Danger Man-Set 1: 1960-1961 (1960)
Audio Commentary-Brian Clemens (Writer) & Peter Graham Scott (Director)-Ep. 1
Audio Commentary-Peter Graham Scott (Director) - Episode 10
Biographies-Cast & Crew
Production Notes-Sleeve Notes
Trailer-The Saint, Return Of The Saint, Department S, Jason King
Trailer-Strange Report, Man In A Suitcase, The Baron
DVD-ROM Extras-Original Script, ITC Story Information
Trailer-Randall And Hopkirk Deceased, The Protectors, UFO
Audio Commentary-Brain Clemens (Writer) & Peter Graham Scott (Director)-Ep.38
Trailer-Danger Man Set 2, The Prisoner, Thriller, The Professionals
|Year Of Production||1960|
|Running Time||972:31 (Case: 975)|
|RSDL / Flipper||
Multi Disc Set (6)
|Cast & Crew|
|Region Coding||1,2,3,4,5,6||Directed By||
Edwin T. Astley
|Pan & Scan/Full Frame||None||
English Dolby Digital 2.0 (384Kb/s)
English Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
|Widescreen Aspect Ratio||1.29:1|
|Video Format||576i (PAL)|
|Original Aspect Ratio||1.33:1||Miscellaneous|
|Subtitles||None||Smoking||Yes, lots of it|
|Annoying Product Placement||No|
|Action In or After Credits||No|
"Every government has its secret service branch. America: it's CIA. France: Deuxieme Bureau. England: MI5. NATO also has its own. A messy job, well that's when they usually call on me, or someone like me. Oh yes, my name is Drake, John Drake."
John Drake is a American and a NATO secret agent in this British series made at the beginning of the Spying Sixties. Years of public and private espionage had led to public interest in the spy game. The 1950s saw only a few films on the subject of secret agents, while in television the only major series that I am aware of was one called Foreign Intrigue. However the stories by Ian Fleming about an agent named James Bond were popular, and the scene was ripe for a tough minded agent working mainly on his own.
Like Bond, Drake uses gadgets and crosses paths with various villains. Unlike Bond, the villains are not bent on world domination and Drake prefers to handle things without the use of a gun. He depends rather on his wits and his physical skills.
Danger Man appeared on the small screen in two spurts. Thirty-nine episodes were made in 1960, each running about twenty-five minutes. In 1964 a second series of 32 hour-long episodes was made, followed by a third series of 13 episodes the following season. In 1966 two episodes of a projected fourth series were made before the show was cancelled.
Patrick McGoohan was John Drake. The American-born and Irish-raised actor made himself into a star with this series. His staccato and mannered delivery and often almost shy demeanour contrasted to good effect with the efficient, tough but principled man of action that he portrayed in Danger Man. Later he would be considered for the part of Bond in the motion picture series but declined, allegedly because he thought the role 'promiscuous'. He is best remembered today for his television work, notably the cult series The Prisoner which some have claimed is a sequel to Danger Man. Younger viewers probably know him for the role of the English King in Braveheart.
As is usual with episodic television the quality of the stories varies from instalment to instalment. Some are excellent and others more pedestrian or less believable. Various directors were called upon during the series, the regulars being Peter Graham Scott, Ralph Smart, Charles Frend, Pennington Richards and Michael Truman among others. Other directors included Seth Holt, Clive Donner, Anthony Bushell and even McGoohan himself. The series was created by Australian Smart, who made a couple of movies in his native country in the 1940s. Writers included Ian Stuart Black and Brian Clemens, who would later be heavily involved in such series as The Avengers and The Persuaders. Also of note is that for the first two episodes the second-unit director was John Schlesinger.
The exigencies of fitting a self-contained story into a 25-minute timeslot means that each tale is shorn of padding and also has to tell the story with a minimum of exposition. We are asked to take a lot for granted and most of the time it works, though if you think about some of the situations Drake finds himself in they are less than believable. Still this series is very entertaining and scrubs up well even though 45 years of more sophisticated spy fare has passed.
