Riordan obviously shows enthusiasm and ambition for the production, but it’s not a total success and needed to have more money and polish spent on it. Though a talented composer (his Sapphire and Steel work alongside O’Riordan had been excellent), Cyril Ornadel’s incidental score here is sadly both intrusive and irritating, and fails to capture the atmosphere of the series original theme music (in fact, the sixties and seventies CALLAN series had very little music-and never needed it). Not being shot on 16 or 35mm film is also a mistake that should have been avoided: this final story for Callan, with such a great cast, could have looked visually better than being filmed on video and outside broadcast tape-a common occurrence in eighties British TV series so as to cut production costs. (The original series had also been filmed in that manner but again worked better in its original environment.)

NETWORK’s transfer of the story to DVD is clean and blemish-free, though sadly the scant photo gallery barely makes the grade on the extras front-this one-off tale deserved at least some kind of production info or at least an interview with the surviving members of the shows original cast and crew. As the final ever episode of CALLAN, it definitely deserved better from NETWORK, though full credit to them for finally getting this one-off tale released.

Acting as a kind of bookend to creator Mitchell’s original pilot episode for CALLAN-A Magnum for Schneider from back in 1967- Wet Job is a solid and watchable, if hardly classic, footnote to the original series. For curiosity value, and an always strong performance from Edward Woodward, it’s worth a look, but don't expect to see the show at it's best here-stick to the original run for that…

KOOL TV RATING: 3 out of 5

All surviving Black and White episodes, and the full colour series of CALLAN are now available from NETWORK.

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