Written by Donald James • Directed by Leslie Norman

ORIGINAL ITC SYNOPSIS

Randall is employed to deliver an envelope to an escaped convict without realising that it contains an invitation to death. And a family reunion turns out to be a very macabre affair indeed.

It sounds easy money to Jeff Randall when he is approached by a man named Hodder, whose aged employer, Mr Joshua Crackan, offers Jeff £50 to deliver an envelope to his nephew, Johnny Crackan.

There is one problem: John is an escaped convict on the run. Jeff succeeds in tracking him down, however, hands over the envelope and then returns to Joshua Crackan to collect his money. He is immediately offered further work, to act as a guard and allow in only those with invitations to a house party Mr Crackan is giving, ostensibly to celebrate his 80th birthday.

Accepting the invitation incurs something of a disagreement with his ghostly partner Marty Hopkirk, who has his misgivings and also rather resents Jeff telling him not to interfere and leave him alone for a time.

Jeff soon discovers that the house party is something of a family reunion. All the guests are Crackans. Johnny is one. The Rev. Henry Crackan is another; he's American. The others are the Spanish-blooded Ramon Burgos y Crackan, the Chinese Sung Lee Crackan and the attractive, blonder Fay Crackan, who is a stage magician's assistant. The Crackan clan is certainly world-wide!

But this is no meeting of family friends. One by one, the guests die in mysterious circumstances - Ramon, then Johnny, followed by Sung Lee and the Rev. Henry, leaving only Fay, who wisely decides to get out before she can become the next victim.

Fay is now in dire peril, as Jeff discovers when Joshua Crackan admits that it is only by removing all his relatives that his estate can go to his loyal employee Hodder, whom he wishes to be his heir.

Hodder is now searching for Fay, and Mr Crackan ensures that Jeff will be kept out of the way. Fortunately for Jeff and Fay alike, the disgruntled Marty has decided not to take Jeff at his word and leave him alone... and only a ghost could achieve what he now has to do to help both of them.

PRODUCTION & ARCHIVE
Production Code: RH/DCW/4008
Filming Dates:
September-October 1968
Production Completed:
Mid-March 1969
Recording Format: 35mm Colour Film
Archive Holding: 35mm Colour Film

UK REGIONAL PREMIERES

Anglia: Sun 3 Jan 1971, 3.00pm (B/W*)
ATV: Fri 30 Jan 1970, 7.30pm
Border: Friday 16 Apr 1971, 7.30pm (B/W)
Channel: Sun 22 Mar 1970, 9.10pm (B/W)
Grampian: Wed 23 Sep 1970, 8.00pm (B/W)
Granada: Fri 10 Apr 1970, 7.30pm
HTV: Sat 15 Aug 1970, 5.50pm
LWT: Fri 13 Feb 1970, 7.30pm
Scottish:
Sat 15 Jan 1972, 11.10pm
Southern: Wed 18 Mar 1970, 8.00pm
Tyne Tees: Thu 18 Feb 1971, 8.00pm
Ulster: Unconfirmed
Westward: Sun 22 Mar 1970, 9.10pm (B/W)
Yorkshire: Wed 2 Sep 1970, 8.00pm
(B/W) = Transmitted in Black and White
(B/W*) = Transmitted in B/W due to ITV Colour Strike
CHARACTERS & CAST
Jeff Randall
Marty Hopkirk
Jean Hopkirk
Joshua Crackan
Fay Crackan
Rev. Henry Crackan
Mesmero
Hodder
Johnny Crackan
Punter
Ramon Burgos y
Crackan
Young Stage Director
Sung Lee Crackan
Cab Driver
Magician (George)
Magician's Assistant
Director's Assistant
Showgirl
 
Dancer
Mike Pratt
Kenneth Cope
Annette Andre
Felix Aylmer
Liz Fraser
Neil McCallum
Dick Bentley
Meredith Edwards
John Hallam
Michael Ripper
 
Earl Green
Graham Armitage
John A. Tinn
Uncredited
Robert Harbin
Uncredited
Uncredited
Pauline Chamberlain
Uncredited
STAND-INS
Jeff Randall
Marty Hopkirk
Harry Fielder
Dougie Lockyer
STUNT DOUBLES
Jeff Randall Rocky Taylor
ORIGINAL SOUNDTRACK

Music for this episode was recycled from stock and therefore no release of a soundtrack of It's Supposed to be Thicker Than Water has been issued.

DVD EXTRAS

Network DVD (United Kingdom):
Photo Gallery.
Umbrella Entertainment (Australia):

Photo Gallery.

