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Category:    Home > Reviews > Spy > Action > Adventure > TV > Danger Man - Complete First Season (A&E DVD)

Danger Man – The Complete First Season (1960 – 1961)

 

Picture: B-     Sound: C+     Extras: D     Episodes: B

 

 

Setting the tone for the Spy Craze before it even kicked in, Ralph Smart’s original Danger Man had a good 39 episode run.  Each show was only about 30 minutes, but it featured many of the great talents that went on to do The Avengers, The Saint, The Persuaders, The Champions, and even the James Bond films.  The show itself would be revived in hour-long shows that held this title, and were also issued as Secret Agent and The Prisoner (see the review for both MegaSets

elsewhere on this site).

 

Here, Patrick McGoohan made his debut as a star and immediately was settled with some fine talent.  The late Edwin Astley (who just passed away as this review was underway) did the music, Brendan Stafford, B.S.C., began his very prolific run with ITC, shooting some of the most memorable scenes in TV and Spy genre history with this show.  Brian Clemens, about to find himself building The Avengers, co-wrote the pilot show with the series’ creator.  Jack Whittingham was the co-creator of SPECTRE and Blofeld for the James Bond franchise, and wrote on this show, after trying to launch a James Bond TV series in the 1950s.  His work was plagiarized by Ian Fleming for the novel Thunderball, which led to an ugly court case, but he wrote a few teleplays here.  Even the great director John Schlesinger was a 2nd Unit director on the pilot!

 

McGoohan is John Drake, not working for British Intelligence (yet), but for a special NATO spy division.  The shows are never so long as to bore the viewer, but they are not always packed with action and excitement, yet they have a remarkably good pace for their age.  Remember, this was two years before the first James Bond film, Dr. No.  Despite any reservations, it is the advent of a new era in exciting filmmaking and some of the most challenging TV ever made.  What follows is a brief look at each show by number/U.S. air date (DVD has the shows in British broadcast order) /writer(s)/director, and note that we mention guest stars before they were names:

 

1)     View From The Villa (9/11/60; Brian Clemens & Ralph Smart; Terry Bishop) – Drake tracks down the girlfriend of a murdered banker so she can reveal the killer.  Barbara Shelley guest stars.

2)     Time To Kill (9/18/60; Brian Clemens, Ian Stuart Black & Ralph Smart; Ralph Smart) – A young girl causes trouble for a deadly assassin named Vogeler, and only Drake can save her.

3)     Josetta (9/25/60; Ralph Smart; Michael Truman) – Can a blind sister of a murdered senator offer enough clues for Drake to nab the killers?

4)     The Blue Veil (10/2/60; Don Ingalis & Ralph Smart; Charles Frend) – Drake goes to the Middle East to stop slave trading.

5)     The Lovers (10/9/60; Jo Eisinger & Doreen Montgomery; Peter Graham Scott) – Will a president be bombed in a foreign country or can Drake stop it, give or take a love affair in the way.

6)     The Girl In Pink Pajamas (10/16/60; Brian Clemens, Ian Stuart Black & Ralph Smart; Peter Graham Scott) – Another presidential assassination attempt, this time in the Balkans.

7)     Position Of Trust (10/23/60; Ian Stuart Black and Jo Eisinger; Ralph Smart) – Drake goes back to the Middle East to save a friend’s daughter form drug addition.  Donald Pleasence and Lois Maxwell guest star in one of the more interesting shows.

8)     The Lonely Chair (10/30/60; John Roddick & Ralph Smart; Charles Frend) -  Industrial designer’s daughter is kidnapped, so you know who has to save her, but this is a bit better than most of these shows. Sam Wanamaker and Patrick Troughton (Dr. Who) guest star.

9)     The Sanctuary (11/6/60; John Roddick & Ralph Smart; Charles Frend) – Drake has to deal with the IRA, believe it or not, and this includes a prison trip.

10)  An Affair Of State (11/13/60; Oscar Brodny; Peter Graham Scott) – Did a U.S, economics expert kill himself in the Caribbean, or was he simply assassinated.  Drake will pose as one to find out.

