Home Television Drama Reilly, Ace of Spies

Reilly, Ace of Spies

1 9 8 3 (UK)
1 x 75 minute episode
11 x 60 minute episodes

The true story of a legendary Russian agent working for the British to try to topple the Bolshevik regime before James Bond had sipped his first unstirred Martini.

Reilly, Ace of Spies was the most expensive series yet from Euston Films, at £4.5 million.


Written by Troy Kennedy Martin, it had a fine performance from New Zealand actor Sam Neill, who wore a centre parting and a seductive frown as the cold-hearted killer and irresistible womaniser (in Moscow eight women claimed to be the Mrs Reilly before being rounded up by the Tsar’s police).

The sets of turn-of-the-century Moscow, Paris, and Port Arthur were stunning. One error was spotted: as Sam undressed he displayed a white bikini-marked bottom when Reilly would have worn a swimsuit down to his knees.

Reilly’s death in the series had been guessed – accurately as it turned out.

Izvestia, the Russian newspaper, reported three months later that he had been executed in 1925 by the Soviet Supreme Revolutionary Tribunal.

Sidney Reilly
Sam Neill
Bruce Lockhart
Ian Charleson
Margaret Reilly (nee Thomas)
Jeananne Crowley
Peter Egan
Norman Rodway
Tom Bell
Kenneth Cranham
Basil Zaharov
Leo McKern
Inspector Tsientsin
David Suchet
David Burke