Saturday, 22 September 2012


The Fantastic 'Robinson' Spy Case

 Here's Ken with a review of the Rare & Wonderful 'Robinson' Spy Case.
 Looking at pictures of the Italian Robinson spy attache case on eBay made me wonder a lot about two things:  The first was exactly what most of the items in the set (the two black objects, the red box, the silver rod, the clear plastic thingy) were supposed to be.  My best guess was that one of the black plastic items probably combined with the silver rod to make a shoulder stock for the little pistol.  The second mystery was why the makers of this case, and apparently no others, thought that a secret agent needed a first aid kit (the little blue box with the red cross).   When I finally got my hands on the case and opened the box, I saw that it contained, not bandages and ointment, but what looked like a bar of clear facial soap.  And when I looked over the illustrated instruction sheet, the Italian word for "narcotic" was close enough to English for me to figure out that that was what the "soap"was intended to be;  a little drawing made clear that one was supposed use the syringe-like clear plastic device to extract a small pellet from the bar, then insert it into the muzzle of the pistol so that it could be fired at ones adversaries.  I wasn't sure how to take this revelation.   On the one hand,  it was no doubt laudable for the manufacturer to come up with a non-lethal weapon for the spy that children were supposed to be imitating, on the other hand, they would be running around pretending to shoot people full of drugs--not nearly as bad as killing them, certainly, but still a bit worrisome.  

     A quick look at the diagrams on the next page answered my other mystery.  The silver rod screwed into the red box, one of the two black antennas was then attached to it, and if you happened to have a 4.5 volt battery (unknown in the US), the assembly would spin around: the box was some sort of communication device.  The motor that turned the silver rod also rotated the black disk on the front of the box, revealing one picture at a time on a colour transparency disk, two more of which were stored in a pocket inside the lid of the case, which also held a passport, two kinds paper money,  and coins.

    In addition to the instructions, there was an illustrated booklet titled Robinson's Story, also in Italian.  Most of pictures seemed to depict typical scenes of espionage; only the one on the cover really drew my attention:  a man and woman holding a young boy between them.  This seemed to indicate to me that Robinson rather oddly and unadvisedly took his wife and son with him on his spy adventures.   There was also a brochure for other Robinson spy toys available from the manufacturer Uniwerk.  In addition to the "Valigetta Robinson" that I had, they had also offered a smaller set with just the pistol and the dope, a "Libroradio Robinson" or book transmitter that I would really have liked to have seen a better picture of, a Geiger counter, and a remote-controlled boat.
    About a year later, when I figured out where I had stashed the attache case and determined to give its contents a second going-over, a few more details stood out.  Unlike most passports in these sets, this one was filled out for you.  You were posing as a European ambassador, or, if you decided to use a handy insert to change your identity, you were a financial director named John G. Smith born in Montreal and living in the US.  And in either case, your identifying feature was a bullet wound in the leg, cited in four different languages.  Taking a closer look at the picture disks, I discovered that frame by frame they related a sequence of events:  one depicted a car chase ending in a gun battle, another showed a helicopter pursuing and firing at a boat.  The back of the ad brochure, which before I had missed completely, revealed that Uniwerk also sold games: one had something to do with bicycle racing, the other was "Il Gioco Di Robinson," which from the illustration and what I could make out of the text was supposed to be really darn exciting.
    The last and most important step of this re visitation was to put the text of that booklet into the Google translator and learn the details of Robinson's Story.  And one heck of a story it is.  For one thing, the little boy in that picture is Robinson himself, born Joseph Leonard M. in Bolivia and living in countries all over the world as his father followed work as an engineer, finally settling for good in Boston, Mass, where Joseph entered Harvard at the age of seventeen and went on to graduate with honours with degrees in science, medicine, chemistry, and law.  He then became a doctor and opened his own centre for research.  Meanwhile, his father became one of the most celebrated and successful engineers in the world, but after he did some work at a secret government facility in Nevada, foreign agents pursued him and attempted to gain information from him using bribes, threats, and blackmail.   When he nobly refused to betray his adopted country and his own ideals, he was ambushed at the port in Boston and mortally wounded.  He managed to escape his pursuers and was taken by a passing motorist to the nearest hospital where, as fate would have it, his son Joseph was working in the emergency room.   Unable to save his father's life, he underwent a spiritual crisis, gave up the practise of medicine, and became a trainee at the intelligence service Uniwerk, easily passing all the exams and becoming a secret agent dedicated to peace in the world, aiding "those countries that were struggling in intricate situations against atrocious injustice and extortion."   The image of his dying father in his memory made him resolve never to kill;  he would help the weak but would never resort to extreme violence.  And Joseph L.M. would from now on have no name other than ROBINSON: "a name that shakes the vile and violent, a name that  victims of abuse can call on anywhere."

      To aid in his mission, Robinson used his great knowledge to create several useful inventions.   The first was a transmitter concealed in an encyclopedia, which he used to communicate with Uniwerk headquarters as well as agents in the field, equipped with small receivers concealed in harmless-looking cigarette packages.  The second was the RADARSONAR,  which allowed "visual and acoustic soundings of large areas, even in adverse weather conditions."  The third and most important was a gun that fired a pellet made from a special plastic narcotic developed by his research facility, which, when it entered the body, rendered a person instantly unconscious.   Everyone came to know that "Robinson leaves his mark, but does not kill."

UPDATE:   I found an Italian site that had some information about the Robinson toys, including some pictures I have attached.
In commenting on the Robinson Libroradio, the writer says that the book transmitter could be used to communicate with two receivers concealed in packs of cigarettes, but what you didn't know until you actual got the toy was that the communication involved wires and that it was only a matter of flashing lights or beeps...i.e. Morse code.  (There are also some other spy type guns on this page.)

Looking at the better pictures, I have to say this particular spy toy, its functional limitations notwithstanding, is incredicool in my opinion and a must have.  I found some evidence that a couple got sold on the UK eBay a while back, but nothing current.


  1. That is brilliant!Love the Ciggarette, Imagine that being in a kids toy today, A great addition to any spy toy collection.