Sam Neill as Sidney Reilly, Russian-born adventurer and British secret agent
Russia, Spring 1910
Series: Reilly: Ace of Spies
Episode: “Dreadnoughts and Crosses” (Episode 5)
Air Date: September 28, 1983
Director: Jim Goddard
Costume Designer: Elizabeth Waller
St. Petersburg is a hotbed of intrigue in the years leading up to World War I and the Russian Revolution. The English and the Germans are among those vying for inevitably valuable warship contracts from the Russian Ministry of Marine.
Ever the shrewd opportunist, Sidney Reilly finds himself in the right place at the right time and decides to forego the usual channels of submitting battleship plans. Instead, he slyly gambles against a brutish shipping executive who finds himself indebted to Reilly, thus handing a controlling stake in his firm to our hero. At the same time, Reilly has busied himself in a romance with the Minister of Marine’s lovely wife Nadia (Celia Gregory).
The events of the spring culminate in a pig hunting trip where Reilly joins the Minister, Nadia, and his cheeky pal Sasha Gramaticoff for an afternoon of angry swine and loaded revolvers.
What’d He Wear?
For the hunting expedition, Reilly wears a tan flannel shooting jacket, similar to a contemporary military tunic, that would keep him warm in the chilly St. Petersburg spring climate while allowing him a relatively wide range of movement for the demands of the sport.
Reilly’s hunting jacket closes with five brown leather cluster buttons down the front and an unattached belt that fits around his waist. The edge-swelled belt buckles in the front – between the lowest two buttons – and is held to his waist through two loops, one of each side of his waistline.
The jacket has four large patch pockets – two on the chest, two on the hips below the belt – that close with a small brown leather button through the flap.
In addition to the buttons, Reilly’s jacket is accented by plenty of brown leather trim. The shirt-style collar is faced with brown leather, and the cuffs of each sleeve are finished with matching brown leather binding. Above the 2 small leather buttons on each cuff is a line of stitching around the sleeve. The jacket also has brown suede elbow patches.
Not much is seen of the tan cavalry twill trousers that Reilly wears tucked into his boots, but they are possibly – and very likely – a pair of hunting breeches. The closed jacket makes other details difficult to determine, but they certainly have side pockets where Reilly tucks his hands.
Reilly’s footwear is simple and practical for the purpose – a pair of brown leather boots with knee-high shafts. When he bends down to help Nadia, his olive-colored legwarmers are spotted poking out from the top of his boots.
He also wears a pair of dark brown leather gloves.
Reilly’s wide-brimmed fedora is a very dark brown with a brown triple-pleated grosgrain ribbon and a large white feather poking out from the left side.
Reilly never takes off his hunting jacket during the scene, so it’s anyone’s guess how he’s layering underneath. The only thing visible is a brown paisley silk scarf tied around his neck.
As one would expect, Reilly has a classy approach to hunting attire.
- Tan flannel shooting jacket with brown leather shirt-style collar, belted waist, 5 leather buttons, 4 patch pockets with button-down flaps, 2-button cuffs with brown leather edges, and single rear vent
- Brown paisley silk scarf
- Tan cavalry twill hunting breeches with side pockets
- Tall brown leather boots
- Olive legwarmers
- Brown leather gloves
- Dark brown felt fedora with brown triple-pleated grosgrain ribbon and white feather
Count Massino, the prickly Minister of Marine whose wife has fallen under Reilly’s spell, provides the revolvers for the hunt. “Pistols? Against wild pig?” asks a shocked Sasha. “It appeals to my sense of fair play,” responds Massino, despite the fact that he’d later be aiming his own rifle at Reilly.
In addition to the Chamelot-Delvigne MAS 1873 that Massino arms himself with, Reilly’s pal Sasha takes a blued Webley .455 service revolver and Nadia takes a nickel Colt New Service revolver that has been interestingly modified with a semi-shrouded ejector rod to give it the appearance of the older Colt Single Action Army.
Reilly chooses Massino’s blued Colt Model 1878 Double Action revolver for the hunt.
Colt’s Model 1878 Double Action “Frontier” revolver was considered to be an improvement over the smaller-framed Model 1877, which included smaller-caliber models like the .38 Lightning and .41 Thunderer and was the preferred weapon of legendary Western gunfighters like “Doc” Holliday, John Wesley Hardin, and Billy the Kid.
Double-action revolvers had been in various experimental states since Colt’s patent ran out in 1857. Samuel Colt himself had previously considered the design unreliable, but the advances made in those two decades turned Colt’s attention back to a double-action design. The Model 1877 design was mostly borrowed from the Single Action Army, and the design influence still showed when the larger-framed Model 1878 was introduced the next year from a design by William Mason and Charles Brinckerhoff Richards.
The Model 1878, also known as the “Frontier”, was a marked improvement over the less reliable Model 1877 and its larger frame and more robust construction allowed it to fire more powerful rounds like the venerable .45 Long Colt and .44-40 Winchester Centerfire. Models were even available for large British rounds like .455 Webley and .476 Eley. Like the smaller Model 1877, it could also carry smaller rounds like the .38 Long Colt and .41 Long Colt; the smallest round available for the Model 1878 was the .32-20, which was developed for Winchester lever-action rifles in 1882 and made famous by Robert Johnson’s 1936 Delta blues song “32-20 Blues”.
One frustrating aspect of the scene finds all four hunters approaching the woods. Count Massino had already told his three companions that he would give a signal for “the safety catches to be taken off the weapons”; indeed, before entering, he calls out “Safety catches off!” and we see each hunter make an adjustment to his or her weapon with a sound resembling a hammer being pulled back. Of course, revolvers do not have any external safety mechanism – especially these older models.
Do Yourself a Favor and…
Buy the series. This particular scene is from “Dreadnoughts and Crosses”, the fifth episode.