A&E // 1960 // 3420 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Maurice Cobbs (Retired) // March 26th, 2011
"There will be action, plenty of it, but no brutal violence. If a man dies, it is not just another cherry off the tree. When Drake fights, he fights clean. He abhors bloodshed. He carries a gun, but doesn't use it unless necessary -- then he doesn't shoot to kill. He prefers to use his wits. He is a person with a sophisticated background and a philosophy. I want Drake to be the heroic mould -- like the classic Western hero -- which means he has to be a good man." -- Patrick McGoohan
"Every government has its secret service branch. America, CIA; France, Deuxième 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."
In 1966, at the height of Bond mania, Patrick McGoohan announced that he was had grown tired of Danger Man -- that it was repetitive and formulaic, and was moving on to something else.
It was a good idea, mind you -- ahead of it's time, in fact; it hit the airwaves in England in 1960 as the half-hour adventures of an American NATO agent who traveled the world at the behest of his superiors, undertaking "missions involving national and global security." 1960, mind you -- two years before the Other Fellow exploded onto movie screens and unleashed a tsunami of secret agent style entertainment. Of course, McGoohan saw to it that his John Drake would be nothing like Bond, even before anybody knew what Bond would be on screen. The novels were lurid enough -- they used to bill Bond over here as "the British Mike Hammer" -- and McGoohan saw Drake as a thinker, not a fighter, though he never failed to apply fisticuffs where needed. But he rarely resorted to firearms and never bothered much with romantic flings. In many ways, the cool, serious, no-nonsense Drake was the polar opposite of the passionate, flamboyant Bond. But Danger Man was there first -- a smash hit in Europe, but alas, one that couldn't quite find a U.S. audience in syndication. The first series ended, and the money never came through for a second, and so...no moreDanger Man.
So it's rather ironic that Bond led to a revival of Danger Man -- ironic, because McGoohan had turned down offers to play Bond (Simon Templar, too). He didn't care for the high-living, womanizing type of character (went contrary to his morals, or so the story goes), but when he was approached with the prospect of a return to Danger Man in 1964 he agreed, with a few conditions. His influence on the series, which was hardly minimal the first go 'round, was increased, so was the show's running time -- doubled to a full hour (well, fifty minutes, with time for a word from the show's sponsors, natch). No longer a troubleshooter for NATO, Drake now worked for the super-secret M9 department of British Intelligence, far more secret than MI-6 (so secret, in fact, that it doesn't actually exist). This time around, like any good pop-culture secret agent, Drake uses an array of spy gadgets, but nothing so flashy as a wristwatch laser or radioactive lint. Instead, Drake would rely on more plausible gear such as a mini recorder disguised as an electric shaver, or his trusty micro-camera, disguised as a cigarette lighter. Of course, as the series progressed, the lure of Bondian glamour proved too much to resist and Drake eventually wound up with more and more outrageous gear. (A short-wave radio concealed in a toilet? That's the first place I'd look.) Mostly, though, Drake would rely on his wits and his strong moral compass to see him through, which even put him at odds with his superiors from time to time. Naturally.
This compact re-release from A&E adds nothing new except a picture of Patrick McGoohan in a silly hat on the cover; no complaints from me, though (except about the silly hat), since the video quality is pretty good. The audio can be a bit uneven towards the beginning, but it improves as the show progresses. And this really is the complete Danger Man: The first 39 episodes of the orginal half-hour series are offered up alongside the 47 hour-long episodes from the show's revival (including the final two episodes in swingin' 1960s color, baby!). The smattering of special features from the earlier A&E Danger Man releases are present and accounted for: a brief biography and filmography for Patrick McGoohan, a small gallery of photos, and the American Secret Agent opening sequence with the indelible Johnny Rivers theme song. And this swanky new slimline edition even takes up less space on your shelf.
Now, if there's one thing I detest, it's pop-culture snobbery. So I'm not going to assert that John Drake is a better character than the cinematic Bond, only that he is a different character from the cinematic Bond. So tastes being what they are, Drake will appeal to some viewers, while Bond appeals to others. Me, I like 'em both. I love spies and detectives, and John Drake is a little bit of both. The stories are well-told and exciting, and each show is masterfully produced and acted. As such, this show will be a must-have for any fan with similar predilections.
Not guilty. But odds are, he won't live to see tomorrow.
Review content copyright © 2011 Maurice Cobbs; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2013 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 3420 Minutes
Release Year: 1960
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Alternate Title Sequence
* Photo Gallery
* The Danger Man website
* Video: Johnny Rivers singing "Secret Agent Man"