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Traitor

A diversion from the usual Potter preoccupations and stylistic tics, with a fairly straight telling of a team of journalists encountering drunken former British aristocrat-turned-Russian spy Adrian Harris (John Le Mesurier) in Moscow. The erudite Harris, evidently closely modelled on Kim Philby, has flashbacks to his unhappy childhood, his distant, Arthurian legend-obsessed father, and what is gradually revealed to be an assassination of a fellow defector overseen by Harris. The repulsion felt by the intellectual upper-middle classes to their forebears’ dreary Old Englandism, as a root cause of their embrace of communism, is the main theme here, but tackled in terms of a very personal alienation. Le Mesurier, relishing a role he later described as his best ever for television, gives a great performance as the broken-backed ideologue, a walking personification of Potter’s desire for a patriotism untainted by jingoistic false nostalgia.

Screen-grabbery:
Classic PfT pose Number 38 Checking for bugs Trademark Potter school flashback number 94

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