A vast range of familiar British actors and some Americans appeared in the series, and I have tried to note as many as possible below. A number appeared more than once with Warren Mitchell and Michael Ripper cropping up three times apiece, though only two actors other than the star played the same role in more than one instalment. Richard Wattis appears as Hardy, who seems to work for the British secret service, and expatriate Canadian actor Lionel Murton is his Yankee equivalent Colonel Keller.
The series was shot entirely in England but astute use of stock footage, some second-unit location footage and intelligent use of lighting makes the changes to locations all over the world believable.
Note the episodes appear to be slightly out of order when compared to the original screening order. Deadline appears as the 15th episode when it was in fact the last one screened, while The Nurse has moved from 16th to 38th.
A banker is murdered and Drake is assigned to find out by whom, as well as to recover some missing gold bullion. Guest stars Barbara Shelley and Delphi Lawrence. The concluding sequences were shot in the village of Portmeirion, which was the setting for the series The Prisoner.
Drake travels to a country behind the Iron Curtain to assassinate an assassin (Derren Nesbitt). However, in a remake of The Defiant Ones he becomes handcuffed to Sarah Lawson. This episode was screened second but was in fact the pilot episode.
In a Latin country an opposition figure is assassinated, and the only witness is his blind sister (Julia Arnall). The chief suspect is an Army colonel (Kenneth Haigh), and Drake enlists the help of the sister as well as the local police chief (Campbell Singer).
In an Arab country Drake attempts to break up a slavery ring. With Lisa Gastoni, Ferdy Mayne and Laurence Naismith.
The lovers are the President of Boravia and his wife, who are visiting Britain. An assassination attempt is planned, which Drake must foil. But who is the target? Ewen Solon and Maxine Audley are the Presidential couple, with support from Martin Miller and Michael Ripper (on day release from Hammer).
Somewhere in the Balkans a girl, who is unable to speak, is found wandering in pink pyjamas (they look grey to me). Meanwhile the leader of the country is in hospital after an assassination attempt. Guest starring Angela Browne, John Crawford and Robert Raglan.
Somewhere in the Middle East Drake is called upon to break up a narcotics ring. He enlists the unwilling help of an Anglo-Indian clerk in the Ministry. The latter is played by one-time Blofeld Donald Pleasance, and also present is Lois "Miss Moneypenny" Maxwell.
The daughter of a wheelchair-bound boffin is kidnapped, and the boffin (Sam Wanamaker) is blackmailed into handing over some secret documents. Drake is assigned to prevent the transfer being made. Hazel Court plays the boffin's wife, Patrick Troughton is one of the kidnappers and Richard Wattis makes his first appearance as Hardy.
Scotland is home to a bunch of IRA terrorists. Drake impersonates an Irish bomb expert just released from prison in order to infiltrate the gang. Features Kieron Moore.
Drake faces up against corruption in a small Caribbean country. Patrick Wymark, John Le Mesurier and Warren Mitchell guest star. There is also an amusing appearance by Fenella Fielding.
Information is leaking from the US Embassy in Vienna. The finger of suspicion points at the Ambassador (Charles Carson). Also featuring Robert Flemyng, Charles Lloyd Pack and Charles Gray, this episode was directed by Seth Holt.
A refugee scientist seeks asylum in England. When her long lost sister is incarcerated in a prison behind the Iron Curtain, Hardy calls Drake in to investigate whether the asylum seeker is genuine or a spy. Mai Zetterling appears as the scientist, with support from Barbara Murray, Sydney Tafler and Anthony Dawson.
An American has been confined in the embassy in a Caribbean island, as he faces arrest if he ventures out. Drake is called in to help him escape, with the assistance of a concert pianist who is a double for the American. William Sylvester from 2001: A Space Odyssey plays the dual roles, with June Thorburn as the American's wife.