PRODUCTION CREDITS

Writer – Donald James
Series Theme & Musical Director –
Edwin Astley
Creator & Executive Story Consultant –
Dennis Spooner
Creative Consultant
- Cyril Frankel
Producer –
Monty Berman
Director –
Leslie Norman

Ronald Liles (Production Supervisor)
Gerald Moss (Director of Photography)
Charles Bishop (Art Director)
Philip Aizlewood (Post Production)
Jack T. Knight (Editor)
Jack Morrison (Production Manager)
Jack Lowin (2nd Unit Director)
Brian Elvin (2nd Unit Cameraman)
Denis Porter & Bill Rowe (Sound Recordists)
Guy Ambler (Sound Editor)
Alan Willis (Music Editor)
John Owen (Casting)
Sue Long (Set Dresser)
Bill Greene (Construction Manager)
Val Stewart (Camera Operator)
Michael Meighan (Assistant Director)
Sally Ball (Continuity)
Peter Dunlop (Production Buyer)
Gerry Fletcher (Make-Up Supervisor)
Jeannette Freeman (Hairdresser)
Laura Nightingale (Wardrobe Supervisor)
A.J. Van Montagu (Scenic Artist)
Frank Maher (Stunt Co-ordinator)
Cinesound (Sound Effects Suppliers)
and Chambers + Partners (Titles).

Made on Location and at Associated British Elstree Studios, London, England
An ITC Production

IT'S SUPPOSED TO BE THICKER THAN WATER • REVIEW

To some degree, this episode feels like a 'Jeff solo' story, with Marty and to an ever greater extent, Jeannie, kept to the background. The idea that Jeff wishes to reassert himself as a detective in his own right, who doesn't have to rely on Marty's spectral help, is a valid and believable one which is played out nicely by the two male leads. In the episode, Jeff is once again drawn into a deadly plot that he unwittingly helps to realise, although in this instance it is refreshing that the inevitable explanations that he has to make to the police are referred to rather than shown on screen. Donald James' script is perhaps a little light on comedy, but the general tone is lighter than some of the other early episodes. Although Joshua Crackan and his evil little scheme to rid the Crackan family of its riff-raff is a touch dark, the suggestion that a man of property would gladly hand his estate over to a servant is a little difficult to believe, considering the class-fixated prejudices he holds against the rest of his clan. It's Supposed to be Thicker Than Water sports a strong cast, with the excellent Liz Fraser delivering its standout performance. Veteran actor Felix Aylmer revels in the part of the evil plotter Joshua Crackan and there are nice cameos from the Australian comedian Dick Bentley (one of the stars of BBC Radio's popular Take It From Here in the Fifties) and Michael Ripper, the man a Hammer film is naked without. The only real weakness of the episode is the scene in which Hodder attempts to murder Fay Crackan at the theatre. It seems strange that Marty allows Hodder to carry out the attack without his attempting to distract him in some way. However, overall this is an enjoyable episode with much to commend.

IT'S SUPPOSED TO BE THICKER THAN WATER • DECLASSIFIED

  • Teaser... In his apartment one night, Jeff is working on his business accounts, trying to see how he can pay the latest set of bills. It is impossible - his outgoings are far too high. He throws his pen across the room in anger. It hits his guitar, causing the strings to twang. Marty appears and causes the guitar strings to twang another three times. "Olé!" he declares, with a flourish. Jeff isn't in the mood for theatricals and suggests that while he's here, Marty should take a look at the books - it has been the worst month for the Randall and Hopkirk detective agency since they went into business. Jeff leaves Marty in the apartment, insisting he wants to go for a walk - alone. As he walks the London streets, he is surprised to hear the sound of approaching horses' hooves. He dismisses the thought and goes to light a cigarette. As he does so, a gloved hand lands on his shoulder and a well-dressed man asks Jeff if he is Mr Randall. When Jeff confirms this is the case, the stranger reveals that a Mr Joshua Crackan wishes to speak with him. Jeff is initially disinterested until the man talks of him being offered the opportunity to make a considerable amount of money, at which point he is all ears and asks to be led to this Mr Crackan. Crackan is waiting in a nearby hansom cab. He asks Jeff to perform a simple task. All he must do is deliver a letter to another of the Crackan clan, his nephew Johnny Crackan, and for this, Jeff will receive £50. Jeff readily accepts the offer of work and asks how he might find the man. Joshua Crackan has no idea. After all, Johnny is a criminal who escaped from prison six weeks ago...


