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CoastalCruiser

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2 out of 3 people found the following review useful:
Danger Man vs I Spy, 10 January 2016
10/10

If you've never watched the "Spy TV" of the 60s you are in for a treat. Two of the ones I especially enjoyed were the American based 'I Spy' series, starring the inimitable Bill Cosby and the show's co-creator Robert Culp, and the British based 'Danger Man' series (known as 'Secret Agent' in the US) starring the enigmatic Patrick McGoohan. Comparing I Spy to Danger Man helps ferret out the strengths of both shows.

To set a context, Danger Man came out in 1960. It was pre-James Bond, pre-I Spy, and pre-most anything else in the genre. Danger Man, which began life as a ½ hour production and later morphed into a 1 hour show in 1964, launched the first of the solo, lone wolf-esk, righter-of-wrong characters with that all important ultra-cool substrate. 6'2" consummate actor Patrick McGoohan is secret agent John Drake. Just as Peter Falk fully embodied 'Columbo' (a show that received both McGoohan and Culp as guest stars) it is impossible to imagine anyone other than McGoohan in the John Drake role. As with I Spy's Kelly Robinson & Alexander Scott, Danger Man's Drake traveled the world, engaging in high intrigue across other lands and within other cultures.

And it is the traveling element that let's us draw our first distinction between I Spy and Danger Man. I Spy was shot on location! With few exceptions, Danger Man was shot in the studio, with stock footage of other countries cleverly blended in. But I Spy was truly shot on location. They actually took the crew to Italy, to Greece, to Spain and to Asia. When you're watching I Spy you are getting a glimpse of what it looked like around the world in the 60s. In my view this is one of the best reasons to go through the series. It is 'boots on the ground' realism as we follow Robinson and Scott on their world-wide adventures.

I Spy does not hold up as well as Danger Man. The latter had very tight scripts, thanks in large part to the constant involvement of the show's creator and writing contributor Ralph Smart, as well as strong input from McGoohan. This may be hard to believe but I don't think I've ever seen a bad Danger Man. I Spy on the other hand sprouted a few stinker episodes. There is one reason for this; weak writing. Robert Culp actually discusses the show's writing in the commentary track he recorded for several episodes. The concept of I Spy was great, with Culp and Cosby adeptly pulling off the playful banter that was the substrate of the show. But the thing was, the writers often didn't get it. They often wrote *under* the show (scripts were often loose and full of plot holes).

However, the chemistry of Culp and Cosby, the locations shooting with its voyeuristic look at the 60s is without compare. I don't think I'd buy the whole series, but there are some great episodes. Conversely, I do own the entire Danger Man series. If you check it out don't overlook the earlier ½ hr series. It is surprisingly well done. They somehow managed to contain an integral story arc in that 28 or so minutes. The intro of this first series also has a very Bond-like McGoohan introducing himself as "Drake .... John Drake". This, two years before Sean Connery introduced himself as Bond ... James Bond in Dr. No. It should be noted too that McGoohan was offered the James Bond role but turned it down.

The last contrasting feature I can think to bring up is the use of firearms. Patrick McGoohan, who was a very moral man and had a heavy influence on the John Drake character, rarely used a gun. He wanted a family show, with minimal violence and sex. Drake was all about brains over brawn, and thanks to great writing the gun element is not missed. Scott and Robinson are more conventional spys and are rarely caught not packing. The pair are somewhat discreet with their use of unnecessary gun play however, so I would say this difference in the shows is less about any I Spy violence and more about the extra work required by the Danger Man writing staff to get Drake out of a jam without the quick and easy plot device afforded by a gun.

Music-wise I Spy and Danger Man are on similar footing, with memorable scores for both series. The 1960-62 ½ hr Danger Man has a punchy, jazzy theme, with an even punchier theme accompanying the 1964-66 1 hr version (sold in the USA as Secret Agent, with the unforgettable Johnny Rivers theme). I absolutely love the I Spy theme as well, which rests nicely on the opening visuals where Kelly Robinson, in the blink of an eye transforms from a racket swinging tennis bum to an armed spy, taking the shot, and disappearing through the doorway formed by the upper case "I" in the title. So, a total of four themes... all of them winners (as is true of so many 60s TV shows).

ps - Given the claim made about Danger Man being one of the first spy dramas with a super cool agent, it should be noted that a black & white production of Ian Fleming's 'Casino Royale' was aired in the 1950s on live TV in America. You can find this short but excellent production included in the extras on the DVD for the 1967 parody version of (ASIN:B00005JL0I) Casino Royale starring Peter Sellers. In another interesting parallel between John Drake and James Bond, the Bond in this 50's production is an American working for the CIA. Likewise the early Danger Man series had John Drake also portrayed as an American, albeit working for NATO. All subsequent Drake/Bond characters were of course British.

