1 9 7 1 – 1 9 7 2 (Australia)
42 x 60 minute episodes
Spyforce was a wartime espionage adventure series produced in Australia by the Nine Network as a co-production with Paramount Pictures.
The series concerned a special group of operatives working for Australian Intelligence during World War II and operating from a top-secret headquarters in Sydney.
Jack Thompson (in his first lead role) played the part of Erskine, a boozing, womanising Australian planter living in New Guinea. Forced to flee by the advancing Japanese, he resented the fact that the Army were not able to stop the enemy before they got to his plantation.
Peter Sumner was Gunther Haber, a cultured German who had been interned in Australia at the start of the war. Like Erskine, Haber also owned a plantation which he was forced to abandon ahead of the Japanese.
Redmond Philips portrayed the ruthless and calculating Colonel Cato (pictured at right), the head of a special intelligence unit responsible only to the Prime Minister. His secretary was Lieutenant French (Katy Wild).
Both Erskine and Haber agreed to work for the Army reluctantly, being coerced by Colonel Cato because of their knowledge of the Pacific Islands. To ensure their co-operation, Cato fabricated damning evidence blaming them for an island massacre.
Spyforce sold well overseas, especially in Britain, America and South-East Asia. In Yugoslavia, it was the second most popular show, and Katy Wild became the pin-up girl of male viewers. Even Germany and Japan bought the series – each buying only the episodes they weren’t in!
The Japanese army in Spyforce was made up of mainly Asian students from universities in Sydney – Ironically, almost every Asian nationality except Japan was actually represented in their ranks.
Early in the production, the cast and crew travelled to Singapore, Macao, Thailand, Hong Kong and other Asian countries for a five-week location shoot, to obtain background filming that would be worked into episodes later.
One scene was even filmed at the infamous Changi prison, where, after several hours of negotiation, the Governor was persuaded to raise the Japanese flag for the first time since the war.
Most of the series was then subsequently filmed in bushland at Narrabeen (a northern suburb of Sydney) and at Deep Creek, off Sydney’s Wakehurst Parkway, which doubled for the jungles of New Guinea – although at times it looked patently like Australian bush, with gum trees clearly visible in the background.