SGAG Logo

IT TAKES A THIEF

Mundy_Alexander2 it_takes_a_thief_mv_mt Mundy_Alexander1 Mundy_Alexander3
 
Full Name: Alexander Mundy
Series Name: It Takes A Thief
Nationality: American
Organization: SIA
Occupation Agent

Creator: Roland Kibbee
Time Span: 1968 - 1970

ABOUT THE SERIES

       Alexander Mundy is a thief.
       To call him just a thief, though, is like calling Michaelangelo a good artist. Just as the latter was a genius in several different disciplines, so too is Mundy a maestro at various forms of larceny. He has hands that can take a bracelet off the most delicate wrist, ears that can hear silent tumblers fall into place, eyes that spot all the weak spots while casing a target, a brain that can change a scheme in mid play. He also has the audacity to use them all whenever and however he chooses and he has chosen enough times to keep in luxury for many years. At least he did before the Fall.
       Mundy comes about his larcinous nature 'honestly'. He was taught by his father, a man described by Mundy as 'the greatest thief who ever was' and there is a lot more than just filial pride. He was good enough that most of the people who fell prey to his skills never knew who had hit them, they just knew very valuable trinkets and wall decorations were no longer where they once were and there was no clue left behind. He was so incredibly good that the nickname of 'the Panther' was pinned on his exploits to be able to give the semblance of an identity.
       The profits of this lucrative albeit illegal lifestyle was enough to afford the very best of anything and that extended to the finest schools in Europe for his son. The young Mundy was smart enough to recognize the opportunities presenting themselves and at these schools he studied hard and learned a great deal - usually absorbing a wide assortment of knowledge he was planning to use in his own life of crime.
       When the official educations came to an end, Mundy went out into the world to make his own way. There was no animosity between the two - they just knew that each man was a loner. Just as the Panther hunted by himself, so did the younger Mundy go off for his own catches. And they were many and they were profitable and Alexander Mundy lived a life and earned a reputation that made his father proud and himself very content. At least until the Fall.
       As the series begins, Mundy is in his late 30's. He is described as "extremely handsome with a planed, regular featured face, light brown hair and cool blue eyes that seemed to question everything in sight." In another passage he is said to be "a leashed dynamo". He is very much a ladies man and good enough at it that the women from his past remember him with smiles and sighs. He goes the same places the jetsetters haunt not only because he enjoys that way of life but also because that is where the treasures are.
       At least he did until the Fall. This term devised just for this refers to the time when two New York City detectives, tired of the way Mundy was getting away each time, came up with a sting operation to trap the daring thief. While some say that they framed him, Mundy himself talked about how Noah Bain and his younger protege Wally Powers has played him beautifully and when he walked into the snare, he was truly trapped. His sentence was 1-10 years at San Jubal prison.
       Mundy was not about to stay behind bars for the full sentence. He was cultivating the guards and other visitors and coming up with his own plan for release. The first was actually underway when his former nemesis, Noah Bain, came to call.
       That middle-aged slightly plump cop had traded in his badge for a cloak and a dagger with the premiere American intelligence organization, the SIA. The man had watched several different missions go bad because the agents under his control, good and trained as they were at spycraft, often needed other skill sets. They might learn the basics of second-story work but they were not acrobats. They could study safes and locks but they did not have years of experience with them. Bain realized that sometimes what was needed was not a spy but a thief. He took his thoughts to his superiors and told them about an excellent thief that might be open to a deal.
       The deal, or extortion, depending on one's viewpoint, was simple. In exchange for a conditional parole into the custody of Bain, Mundy would work for them. In Bain's words, "Oh, look, Al. I'm not asking you to spy. I'm asking you to steal."

BOOKS

Number of Books:3
First Appearance:1969
Last Appearance:1970

       As was very common in the 60s and 70s, if a television show looked at all like it might be successful, writers were hired to pen books at tie-ins to the show, ready to hit the shelves to further marketing. It Take A Thief was no exception.
       The author, Gil Brewer, should be congratulated for doing two things in his three-book series. He was able to create interesting adventures worth reading and enjoying and he was able to capture the fun of the television series. The books flow quickly and easily with the same panache as the Wagner programs and are a fun read. The books suffer, as most tie-ins do, in that he could take no liberties with the intellectual property but he could still make an enjoyable tale and for the most part, he did.


1 The Devil In Davos The Devil In Davos
Written by Gil Brewer
Copyright: 1969

Information concerning a U.S. operation behind the Iron Curtain has been put onto microfilm and is set to be smuggled to the Eastern Bloc out of a resort in Switzerland unless Al can find the culprits and retrieve the dot.

2 Mediterranean Caper Mediterranean Caper
Written by Gil Brewer
Copyright: 1969

When a Russian scientist working on their ABM program is killed trying to defect, his daughter is captured pending return to the USSR. It is Mundy's job to get her away from her captors as her photographic memory has captured all his research.