Danger Man vs I Spy, 10 January 2016
10/10

If you've never watched the "Spy TV" of the 60s you are in for a treat. Two of the ones I especially enjoyed were the American based 'I Spy' series, starring the inimitable Bill Cosby and the show's co-creator Robert Culp, and the British based 'Danger Man' series (known as 'Secret Agent' in the US) starring the enigmatic Patrick McGoohan. Comparing I Spy to Danger Man helps ferret out the strengths of both shows.

To set a context, Danger Man came out in 1960. It was pre-James Bond, pre-I Spy, and pre-most anything else in the genre. Danger Man, which began life as a ½ hour production and later morphed into a 1 hour show in 1964, launched the first of the solo, lone wolf-esk, righter-of-wrong characters with that all important ultra-cool substrate. 6'2" consummate actor Patrick McGoohan is secret agent John Drake. Just as Peter Falk fully embodied 'Columbo' (a show that received both McGoohan and Culp as guest stars) it is impossible to imagine anyone other than McGoohan in the John Drake role. As with I Spy's Kelly Robinson & Alexander Scott, Danger Man's Drake traveled the world, engaging in high intrigue across other lands and within other cultures.

And it is the traveling element that let's us draw our first distinction between I Spy and Danger Man. I Spy was shot on location! With few exceptions, Danger Man was shot in the studio, with stock footage of other countries cleverly blended in. But I Spy was truly shot on location. They actually took the crew to Italy, to Greece, to Spain and to Asia. When you're watching I Spy you are getting a glimpse of what it looked like around the world in the 60s. In my view this is one of the best reasons to go through the series. It is 'boots on the ground' realism as we follow Robinson and Scott on their world-wide adventures.

I Spy does not hold up as well as Danger Man. The latter had very tight scripts, thanks in large part to the constant involvement of the show's creator and writing contributor Ralph Smart, as well as strong input from McGoohan. This may be hard to believe but I don't think I've ever seen a bad Danger Man. I Spy on the other hand sprouted a few stinker episodes. There is one reason for this; weak writing. Robert Culp actually discusses the show's writing in the commentary track he recorded for several episodes. The concept of I Spy was great, with Culp and Cosby adeptly pulling off the playful banter that was the substrate of the show. But the thing was, the writers often didn't get it. They often wrote *under* the show (scripts were often loose and full of plot holes).

However, the chemistry of Culp and Cosby, the locations shooting with its voyeuristic look at the 60s is without compare. I don't think I'd buy the whole series, but there are some great episodes. Conversely, I do own the entire Danger Man series. If you check it out don't overlook the earlier ½ hr series. It is surprisingly well done. They somehow managed to contain an integral story arc in that 28 or so minutes. The intro of this first series also has a very Bond-like McGoohan introducing himself as "Drake .... John Drake". This, two years before Sean Connery introduced himself as Bond ... James Bond in Dr. No. It should be noted too that McGoohan was offered the James Bond role but turned it down.

The last contrasting feature I can think to bring up is the use of firearms. Patrick McGoohan, who was a very moral man and had a heavy influence on the John Drake character, rarely used a gun. He wanted a family show, with minimal violence and sex. Drake was all about brains over brawn, and thanks to great writing the gun element is not missed. Scott and Robinson are more conventional spys and are rarely caught not packing. The pair are somewhat discreet with their use of unnecessary gun play however, so I would say this difference in the shows is less about any I Spy violence and more about the extra work required by the Danger Man writing staff to get Drake out of a jam without the quick and easy plot device afforded by a gun.

Music-wise I Spy and Danger Man are on similar footing, with memorable scores for both series. The 1960-62 ½ hr Danger Man has a punchy, jazzy theme, with an even punchier theme accompanying the 1964-66 1 hr version (sold in the USA as Secret Agent, with the unforgettable Johnny Rivers theme). I absolutely love the I Spy theme as well, which rests nicely on the opening visuals where Kelly Robinson, in the blink of an eye transforms from a racket swinging tennis bum to an armed spy, taking the shot, and disappearing through the doorway formed by the upper case "I" in the title. So, a total of four themes... all of them winners (as is true of so many 60s TV shows).

ps - Given the claim made about Danger Man being one of the first spy dramas with a super cool agent, it should be noted that a black & white production of Ian Fleming's 'Casino Royale' was aired in the 1950s on live TV in America. You can find this short but excellent production included in the extras on the DVD for the 1967 parody version of (ASIN:B00005JL0I) Casino Royale starring Peter Sellers. In another interesting parallel between John Drake and James Bond, the Bond in this 50's production is an American working for the CIA. Likewise the early Danger Man series had John Drake also portrayed as an American, albeit working for NATO. All subsequent Drake/Bond characters were of course British.

3 out of 3 people found the following review useful:
Is David Stone John Drake?, 9 January 2016
7/10

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 he copes.

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.

2 out of 11 people found the following review useful:
Morse Meets his Moriarty, 29 November 2015
5/10

It's pointless to write a review for the Inspector Morse series. Any review that, for example, chastises the Masonic Mysteries episode is heavily voted down. Apparently most folks who visit the reviews have already drunk the IM koolaid and don't take kindly to people pointing out the flaws in the episode (for me it was at the end when Lewis hears a gunshot but simply continues knocking on the front door to gain entrance. That's what I call real backup). I have not partaken of the IM Koolaid but I'm running through -and mostly enjoying- the entire series, after first discovering Inspector Lewis last year. Boy oh boy, Lewis sure put the razor in his voice after getting elected Inspector. By the way, parenthetically, is there going to be an Inspector *Hathaway* series? Sure hope so! That character cracks me up.

Anyway, regarding this episode, MM, I loved that they placed great bad guy Ian McDiarmid in the role of the antagonist. When this episode was shot Ian had turned in his two performances in the second and third Star Wars films (chronologically). He of course was buried under so much makeup in the mid-trilogy as to be unrecognizable. But I wonder if he was cast here based upon his SW performance. I'll bet a lot of folks didn't know he was in the first SW installment because even the voice under the made up face was different than here. However, Ian uses the exact same evil voice from MM later on in the third trilogy.

The other thing that struck me was that this episode was it was an analog for Sherlock Holmes' Professor Moriarty. The brilliant detectives each get out-clevered by one who is more brilliant (which always raises the question of whether evil is more powerful than good). So for me MM was quite the MMM as well.

By the way, speaking of evil, and speaking of Star Wars, what does George Lucas have to say about whether evil is more powerful than good?? Hard to say because George's commentary track, laid down for all six films, records him first noting that the dark side is NOT more powerful, but later a subsequent film has him stating it is. Alas, we are left to draw our own conclusions about the power of evil.

Although Morse actually does give us a clue... in this episode he suggests that evil may not even exist, but that evil acts do occur... Somewhat comforting, eh? Cheers

4 out of 4 people found the following review useful:
The Mind of McGoohan, 5 April 2015
8/10

Every review of this episode posted prior to this one refers to the go-cart sequence at the end of the episode. If you haven't seen this episode you really should skip all the reviews for now (including this one), and watch it.

I actually referred to the go-cart scene in another review whilst pointing out some "Prisoner" moments in various Danger Man / Secret Agent shows. The go-cart piece is indeed very Prisoneresque. A common critique of the go-cart sequence is that it's over the top. Yes, it is. Why is that? I believe that quite often when Danger Man does go over the top -with 'The Ubiquitous Mr. Lovegrove' being the quintessential example- we are seeing Patrick McGoohan's footprint... or should I say 'mindprint'.

Although Patrick did not write this episode he did direct it. And I suspect that either he added the go-cart scene on the fly, or, perhaps more likely, he enhanced the basic plot device of Drake escaping on a go-cart whilst directing the episode.

When McGoohan gets to cut loose you get... whimsy. The Prisoner is full of whimsy. Whimsy... and ... the rebellion of a brilliant mind that sees through the illusory and farcical motif of modern society. Patrick pulls back the curtain, revealing the irrational nature of mankind.

If Patrick had written this entire episode we may have seen even more whimsy. In fact, in my review of 'The Ubiquitous Mr. Lovegroove' I floated the notion that McGoohan did in fact write that episode, despite the writing credit being attributed to one 'David Stone'. I suspect that folks looking for the smoking gun of a direct tie in between Danger Man and The Prisoner may find it in that installment.

Anyway, this episode under review is a great DM in all regards. Of particular interest to me was the card game. There have of course been several memorable card games staged in movies and TV. Two favorites coming to mind are 'A Big Hand For A Little Lady' with Henry Fonda, and "All Good Things', the last Star Trek TNG episode. And this card game, with Drake steering the thin skinned and feeble minded antagonist Eddie Gelb into the proverbial corner.. while Eddie's girlfriend plinks soundtrack on the piano, raising tension at the critical juncture of the game, while at the same time the camera scans around the perimeter à la Brian De Palma style... is another one. It's all quite delicious isn't it?

By the way, did you notice the second Beatles album on display in the cafe's jukebox at the beginning of the show? Cheers

2 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
Return of the Cigarette Case, 4 April 2015
7/10

Before getting to the subject portended by the title of this review... for some reason while listening to the Danger Man opening theme music the thought of the Star Wars jazz band (from the bar scene) playing the Danger Man theme crossed my mind. Is that hilarious or what? Someone should do an animation of that band playing a jazzed up remix of the Danger Man theme! Would be fun, eh?

Anyway, if you've read most any other of my reviews for either the 1/2 hour or 1 hour series you know I've been documenting the various spy gadgets employed by our hero and master spy, John Drake. In this episode we get our second look at a nifty gadget that has been seen only once so far; the cigarette case that doubles as a two-way radio. This gizmo was first spotted in 'Loyalty Always Pays'.

However, in this installment of the series, the cigarette case takes on a new persona; it now acts as a receiver for the standard issue round bugging device that John is always planting here and there, plus it records the conversation! Yeah, they sort of transplanted the guts of the now ubiquitous electric-razor-as-tape-recorder into the cigarette case.

Other gadgetry seen in this episode is a cigar with a hidden cavity -which Drake places a dinky film strip in- and a compliment of fireworks and smoke bombs that the spy man triggers in order to keep six evil men from gunning him down. LOL! The ending of this particular show is pretty good. It's interesting that we see the same deluxe strongroom door used here as was used in ... you guessed it ... 'Loyalty Always Pays'.

A nice twist in this show is that Drake can't pick the strongroom door lock, and has to form a Plan B. This nuance added to the plausibility factor.

Be seeing you...

3 out of 3 people found the following review useful:
Drake Takes A Beating For The Cause, 3 April 2015
6/10

Not the strongest episode of the season. But worth viewing, of course.

John Drake gets in two fights in this installment, the first one leaving him with facial cuts that are seen throughout the episode. The second fight, which takes place late in the show, is probably the weakest fight scene I've witnessed in the series. And with a car full of police waiting just outside, it was unnecessary.

Anyway, we've got a few spy gadgets to cover. In keeping with the recent episode 'Dangerous Secret', spy gadgets are getting smaller and more efficient at doing double duty. Drake has a new lighter (!), and although this one does not take photographs, it acts as both a radio transmitter via a mic on the side of the lighter -which allows Drake to relay a conversation with the bad guys to the police- and it later sprouts an ear piece allowing John to employ the tiny gadget as a two-way radio to converse with the authorities. Who'd have thunk? You have to remind yourself that this was the mid-sixties, when even portable "transistor" radios stood out.

Drake plants what by this time we recognize as a standard issue tracking device (small round gizmo with a suction cup on the back and a metallic grill on the front... usually), but the receiver that picks up tracking signals from the gizmo is miniaturized to an even greater degree compared to previous models.

Cheers

4 out of 4 people found the following review useful:
You Should Get Yourself Some Better Help!, 2 April 2015
8/10

The title of this review refers to master spy John Drake's parting shot to the head of the opposition after defeating her FIVE henchman. Ha ha ha. This is the only episode directed by Stuart Burge and it's too bad because he turned in an installment laced with subtle humor. The levity, along with clean execution of well written dialog and sharp witty cuts to the next scene make this a memorable show.

If you're a fan of The Prisoner and not intimately familiar with Danger Man / Secret Agent, you might be interested in knowing that one of Number 6's catch phrases, 'Be seeing you', is uttered by John Drake several times in various episodes of the both the 1960-62 and the 1964-66 Danger Man series.

I think he gets that line off best in this particular episode. He crashes through a ceiling into a room full of bad guys, knocks one out, swipes a tape recorder full of compromising information, and as he hoists himself back through the hole in the ceiling let's go a full on 'Be seeing you'. It's hilarious.

I read that McGoohan once noted to someone that the expression, and the sign he would make forming his thumb and forefinger into a loop over his eye, was an early Christian symbol (the sign of the fish).

Now let's get down to business of what these reviews are all about and see what we have in the spy gadget department. Oh, it's a spyware bonanza this time out. First we have Drake planting an eavesdropping device remotely. In the past we have seen this done with a "fishing pole" that doubles as a bug launcher. We've also seen an undisguised rocket launcher of sorts made out of aluminum. Both of those devices used a C02 cartridge as the propellant.