  • Production Brief... It's Supposed to be Thicker Than Water, the eighth episode to be filmed, boasted Donald James' fourth script (of an eventual, unrivalled eleven) for Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased), and had another 'old hand', Leslie Norman, in the director's chair (Norman had previously helmed A Sentimental Journey).

  • Leslie Norman was born on Thursday 23rd February 1911 in London, England and enjoyed a hugely successful career in the British film industry over five decades. He started out in the industry at Warner Brothers' Teddington Studios at the age of fourteen, working in the labs and editing rooms there. By the time he was called up for military service, he had rose from sweeping floors to supervising editor and then assistant director. After his two years' service, he joined Ealing Films and was soon involved in films they were producing in Australia. His first credit of note was on the outback wartime drama, The Overlanders (1946), on which he took the role of supervising editor. Over the next eleven years, he split his time working in Britain and Australia, editing the likes of The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby (1957) and producing classics such as The Cruel Sea (1953) in Britain and Where No Vultures Fly (1951) and West of Zanzibar (1954). During this period, he also began directing films, his first being The Night My Number Came Up (1955), with other notables being Hammer genre favourite X - The Unknown (1956), starring Dean Jagger, and Dunkirk (1958), starring the marvellous Sir John Mills. Moving into the 1960s, Norman found a niche for himself directing filmed television, and was responsible for episodes of the ITC series The Saint, Gideon's Way, The Baron and The Champions, before he came to work on Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased). During the same period, he was also hired to direct episodes of The Avengers and Randall's sister series, Department S. Afterwards, he remained with ITC, directing episodes of Shirley's World, The Persuaders! and Return of the Saint, after which he retired from the industry. He was the father of renowned British film critic Barry Norman and director Valerie Norman and passed away at 82 from heart failure on Thursday 18th February 1993.

  • This episode utilised the famous 'ITC White Jag' footage, a sequence originally shot in November 1965 for Something for a Rainy Day, an episode of The Baron. Over the years, it was used in most ITC series at one point or another and became something of a running joke - if a character got into a white Jaguar, they were in for a very rough ride with a smashing finish. As can be seen from the sections below concerning The Vehicles and Seen It All Before?, the sequence in this episode is made up of footage newly shot for It's Supposed to be Thicker Than Water along with film from stock, which had originally been shot for two episodes of The Baron (Something for a Rainy Day and Time to Kill) and a Department S (Who Plays the Dummy?). By checking the episodes of these series and particularly the high definition version of Something for a Rainy Day on the Network Retro-Action Volume 3 Blu-ray disc, Randall and Hopkirk (Declassified) can reveal not only that four different Jaguar cars that were utilised in the sequence, but we can even furnish you with their models and registration numbers! (See The Vehicles below and, for further detail, Features - The ITC White Jaguar)

  • The day-for-night shots filmed at both High Canons and The Orange Tree public house are a little unusual in that in addition to having night filter processing, they are also blanked with a soft black wipe to completely obliterate the sky.

  • The High Canons gatehouse was filmed on location and a replica was constructed in studio, which was used for interiors and some exterior sequences. All shots in the gatehouse sequences involving the actors rather than doubles were recorded in studio. The replica was exceptionally detailed, carrying over the window shape and frame style and even the layout of the front door from the actual gatehouse building, right down to having an identical door knocker.  The tell-tale sign that this was not an all-location sequence (aside from the subtle differences between studio and exterior lighting) is that the external wall has an additional section of wall coming off at right angles to the left of the window. This is absent on the actual structure. All images below are taken from the episode as screened, with the exception of the bottom right image of the front door, which was taken in recent years.

  • On the casting side, the episode boasts the ITC debut of Liz Fraser, one of Britain's best-loved comedy actresses, who at the time of It's Supposed to be Thicker Than Water was best known for her roles in the Carry On comedy series and television sitcoms such as Citizen James. However, at the top of the guest star bill was the veteran actor Felix Aylmer, who portrayed the coldly calculating Joshua Crackan. Aylmer was a respected thespian who was appointed a Knight Bachelor of the Order of the British Empire in 1950 for his services to drama. His most well-remembered role was arguably as the Archbishop of Canterbury in Sir Laurence Olivier's film adaptation of Shakespeare's Henry V (1944). Fans of ITC adventure series will no doubt remember him as the 'strange old man' who rescues the Craig Stirling, Sharron Mcready and Richard Barrett in the snows of Tibet and oversees their transformation into The Champions. Aylmer was seventy-nine years of age when he filmed his role for Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased). He would continue to perform, notably in the ecclesiastical situation comedy Oh Brother! for several years prior to his death at the ripe old age of ninety in September 1979.

