The Sweeney ‘Ringer’ (1975) – On Set With Ian Hendry + John Thaw + Dennis Waterman
Picture above: Ian Hendry on set with John Thaw – peering through the camera, preparing for the fight scene.
For those who enjoy TV trivia, Ian Hendry appeared in the first episode (‘Ringer’) of the first series of The Sweeney – playing the part of Dave Brooker. In fact, he is the very first person to appear on screen in the series!
The Sweeney’s main characters were Detective Inspector John “Jack” Regan (played by John Thaw) and Detective Sergeant George Carter (played by Dennis Waterman). Two other notable members of the cast for this episode were Brian Blessed and Alan Lake – who was the husband of Diana Dors at the time.
The story behind the making of this episode and the characters involved, is well told by Gabriel Hershman in his biography on Ian.
The Sweeney is a 1970s British television police drama focusing on two members of the Flying Squad, a branch of the Metropolitan Police specialising in tackling armed robbery and violent crime in London. The programme’s title derives from Sweeney Todd, which is Cockney rhyming slang for “Flying Squad”.
The programme was shot entirely on 16mm film by Thames Television’s film division, Euston Films. It originally aired on ITV between 2 January 1975 and 28 December 1978 in the 21:00–22:00 weekday (usually Monday) slot with repeated showings at the same time until the early 1980s. It starred John Thaw as Detective Inspector Jack Regan, and Dennis Waterman as his partner Detective Sergeant George Carter. Such was its popularity in the UK that it spawned two theatrically released feature film spin-offs, Sweeney! and Sweeney 2.
The series aired during a dark period for the real-life Flying Squad, which in the late 1970s had been publicly censured for being involved in bribery, police corruption and excessively close links with the criminal fraternity. Unlike the unwavering high standards seen in the fictional Sweeney, the actual commander of the Flying Squad, Detective Chief Superintendent Kenneth Drury was convicted of five counts of corruption and jailed for eight years on 7 July 1977. An internal investigation, called Operation Countryman, was then launched to stamp out more corruption. A further 12 officers were convicted and many others resigned.
The series was created by writer Ian Kennedy Martin, brother of the better-known Troy Kennedy Martin who contributed several episodes and wrote the second film. It was born from a one-off drama, entitled Regan, which Ian Kennedy Martin wrote for Thames Television’s Armchair Cinema series of standalone films in 1974. The part of Regan was specifically written for Thaw, by a friend of Kennedy Martin with whom he had worked on Redcap.
From the very beginning, the show was seen as having series potential. After Regan scored highly in the ratings, work began on the development of the series proper.
Plot – ‘Ringer’
After Regan’s car is stolen with invaluable surveillance photos from a stakeout, the thief gives a heads-up to Sweeney’s target.
Opening Scene – ‘Ringer’
Video above: Ian Hendry – Opening Scene The Sweeney “Ringer’
Picture: John Thaw (as Det. Insp. Jack Regan ) and Dennis Waterman (as Det. Sgt. George Carter)
The stills below are some great candid picture of Ian Hendry on the set of The Sweeney:
Cast And Crew
Editor, Official Website of Ian Hendry
A detailed account of the life and work of Ian Hendry in the new biography: