Written by: Michael Truman, Don Chaffey, Quentin Lawrence, et al.
Directed by: David Stone, Philip Broadly, et al.
Starring: Patrick McGoohan, Peter Madden
- Photo gallery
- Alternate American opening
- McGoohan biography & filmography
- 2-disc sets, 4 episodes per disc
Released by: A&E Home Video
Anamorphic: N/A; presented in its original 1.33:1 format.
My Advice: Rent it.
For those of you who are sick to death of super spies who swill martinis, have sex with anything that moves, and defy the laws of physics and common sense, there is John Drake. An agent for British Intelligence Agency M9, he fights his country’s enemies both at home and abroad. His adventures are chronicled in the series Danger Man, repackaged in the U.S. as Secret Agent. Patrick McGoohan (best known for The Prisoner) gives us a spy who uses his skills of infiltration and investigation to prevent hostile coups, track down defectors, and stop up security leaks. He always does his duty, even when that duty involves violence or dubious behavior.
[ad#longpost]Danger Man, when compared to other spy shows like The Man From U.N.C.L.E. and The Avengers, feels realistic. No ultra-tech gadgetry, no larger than life heroes, and no overtly simplistic morality. There is a lot of gray in the game of spy vs. spy. Drake’s prey is often portrayed as flawed, not evil. They are motivated by greed, patriotism, addiction; behaviors people can identify more with than “I going to take over the world! Mwahahahaha!” So while Drake usually gets his man or woman, he doesn’t feel job satisfaction.
Drake is defined by his job. He doesn’t get involved with the women that cross his path; we see little of his life outside the job. He may feel sympathy or pity for those he is sent out to stop, but it never interferes with his assignments. He is a master of manipulation and at pushing the right buttons to get what he wants. McGoohan excels at showing the guilt and self-disgust the character feels under the suave professionalism. It’s this attitude along with several other clues in the show that have led fans to theorize than John Drake is No. 6 in The Prisoner. McGoohan has always kept silent on the subject along with many other things.
By focusing on realism and characterization, the trade off is visceral action and easy entertainment. Violence is never excessive or cinematic. You never receive the expected simple emotional payoff of good over evil you get with other shows. In fact, the ending of the shows can be very abrupt and somewhat jarring. After watching a few of the episodes, you gather that the complex characterization and plotting is not just artistic vision, but partly to compensate for the lack of production values. I’m probably more aware of this because I saw a bunch of episodes in a short period of time, but others must of noticed the old stock footage and reused sets. Obviously, the BBC in the early 60’s didn’t have the resources ABC has for its current spy show Alias, for example, but seeing the same elevators used in each least four separate episodes does test the suspension of disbelief.
Danger Man on DVD looks amazing. The image and sound quality is surprising clear, especially since the series is around forty years old. The special features aren’t as good. There is a biography and filmography of McGoohan, but it’s not very illuminating. The opening used when the show was aired in the U.S. in also on the disc so viewers can hear that groovy classic “Secret Agent Man” sung by Johnny Rivers. I would love to have McGoohan give some commentary on this series, but he hardly ever comes out of seclusion except for a Columbo movie every once in a while. Still, for a realistic and complex view of Cold War espionage, rent Danger Man.