Drake travels to Kashmir to capture a traitor (Ronald Howard, son of Leslie) but the traitor is tipped off and ordered to kill our hero. Also featuring Barbara Shelley, Jack Watling and Warren Mitchell.
In order to foil an uprising in an African country Drake poses as a gunrunner. William "Blacula" Marshall appears as Khano.
Back in the Caribbean, a popular place for intrigue given the political situation of the time, Drake is called on to assist in the removal of a problematic Colonel, played by Noel Willman. Maxine Audley and Honor Blackman also appear.
Escorting a couple of captured assassins back to the mainland, Drake finds himself in trouble on an island when the plane crashes. The assassins manage to convince the local hermit (Michael Ripper) that Drake is the criminal. One of the assassins is played by Australian actor Allan Cuthbertson and if you look quickly you can see Kiwi actress Nyree Dawn Porter.
Drake is called in by Hardy to fly to the Middle East to bring back a spy before she heads off to parts unknown. Moira Lister plays the woman in question, while there are parts for Donald Pleasance (typewriter repair man and British agent), Zena Marshall and Warren Mitchell yet again.
A G.I. is killed in Munich, and Drake is enlisted to investigate a young girl (Anna Gaylor) he had spent the day with. There's some espionage afoot. Anthony Bushell, who later directed several episodes, plays the girl's father.
Several murders across Europe seem linked. Drake decides to get to the bottom of things by arranging for his own killing, to Hardy's chagrin. Cyril Raymond and Jean Marsh guest star. There's also a small role for Kathleen Byron, who had played memorable roles in several films of the 1940s (like Black Narcissus) but whose film career seems to have quickly become comprised of bit parts: she even played a brief role in Saving Private Ryan.
After realising the passenger next to him on the plane to his Riviera holiday is the assassin Amory (Hugh McDermott), Drake decides to take the law into his own hands. He takes the opportunity to impersonate Amory in order to discover what his assignment was. Also featuring Esmond Knight.
A senior government official is found dead from a gunshot wound, just before he was going to reveal some secrets about an African venture. His widow takes refuge on a small island, and Drake is assigned to find her and protect her from the killers of her husband. Patricia Driscoll and Terence Longden co-star, and there are bits for familiar faces Percy Herbert, Alfred Burke and Neil McCarthy.
No, it doesn't have Jackie Gleason as a guest star, but a Far Eastern country has imprisoned a husband for the killing of a man who threatened his young bride. The husband is due to die, but when Drake realises he is innocent and is being used for political purposes, he hatches a plan to get him out. Lee Montague is the crooked official.
When checking fingerprints in a stolen car in a remote Scottish village, the police find the prints of a master spy for the other side. However, this spy died ten years earlier. Drake naturally goes in to investigate, ending up in the inn run by Laing (Paul Rogers) and his daughter Jean (Wendy Craig). Raymond Huntley and Andrew Crawford also appear, with a bit part for Finlay Currie.
An interpreter for high-level international conferences (Moira Redmond) is suspected of passing information to the enemy. Drake follows her to a colony of new-agers 1960-style. Features Duncan Lamont behind a large beard.
Two Sicilian bandits (played by Ronald Fraser and Derren Nesbitt of all people) take possession of a diplomatic satchel from a crashed plane. Drake is assigned to retrieve the satchel, and with the help of the local police commissioner (George Coulouris) tricks the girlfriend of one of the bandits into leading him to them. Lisa Gastoni plays the girlfriend.
People trying to defect from China to the West are being killed on a route by water. Drake pretends to be a Czech engineer with a deep voice and finds the trail leading him to a doctor (Paul Daneman). Burt Kwouk is the hotel clerk, and Martin Boddey has shoddy eye make-up as a masseur. There is also an actress named Anna May Wong, but she is not the more famous American movie star. This episode was directed by Clive Donner.
