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Danger Man (titled Secret Agent, Destination Danger and John Drake in non-UK markets) is a Britishmarker television series that was broadcast between 1960 and 1962, and again between 1964 and 1968. The series featured Patrick McGoohan as secret agent John Drake. Ralph Smart created the programme and wrote many of the scripts. Danger Man was financed by Lew Grade's ITC Entertainment.

Series outline

From the 1st series voiceover:

Every government has its secret service branch. America, CIA; France, Deuxieme Bureau; England, MI5marker. NATOmarker 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.

Production history overview

There has yet to be a full explanation of the relationship between Ralph Smart and Patrick McGoohan; McGoohan never spoke about Smart in any detail. They did have face-to-face meetings at the beginning of the project, at which time they fleshed out the character of John Drake.

According to Andrew Pixley's notes to the CD Danger Man Original Soundtrack, Ian Fleming was involved with Ralph Smart to bring James Bond to television. (Casino Royale had been a one-off live TV play in America a few years before). Fleming dropped out and was replaced by Ian Stuart Black, and a new format/character to be called "Lone Wolf" was developed. This evolved into Danger Man. Fleming, meanwhile, assisted in pre-production discussion on the American series, The Man from U.N.C.L.E..

The degree to which McGoohan changed Smart's original ideas is unclear. Smart evidently agreed to the changes and continued to be enthusiastic about his creation.

In the United Statesmarker, CBS broadcast some of the original format's episodes of the programme under the Danger Man title as a summer replacement for the Western series Wanted: Dead or Alive. Years later, under the Secret Agent title, the same network aired the entirety of the second and third series. The two final episodes of the show are often presented as the European cinema film feature Koroshi, which was released directly to television in the US. "Secret Agent Man" is the title of the series' American-broadcast theme song, though often mistakenly applied to the series itself. This theme was written by P.F. Sloan and Steve Barri, and recorded by Johnny Rivers.

Program overview

The first series of episodes ran to 30 minutes each (with commercials) and portrayed John Drake as working for a Washington, D.C.marker-based intelligence organization, chiefly acting on behalf of the North Atlantic Treaty Organizationmarker. However he often went on missions well out of NATO jurisdiction; assignments frequently took him to Africa, Latin America, and the Far East. In episode 9, The Sanctuary, Drake declares that he is an Irish-American.

He sometimes seemed at odds with his superiors about the ethics of the missions. Many of Drake's cases involved aiding democracy in foreign countries and he was also called upon to solve murders and crimes affecting the interests of either the U.S. or NATO or both.

Beginning with the second series, which aired several years after the first, the episodes length was increased to 60 minutes (again including commercials) and Drake underwent retconning and became a British agent (though he identifies himself as Irish in one episode) working for a secret British government agency called M9, though his mid atlantic accent persists for the first few episodes in production. Other than the largely nominal change of employer and nationality, Drake's mandate remains the same: "to undertake missions involving national and global security".

Pilot episode

The pilot was written by Brian Clemens, who later wrote for The Avengers. In an interview Clemens said:
The pilot I wrote was called View From the Villa and it was set in Italymarker, but the production manager set the shoot on location in Portmeirionmarker, which looked like Italy but which was much closer. And obviously the location stuck in Patrick McGoohan's mind, because that's where he shot his television series The Prisoner much later.
The second unit director on the pilot, according to Clemens:
shot some location and background stuff and sent the dailies back to the editing room at Elstreemarker. Ralph Smart looked at them, hated them, and called up the second unit director and said 'Look, these are terrible, you'll never be a film director,' and then he fired him. The name of the second unit director? John Schlesinger.


Early history

The series succeeded in Europe, making McGoohan famous. However, when American financing for a second series failed, the programme was cancelled. The U.S. broadcast of the first series in the early 1960s is not well remembered. Indeed, the A&E DVD first-season release wrongly suggests that the series was never broadcast in the U.S.

After a two-year hiatus, two things had changed; Danger Man had subsequently been resold all around the world, whilst repeat showings had created a public clamour for new shows. Also, by this time James Bond had become popular, as had ABC's The Avengers. (In the seventh episode of the first series, McGoohan's co-star was Lois Maxwell, who became famous in the Bond movies as Miss Moneypenny.) Danger Man's creator, Ralph Smart, re-thought the concept; the second season (1964) episodes were 60 minutes long and had a new musical theme, "High Wire". Drake regained his British accent and did not clash with his bosses at first. In the U.S., the revived Danger Man was re-titled Secret Agent, as a CBS summer replacement programme, given the theme song "Secret Agent Man", sung by Johnny Rivers, which became a success in itself. In other parts of the world, the show was titled Destination Danger or John Drake.

Character development

Unlike the later James Bond films, Danger Man strove for realism, dramatising credible Cold War tensions. In the second series, Drake is an undercover agent of the British external intelligence agency (called "M9" instead of the actual MI6marker). As in the earlier series, Drake finds himself in danger with not always happy outcomes; sometimes duty forces him to decisions which lead to good people suffering unfair consequences. Drake doesn't always do what his masters tell him.

