TV on DVD: A Cold War Spy Collection: The Glory Boys (1984) & The Contract (1988)

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Titles Included:
The Glory Boys; The Contract

Since the Cold War didn’t have any outright skirmishes the general public is privy to hearing about, the go-to war for film-sake– so much that it’s even become it’s own subgenre— has always been World War II. Whereas and with very few exceptions aside, the Cold War has been best left to the literary imagination of some of our globe’s best spy novelists.

With this in mind, it’s only fitting that Acorn Media’s just before Memorial Day release of A Cold War Spy Collection presents two miniseries television adaptations written by “espionage expert” Gerald Seymour based on his duo of unrelated novels The Glory Boys and The Contract.

As confusing as reading a KGB manual without the knowledge of the Russian language, director Michael Ferguson’s 1984 film The Glory Boys initially proves that the Cold War was filled with more skirmishes and action than cryptic phrases about dogs raining green umbrellas as other spy titles would lead you to believe.

And while you may not have a clue just what exactly is going on nor whom any of our main characters are right from the start, everything looks exciting and a little eerily timely in a post 9/11 world as a joint Palestinian-IRA hit team goes deep undercover in London with the intention of giving Rod Steiger’s top Israeli nuclear scientist the old "long goodbye."

But before the hit squad can assassinate the scholar, they’ll have to get through Norman Bates?! Anthony Perkins shows up as Britain’s secret weapon simply dubbed “Jimmy,” who usurps all of the other bodyguards in terms of rank and looks like he’ll be able to stop any disaster that’s coming as eventually we shake out enough “intel” to work out the good guys from the bad, following around both as the Israeli speaker prepares to go ahead with his speech in defiance of the danger lying ahead.

Although there’s some serious gaps in logic including a really poor line of defense rigged by Jimmy to stop the villains from getting into the building and close to the target – so much so that you may erupt into a little unintentional laughter – overall, it’s a tense way to spend its 153 minute running time, divided into three episodes as originally broadcast across the nation on TBS in the 1990s.

However, while I couldn’t genuinely recommend Glory Boys aside from its brilliant employment of irony in the final sequence and some killer action along the way, I would suggest taking a look at director Ian Toynton’s 1988 film, The Contract.

Spending further time ratcheting up irony and the gray areas that exist during war – regardless of name—Gerald Seymour’s more ably adapted work also running 155 minutes gives us a little less action but a much more intelligently concentrated plot as the opening of the film finds a young man abandoning his family in the Soviet Union for what he erroneously assumed would be the start of a family of his own by crossing the border to the western side of the Iron Curtain.

When British intelligence intervenes, sending in an expert to assist the man’s aging father (a highly respected missile designer) and his sister across the border as well since the west greatly wants the designer working for the west, things get complicated as the son takes matters into his own hands and the bonds of a family are tested.

Starring James Falkner, Bernard Hepton and Kevin McNatty, The Contract may not be as impressive of a Cold War cloak and daggers spy movie as our own American TNT miniseries The Company produced by Ridley and Tony Scott but it’s a more satisfying improvement over Glory Boys that makes for recommended viewing as once again Seymour proves he knows how to weave a compelling and highly unpredictable yarn that doesn’t play by anyone’s rules regardless of what war is going on.

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FTC Disclosure: Per standard professional practice, I received a review copy of this title in order to evaluate it for my readers, which had no impact whatsoever on whether or not it received a favorable or unfavorable critique.