A fellow NATO agent (played by Robert Shaw) is killed in a car accident in Sicily. His girlfriend (American actress Beverly Garland) thinks it wasn't an accident, and Drake looks into the matter. Dermot Walsh, Patrick Troughton and George Murcell play bad guys.
An airline flying a New Guinea route is the victim of several bombings. An old friend with an old-time Australian accent runs the company, and she calls Drake in to assist. Maggie Fitzgibbon is the owner of the accent and the airline, while Yvonne Romain plays a mysterious stewardess.
A man injured on the New York waterfront is found to have cocaine sewn into the lining of his jacket. A narcotics ring is suspected, and Drake goes undercover in Genoa to root out the principals of the ring. Hazel Court guest stars in the title role. A bit part is played by Jackie Collins, later to write trashy novels.
In a North African country a nuclear power plant is blamed for an outbreak of radiation sickness. The local Sheik has his dander up, but the plant is not the source of the radiation. This episode must have had a bigger budget than usual for guest stars, with Zena Marshall, Bernard Archard, Marne Maitland, Anthony Dawson, Walter Gotell and Eric Pohlmann all appearing.
A cipher expert from the US Embassy in London travels to Venice with her new boyfriend but without the permission of the authorities. A sinister plot is suspected. New Zealand actor Noel Trevarthen appears as "Gino".
A radio programme in Hong Kong seems to be sending coded signals to the Chinese. Now who do you think would be sent in to sort things out? Rupert Davies, Patsy Rowlands and Burt Kwouk appear.
In order to prevent a South American president being assassinated, Drake impersonates a professional assassin, infiltrates the revolutionaries and helps them get organised. One of the sillier episodes as you might imagine. Alan Wheatley is the chief revolutionary and Wensley Pithey makes a brief appearance. Judy Carne plays Juanita; later she would be well-known from her appearances on Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In.
International Monetary Fund monies are being siphoned off in a Balkan country not dissimilar to Greece. Drake investigates. Charles Gray guest stars.
Drake manages to get on that holiday to South America, but while there he is co-opted by British Intelligence to destroy a remote-controlled submarine that has been washed ashore before the Other Side can find out its secrets. Peter Arne is the bad guy, while the forces of good are represented by Peter Sallis and Ronald Leigh-Hunt.
Forged currency leads Drake to follow a former German general and his daughter to a mountain resort. Guest stars Hermione Baddeley, Moira Redmond, Roger Delgado and Walter Gotell.
The king of an Arabic country has been killed by rebels. Drake is sent in to rescue some Americans and finds himself with more problems. Jack MacGowran, Eric Pohlmann and Harold Kasket guest-star.
A group of scientists working on tropical diseases is mysteriously killed. The trail leads to Kashmir and the daughter of one of the dead men. With Julia Arnall, Richard Pearson and Michael Ripper in blackface.
The series is shown in the original aspect ratio of 1.29:1.
The series was shot on 35mm film with a view towards the international market. This means that the video quality is far superior to that afforded to a lot of old British television, such as the early episodes of Doctor Who, which were simply kinescoped. The transfer is quite sharp and detailed. The early episodes are less sharp than the later ones. These early episodes look like they are NTSC to PAL conversions, but the bulk of the series looks like a direct transfer to PAL format. The initial stories have a slight loss of detail, with the actors' eyes and lips being slightly fuzzy, as if scan lines are visible. This problem practically disappears after three or four shows.
Otherwise there is as much detail as you would expect in a feature film of the era, with a sharp image. There is a reasonable level of contrast but shadow detail is often poor. All of the episodes are in black and white and the rendering of the shades of grey is acceptable. Blacks are reasonably solid though some low level noise is evident from time to time.
There are some artefacts noticeable. Aliasing is visible in just about every episode. There is some evidence of excessive noise reduction in some episodes. There are occasional flecks but generally few film artefacts.
There are no subtitles.
