Saturday, 31 August 2013

I Spy (TV Series) - Robert Culp (1965) - Hong Kong Locations

I Spy was a popular American series that ran in the mid to late sixties and although I was aware of it and its stars (Bill Cosby and Robert Culp), it wasn't until a few weeks ago that I found out that a large part of the first series was filmed on location in HK.

For this small, but frankly amazing, piece of information I have a person called AP to thank (he is a frequent commenter and loyal follower of this humble blog). He is also the person who has supplied me with ALL of the screen caps for each of the HK-based episodes, so a very big thank you to AP.

AP has been kind enough to supply me with standard screen caps on an episode-by-episode basis, so I will stick with that format, and also done some rather snazzy merges to create some revealing panoramas of 1965 HK. What makes me smile a bit about this series is that, according to wiki, it was actually banned in the south of the US because it used Cosby as one of the main stars. Many of the scenes we will look at have Bill Cosby running around some fairly remote parts of the NT, and in 1965 someone with black skin would have been an absolute head turner in pretty much all of the New Territories given the significant rural character of the place at the time.

Anyway, a big thanks to AP for sorting this all out for me (and you), I am his conduit and all I am doing is trying to pin down some of the places he has sent to me. So, before we get started with the screencap biz, here is the series' opening titles courtesy of Youtube.


  1. Quick tip for anybody in the USA -- You can catch this episode on Hulu at the following URL:

    I didn't have to pay a cent to watch it, and I'm not a member, but your mileage may vary. I've read that it's possible to watch Hulu from outside the US if you use a VPN, as well, but I've never tried myself.

  2. Whoops, ignore my previous post, pasted the wrong link. This is the right one:

    1. thanks gweilo888 - I have 'stealthy' addon on my firefox browser but unfortunately I have to pay for the version that allows me to connect via a US proxy. No problem, I'm sure there are other methods.

    2. There is a plugin hola at that automatically does it all for you. It detects that you need to be in the US and makes the necessary adjustments until you no longer need to be there. Works for the above link (using Chrome in Ma Wan)

    3. Many thanks for that Anon - will give it a try :-)

    4. Many thanks to Anon, I can confirm that the hola plugin works a treat :-)

  3. Thanks for showing these. I never was a real big fan of I Spy - I got so tired of Robert Culp always getting the girl as Bill Cosby usually looks on - but the locales in the tv show were amazing esp. in that time period. As well as HK being in a number of episodes they also did a bunch in Japan. Very cool stuff for back then.

    1. Hi Brian - thanks for the comment. I must admit that I Spy was never on my radar and I don't really recall it from when I was growing up in the UK during the 70's and 80's. However, I'm glad AP has brought it to my attention because there are some really nice locations around HK to look at.
      With regards to Culp getting the girl, well, I guess it is a product of a very different time in the US (maybe not that different though :-/). A black man in the rural New Territories during the 1960's would have caused a lot of crowds gathering, perhaps more from curiosity though than anything nefarious. We'll see an example in an upcoming post...:-)
      Cheers, Phil

  4. "A number of episodes", you say? Well, I know what I'll be doing with the rest of my evening. ;-)

    In fact, I've already started. Turns out, there's an I Spy fan site at -- some digging there turned up a list of episodes Hong Kong appears in, and some background.

    There are also excerpts from a biography, as well as attempts to identify locations (some right and some wrong) here:

    Notable from what I read:

    * Affair in T'sien Cha was actually the pilot and first episode filmed, although it wasn't shown until late in the first series.

    * Filming for the pilot supposedly took place either in the spring of 1964, or November 1964, depending on where you read. My guess: The pilot was filmed in Spring, the series got the go-ahead despite Cosby's wooden performance, and the remaining Hong Kong episodes were filmed that November.

    * Not surprisingly, all the location footage was shot at once. Each group of nine episodes had six weeks of location shooting, followed by 12 weeks of sound stage shooting. (IMDB suggests this was all shot in Culver City, CA at Dezilu Studios.)

    * Hong Kong seems to appear in most or all of the first nine episodes, which aired from September to November 1965.

    * Filming was at some point interrupted by a typhoon which supposedly shut the town down for a week.

    * Which typhoon is an open guess; a lot of the info seems to be incorrect:

    - One site has it making Cosby miss the birth of his first child, which can't possibly be true. Google suggests she was born on April 8th 1965, and no typhoon caused casualty or damage in Hong Kong that year until July. (His second child wasn't born until after the first series finished, incidentally.)

    - The other site has it interrupting filming of the pilot in November 1964. Again, that doesn't make sense.

    There were five significant typhoons that year: Viola (late May), Ida, Ruby, and Sally, (early August / September), and Dot (mid-October). Viola was too late to be considered Spring. The rest don't gel with a November shooting date. (Well, except possibly for Dot, which is just close enough to affect the start of a shoot that ends the following month).

    - My guess is the clue's in it supposedly shutting Hong Kong down for a week. No typhoon ever shut HK down for a week in my memory, and I doubt they did in the 60s either. But two or more typhoons in close proximity would *effectively* shut HK down for a week.

    Typhoon Ruby ( was a direct hit on September 5th, and Typhoon Sally missed by only 30-50 miles just five days later. (And a week after that, Typhoon Tilda was a near-miss too, although relatively much weaker.)

    So my guess -- they filmed nine episodes around September 1964, and the pilot (which was the last of the group to air) earlier that year.

    I'll be watching them as I get time. Phil, let me know if you'd like screenshots of any of the HK scenes! (You've got my email from my Mody Road pictures.)

    1. wow - thanks gweilo888!! A great site, if a little off with some of the locations (okay, some of them way off), but at least we can set the record straight with some of them here :-)

      Once again you've impressed me with your fact seeking abilities. It's hard to say from looking at the screen shots what time of year it could have been. Spring time in HK can be sunny, but also more misty and wet and certainly no typhoons start showing up (usually) until May time at the earliest. I guess these 'facts' are like anything - made up by someone who either wanted to add
      a bit of flavour to the history or just plain mistaken.

      Many thanks for the offer. some of the street shots will elude me for a while - one of the hardest things to pinpoint - as you know - are the small market streets with very few clues. AP has sent me a few but I have yet to find anything meaningful to go on and I will stick them up on my help page at a later date. However, if you have some that I haven't covered nor put up on the help page, then please send along.


    2. When I get a moment, I'll get you some screenshots from some of the other episodes. :-)

      Just got done watching the first episode. The program is, again, pretty appalling (and incredibly racist), but the scene with Robert Culp (or rather, his stunt double) clambering on the outside of the Peninsula is impressive. And you see a fair bit of the area around Tsim Sha Tsui.

      Some scenes shot, I'm guessing, from Signal Hill or thereabouts towards Kowloon Station, and also some scenes around what I'm guessing became Harbour City and The Gateway.

      I also spotted what looked to be reclamation to extend the apron at Kai Tak (in a nice panning shot that tracks down from Kai Tak in the distance to Tsim Sha Tsui in the foreground -- man, the air was clear back then!), and more reclamation that seemed to be somewhere on the Tsim Sha Tsui waterfront. (Or their scenes from supposedly within the Peninsula were shot elsewhere, not sure.)

      But yeah, some pretty cool old shots in the first episode.

    3. I have at least 3 more episodes in the pipeline at the current time, so there's no rush just yet. Some great things to be seen though including a very young 7 little fortunes troupe (with young Jackie and Sammo to boot).