Secret Agent (aka Danger Man) MegaSet
Sound: C+ Extras: C- Episodes: B
Though this is credited as a MegaSet form A&E, which
usually means every show ever made in the series, this box of the Patrick
McGoohan show Secret Agent (always known as Danger Man in its
U.K. home of origin) is actually a continuation of the original Danger Man
series McGoohan did from 1960 – 1961.
Then, his spy John Drake worked with NATO and the shows ran under a
half-hour. That single season had 39
episodes, but none of them are here.
Thanks in part to the James Bond films and TV hits like The
Avengers, ITC brought back Drake in 1965 in shows that ran twice as long
per episode. With 47 shows, this
incarnation was the bigger hit. Except
for the final two show of the aborted third season (making it four seasons of
John Drake in all) being shot in color, the entire run was in black and white.
The show usually involved Drake stepping in where another
agent was assassinated, though there were exceptions, but the series was on the
cutting edge for its time and still holds up well enough now. The thing is, the shows were comparatively
laid-back for a spy show, with the gadgets and glamour being kept to a minimum. Drake did not get involved with the women,
with McGoohan’s excuse being he did not want younger fans to think Drake was
sleeping around. However, he smoking
habit was chronic, so by that logic, who knows how many fans grew up to get
lung cancer. We can skip his alcohol
However, the other reason this was a hit is those
unimpressed or even annoyed by the Spy craze could appreciate what seemed like
espionage in a more realistic world that was still “in the field”, at least
until Mission: Impossible came along.
This was not the world of The Ipcress File, with its bureaucracy,
but of realistic operations where the agent did not call attention to
himself. It did not hurt that McGoohan
was a great actor who brought out the best in teleplays that were serious, if
not always memorable.
Now, Drake worked for M9, and the shows very slowly become
more gadget-loaded (not unlike its ITC sister show The Saint, which also
featured Brendan Stafford, B.S.C. as cinematographer and Edwin Astley supplying
the music). This arc did not see its
ultimate end when McGoohan got tired of Drake and convinced Sir Lew Grade to
let him make The Prisoner (reviewed elsewhere on this site) instead.
What follows are the episodes with special notes where
applicable. They are all fair, but a
few were better, also as noted with #/title/writer/director/description:
of the Cameras (Philip
Broadley/Don Chaffey) – Drake has to recover a new rocket fuel formula stolen
form a Atomic laboratory by a female agent (Dawn Addams), and only fellow field
agent Alex (Patrick Newell, ‘Mother’ from The Avengers) can help him,
unless he bungles things.
2) A Room
in the Basement (Ralph Smart/Don Chaffey) – An Eastern European in
Switzerland is the holding place for one of Drake’s fellow agents in M9 (as if
they were truly neutral) and he is sent in to free him. Kate O’Mara looks good in this one.
Exchange (Wilfred Greatorex & Marc Brandel/Charles Crichton) –
A former female spy goes out for revenge against her East German torturers, but
Drake has to stop her from getting caught again when she is released in a
4) Fish on
the Hook (John Riddick & Michael Pertwee/Robert Day) – Drake is
called in to break a Middle-eastern Spy ring at home, but he can only do this
by finding out the unknown head of the organization. Dawn Addams is already back as another character and Vladek
Sheybal (From Russia With Love, U.F.O.) guest stars.
5) No Marks
for Servility (Ralph Smart/Don Chaffey) – Drake investigates a traitor
by getting hired by him. How long can
he stand the arrogant idiot before he blows his cover?
Enemies (Donald Johnson/Charles Crichton) – Drake goes to Beirut
to investigate a Spy ring, but the twist is that British traitors are running
this particular outfit.
Professionals (Wilfred Greatorex & Louis Marks/Michael Truman) - An
M9 agent in Prague is missing for two weeks according to his wife, so Drake
shows up, but is set up by local authorities over and over again. Bond girl Nadja Regin is a seductress who
may be a gold-digger too.
8) A Date
with Doris (Philip Broadley/Quentin Lawrence) – Did an M9 agent kill
a well-known singer? Drake goes in to
expose the frame-up when that agent’s cover is blown.
Mirror’s View (Philip Broadley/Michael Truman) – Someone catches a
British Embassy official stationed in Paris committing murder and trying to get
away with it, then disappears. Drake
finds him, but the man cannot even remember his own name.
10) Colony Three (Donald
James/Don Chaffey) – An English town is reproduced in the East Bloc so agents
can train to infiltrate the U.K. as Brits, so Drake is substituted for a
recruit to break the place up. This is
one of the more key shows, in which the area is referred to a “the village”,
but in no strong relation to McGoohan’s Prisoner series. There is a famous Mission: Impossible episode
with an East Bloc mock-up of a U.S. town and a “red scare” film Red
Nightmare (1957, now available on the 3-DVD Forever 50s set from
VCI, as reviewed elsewhere on this site) made before either.
11) It’s Up to the Lady (Philip
Broadley & John Roddick/Michael Truman) – A wife follows her defecting
husband to Greece and Drake has to go fetch them both back.
