The spy craze was in overdrive in the ‘60s as 007 spawned numerous TV shows including The Man From U.N.C.L.E., I Spy, Mission: Impossible and others. There are those willing to see Danger Man as merely another TV show cashing in on the James Bond movies. That’s only half true. Danger Man debuted in 1960, a few years before Dr. No‘s release.
The half hour series dealt with the exploits of John Drake (Patrick McGoohan), a NATO agent. It only lasted one season. They couldn’t get American backing for a second batch. After James Bond exploded, the money arrived. In America the show was renamed Secret Agent and received a cool theme song by Johnny Rivers. The show was expanded to an hour and lasted two more seasons until McGoohan abruptly quit the series to make The Prisoner, a program about a secret agent who abruptly quits his top secret post. Secret Agent AKA Danger Man: The Complete Collection brings together both versions of the series.
“View From the Villa” introduces Drake as a NATO agent with a bit of an attitude toward his bosses. He refused to accept easy solutions. He heads to Rome to uncover what happened to $5 million worth of gold after a banker is found dead. This was back when $5 million of gold weighed a lot. Conspiracy minded viewers will note that the exteriors were shot at Portmeirion. This was the location of The Village on The Prisoner. You almost want to break out a bulletin board and string to connect how Drake just might be Number Six. There’s even an episode called “The Prisoner.” Although the plot deals with a diplomat stuck for five years inside his embassy since the country will arrest him if he goes near the airport. This is not foreshadowing.
Even though he’s a NATO agent, no part of the globe is off limits to his stealth investigations. “The Journey Ends Halfway” smuggles him into an isolated China. “Dead Man Walks” prowls the Indian wheat fields looking for evidence of bacterial warfare. “Deadline” slices through the African jungle to avoid a mass riot. He’s a globetrotter with numerous passports. There were 39 half hour episodes produced that gave tight intriguing tales.
When the series returned in the hour long format it stayed true to it’s half hour tone. The 47 episodes have twice the time, but that doesn’t mean Drake works at half speed. The major change was a transfer to a top secret British intelligence unit called M9. This new job was pretty much the same as his old gig. Although now he’s more likely to be assigned to bail out a fellow Brit. “Yesterday’s Enemies” makes him track down an ex-agent that might have gone into business for himself with a spy ring around Beirut. “The Professionals” sneaks him into the Czechoslovakia to locate a missing M9 agent. His cover gets blown by a Czech spy and his lady. Can Drake seduce his way out of trouble? “A Man to Be Trusted” revives voodoo while investigating a contact in the West Indies. Third season is only two episodes, but they were shot in color unlike the rest of the series. “Koroshi” and “Shinda Shima” drips with hues as Drake infiltrates a murder racket in Japan. The final episode was directed by Peter Yates. He’d go on to make the classic films Bullitt, Breaking Away and Friends of Eddie Coyle.
Secret Agent AKA Danger Man: The Complete Collection combines all the action of one of the best spy shows. McGoohan isn’t aping James Bond. He’s his own undercover agent with plenty of attitude to match his firepower. The interesting angle is that this is the backstory to the The Prisoner. This is the life that John Drake wanted to quit. Danger Man doesn’t require you to already be part of the cult of The Prisoner. It might even serve you well to watch all Drake’s undercover work before Number Six’s struggles in the Village. Ultimately he might have been a British secret agent, but he wasn’t merely 007.1.
The video is 1.33:1 full frame. The black and white transfers look well for their age. Not too many scratches for Drake to hide behind. The audio is Dolby Digital stereo. The mix sounds rather mono. The levels give McGoohan his proper voice of authority.
Patrick McGoohan Biography/Filmography are two text files that give an extremely brief bio and a list of films and TV shows. He was on a lot of Columbo episodes.
U.S. Secret Agent Open (0:41) contains the redone opening credits with Johnny Rivers’ “Secret Agent Man theme song. This is on each disc in case you like to hear the song.
Photo Gallery is on each DVD with pics from the various episodes.
Secret Agent AKA Danger Man: The Complete Collection proves the series shouldn’t be treated merely as a footnote to The Prisoner. McGoohan’s as amazing as an active agent before his retirement. He lets the audience know that John Drake was a major spy because he was persistent on a mission. He didn’t accept the easy answers and write up his report. He didn’t mind trouble if it wasn’t foolish. If you already have The Prisoner on DVD, this boxset needs to go next to it.
A&E Home Video presents Secret Agent AKA Danger Man: The Complete Collection. Starring: Patrick McGoohan, . Boxset Contents: 86 Episodes on 18 DVDs. Released on DVD: September 28, 2010.
Joe Corey is the writer and director of "Danger! Health Films" currently streaming on Night Flight and Amazon Prime. He's the author of "The Seven Secrets of Great Walmart People Greeters." This is the last how to get a job book you'll ever need. He was Associate Producer of the documentary "Moving Midway." He's worked as local crew on several reality shows including Candid Camera, American's Most Wanted, Extreme Makeover Home Edition and ESPN's Gaters. He's been featured on The Today Show and CBS's 48 Hours. Dom DeLuise once said, "Joe, you look like an axe murderer." He was in charge of research and programming at the Moving Image Archive.