  • Also in the cast was the popular Australian comedian and actor, Dick Bentley, who was well known at the time for his role in the radio situation comedy, Take It From Here, which enjoyed a lengthy success between the years 1948 and 1960 and starred Bentley alongside the memorably moustachioed Jimmy Edwards. Bentley's role in It's Supposed to be Thicker Than Water was brief, but he does not waste his screen time and is clearly enjoying himself. Perhaps surprisingly, he was not an ITC 'new boy' as he had previously appeared in a 1964 episode of The Saint, The Loving Brothers, an episode (like this one) that was directed by Leslie Norman.

  • The Irish actor John Hallam portrayed the unfortunate Johnny Crackan (never borrow a white Jag, Johnny!) and had recently featured in The Man in the Elegant Room, the first episode of Department S to enter production, also for ITC. He would go on to feature in Jason King and Return of the Saint in the 1970s.

  • Exact filming dates for this episode are unknown, but in his DVD liner notes, Andrew Pixley states the filming commenced in late September 1968.

  • Post production work on this episode was completed in mid-March 1969. It would, however, not receive its first UK broadcast until it aired in the ATV region on Friday 30th January 1970, some ten months later.


  • On Location... The major location in this episode was High Canons, an impressive private country house near Well End, Hertfordshire, which is situated in an expansive and picturesque 800 acre estate.  The building is a much-filmed location and the director of this episode, Leslie Norman, had filmed there twice before for earlier ITC series The Baron and The Saint. The episode also took in The Orange Tree pub on Totteridge Common, and the familiar locale of Borehamwood's shopping street, Shenley Road. Also notable was a re-use of the footage shot with the famous ITC white Jag on Ivinghoe Beacon and at Betchworth Quarry. Footage was also used from a Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased) episode in post-production to produce a montage of night-time shots of theatrical venues in London's West End, a whirlwind sequence which depicted Marty's search for magician's assistant Fay Crackan. More details in Locations - It's Supposed to be Thicker Than Water.


  • Trivia... In It's Supposed to be Thicker Than Water, it is revealed that Jeff knows at least a smattering of Spanish, as he converses in that language with the doomed Ramon Burgos y Crackan when the Spaniard arrives at the Crackan Manor gatehouse. This is distinctly more impressive than Marty's "Olé!" at the start of the episode!

  • In this episode, we see Jeff reading Professor David William's Not In The Public Interest, a book which focused on the operation of the 1911 Official Secrets Act and how successive British governments used it to suppress sensitive information. It was published by Hutchinson in 1965.

  • When we see close-up shots of Johnny Crackan (John Hallam) driving the white Jag, the director opted to use a moving painted backdrop rather than a 'back projected' moving background. This was undoubtedly decided upon to keep costs down as optical printing necessary to combine studio shots with pre-filmed backgrounds was expensive.

  • The vaudeville show at The New Hampstead Theatre that we see auditions for is revealed to be taking place on Saturday September 20th. The venue was a fictional one, but coincidentally, today there is a theatrical venue in Hampstead with that name. It opened in February 2003.

  • After the first fifteen episodes of their run had been shown in black and white, the HTV ITV channel moved to colour broadcasts during an eight month break in their Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased) schedule. The region's switch to colour was staggered: the Wenvoe transmitter, serving the HTV Wales area, switched over on Monday 6th April 1970, while the Mendip transmitter, which provided signals for the HTV West area, started transmitting in colour from Saturday 30th May 1970. As a result, the first episode of Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased) to be transmitted in colour from both transmitters to HTV Wales and West viewers was It's Supposed to be Thicker Than Water on Saturday 15th August 1970 at 5.50pm.


  • Only You, Jeff? When Fay Crackan is hypnotised and unconscious, Marty is able to communicate with her to the extent that he is able to will her to resist Hodder's murderous attack and then, still in a trance, telephone the police to get them to arrest Joshua Crackan and Hodder and save Jeff Randall.


  • Ghosts and Ghoulies... Only Marty, who it is revealed can strum a guitar by telekinesis.


  • The Vehicles... Appearing in this episode were the following wonders of transport...