12) Whatever Happened to George Foster? (David
Stone/Don Chaffey) – A wealthy British Lord (Bernard Lee, the original ‘M’ form
the James Bond films) is funding the overthrow of a Central American country’s
government, and Drake’s search for one George Foster may hold the key to
stopping it. This one disappoints a
13) The Galloping Major (David
Stone/Peter Maxwell) – Drake steps in to make sure a newly installed African
democracy stays that way after its Prime Minister is nearly assassinated on its
14) The Colonel’s Daughter (David
Weir/Philip Peacock) – Drake lands up working to solve some strange deaths in
New Delhi for a connection there.
15) That’s Two of Us Sorry (Jan
Read/Quentin Lawrence) –A stolen briefcase that Drake recovers with nuclear
secrets yield fingerprints when recovered that belong to a man who has been
dead for two decades.
16) Such Men Are Dangerous (Ralph
Smart/Don Chaffey) – Drake mist discover the identity of a man known as The
General (no direct relation to The Prisoner, but an intriguing
connection), who is training killers to get rid of “horrible” foreign leaders.
17) A Man to Be Trusted
(Raymond Bowers/Peter Maxwell) – Drake goes to the West Indies to investigate
yet another M9 agent death, with interrogation marks similar to what killed
another resent agent. Eunice Gayson
18) The Affair at Castelevara (James
Foster/Quentin Lawrence) – Drake has to help a South American revolutionary who
gets arrested upon returning to his homeland, though why he happens to return
19) Don’t Nail Him Yet (Philip
Broadley/Michael Truman) – Drake plays a teacher to find out if a British Naval
officer is selling secrets.
20) The Ubiquitous Mr. Lovegrove (David
Stone/Don Chaffey) – Drake hits a tree to avoid killing some kids playing with
a soccer ball, then finds himself in a strange situation fighting charges of
being a chronic gambler. Desmond
Llewelyn, the long-running ‘Q’ in the Bond films, is really good here.
21) Have a Glass of Wine (David
Stone/Peter Maxwell) – Drake tries to intercept copies of vital secrets on
microfilm, but blackmail is part of the twist, so the assignment will not be so
22) You’re Not in Any Trouble, Are You? (Philip
Broadley/Don Chaffey) – The last full season begins with Drake trying to find
out the identity of killers and spies in Rome, Italy. All he has to do is find the last assassinated agent’s tape
recorder, hidden in an electric shaver!
23) Sting in the Tail (Philip
Broadley/Peter Yates) – A Shaw is murdered and Drake is in Paris, where he will
now have to lure the assassin back to be put into custody and await trial, if
Black Book (Philip Broadley/Michael Truman) – Blackmail,
high-ranking officials and a female French voice by telephone mark this
25) English Lady Takes Lodger (David
Stone/Michael Truman) – In Lisbon, Drake investigate more stolen & sold
secrets, but his contact tell him to go away, but he investigates just the same
as an M9 agent has been killed.
26) Loyalty Always Pays (David
Stone/Peter Yates) – Another M9 agent is killed, this time in Africa, so in
comes Drake to deal with the local powers that be. It turns out a deal is being cut with Communist China and Drake
needs to set things up so the traitors are exposed. Yates was easily one of the series best directors and this is one
of the richer shows. The high number of
African actors was very unusual for TV anywhere at the time and the story is a
step forward for the series.
27) Are You Going to Be More Permanent? (Philip
Broadley/Don Chaffey) – Drake goes to Geneva to find more double agents as more
M9 agents are killed.
28) Parallel Lines Sometimes Meet (Malcolm
Hulke & Ralph Smart/Don Chaffey) – Drake goes to the West Indies to see if a scientist and
his wife defected or where kidnapped.
29) A Very Dangerous Game (Ralph
Smart & David Stone/Don Chaffey) – Drake goes to Singapore substituting for
a defector so the Chinese recruit him.
Burt Kwouk, Kato from the Pink Panther films shows up on the
series regularly and guests here.
30) The Mercenaries (Ralph
Smart/Don Chaffey) – Drake infiltrates an extremist group out to eliminate
their Prime Minister. Shane Rimmer (a
voice for many of ITC’s SuperMarionation shows) guest stars in the flesh.
31) The Outcast (Donald Jonson/Michael
Truman) – A female soldier in Gibraltar is dead, but has valuable Top Secret
papers on her, which sends Drake to Spain to get the answers.
32) Judgment Day (Donald
Jonson & Michael J. Bird/Don Chaffey) – Drake goes back to the Middle East
to get a Doctor whose life has been threatened, but the trip back gets crazy
when former Nazis start to show up.
33) To Our Best Friend (Ralph
Smart/Patrick McGoohan) – Drake goes to Baghdad to find out if one of his best
friends is a traitor, but the Iraqi country turns out to be as treacherous as
always. McGoohan does a good job
helming this show.
34) Say It with Flowers
(Jacques Gilles/Peter Yates) – Drake goes to Switzerland again, this time to
investigate a medical clinic where counterespionage and murder may be taking
place. Ian Hendry guest stars.
