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Speeding on his way to the airport, secret agent John Drake (Patrick
McGoohan) swerves to avoid a couple of young boys chasing a ball and
loses control of his car. After a devastating wreck, the camera lingers
on his shattered dashboard clock, stopped at exactly 12 noon.
The rest of this story is supplied by Drake's subconscious: A duel of wits in which the hobo he passed on the road right before his accident morphs into the suave, sinister (and much better groomed) music lover and casino owner Mr. Alexander (Francis de Wolff), whose unsavory deeds range from attempting to blackmail Drake to passing secrets via microdots on gambling chits.
What's impressive about this episode is the way it's framed from the first as a dream, and evokes the alternating logic/illogic of a dream state quite nicely, without succumbing to the temptation of going wildly overboard. Just a subtle, gathering wrongness (like every clock you see during the episode shows twelve o'clock) and unsettling discontinuities (such as the title character, Mr. Lovegrove, who -- to put it mildly -- wears many hats in this story) leading to an appropriately bizarre and manic crescendo.
Adrienne Corri is Alexander's sleekly sexy and unfailingly sarcastic assistant, Elaine; the inimitable Patsy Rowland plays "Mrs. Farebrother", a casino habitué who supplies comic relief, as well as some timely help and advice. And Desmond Llewelyn ("Q" from the Bond movies) brings his perpetual air of disapproval to his role as the casino's doorman.
In both style and substance, this is a fairly unique entry in the "Danger Man" series. In fact, it strongly reminded me of the sort of mind games and skewed sensibility which would become a standard for "The Prisoner". (Incidentally, the Australian band Dead Can Dance appropriated the title of this episode for a track on their 1993 album "Into the Labyrinth".)
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
In his book 'For My Eyes Only', director John Glen says that this
'Danger Man' episode sat on the shelf for a while, going unscreened
because it failed to make any sense, until he shot new material,
turning it into a kind of personal nightmare for the 'John Drake'
character. It begins with our hero on his way to a new assignment.
Swerving to avoid a couple of boys who have stepped into the road to
retrieve a football, he crashes. What follows next is a very unusual
episode in the series, as the unconscious Drake dreams he is under
investigation by treasurer 'Mr.Lovegrove' ( Eric Barker ) for using
Department funds for gambling purposes. Drake visits the Almack Club, a
London casino, and finds himself treated as a regular even though he
has never visited the place before. The club's owner, 'Paul Alexander'
( Francis De Wolff ), says he has Drake's name on a cheque for £500.
Drake claims the handwriting is not his. As the mystery deepens, the
agent is tormented by mocking laughter and the face of Lovegrove
Viewing this now, one is reminded not only of 'The Prisoner', but the opening episode of the B.B.C.'s 'Life On Mars'. After seeing the latter for the first time in 2006, I predicted an ending in which Tyler ( John Simm ) would wake up in hospital, to be greeted by the sight of Annie ( Liz White ) dressed as a nurse. Quite a few 'Carry On' stars in this - Eric Barker, Patsy Rowlands, and Peter Butterworth, the latter playing an 'Avengers'-style killer known only as 'Umbrella'. His partner, 'Briefcase' is played by Mike Pratt, future star of 'Randall & Hopkirk ( Deceased )'. Adrienne Corri smolders her way through the part of hostess 'Elaine', while 007 fans will recognise Desmond 'Q' Llewelyn as 'Charles', the doorman.
When first shown in 1965, it attracted complaints from baffled viewers despite the obvious framing device to show it was all a dream.
As I post this entry, every one of the other four preexisting reviews
make reference to this episode being reminiscent of Patrick McGoohan's
subsequent series 'The Prisoner'. In this Wizard of Oz style episode
characters from real life (ambulance crew et al) are juxtaposed into a
dreamlike fantasy that leaves Drake wondering which end is up. Somehow
But it's true. This is the most Prisoner like episode of the entire run of the Danger Man series. Besides the similarities pointed out by the others, what jumped out at me, other than the whimsical funhouse-gone-wrong motif, is the scene about halfway through with Drake banging his fist on the desk of his supervisor Mr. Lovegrove in frustration at the way he's being treated. Prisoner fans of course know this scene is replicated in the opening credits of The Prisoner. And then there's later in the episode when Drake opens his apartment door to the insurance peddler. The address on the door is "6".
