Network DVD's UK release of the three episodes of the 1963 anthology series Espionage directed by Michael Powell are an interesting footnote to his career. Shot on film with decent casts and impressive crews, they're not on par with his greatest works but they're much better than you might expect. The Frantick Rebel is a comic romp that sees Colonel Blimp himself, Roger Livesy, playing Dr Samuel Johnson with Stanley Baxter as Boswell, both tasked to prevent Jill Bennett's cheerful Quaker from passing on details of British troop movements to the rebels in America. It's a slight piece and Livesy's failing voice is a bit problematic at times, but it's briskly entertaining and offers bit parts for Bernard Bresslaw and an unbilled Wilfred Lawson.
Never Turn Your Back On a Friend is perhaps the most Powellian of the three, starting off in similar vein to his WW2 propaganda films with a trio of British, American and Russian saboteurs stumbling across a Nazi scientist who may have the secret to the atom bomb only to turn into a variation on Chaucer's story of the three friends who find death in the form of a pile of gold under a tree as the scientist plays the three nationalities against each other in a parable of Mutually Assured Destruction.
A Free Agent beats The Tamarind Seed to the punch by a good decade with Anthony Quayle's British spy marrying Sian Philips' Russian spy to the anger of both their governments. Written by former spymaster Leo Marks, it starts off with a light tone as the pair take the attempts by former colleagues John Wood and George Mikell to get them to come back home for a little chat in their stride before veering into a darker and more recriminatory ending than you might expect.
None are essential, but they're surprisingly diverting and entertaining for what they are, and Network's DVD has impressive picture quality (though there is some sporadic noise on the soundtrack).