35) The Man on the Beach (Philip
Broadley/Peter Yates) – Another M9 agent is killed, sending Drake to Jamaica
this time, but he is so determined to find out the truth, his refusal of an
order to return to London makes M9 think he may be up to no good. Barbara Steele guest stars.
36) The Man Who Wouldn’t Talk (Donald
Jonson & Ralph Smart/Michael Truman) – Drake in Istanbul, where a local M9
agent has been supposedly captured. Then
things get uglier.
37) Someone is Liable to Get Hurt (Philip
Broadley/Michael Truman) – back in the Caribbean, Drake is just in time to try
to foil a coup.
38) Dangerous Secrets (Ralph
Smart & Donald Jonson/Stuart Burge) – A scientist is so horrified by the
killer bacteria he has created, that he destroys all record of it, which now
makes him a kidnap target. Elizabeth
Shepherd, briefly cast as the first Mrs. Peel on The Avengers in shows
never broadcast, is really good here in one of the series’ better shows.
39) I Can Only Offer You Sherry (Ralph
Smart/George Pollock) – Drake is back in the Middle East to find out if an
Embassy worker could be leaking vital secrets, but when he feels she is being
framed, he needs to find out who is the culprit.
40) The Hunting Party (Philip
Broadley/Pat Jackson) – Drake has to go inside the British elite to see if a
rich Lord let secrets into the newspapers.
Denholm Elliot, best known these days for the Indiana Jones films, is
good here. A slot car sequence is a
hoot and Avengers fans will recognize Moira Lister.
41) Two Birds With One Bullet (Jessy
Lasky Junior/Peter Yates) – Drake is back in the Caribbean to protect a high
official, but the plot is better thought out than he expects. Geoffrey Keen, ‘M’ in the James Bond films
of the 1980s, guest stars.
42) I Am Afraid You Have the Wrong Number (Ralph
Smart/George Pollock) – Drake goes to Geneva when an M9 agent is made to look
killed in an auto accident, but is really kidnapped. Then the same kind of set up is used to frame Drake for something
43) The Man with the Foot
(Raymond Bowers/Jeremy Summers) – For-hire Spy Soleby is out to kill Drake, M9
sends Drake to Spain, but Soleby has somehow followed him. Bernard Lee guest stars.
44) The Paper Chase (Philip
Broadley & Ralph Smart/Patrick McGoohan) – Drake goes to Rome to help a
fellow agent get Top Secrets back he haphazardly allowed to be stolen out of
his car, in his briefcase. Joan
Greenwood guest stars.
45) The Not So Jolly Roger (Tony
Williamson/Don Chaffey) – The last monochrome show is one of the very best, as
Drake poses as D.J. “Johnny Drake” to find out how an M9 agent was killed at a
radio station out in the middle of the ocean.
This offers more of the wit that the series could have used and is very
46) + 47) Koroshi is the
name of the telefilm eventually made out of the series last two shows: Koroshi
and Shinda Shima. Peter Yates
directed most of this, but Michael Truman helmed part of Koroshi. Both take place in Tokyo, but are not
necessarily related. ITC edited the shows
together in reverse and added footage.
This 13th and last DVD in the box offers the shows apart,
which was a surprise, since the film version has more footage. One involves the potential murder of a U.N.
diplomat, while the other is about a supposedly haunted island.
At this point, the show was arcing into more gadget-laden
James Bond territory as noted earlier, and the show finally went full
color. It is a shame we will never see
Drake bloom fully into the world of big hardware espionage, but Mission:
Impossible likely convinced McGoohan to skip that and take the step after
that show with The Prisoner. M:I
itself would drop-off quickly in intelligence when Martin Landau and Barbara
Bain left the show and the Spy craze was bound to start dropping off either
way. These final shows are terrific, so
at least the show ended on top.
The full screen image is above average, but not the best
monochrome transfers A&E has done.
They are still not bad, but not with the definition and clarity of The
Avengers black and white Emma Peel/Diana Rigg shows. The color shows have a good look to them, if
not as colorful as The Avengers or The Prisoner, which is less
grainy if more color poor in its current DVD incarnation. The Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono varies more than
usual throughout the 13 DVDs, getting marginally better as they go on. Extras included on all DVDs are still for
each of the shows on their DVDs, McGoohan filmography. McGoohan biography, and
the U.S. monochrome opening with Johnny Rivers’ “Secret Agent Man” hit song
that was even added to the earliest Danger Man shows not in this
set. The color shows have audio that
seems a bit more compressed than the rest, while Shinda Shima has many
spaces where the music is warped. Maybe
we’ll get the Koroshi telefilm version if A&E ever issued those
older Danger Man shows.
Overall, this is a decent set and one of the better shows
to come out of the Spy craze era.
McGoohan became an international star thanks to this, then a legend with
The Prisoner. It may not be the
very best of its kind, but it is still a minor classic of the genre and is a
must see at least once all the way through for fans. See more about John Drake in our coverage of the early Danger
Man episodes elsewhere on this site.
- Nicholas Sheffo