Two years after the original "Danger Man" series concluded, it was revamped and retconned. The series returned in a longer format. (1 hour/episode instead of 30 minutes). John Drake was now...
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Nyree Dawn Porter,
Two years after the original "Danger Man" series concluded, it was revamped and retconned. The series returned in a longer format. (1 hour/episode instead of 30 minutes). John Drake was now an agent for MI9, getting exotic assignments exclusively from Her Majesty's Secret Service as an agent of M9. This version of the series introduced several Bond-like gadgets, including a tape-recording shaver, as well as a lighter with a camera hidden inside. Written by
Marg Baskin <email@example.com>
The first episode broadcast in the United States ("Battle of the Cameras") actually features two opening credit sequences. The first is a brief, 10-second introduction featuring a few bars of "Secret Agent Man" and a credit for Patrick McGoohan (running roughly the same length as the original UK credits). This is followed by the teaser, and then the regular credits. In all future US broadcasts, the pre-teaser credit sequence was dropped. See more »
Known in the States as Secret Agent Man, Danger Man with just a few misfire episodes, is for me, the best television in history. Better at what it does than what Seinfeld did for its genre, better even, than the BBC's The Office. 'The Best.' The stonking, pound-for-pound champion of television. Better still, than its successor, The Prisoner.
Despite what has dated, what is stunning about Danger Man is what has not. In a sense, it's sickeningly depressing, because the plot concerns are eerily of the moment. Right wing takeovers, identity theft, internment camps, Geneva and Rome endings for unlucky agents and a majority of episodes concerning the Middle East, which- either through huge coincidence or prescience, relate to Iraq, Israel and Lebanon! There is even a slightly anti-Israeli cautionary tale how likely is that, today or any day? (No turncoat is John Drake; there is a touching episode or three when Drake doesn't cut any slack to those who have sold out their country, whatever their sad stories.)
Despite rumors, Patrick McGoohan was apparently never in British Intelligence. A little boxing, stage acting and chicken farming, yes; spying, no. McGoohan certainly fits the perception of the professional spy: Incredibly handsome, tall, and tough but separate that image - also, humane, free of racial prejudiced and pro-women. Drake uses brain and brawn- he throws a good right hander, for example, though his pathetically slow running, is thankfully, kept to a minimum. (For a real laugh, dig Sean Connery running in You Only Live Twice. These spy cats ain't sprinters.)
As has been noted countless times, it's rather remarkable, that the program's standard of writing in an average episode, as high as a good film - was maintained, week in, week out. Rare duff episodes aside, Danger Man is that rare show with consistently great and novel writing. Many episodes demand repeated viewing.
The Danger man formula included fine photography. There are exotic exteriors McGoohan who incidentally, co-wrote several of the better episodes, let his camera people fly around the world and film whatever they liked. The interiors were filmed - I believe at Shepperton and with a few conspicuous exceptions, (some 'beaches' set in the Caribbean are dire) the interiors are HIGHLY convincing. Thus, the exterior shots of the Alps are followed by cuts to Switzerland- at- Shepperton, if you will; just marvelous; though the lighting of course, never matched.
In most episodes, Drake meets his masters for assignments in a variety of London locales. Brilliant. Are our own security services this smart? The wonderful harpsichord tune, an inevitable shot of a jet plane landing God knows where and we know: 'Here comes Drake, the brainy detective to once again, prevail with his wits with a little help from dem fists!'
The foresight is creepy. McGoohan, who must be a peacenik, seems, from almost 40 years ago, to warn us across the chasm of time, of the dangers of a society under constant surveillance, plagued by right-wing lunatics, both harassed and sold out. A society with an uncertain future. Using his masterful Shakespearian voice (he was voted tops on the stage in 60') a fairly good range and some specialties drunks are particularly good; McGoohan and company are very formulaic per 1960's norm but what a wonderful brew they've concocted.
The guest stars are, almost without exception, excellent and diverse. So good that when a well-known British character actor is doing the world's worst Scottish accent; somehow, the plot flows on. The terrible attempts at a burr are in fact, an unadvertised, campy bonus. Surprises abound from a talented cast of stars in many cases, easily eclipsing the performances of name actors from the big screen.
In the final analysis, it is Drake, Pat McGoohan and the writers, himself included, which make this the best show in the short history of TV. Patriot and lover of Britain to the end, handy man with gadgets, hater of guns and promiscuous sex, these are part of the appeal. But it is the palpable sense of doubled standards worrying Drake that is the real star shower: 'How bad is the East,' and, 'Does the murder' (yes, murder) 'that our side gets up to is it justified in a war on, among other things, terror and is the price sustainable?'
The best episode is a pure fantasy rather than a espionage or political thriller. It is a tale of identity theft involving perfect plastic surgery impossible in 1964, yet today's news. That episode, 'Slay It With Flowers,' with its dazzling guest stars foremost, young Rachel Herbert with a stellar turn as the innkeeper's daughter, is probably the best that television will ever be A plot torn from today's headlines fine acting, palpable danger, and above all John Drake's creed that people who don't deserve to get hurt, do.
But not if he can help it. And help he does.
Dangerman is here!
** If you can find the last two episodes in color, you're in for a treat. While most reviewers find them stilted, (McGoohan lost interest after filming the episodes and immediately ended the series) I beg to differ. The color is great and one scene, set amongst Kabuki 'dolls' one of which is a very real, murderous human, is one of the finest things I've ever seen attempted.
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