So did the theme of this episode become something of a template for The Prisoner? Is fist-pounding Drake launched from here into the Village as Number 6? In later interviews McGoohan insisted that Number 6 is NOT Drake. That insertion is mitigated though upon learning that due to the legal ramifications of the show's creator Ralph Smart owning the name "John Drake", Patrick may not have been in a position, either at the time The Prisoner ran, or perhaps anytime thereafter, to confirm the connection between the two characters.
None the less, we the audience *know* the answer, don't we? Drake IS Number 6! So, just as McGoohan was inspired to shoot The Prisoner at Portmeirion Village in Wales after discovering the location in the very first Danger Man shoot 'View from the Villa' did he in a similar fashion simply take inspiration from series' episodes such as 'The Ubiquitous Mr. Lovegrove' when creating The Prisoner? There's really no other explanation. After all, McGoohan didn't write the Lovegrove episode.
Or did he? The writing credit goes to a 'David Stone'. But who the hell is David Stone? If you check IMDb, Stone has almost zero writing credits, EXCEPT seven 1 hour Danger Man Episodes. Who is this guy that wrote only for Danger Man? My take is that David Stone may well be Patrick McGoohan. I posed this question in the IMDb forums, and someone pointed out that McGoohan did in fact write, and that when he did he would often use a pen name. So is Patrick McGoohan to David Stone possibly an analog of Samuel Clemens' Mark Twain?
Perhaps instead of asking; 'Is Number 6 Drake?' ... we should instead be asking; 'Is David Stone Patrick McGoohan?' If so, we would indeed have a direct connection between the two series.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
To add to previous reviews, several scenes in this episode contain
elements that reappear strongly in the Prisoner.
The casino figures prominently (as does the femme fatale) much as did Mme. Ongadine and the gaming table in "A, B and C" at which No. 6 (Drake) may be gambling his future. The casino is an apt symbol of the risks Drake constantly faces; threat of exposure, failure, disgrace and death. Constantly scrutinized and re-evaluated for any sign of treason, or the slightest willingness to entertain the merest suggestion of 'going over' to the other side, Drake is always betting - and always watched.
The ubiquity of Lovegrove in this piece strongly conveys the sense of constant surveillance Drake must feel as a 'travel agent'. In fact, the implication in the Prisoner that No. 6 may actually have simply been going on 'holiday' (the tropical photos seen being stuffed into a briefcase in every opening sequence seem to fit this view) may be innocent enough. But it being a Cold War, it was entirely likely that his superiors had every reason to view their No. 1 'travel agent' 'going on holiday' (i.e. not on official business) with grave concern. Such actions would be impossible to interpret as benign, or to dismiss lightly.
Not only is Lovegrove ubiquitous, but in one action piece, Drake is engaging in fisticuffs with .. himself along with several other flashes of himself briefly in the place of other characters. This calls to mind several Prisoner episodes with strong elements of conflicted or hidden identity, particularly the " Schizoid Man" and most famously, "Fall Out" which I dare not describe here ;-)
Some passing observations. - Drake enters a door prominently labeled '6' and is greeted by a very short footman, or Butler. - When examined by the doctor (Lovegrove), the eye chart is reversed; not so when the real doctor is taking the initial call. - The corridor of laughing busts is strongly reminiscent of Town Hall. - The repeated use of timpani in the soundtrack is a dead-on 'Rover' cue. - Two thirds of the production end credits could be transposed directly to the Prisoner with almost no revision!
The episode does have numerous technical and story flaws, and would be easily dismissed, except for some of these items which point clearly toward McGoohan's *next* assignment.
"The Ubiquitous Mr. Lovegrove" is a very strange and surreal episode
and it doesn't fit in with the style of the series at all.
Interestingly, it IS a lot like a show from Patrick McGoohan's next
series, "The Prisoner". As an episode of "The Prisoner" it wouldn't
have been too bad, but for "Secret Agent" is was awfully weak.
Drake is driving along the English countryside on his way to London. However, when a kid's ball flashes into the road, Drake is distracted and crashes. What follows is an odd nightmarish story where Drake finds himself staying at a gambling casino and a man is trying to blackmail him, as he KNOWS Drake is a secret agent and he's threatening to expose his real identity. But the story is much more--as people later appear and disappear and the story has a strange other worldly feel to it. What's happening? Is Drake losing his mind or is he on LSD or what?!
"Secret Agent" was a very good series---a very literal series. This strange episode just doesn't fit at all and is weak because of this (though the stunts were very nice). However, if you want to see 'Q' from the "James Bond" series, he does make an odd guest appearance.
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