Hansom Cab
Driven by Cab Driver
 
Jaguar Mk II
Registration 469 EXO
Driven by Ramon and Johnny Crackan
 
Jaguar Mk II
Registration M 2543
Driven by Johnny Crackan
Also appeared in:
Department S - 'Who Plays the Dummy?'
1957 Jaguar Mk I
Registration M 431 428
(This is undoubtedly a car with fake Continental registration plates.)
Driven wildly by Johnny Crackan!
Also appeared in:
The Baron - 'Time to Kill'
Department S
- 'The Man Who Got A New Face', 'Who Plays the Dummy?'
Jaguar Mk I
Registration WRP 344
(Registration on the front of the car was NMK 76, which was most likely the actual registration.)
Driven over a cliff and crashed by Johnny Crackan!
Also appeared in:
The Baron - 'Something for a Rainy Day'
The Saint - 'The Queen's Ransom'
The Champions
- 'The Final Countdown'
Department S - 'The Man Who Got A New Face', 'Who Plays the Dummy?'
The Adventurer - 'Icons are Forever'
Hammer House of Mystery and Suspense - 'Black Carrion'
1968 Vauxhall Victor FD 2000
Registration RXD 996F
Driven by Jeff Randall
Also appeared in:
Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased) - used extensively throughout the series
Department S - 'The Last Train to Redbridge'
1968 Ford Zephyr 6 MkIV
Registration OXE 998F
Driven by Police Officer
Also appeared in:
Department S - 'The Man in the Elegant Room', 'The Last Train to Redbridge', 'The Double Death of Charlie Crippen'

 


  • Seen It All Before? The hallway set was utilised once more to form a part of Crackan Manor. The dining room set was, however, constructed specially for this episode.

  • The 'doomed white Jag' footage which was used in many other series, having originally been shot for The Baron, was incorporated into this episode. The sequence reused shots from two Baron episodes, Something for a Rainy Day and Time to Kill, meaning that footage of no less than five different white Jaguars (four Mk IIs and a Mk I) were seen as Johnny Crackan made his fateful journey!

  • The shot of Wormwood Scrubs Prison was also sourced from The Baron, coincidentally from the same episode that featured the first appearance of the white Jag footage, Something for a Rainy Day.

  • Footage from That's How Murder Snowballs, then in production, was inserted in the episode to form the montage showing Marty checking out the West End theatres.


  • Cock Ups... The first of the bloopers in It's Supposed to be Thicker Than Water concerns Michael Ripper's character, the betting shop punter. We see him talking to Jeff in the 'Joe Coral' betting shop and then he later tips off Randall by telephone, putting a handkerchief across the telephone receiver so as to disguise his voice and thereby protect his identity. The voice that we hear is not in the least bit muffled and, with Michael Ripper having such a distinctive, recognisable voice, it all seems rather hilarious.

  • Not so much a blooper, more a production necessity - by utilising the famous footage of the white Jaguar car being driven off a cliff, the newly shot footage features a lookalike car with the incorrect number plate. However, this did not stop the production team incorporating footage of another white Jag with foreign plates into the sequence! (See The Vehicles, above, for the full Jag count!)

  • The poster for the vaudeville show at The New Hampstead Theatre bills the magician as 'Mesmoro', while the end credits have him down as 'Mesmero'. As the poster also credits Jack Holbert as the compère, when the famous British comedy star spelt his name 'Hulbert', we can perhaps assume that the end credits have it correct.

  • At 33 minutes and 23 seconds, the female dancer who we see auditioning for the stage director at The New Hampstead Theatre whacks the lampshade hanging behind her from the ceiling as she goes through her routine.

  • Finally, poor Mike Pratt was probably wondering where his stunt double Rocky Taylor was at the end of the episode when the police arrive. The officers enter and one goes to pick up Hodder from the floor. He lifts the man up and as he rises, he hits Mike Pratt in the forehead with the back of his cap (at 47 minutes and 8 seconds)! You can see Mike Pratt react and move back from the blow:


  • And Finally... Almost all the ITV regions that transmitted this episode originally placed it midway to late in the run, with the exception of Scottish Television, who inexplicably showed it the week after the introductory episode, My Late Lamented Friend and Partner. This was an odd choice as in It's Supposed to be Thicker Than Water we are told that Jeff is fed up with Marty being around and wishes to do some detective work on his own, to prove that he can still do it. Also, he admits that Marty's spectral help has led to his life being saved on many occasions. Let's face it, it just doesn't work as the second episode!  

Plotline: Scoton Productions / ITC • UK Transmissions by Simon Coward and Alan Hayes
Review by Alan Hayes • Declassified by Alan Hayes
with thanks to Alys Hayes, Vince Cox, John Holburn and Andrew Pixley

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