11)  The Key (11/20/60; Ralph Smart and Jack Whittingham; Seth Holt) – A leak in Vienna sends Drake in to investigate.  Could it be a newspaper writer (Robert Flemying), someone inside or an enemy agent?  Charles Gray (Rocky Horror Picture Show, Diamonds Are Forever) guest stars.

12)  The Sisters (11/27/60; Brain Clemens & Jo Eisinger; Seth Holt) – Drake tracks a traitor while investigating the East Bloc nabbing of a Brit looking for political asylum.

13)  The Prisoner (12/4/60; Ralph Smart & Robert Stewart; Terry Bishop) – William Sylvester (2001: A Space Odyssey) is in a convincing dual role as a wanted musician and his double, used to help the talent defect.  Interesting for its success in pulling off the two characters in one actor.

14)  The Traitor (12/11/60; John Roddick; Terry Bishop) – Drake tries tracking down a new enemy, but gets more than he bargained for in tangling with the Chinese.  Barbara Shelley (in a new role) and Warren Mitchell guest star.

15)  Colonel Rodriguez (12/18/60; Ralph Smart; Julian Amyes) – Back to the Caribbean, Drake is accused of killing a singer.  Honor Blackman (The Avengers, Goldfinger) makes a brief appearance, but the show is limited.

16)  The Island (1/1/61; Ralph Smart & Brian Clemens; R. Pennington Richards) – A plane carrying two assassins and Drake wrecks, leaving him to clean up.  Not as good as it could have been.

17) Find And Return (1/8/61; Jo Eisinger; Seth Holt) - Drake has to find a girl in the Middle East who is accused of spying.  Despite guest talents like Donald Pleasence and Warren Mitchell (both in new roles), it never clicks.

18)  The Girl Who Liked G.I.s (1/15/61; Marc Brandel & Ralph Smart; Michael Truman) – Drake goes to Munich when a U.S. soldier is assassinated.  Was he selling secrets?  Nigel Green guest stars.

19)  Name, Date, and Place (1/22/61; Ralph Smart & John Roddick; Charles Frend) – Similar murders lead Drake to an international murder organization.  Jean Marsh guest stars, but the show is not that good.

20)  Vacation (1/29/61; Ralph Smart; Patrick McGoohan) – On a break from his usual escapades, Drake has to put recreation on hold when he realizes he has been seated next to a deadly assassin, who he decides to follow.  Not bad, thanks obviously in part to McGoohan taking over the director’s chair.

21)  The Conspirators (2/5/61; Ralph Smart & John Roddick; Michael Truman) – Does a British diplomat’s wife know too much?  Drake goes to the island where she is to make sure she is not killed because of it.

22)  The Honeymooners (2/12/61; Ralph Smart & Lewis Davidson; Charles Frend) – Drake goes to another island and is forced to interrupt newlyweds when the husband is to be killed.

23)  The Gallow Trees (2/19/61; Ralph Smart & Marc Brandel; Michael Truman) – Has a long-thought-dead enemy agent surfaced ten years later?  Drake investigates and finds the man is simply trying to be left alone, running an inn with his daughter.  Too bad someone is still on the kill.

24)  The Relaxed Informer (1/26/61; Ralph Smart & Robert Stewart; Anthony Bushell) - A security leak in Barvaria?  Drake is about to find out. Not too good.

25)  The Brothers (3/5/61; Ralph Smart; Charles Frend) – Two bandits wreck in a plane, then discovers classified documents.  Not everything it could have been.

26)  The Journey Ends Halfway (3/12/61; Ian Stuart Black; Clive Donner) – To get into Communist China, Drake pretends to be an East Bloc engineer.  Fair at best, but is guest stars Anna May Wong and Kwouk (The Pink Panther, Goldfinger) for a more interesting show.

27)  Bury The Dead (3/19/61; Brian Clemens & Ralph Smart; Clive Donner) – Drake goes to Sicily to deal with the Italian Mafia when they cross NATO.  This show may suffer the many innovations in the Gangster genre since 1960, but star power including Beverly Garland, Patrick Troughton and Robert Shaw as the head gangster in hiding make this one of the bets shows in the series.

