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The Sandbaggers - Series 1 [1978] [DVD]

Price: £10.28 & FREE Delivery in the UK. Details
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Product details

  • Actors: Roy Marsden, Ray Lonnen, Ian McNaughtan, John Alkin, Diane Keen
  • Format: PAL
  • Language: English
  • Region: Region 2 (This DVD may not be viewable outside Europe. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 4:3 - 1.33:1
  • Number of discs: 2
  • Classification: PG
  • Studio: Network
  • DVD Release Date: 15 April 2013
  • Run Time: 350 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B0009YVDBC
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 74,946 in DVD & Blu-ray (See Top 100 in DVD & Blu-ray)


First series of the gritty British television espionage drama, starring Roy Marsden, following the low-key, high-risk work of the elite Special Section in the British intelligence service. Led by the dour Neil Burnside (Marsden) and the brash Willie Caine (Ray Lonnen), the 'Sandbaggers' are involved in a tense cat-and-mouse game between rival foreign powers at the height of the Cold War. While trying to follow the directives of his government, it is all Burnside can do to keep his men alive. Episodes are: 'First Principles'; 'A Proper Function of Government'; 'Is Your Journey Really Necessary?'; 'The Most Suitable Person'; 'Always Glad to Help'; 'A Feasible Solution' and 'Special Relationship'.

Customer Reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

18 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Rowena Hoseason HALL OF FAMETOP 50 REVIEWER on 19 Jan. 2007
Format: DVD
What is Sandbaggers? It's a 1970's version of Spooks; a behind-the-scenes drama based in Secret Intelligence. The Sandbaggers themselves are Special Ops, the 007s of the service. They go in to a situation when it has escalated beyond what the local station chiefs can handle. And yes -- they are licenced to kill!

I was a teenie when Sandbaggers was first screened, and remember being largely baffled by what was going on. Over the years I've kept an eye open for it and was delighted to see it released on DVD.

We've watched the first disc, and can report that it's compulsive viewing. It's not as glam as Spooks or The Sweeney; more like an hour long Le Carre episode. The characters are well-drawn and the interplay between them is fascinating. You coud easily transpose the plots to the modern political situation, and they'd remain credible and entertaining.

Of course, the series is hampered by what you could do in the 1970s with TV budgets. Some of the sets visibly wobble and some scenes are definitely no-expense-spent! But there's just enough external action to keep you gripped, wondering whether Sandbagger One is going to come back in one piece...

I suspect that Sandbaggers was just too cerebral for its time, and I don't know if they'll be able to sustain this level of plot and script through all the seasons. I'd rate it alongside The Prisoner and The Sweeney, significantly higher than The Professionals.

Definitely one to rent, and quite possibly one to buy for the collectors.
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25 of 26 people found the following review helpful By M. J. Littlewood on 1 Jun. 2007
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
I don't know what the hard-edged, life-or-death sections of Britain's secret services are actually like. But if I had to pick any piece of televisual fiction that "feels" the most realistic, then Sandbaggers would be it. An apparently conscious expose of the total nonsense of the world of James Bond, Sandbaggers follows Neil Burnside's (Roy Marsden's) small and underfunded team thorugh a web of political machinations, double dealing, smoke screens and dubious objectives.

Crucially, much of the "action" is office based. Marsden's character has been retired from the field. This series is as much about politics as it is about espionage.

Its real success is imbuing every major character with moral ambiguity. It is the polar opposite of the heroes and villains approach that infects so much of this genre. You will be able to detect some degree of genuine patriotism in each of the key players - but this is often buried under an avalanche of desire for personal career advancement or simple survival (either literal or professional).

Although played out in the Cold War era, the debate and confusion surrounding the Anglo-American relationship - particularly the level of trust or mistrust in the CIA is probably even more pertinent in the 21t century than it was in the 1970s. Neil Burnside's (Roy Marsden's) rampant pro-Atlanticism is a disturbing mixture of hard-headed pragmatim and deep-rooted, but rarely expressed, ideological conviction.

The plots range from enjoyable to sensational, but are never farcical. You'll need to pay close attention to each episode to get the most out of it (this isn't a series to watch whilst doing the ironing or after coming home from the pub).
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Mr. D. K. Smith TOP 500 REVIEWER on 29 Dec. 2006
Format: DVD
Whilst it won't be to everybodys tastes - those brought up on modern television will probably find the pace far too slow and view with disfavour the attempts to create various other countries in England, anybody who favours content over gloss will find much to appreciate.

The most noticeable thing about the series it that it concentrates on the London office in general and Neil Burnside (Roy Marsden) in particular. And it's interesting that at times the series works on the principle of "tell, don't show". So certain operations take place off screen and others are only seen briefly, for example the final episode "Special Relationship" sees Laura Dickens captured, but we see nothing of her interrogation or captivity - it's all about how Burnside reacts and the decisions he makes.

A fine cast headed by Marsden, with support from Ray Lonnen and Richard Vernon amongst others, and good scripts from Ian Mackintosh make this a slice of British television well worth picking up.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Anthony Abdool on 26 Oct. 2010
Format: DVD
While the causal spy fan might like 'Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy', doesn't the true devotee really prefer 'The Sandbaggers'? This isn't as preposterous as it might sound: the Le Carré adaptation mistook stilted Pinter-and-water dialogue for profundity, taxed Alec Guinness's ability to raise his eyebrows in a thousand suggestive ways and made a grievous error in casting Hywel Bennett to play Ricky Tarr. 'The Sandbaggers', on the other hand, featured strong plotting, crisp, even witty dialogue, and, among several cracking performances, a brilliantly multifaceted one by Roy Marsden. As Director of Operations, Neil Burnside, Marsden gives him just the right combination of paranoid ruthlessness and neurotic deviousness. Good enough, you might think, but he then manages to make Burnside sympathetic even when he is forced to make awful decisions, as in the breathtakingly heartless finale of this series. You're appalled by his logic, but feel he is shackled to it even if the cost to him is almost overwhelming. The memorable theme tune - the only television work of the great Roy Budd - captures this relentless march of his agents to their own disintegration.

As the production values were so low, the script had to work doubly hard to convince, but the writing carried the authentic weight of a screenwriter who really knew his world of spies. Apart from one atypical episode, there is little violence and often the tensest moments revolve around seemingly trivial incidents on the screen: Laura Dickens combing through documents alone in an embassy, Geoffrey Wellingham and Burnside walking side-by-side near Parliament, Willie Caine meeting a distinguished scientist in an Austrian park.
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