But Spy Gadget Headquarters is getting more sophisticated as time goes by. Here Drake fetches a sleek dart shaped bug from a fountain pen. Then he slides open a hidden compartment on his umbrella (wow!), and slides the dart in. He unscrews the tip of the umbrella, takes aim, and fires the projectile home. An antenna eeks out of the anterior of the dart just after it finds home and transmission commences.

But wait. There's more! Drake then retrieves a portable spy typewriter. Now we have seen his typewriter before in various guises. But this version does triple duty. It receives the transmission from the dart bug, it acts as a two-way radio for John to speak to a fellow agent, and later acts as a triangulation device to home in on a tracking device planted on a car. Wow!

So that's one, two, three, four, five, six spy devices, counting the bug on the car. It's almost too much! No wonder Drake always wins. The opposition could only muster up one pathetic, easily discovered lamp bug. Drake to opposition: "GET A CLUE!".

3 out of 3 people found the following review useful:
John Drake: 36 ... The Enemy: 0 *, 2 April 2015
8/10

Our hero John Drake meets what I would term his third most formidable opponent in this installment. The other two enemies that nearly bested Drake were Lord Ammanford (played by Bernard Lee in 'Whatever Happened to George Foster?') and Rachid Noureddine (played by Derren Nesbitt in 'Sting in the Tail').

Not going to spoil the episode by giving away the punch line, or even the plot outline, but early on in the episode the antagonist kills an M9 agent and Drake is sent in to pick up the pieces. This gives the bad guy one step up on Drake, and this will continue with the antagonist outmaneuvering Drake at every turn... until the end anyway.

The acting here is marvelous and the production is tight and... hmm ... thoughtful. For example, when the M9 agent is killed, he is shot through the lens of the headlamp he is wearing. The subsequent closeup reveals a blackish spot around the hole in the glass where the bullet entered. Nice touch. And near the end of the show Drake has a bad limp from an injury and is dragging his foot. At one point he bursts away from the frame (as best he can), yet as he starts down the hallway off camera you can still hear the foot dragging. He stayed in character, and they mic'd it properly!

Oh, I was mentioning the acting. Well, the bad guys turn in splendid performances. The main antagonist (Volos) is sort of a truly evil, yet gentlemanly, Colonel Klink (without the monocle). Keep your eye on his #1 henchman (Holst). The guy is straight-faced throughout the episode, casting an unrelenting evil eye toward Drake even when he is in the background. I have this guy sized up as quite intimidating until Drake fools him into thinking he's escaped, and the supposed tough guy falls apart, fear breaking out all over his face in anticipation of getting crucified for losing his Drake. Quite delicious, and this triggers a very satisfying end to the show as Drake delivers comeuppance upon Volos.

Finally, you will see inside John Drake's bedroom for the first time (keep calm ladies), where we are introduced to his high-tech headboard. He receives his mission via videocast, while a female voice states his mission.. and speaking of "mission", this sequence is straight out of Mission Impossible. What a rip off! But wait. Mission Impossible did not come on the air until 1968... so who's stealing from whom?

Three new spy gadgets are introduced in this episode. And as usual, rather than due to the latest technological breakthroughs, the gadgets appear as necessary plot devices to the story. John is sporting a handy knock out gas dispenser on his forearm. He also comes up with a handy tracking device disguised as a burr which easily sticks to his victims clothing. Mated to this bug is a new tracking receiver disguised as a small clock. This trio of gadgets brings the count for both the 1/2 hour and 1 hour series up to of 35!

* I'm came up with the 36 episode count using IMDBs count combining the 1960-61 series and the 194-66 series to date.

2 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
Just too good!, 1 April 2015
8/10

This is a very good Secret Agent installment, with a supberb ending. The last five minutes are very "Prisoner" like, with whimsy substituting for standard issue logic. John Drake invents a unique way of turning the tables on the enemy. Peter Yates (Bullitt) successfully directs this episode.

This is one of those episodes where you have to pay attention to keep from getting confused (one of my unfortunate shortcomings), but the show is easy to navigate if you do.

In the spy gadget department, Drake has his trusty electric shaver / tape recorder at his side.

New to the series is a cigarette lighter with a cavity large enough to hold a tape from the shaver. This device was clearly conceived to give Drake a means to surreptitiously pass messages to another agent.

Another new spy gizmo is a flashlight that converts into an overhead slide projector. It's rather ingenious because you just fit an adapter on the lens, slide in a slide, turn on and aim the flashlight at a wall, and abracadabra; instant slide show. I can't help to wonder if such a nifty device made it to the consumer market.


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