28)  Sabotage (3/26/61; Michael Pertwee & Ian Stuart Black; Peter Graham Scott) – A transport taking off from Singapore blows up, killing the owner, Jason Scott.  When it turns out to be part of a series of Jason Airlines that have had “problems”, Drake steps in.  This is a good show as well.

29)  The Contessa (4/2/61; John Roddick & Ralph Smart; Terry Bishop) – Drake investigates a cocaine smuggling ring when a dead body shows up.  Bill Nagy & Jackie Collins guest star, but the show is poor.

30)  The Leak (4/9/61; Ralph Smart & Brian Clemens; Anthony Bushell) – Are Northern Africans dying of radiation from a local nuclear plant?  Drake investigates and finds something more sinister may be going on.  Future Bond film alumnus Anthony Dawson and Walter Gotell guest star in one of the better shows.

31)  The Trap (Ralph Smart & John Roddick; R. Pennington Richards) – Yugoslavia has a chance to get a U.S. decoder in London, unless Drake stops them.  Not as good as it sounds either.

32)  The Actor (4/23/61; Marc Brandel; Michael Truman) – Burt Kwouk (as a different character) guest stars as a sound technician who is about to be murdered for intercepting Chinese intelligence.  Drake comes up with a way to find out where the radiowaves are flying from and too, before British Intelligence is compromised.  Drake decides to become a thespian in a fairly good show.

33)  Hired Assassin (4/30/61; Ralph Smart & John Roddick; Charles Frend) – Drake goes to South America to stop another presidential assassin, which is less effective a show that ever.

34)  The Deputy Coyannis Story (5/7/61; Jo Eisinger; Peter Graham Scott) – Drake in the Balkans looking for stolen money.  Charles Gray guest stars, but the show is not that good.

35)  Find And Destroy (5/14/61; Ralph Smart & John Roddick; Charles Frend) – Drake goes to Rio to find a mini-submarine that has sunk into the ocean with many top secrets. This show is fair.

36)  Under The Lake (5/21/61; Jack Whittingham; Seth Holt) – Drake traces counterfeit currency, which leads him to an ex-Nazi who wants revenge for losing the war, among other things.  This print has some slight debris, slight scratches, and it looks like digital video noise reduction was used here.  Walter Gotell gets a larger role and this is not bad considering the Nazi angle.  Hermione Baddeley guest stars.

37)  The Nurse (12/25/60; Ralph Smart & Brian Clemens; Peter Graham Scott) -An Arab king is killed, and Drake flies in to help, with the situation twisted by the fact that a newborn is now the new king.  This is one of the better shows.

38)  Dead Man Walks (5/28/61; Ralph Smart & Brian Clemens; Charles Frend) – Scientists may have been killed by a virus of their own creation, but Drake has to make sure this was not merely an accident, and new clues point to something not so simple.  A fairly good episode.

39)  Deadline (6/4/61; Jo Eisinger & Ian Stuart Black; Peter Graham Scott) – Is a revolution brewing in Africa?  Drake goes to Victoria to check it out and the key is following armaments.  Holds up in the face of political correctness and the rise of multi-culturalism, and is an odd change of pace in delving into more political territory than usual.

 

 

So the shows have held up in mixed fashion forty-plus years later.  That is still better than most shows of its age, especially in its genre.  Few U.S., series could make the same claims.  The fact that they are shot and edited so well, and on film, is one of the reasons.  The full screen, full frame, black & white image is one of the best yet from A&E/New Video, up there with Fireball XL-5.  The transfer material is usually flawless and little digital video noise reduction has been used, so the clarity of the image is not messed up as a result.  Any kind of softness or grain is limited.  The Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo is a clean, clear boosting of the original monophonic sound, without volume drops or harshness of any kind.  The extras are few, including a repeating of text information about McGoohan we have already seen, and a photo gallery of the show, all on DVD Five only.

 

So was launched a show that would rise again, maybe twice if you count The Prisoner, but an amazing success just the same.  This first version was getting better towards the end.  Each version of the show marked its time period well, reflecting the changes that the 1960s itself went through.  This is at least a minor classic of the Spy genre and very interesting to see again.  Hardcore fans will enjoy this the most.

 

 

-   Nicholas Sheffo


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