Developing a rule established in the first series, Drake is rarely armed, though he engaged in fist fights, and the gadgets he uses are credible. In fact, most were off the shelf, and their appearance in the series spurred sales of such commercial items as the folding binoculars featured in the American title sequence and the sub-miniature Minox camera. Unlike James Bond, Drake is often shown re-using gadgets from previous episodes. Among the more frequently seen are a miniature reel-to-reel tape recorder hidden inside the head of an electric shaver or a pack of cigarettes, and a microphone that could be embedded in a wall near the target via a shotgun-like apparatus, that used soda siphon cartridges containing CO2 as the propellant, allowing Drake to eavesdrop on conversations from a safe distance.

Agent Drake uses his intelligence, charm, and quick-thinking rather than force. He usually plays a role to infiltrate a situation, for example to scout for a travel agency, naive soldier, embittered ex-convict, brainless playboy, imperious physician, opportunistic journalist, bumbling tourist, cold-blooded mercenary, bland diplomat, smarmy pop disk jockey, precise clerk, compulsive gambler, or impeccable butler.

As Drake gets involved in a case, things are rarely as they seem. He is not infallible—he gets arrested, he makes mistakes, equipment fails, careful plans don't work; Drake often has to improvise an alternative plan. Sometimes investigation fails and he simply does something provocative to crack open the case. People he trusts can turn out to be untrustworthy or incompetent; he finds unexpected allies.

John Drake, unlike Bond, never romanced on-screen with any of the women, as McGoohan was determined to create a family-friendly show. Drake uses his immense charm in his undercover work, and women are often very attracted to him — but the viewer is left to assume whatever they want about Drake's personal life. McGoohan denounced the sexual promiscuity of James Bond and The Saint, roles he had rejected, though he had played romantic roles before Danger Man.

The only exceptions to this rule were the two "linked episodes" of the series, "You're Not in Any Trouble, Are You?" and "Are You Going to be More Permanent?" in which Drake encounters two different women, both played by Susan Hampshire, and which contain numerous similarities in dialogue and set-pieces and both end with Drake in a pseudo-romantic circumstance with the Hampshire character. Drake was also shown falling for the female lead in the episode "The Black Book" though nothing comes of it; this episode is also one of the only scripts to directly address Drake's loneliness in his chosen profession.

John Drake was not blind to the attraction of the opposite sex, often commenting on the prettiness of his latest associate. The implication is that it is impractical for him to launch any liaison. It was also the fact that many times the women in the show turned out to be femmes fatale, and heavily involved in the very plots Drake was fighting.

Although the villains are often killed, Drake himself rarely kills. In the entire series he only shoots one person dead, in one of the last half-hour episodes from the 1960 season. Another shooting occurs in another episode, "The Ubiquitous Mr. Lovegrove", but is revealed to be a dream. Yet The Encyclopedia of 20th-Century American Television by Ron Lackmann claims that Danger Man was one of the most violent series ever produced. Drake is almost never shown armed with a gun, and the episode "Time to Kill" centers around Drake's hesitancy to take an assassination mission.

Co-stars and guest stars

In many episodes of the second series, Drake unwillingly answers to "Hobbs" (Peter Madden), a sinister superior officer always seen fiddling with a knife-like letter opener. In the earlier half-hour series he had an equally edgy, but more good-humoured relationship with Richard Wattis, as his superior, "Hardy".

Each episode has major roles for guest stars, many of whom went on to star in their own shows:

Episode list

Later history and transition to The Prisoner

The fourth series consists of only two episodes, "Koroshi" and "Shinda Shima", the only two episodes of Danger Man to be filmed in colour and, as with two-parters from other ITC series such as The Baron and The Saint, these two separate but related episodes were recut together as a feature for cinemas in Europe. Whilst "Koroshi" retains a strong plot-line and sharp characterisations, "Shinda Shima" was a pastiche of contemporary Bond movies. When the episodes were completed, McGoohan announced he was resigning from the series to create, produce, and star in a project titled The Prisoner, with David Tomblin as co-producer and George Markstein as script editor. Markstein was then the Danger Man script consultant. A number of behind-the-scenes personnel on Danger Man were subsequently hired for The Prisoner.

The two colour episodes were aired (in black and white) in the UK in the time slot of The Prisoner, which had fallen behind schedule and could not make its airdates. Another, unused, fourth series script was reworked as an episode of The Champions while, according to The Prisoner: The Official Companion by Robert Fairclough, the Prisoner episode "The Girl Who Was Death" was based upon a two-part Danger Man script that had been planned for the fourth series.

However, in an interview, it is stated that McGoohan did indeed approach Jack Shampan with the idea of a series continuing "Danger Man" entitled "The Prisoner".

Secret agent John Drake and Prisoner Number Six

It is debated by Prisoner fans whether or not John Drake of Danger Man and Number Six in The Prisoner are the same person. Like John Drake, Number Six is evidently a secret agent, but one who has resigned from his job. Moreover, in the surreal Prisoner episode "The Girl Who Was Death", Number Six meets "Potter", John Drake's Danger Man contact. Christopher Benjamin portrayed the character in both series. As has been previously stated, "The Girl Who Was Death" was an adaptation of an unused Danger Man script.

