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Danger Man
cast: Patrick McGoohan, Donald Pleasence, Derrin Nesbitt, and Peter Madden

creator: Ralph Smart

975 minutes (PG) 1960
Carlton DVD Region 2 retail

RATING: 8/10
reviewed by Barry Forshaw
Let's be frank - while a haze of nostalgia may hover over many 'classic' British crime and thriller series, most of them were formulaic and uninspired: viewed today, such shows as The Saint and The Persuaders have little to offer beyond foggy memories. But there's an exception to this rule: Patrick McGoohan's proto-James Bond series, Danger Man, which enjoyed a healthy run as both half-hour and hour shows, before metamorphosing into the cult series The Prisoner. This set of the complete 30-minute shows is a real treat - while no one could claim that these earlier episodes - in which McGoohan was forced to sport a mid-Atlantic accent (subsequently dropped) for American sales, have the richness and sophistication of the subsequent hour-long shows, these are all highly accomplished, fast-moving mini-dramas, with a wealth of British acting and directing talent making an early mark (Bond director John Glen, for instance, demonstrates his editing skills before his groundbreaking 007 stint). McGoohan is always impressive: stern, sexually attractive to women, but always maintaining a monk-like celibacy.
   The opening strap-line was memorable: "Every government has its secret service branch. America its CIA, France Deuxieme Bureau, England MI5. A messy job? Well, that's when they usually call on me. Or someone like me. Oh yes, my name is Drake, John Drake."
   Patrick McGoohan, a maverick talent and prickly man who never quite achieved the Hollywood stardom that appeared to be his due (possibly because of his unbending moral code - the very code that made him turn down the libertine role of 007) still appears - with distinction - in such films as Time To Kill and Braveheart. And while the enigmatic The Prisoner remains his magnum opus (as co-creator and actor), this brisk and effective series wears very well. The six-disc 'digistack' set contains all 39 episodes of the half-hour shows. The first episode of series one was broadcast in Britain on 11th September 1960. Each episode began with Special Agent John Drake walking from a Washington Federal Building (although the series was nearly always filmed in Britain), lighting a cigarette and then ducking across the streets to his white sports car. The viewer is then presented with economically written, pared-to-the-bone espionage dramas, often written by series creator Ralph Smart.
   At less than �50, this is set is a remarkable bargain, with visuals crisp and laser-sharp. And, while the subsequent hour-long shows are much more rewarding, this is still an irresistible package (the UK packaging is smarter and more practical than the bulky US issue). DVD special features are basic, but include stills galleries, biographies, original merchandise and booklets, programme trailers.

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