Four of the six discs are dual-layered, but there are no layer changes within any of the episodes.
The audio is Dolby Digital 2.0 mono.
Not the best audio I have heard. Dialogue is clear throughout but there is a lot of sibilance. I suspect that given the lack of hiss that noise reduction has been applied, resulting in some clipping of the audio. It is acceptable for an old television series but could have been better.
There are a few examples of looped dialogue, notably in The Key where Charles Carson has been dubbed with an American accented voice.
Edwin T. Astley provided the music, which is very much in style of the period. The Danger Man Theme is well used outside of the opening credits, with that twanging electric guitar sound.
|Surround Channel Use|
Quite a good array of extras here. It looks like Umbrella have gone to considerable trouble to make this release better than the overseas alternatives.
The main menu is static but does have the Danger Man Theme.
A small booklet is included, which reproduces the contents of the original ITC press book.
Audio commentaries are provided for three episodes. Brian Clemens and Peter Graham Scott do duty on episodes 1 and 38, while Scott goes it alone on episode 10. Both are well advanced in age but have clear memories of working on the series, dealing with ITC chief Lew Grade and the actors (though they don't always remember their names).
Each disc has several cast and/or crew biographies, which are fairly scant on biographical details but do list a lot of the movies and TV shows that they worked on. The people covered are: Patrick McGoohan, Barbara Shelley, Derren Nesbitt, Laurence Naismith, Angela Browne, Lois Maxwell, Sam Wanamaker, Kieron Moore, John Le Mesurier, Barbara Murray, Warren Mitchell, Honor Blackman, Allan Cuthbertson, Nyree Dawn Porter, Donald Pleasence, Jean Marsh, Charles Lloyd Pack, Wendy Craig, Beverly Garland, George Murcell, Patrick Troughton, Jackie Collins, Burt Kwouk, Patsy Rowlands, Judy Carne, Charles Gray, Peter Arne, Richard Wattis, Roger Delgado, Ralph Smart, Brian Clemens and Peter Graham Scott.
Each disc has a substantial gallery of photographs grouped by episode, which include publicity shots and behind-the-scenes shots. A handful are in colour.
Each of the three cases has some production notes on the inside of the slick, covering the genesis of the series, the production and the music.
Disc three contains some original trailers for which unfortunately the sound has been lost.
Each disc has at least two trailers for other releases, all of which are other British television series of bygone eras. The trailers are for The Saint, Return Of The Saint, Department S, Jason King, Strange Report, Man In A Suitcase, The Baron, Randall And Hopkirk Deceased, The Protectors, UFO, The Prisoner, Thriller and The Professionals, and there is also a trailer for the second series of Danger Man.
Disc Four contains two PDF files. One contains an original script for The Journey Ends Halfway. The other contains story synopses and cast/crew lists and runs to 41 pages. Both appear to be scans of photocopies of typed pages.
Disc Five contains a gallery of memorabilia including comic books, press clippings, video covers and the board game.
NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.
Danger Man has now been released in both Region 1 and Region 2. All of the releases have different extras, though from what I can gather the transfers are about the same.
The US Region 1 release has a short biography and filmography of McGoohan plus a photo gallery that apparently consists of screen shots from the video.
The UK Region 2 has more substantial extras in the form of a photo gallery, original publicity material and cast and crew biographies.
Based on the extras, the Region 4 would seem to be the winner.
Classy and intelligent British television, still enjoyable 45 years later.
The video quality is very good.
The audio quality is average.
A good range of extras.
|DVD||Pioneer DV-S733A, using Component output|
|Display||Sony 86CM Trinitron Wega KVHR36M31. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum. This display device is 16x9 capable.|
|Audio Decoder||Built in to DVD player, Dolby Digital, dts and DVD-Audio. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum.|
|Speakers||Main: Tannoy Revolution R3; Centre: Tannoy Sensys DCC; Rear: Richter Harlequin; Subwoofer: JBL SUB175|