3 Appointment In Cairo Appointment In Cairo
Written by Gil Brewer
Copyright: 1970

An ancient Egyptian formula promises a deadly virus to the country that owns it and the U.S., USSR, and Red China are all after it. Hidden in a statuette in a museum, it is the task of Al to break in, find the right statuette, and get the formula out. To help, he has the assistance of his retired father.

MOVIES

Number of Movies:1
First Appearance:1968
Last Appearance:1968

       Having just made the pilot episode for a new series on ABC, the producers took the 90-minute (with commercials), put back in previously cut footage to extend the complete package to around 98 minutes, and released it for the international market. Considering that the film had handsome Robert Wagner and beautiful Senta Berger in it, they figured it would be a good money-making move. Throw in some cameos by other American television stars like Raymond Burr, Doug McClure, and James Drury and it seemed a safe bet.


1 Magnificent Thief Magnificent Thief
Also known as A Thief Is A Thief Is A Thief
Director: Leslie Stevens
Writers: Roland Kibbee, Leslie Stevens
Actors: Robert Wagner as Alexander Mundy, Malachi Throne as Noah Bain, Senta Berger as Claire Vickers
Released: 1968

Al Mundy is paroled from San Jubal prison to help the SIA recover documents that at least one agent has already died trying to steal.

TELEVISION


Number of Episodes:66
First Appearance:1968
Last Appearance:1970
Network:ABC

REGULAR CAST
Robert WagnerAl Mundy [ 1-3 ]
Malachi ThroneNoah Bain [ 1-2 ]
Edward BinnsWally Powers [ 3 ]

       Start with the idea that it takes a thief to catch a thief, best used a decade earlier in the terrific Moroccan caper starring Cary Grant, add in a young, handsome actor with the same flair as the dashing Grant, and throw in many exotic international locations. You end up with a show that was fairly popular and still retains a cult following.
       In 1968 as a January replacement, ABC began showing the new spy drama It Takes A Thief which brought a veteran film actor to the small screen. Robert Wagner, born in 1930 in Detroit, had already been a successful movie actor since the early 50's when he played the title role in Prince Valiant. Now at 38 but still possessing incredibly good looks, he was tasked with playing a Cary Grant-style role.
       The premise was simple. The world's best cat burglar, sought by many police forces around the world, Alexander Mundy was beyond capture. He was simply too good. Then he was framed by the American intelligence agency, the SIA, and one of its department heads, Noah Bain. To get out of prison, Mundy had to agree to work for the SIA in those instances where a thief was more qualified than a normal agent.
       For the first year, Mundy was under 'house arrest' and could leave only when approved by Bain. That meant only when there was an assignment. In the next year, apparently having earned more trust, Mundy was given considerable more freedom of movement and Bain was out of the picture. His new semi-handler, temporarily at least, was Wally Powers but he was not around in that many missions. In the third and final season, the orders came from the strange 'Mr. Jack' who was obviously the head of the entire SIA.
       It was probably a lack of cohesiveness to the plots that drove the ratings down during the last season and killed the series. Nevertheless, the shows were very enjoyable and still hold their own when viewed 30+ years later.
       Altogether, there were 66 episodes of It Takes A Thief running from January, 1968 to March, 1970.
       Suave, sophisticated, good looking, intelligent, and highly adventurous. Those were the main points to describe Alexander Mundy. What more did a thief-cum-spy need to succeed.
       How about Fred Astaire? In the last two seasons, the role of Alistair Mundy, father and mentor to Al Mundy was played in 4 extremely entertaining episodes by that epitome of class. If you get a chance to watch them, do so.

{{items}}

MY COMMENTS

       I was a huge fan of the television series. Al Mundy was so very cool with the ladies and with the stealing, so smooth with the schmoozing, and had the greatest hair. When they brought in the incomparable Fred Astaire to play his father on, regrettably only, four episodes, the chemistry was awesome. As a teenage boy, I loved it.
       The plots were standard television for the time. Bad guys always had signs pointing them out. There were few good guys in the picture except for Mundy. The women were all drop-dead gorgeous and usually determined to not fall victim to his charm but doing so anyways. I enjoyed them a great deal. Five decades later, I watch them again and recognize their shortcomings and still do not care. Al Mundy was awesome. And he had the greatest crooked grin that told the world, watch out!
       Oh, to be Al Mundy!

       Don't read the books if you are expected incredible spycraft, but that really goes without saying. Read the books for just the fun of it. And watch the episodes again if nothing else but to watch Robert Wagner, the epitome of cool, play Al Mundy, the epitome of cool. And do some spying-stealing along the way.

GRADE

My Grade: C+

YOUR OPINIONS

Be the first to leave your own comments about this series.

Tell us what you think of the series. Give your grade and comments.

Your Grade:
Your Comments:

To give your opinion, you must be logged in.

Sign In

Register