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Category:    Home > Reviews > Spy > Action > Adventure > TV > Secret Agent/Danger Man MegaSet (A&E DVD Set/First Issue)

Secret Agent (aka Danger Man) MegaSet


Picture: C+     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 consumption.


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:


1)     Battle 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.

3)     Fair 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 prisoner exchange.

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?

6)     Yesterday’s 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.

7)     The 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.

9)     The 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 bit.

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 first anniversary.

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 guest stars.

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 is odd.

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 simple.

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 possible.

24) The Black Book (Philip Broadley/Michael Truman) – Blackmail, high-ranking officials and a female French voice by telephone mark this escapade.

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 else.

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 hip.

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


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