Fantastic Fest ’12: Danger 5 – Review



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Australian television show an absurd DIY blend of ’60s swing and WWII action

Zooming out of Australian television like a jet-propelled, gamma-irradiated kiwi bird of fury, “Danger 5″ is a radical discovery that plays like a DIY homage to Garry Anderson’s puppet actioners of the ‘60s mixed with the fly-by-the-cuff absurdity of late-night programming from Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim. Americans, by and large, have not yet had the opportunity to discover the inspired lunacy of “Danger 5″ but when they do – and they will – it WILL become an obsession for many.

Created by Dario Russo and David Ashby, “Danger 5″ is a low-budget seven-part television series with episodes that run approximately 25 minutes each. The series centers on a quintet of sixties-inspired super spies who operate in an alternate 1940s – one where Hitler developed warrior dinosaurs, where Swiss blood cures a sexually-transmitted version of Nazism and Emperor Hirohito was developing cyborg killing machines while nursing a broken heart.

Ashby stars as Jackson, a rugged American soldier – quick to butt heads with the other members of his squad but harboring a crush on teammate Ilsa, a sultry (if emotionally devoid) Russian played by Natasa Ristic. Aldo Migone is Pierre, a suave ladies’ man who had a recurring habit of hearing the dying words of downed compatriots – words always wind up being the recipes for perfect cocktails. Sean James Murphy is Tucker, a sexually repressed Australian who, in addition to leading the team, is a complete and utter square who has a schoolboy crush on Claire, the girl-next-door British spy played by Amanda Simons.

Together, the team is Danger 5, an international peace keeping force that gets its orders from Chestbridge, a colonel who has the head of an eagle. Yep, “Danger 5″ is that kind of show. The orders are always the same – stop whatever Nazi plot is currently afoot and kill Hitler.

Using a healthy dose of miniature work, lovingly home-crafted props and an absurd sense of humor, Ashby and Russo have created a show that plays like the best of Adult Swim. While the details are plucked from the wacked-out far reaches of Ashby and Russo’s imaginations, the DNA of each episode’s plot has a solid grounding in pop culture history. From kaiju to Inframan to James Bond to “Land of the Lost,” each episode gives a loving tweak to the cheek of a different ‘60s pop culture staple and processes it through the series’ well-oiled structure and recipe book of reoccurring jokes. In the first episode, the formula for the series is set in rubber cement and left to dry. Over the following six episodes, the series continues building and building upon its formula like a child making a piece of macaroni art – hammering home the show’s jokes and particular slice of humor. By the time the series wraps up its seventh and final episode, viewers are actively looking forward to their favorite bits, knowing that it wouldn’t be an episode of “Danger 5″ without staples such as Hitler jumping out of a window or Chestbridge unnecessarily and cruelly berating Claire for being a woman.

In addition to the reoccurring jokes, it’s the odd tangents that pop up throughout the series – stuff like a Swedish gang headed up by a machete wielding tiger or a talking Nazi German Shepard played by a puppet – that keep the show fresh and appealing despite a pretty straight-forward formula for every episode.

Like any TV show, “Danger 5″ has stronger episodes than others and marathoning the show – as it was screened at Fantastic Fest – is probably not the best way to watch it. Sure, you’ll pick up on the reoccurring jokes easier but some of the weaker episodes – a Morocco-set homage to James Bond, for example – are even weaker when seen right after the brilliant bits of gleeful madness contained in an episode that features giant stop-motion dinosaurs wreaking havoc on Hitler’s orders.  But even the weaker episodes have wonderful gags that make them a worthy addition to the series’ run.

Want to be ahead of the curve? Get yourself a region-free DVD player and import the Australian box set of “Danger 5.” Strap in and prepare for nearly three-hours of blissful WWII spoof – just do yourself a favor and parcel out the episodes in order to saver the wonders that are to be found within the confines of “Danger 5″‘s wacked-out brilliance.

Director: Dario Russo
Notable Cast: David Ashby, Aldo Mignone, Sean James Murphy, Natasa Ristic and Amanda Simons
Writers: Dario Russo and David Ashby

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