London gangster seeks revenge on his ex partner and estranged wife.
6 episodes of 60 minute duration. Granada Television 1968.
'Spindoe' is a tale of cross border gang warfare – North versus South London and a lesson in no-honour among thieves. The series introduced a more rugged and dramatic form of story telling and saw levels of violence not previously shown on British Television.
On the day that former gangland boss Alec Spindoe (Ray McAnally) is released from a seven-year stretch he is met outside the prison not, as he expected, by his number two, Eddie Edwards, but by his fiercest rival Henry Mackleson (Richard Hurndall), criminal emperor of the North. Mackleson is there to warn Spindoe off from trying to regain his own empire and has a word of caution for his old enemy as well as a cryptic message about Spindoe’s wife. Following a heated exchange Spindoe makes his own way home only to have Mackleson’s men deliver a chilling message in the form of several warning shots into the wall above his head.
Spindoe’s first stop on his way home is to his bank where he tries to withdraw some money only to discover that his life’s savings and all his property deeds have been completely cleaned out by his wife, Shelagh (Colette O’Neil) who, it transpires, is now living with his former underling Eddie Edwards (Anthony Bate). Not content with just taking his money and his wife, Edwards has also taken over all of Spindoe’s old territory and has, in the process, murderously done away with all the men he considered would remain loyal to his former employer.
Spindoe immediately makes his way to Edwards’ address where he delivers a chilling ultimatum demanding Shelagh come back to him or die. But Edwards is no longer fearful of Spindoe as he now controls the whole of South London and has expanded his interests far beyond Spindoe’s wildest dreams. The next step is a merger with Mackleson that will encompass all of London's criminal interests.
Spindoe employs the services of former mercenary, Scaliger (George Sewell) who is now working as a private eye. With a limited amount of funds but still with a solid reputation and a few friends, Spindoe begins to make plans to reclaim his territory. But it seems that Mackleson is taking Spindoe far more seriously than Eddie and arranges for Shelagh to be murdered with Spindoe being set up as the scapegoat. When Mackleson’s plans don’t work out he changes his allegiance and decides he’d rather work with Spindoe than Edwards. It’s not long before full-scale gang warfare breaks out.
On the face of it, 'Spindoe' has all the elements of a classic crime series. What does let it down somewhat is some weak scripting in parts from creator and writer Robin Chapman. The viewer wonders at times how either Spindoe or Edwards ever became anything other than minor villains let alone crime lords; such is the uncertainty of their characters. And credibility is stretched a little further as Spindoe reclaims all that was once his with nothing other than a few loyal friends (most of whom either get disfigured or murdered during the course of the series) and reputation alone. This at a time when Edwards’ wields all the power.
What more than compensates for this is some outstanding performances not least of all from Ray McAnally as Alec Spindoe, a character that was created in a single episode of an earlier TV series called ‘The Fellows.’ Richard Hurndall gives a chilling performance as Henry Mackleson, perhaps the only credible villain in the six-part series, and George Sewell is excellent as Scaliger, who at times seems to be the only one who knows what is going on between the two gangs.
The entire series has recently been released by Network DVD and comes in a box-set with Robin Chapman’s follow up series – the even more violent crime drama ‘Big Breadwinner Hog’. The DVD also has a great extra- the episode of ‘The Fellows’ that first introduced Alec Spindoe.
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