It Takes a Thief (1968 TV series)
It Takes a Thief is an American action-adventure television series that aired on ABC for three seasons between 1968 and 1970. It stars Robert Wagner in his television debut as sophisticated thief Alexander Mundy, who works for the U.S. government in return for his release from prison. For most of the series, Malachi Throne played Noah Bain, Mundy's boss.
|It Takes a Thief|
Fred Astaire and Robert Wagner, 1969
|Created by||Roland Kibbee|
|Theme music composer||Dave Grusin|
|Country of origin||United States|
|No. of seasons||3|
|No. of episodes||66 (list of episodes)|
|Executive producer(s)||Jack Arnold|
|Producer(s)||Gene L. Coon|
Glen A. Larson
|Running time||60 minutes |
|Original release||January 9, 1968 –|
March 24, 1970
It was among the last of the series in the 1960s spy television genre, although Mission: Impossible continued for several more years. It Takes a Thief was inspired by, though not based upon, the 1955 motion picture To Catch a Thief, directed by Alfred Hitchcock; both of their titles stem from the English proverb "Set a thief to catch a thief" (or as it is more often phrased, "It takes a thief to catch a thief").
It Takes a Thief, which was created by television writer Roland Kibbee, featured the adventures of cat burglar, pickpocket, and thief Alexander Mundy, who steals to finance his life as a polished playboy and sophisticate. He is in prison when the U.S. government's SIA (the fictional Secret Intelligence Agency) proposes a deal to Mundy: steal for the government in exchange for his freedom. Mundy is puzzled and asks, "Let me get this straight. You want me to steal?" In the main opening titles, his new SIA boss, Noah Bain, uses the catch phrase, "Oh, look, Al, I'm not asking you to spy. I'm just asking you to steal." In pre-production, the title for a while was Once a Crook.
The series opened with its pilot episode, a ninety-minute (with commercials) special premiere titled "A Thief is a Thief is a Thief", written by Kibbee and directed by Leslie Stevens. When the series was released in syndication in the 1970s, the pilot episode was withheld from the package and was expanded into a 99-minute feature film for overseas release; this was eventually released in a separate domestic syndication package, under the title Magnificent Thief. The pilot feature film version was released on home video in the 1990s.
In the series' third season, Throne was replaced by Edward Binns as Mundy's SIA boss, Wallie Powers. As Throne explained: "They had this idea of shooting the whole season in Italy, but they wanted me to stay behind and give Wagner’s character...orders over the phone. I told them if I didn't go I'd quit, and I did. The show didn't last another half a season." Throne's version of events was incorrect, as the third season was not shortened. In the end, portions of season three were filmed in Europe and Binns, Throne's replacement, filmed some scenes there.
Also during the third season, Fred Astaire played Alistair Mundy, Alexander's father, in five episodes. Alistair is also a master gentleman-thief, who says bemusedly, at the start of each episode in which he appears, "I've heard of stealing from the government, but for the government?" Alistair was the lead character in most episodes in which he appeared, rather than Wagner's character of Alexander, who was relegated to supporting or even cameo roles in these episodes. This is somewhat reminiscent of the way the 1950s TV series Maverick would introduce a relative of the previously established main character, and then alternate the two characters the leading series role from week to week.
The following is drawn from Dean Brierly's writings in Cinema Retro magazine on Friday, July 18, 2008:
For all Wagner's abilities, however, It Takes a Thief was its most effective when Throne made his powerful presence as Noah Bain manifest. Wagner's stage-trained primary castmate, whose trademarks included a deep distinctive voice, was a working actor in many "cult" television productions during the 1960s and 1970s. His burly physique and stolid slab-like face enabled Throne to excel as gruff authority figures, and his keen intelligence and surprisingly wide emotional range added fascinating layers to his performances. The potent onscreen chemistry he and Wagner displayed gave a real edge to their characters' adversarial relationship. Bain, whom Magnificent Thief had shown to be the police detective who had brought about Mundy's arrest and imprisonment, was hard-nosed, with a ruthless streak, and he frequently threatened to return Mundy to prison if the latter stepped out of line. Yet he also maintained a healthy respect for Mundy's criminal talents, as well as a grudging affection for the master criminal himself.
Susan Saint James appeared in five episodes. Charlene Holt appeared in three episodes. Other guest stars included prominent veteran Hollywood movie stars such as Bette Davis, Joseph Cotten, Hermione Gingold, Paul Henreid, Fernando Lamas, and Ida Lupino.
On November 15, 2011, Entertainment One released It Takes a Thief: The Complete Series on DVD in Region 1. The 18-disc set features all 66 episodes of the series, several bonus features, an interview with Robert Wagner, and a special feature-length cut of the pilot episode. The DVD set was promoted in commercials broadcast on Antenna TV, which featured Wagner publicizing the DVD set. Entertainment One would later release the complete first season as a standalone DVD set on October 2, 2012; this set also had the feature-length pilot episode.
In Region 2, March 2017 saw the complete series released under its German title Ihr Auftritt Al Mundy, with both German and English soundtracks included.
In 2013, Universal Pictures announced they were developing a film version of the series with John Davis producing through Davis Entertainment, along with Joseph Singer. Derek Dauchy would supervise the project for Davis and Scott Bernstein for Universal. Greg Russo would write the script. There have been no developments since that time.
- It Takes a Thief on IMDb [unreliable source?]
- Weiner, Ed; Editors of TV Guide (1992). The TV Guide TV Book: 40 Years of the All-Time Greatest Television Facts, Fads, Hits, and History. New York: Harper Collins. p. 174. ISBN 0-06-096914-8.CS1 maint: Extra text: authors list (link)
- "It Takes A Thief Now Playing On A Computer Near You". Cinemaretro.com. Retrieved 2014-03-06.
- "It Takes a Thief DVD news: Date Change for It Takes a Thief - The Complete Series". TVShowsOnDVD.com. Archived from the original on 2013-11-04. Retrieved 2014-03-06.
- "It Takes a Thief: The Complete First Season". Madman.com.au. Retrieved 2014-03-06.
- "It Takes a Thief: The Complete Second Season". Madman.com.au. Retrieved 2014-03-06.
- "It Takes a Thief: The Complete Third Season". Madman.com.au. Retrieved 2014-03-06.
- "Program Schedule" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 3 March 2016. Retrieved 6 November 2011.
- Universal Turning 1970s Series 'It Takes a Thief' into Film (EXCLUSIVE)