Nostalgia corner: The Zoo Gang (1974)

Sir John Mills and other old people fight crime in France

The Zoo Gang

The gods alone know how I missed this one when I was doing my recap of ITC’s 1970s shows, but I did, so let’s rectify that mistake ASAP.

A close inspection of ITC’s early 1970s shows, including The Persuaders!, The Protectors and The Adventurer will reveal a very subtle trend: a move away from casting bright young unknowns who might become stars to casting stars who were – trying not to be harsh – perhaps very slightly over the hill. Roger Moore obviously still had a career as James Bond ahead of him, but he’d already been The Saint and Ivanhoe, so who knew if there was a future for him in 1971. Ditto Tony Curtis, Robert Vaughn and Gene Barry who had been big… once.

The Zoo Gang married that trend with ITC’s new dedication to overseas filming, casting Brian Keith (The Westerner, The Parent Trap, Nevada Smith, Family Affair and eventually Hardcastle & McCormick), Barry Morse (The Fugitive, The Adventurer and afterwards Space: 1999), Lilli Palmer (an award-winning German actress) and Sir John Mills as a group of World War 2 resistance members who reunite 30 years later to wreak vengeance on the compatriot who betrayed them to the Gestapo during the War. Their job done, the elderly group decide to stay together to use their skills to scam con artists and criminals out of their money so as to build a hospital in memory of Palmer’s deceased husband.

Based on a book by Paul Gallico and set on the French Riviera in Nice, the show ran for six episodes and took its name from the fact that ‘the Zoo Gang’ all had animal codenames: the Elephant, the Tiger, The Leopard and The Fox. And while the scripts were nothing special, it did have a great title sequence – that’s rather a lot like The Persuaders!‘s in style – and, in a first for ITC, a theme tune by Paul and Linda McCartney.

Here’s the title sequence and if that’s not enough for you, the entire first episode is after the jump. Yes, you can get it on DVD, you lucky people. No, you can’t get Barry Morse’s hat – why would you want to?


  • Rob Buckley

    I’m Rob Buckley, a journalist who writes for UK media magazines that most people have never heard of although you might have heard me on the podcast Lockdown Land or Radio 5 Live’s Saturday Edition or Afternoon Edition. I’ve edited Dreamwatch, Sprocket and Cambridge Film Festival Daily; been technical editor for TV producers magazine Televisual; reviewed films for the short-lived newspaper Cambridge Insider; written features for the even shorter-lived newspaper Soho Independent; and was regularly sarcastic about television on the blink-and-you-missed-it “web site for urban hedonists” The Tribe. Since going freelance, I've contributed to the likes of Broadcast, Total Content + Media, Action TV, Off The Telly, Action Network, TV Scoop and The Custard TV.

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