The first Danger Man series includes four episodes which use footage filmed in the Welsh resort of Portmeirionmarker, which later became the primary shooting location of The Prisoner. This dramatic overlapping is complicated by reference books such as Vincent Terrace's The Complete Encyclopedia of Television Programs 1947—1979 referring to The Prisoner as a Danger Man continuation. Terrace postulates that John Drake's resignation reason is revealed in the "Do Not Forsake Me, Oh My Darling" episode, which is a follow-up to a mission assigned to Number Six before he was sent to The Village. Richard Meyers makes the same claim in his 1981 book, TV Detectives. He further states that this connects directly to "an episode of Secret Agent never shown in this country [i.e., the United States] with John Drake investigating the story of a brain transferal device in Europe".; however no such episode of Danger Man was ever made.

It is claimed that Patrick McGoohan's insistence that Number Six is not John Drake is because actors do not own the characters they portray — producers and writers do, under copyright law. Danger Man creator and producer Ralph Smart owned the "John Drake" character, thus McGoohan would be obliged to deny any resemblance between the two roles. In truth, Patrick McGoohan visualised himself playing two different characters, which is why he made the denials.

Pop culture references

Danger Man has remained part of pop culture consciousness. Author Stephen King alludes to John Drake's cool in his novel The Shining. The band Tears for Fears refer to the character in their song "Swords and Knives", and Dead Can Dance titled one of their songs "The Ubiquitous Mr. Lovegrove" after a Danger Man episode. The American theme song has appeared in countless movies and TV shows, including during the climax of the first Austin Powers movie.

In 2000, the UPN network aired a short-lived spy series entitled Secret Agent Man. Due to the similarities in titles between this series and the American edition of Danger Man, Secret Agent Man, a series with no relationship to the McGoohan program, is often erroneously referred to as a spin-off or remake of Danger Man.

DVD availability

All four series are now available on DVD in Europe, Australasia and North America.

In Britainmarker, Network DVD released a 13-disc "Special Edition" boxed set of the one-hour shows in June 2007. Extra features include the edited-together movie version of "Koroshi" and "Shinda Shima", the US Secret Agent opening and closing titles, image galleries for each episode, and a specially-written 170-page book on the making of the one-hour series. Umbrella Entertainment has released 25 min series in Australia on dvd. The Australian studio Madman, has released the 50 min series on dvd. Umbrellas and Madmans dvd releases, are the best set out there in terms of picture and audio quality + special features.

Network DVD will release the 1st (25 min) series in January 2010 on a 6 disc set with a commemorative booklet by Andrew Pixley. The Carlton 6 disc set is out of issue.

In North America, the three series of hour-long episodes were released by A&E Home Video under the title Secret Agent a.k.a. Danger Man in order to acknowledge the American broadcast and syndication title. However the episodes retain their original Danger Man opening credits (including the original theme by the Edwin Astley Orchestra), the first time these have been seen in the U.S., with the US "Secret Agent" credits included as an extra feature. The first series of half-hour episodes was issued by A&E sometime later as Danger Man. A&E subsequently released a single-set "megabox" containing all of the one-hour episodes; a revised megabox, released in 2007, added the half-hour episodes, but as of 2009 is no longer in print.

Production notes

Marathon House 2009
  • The Washington title sequence of the 30 minute episodes is a composite of the Washington Capitolmarker in the background and the Castrol Building, complete with London Bus stop, in the Marylebone Road, London as the foreground. This building is now Marathon House converted from offices to flats in 1998.


Original novels and comic books

First issue of the Gold Key Comics series.
Several original novels based upon Danger Man were published in the UK and US, the majority during 1965 and 1966.

Several of the above novels were translated into French and published in Francemarker, where the series was known as Destination Danger. An additional Destination Danger novel by John Long was published in French and not printed in the US or UK.

The adventures of John Drake have also been depicted in comic book form. In 1961, Dell Comics in the US published a one-shot Danger Man comic as part of its long-running Four Color series, based upon the first series format. It depicted Drake as having ginger hair, a trait shared with Patrick McGoohan, but which was unseen as Danger Man had been made only in monochrome at that time. In 1966, Gold Key Comics published two issues of a Secret Agent comic book based upon the series (this series should not be confused with Secret Agent, an unrelated comic book series published by Charlton Comics in 1967, formerly titled Sarge Steel). In Britain, a single Danger Man comic book subtitled "Trouble in Turkey" appeared in the mid-1960s and a number of comic strip adventures appeared in hardcover annuals. French publishers also produced several issues of a Destination Danger comic book in the 1960s, although their Drake was blond. Spanish publishers produced a series titled 'Agent Secreto'. The Germans were particularly prolific, using 'John Drake' and a picture of McGoohan, as the cover for hundreds of "krimi" magazines.

References

  1. The Prisoner: Well-come the start.
  2. White, Matthew and Jaffer Ali, The Official Prisoner Companion, Warner Books, 1988, p.145.
  3. Meyers, Richard, TV Detectives, A. S. Barnes and Company, 1981, p. 113.
  4. Network DVD, retrieved November 19, 2009


External links




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