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A&E Home Video presents
Secret Agent aka Danger Man—Vol. 2 (1964-1965)

"Then what am I supposed to do, hit him over the head, put him in a sack and have him freighted back to the Foreign Office?"
- John Drake (Patrick McGoohan)

Review By: Mark Zimmer   
Published: April 18, 2002

Stars: Patrick MacGoohan
Other Stars: Helen Cherry, June Merrow, Ronald Radd, James Maxwell, Donald Houston, Glyn Owen, Niall MacGinnis, Peter Arne, Catherine Woodville, Sylvia Sims, Robert Urquhart, Maxwell Shaw, Adrienne Corri, Bernard Lee, Jill Melford, William Marshall, Edric Connor, Arnold Diamond, Nora Nicholson, Virginia Maskell, Michael Trubshawe, Warren Mitchell, Zia Mohyeddin
Director: Don Chaffey, Michael Truman, Quentin Lawrence, Peter Maxwell, Philip Leacock

Manufacturer: Blink Digital
MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (some violence)
Run Time: 06h:51m:47s
Release Date: February 26, 2002
UPC: 733961703870
Genre: television


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
B+ B+BB- C-

DVD Review

Patrick McGoohan took a couple of stabs at portraying secret agent John Drake, first in a half-hour series called Danger Man that ran for 39 episodes in 1960-61. The series was resurrected under the same title for two seasons beginning in 1964 in hour-long episodes. It is the first of these latter two seasons that comes to DVD courtesy of A&E. Eight episodes from that second season are presented here in their original broadcast order in the US under the name Secret Agent. However, the original British titles (without the classic Johnny Rivers Secret Agent Man theme song that introduced the series in the US) featuring a bullseye target design and a nifty harpsichord theme. John Drake is an agent for M9, the TV equivalent of MI5, which has its headquarters disguised as World Travel in the shadow of St. Paul's. Arguably, Drake appeared again as Number 6 in The Prisoner, based on the numerous hints and parallels, though McGoohan has always denied this (but for legal reasons can probably hardly do otherwise).

The Professionals
UK original airdate: 20 October 1964
US original airdate: 22 May 1965

"I don't think I've ever come across a more evil man" - Mrs. Pearson

Another agent, Desmond Pearson, has gone missing. Drake goes undercover as a diplomat with a drinking problem. Other than the wrinkle of posing as a character with a serious weakness, this episode feels monotonous after the first volume and is distinctly mediocre.





A Date with Doris
UK original airdate: 29 December 1964
US original airdate: 29 May 1965

John Drake: Is it usual here to be dragged off by thugs without explanation in the middle of the night?
Paratore: These men, they have no finesse, no manners.

In an coyly unnamed Cuba (unless there is some other communist Latin American dictatorship on an island that I'm unaware of), Drake poses as a reporter to interview one of the Leader's righthand men, Joaquin Paratore (Ronald Radd). But he's really there to find and rescue a friend, Peter Miller (James Maxwell), who is not only on the run for the framed-up murder of an actress, but is bleeding to death of a bullet wound. In the meantime, in the interest of public relations a young liaison, Juana Romero (June Merrow) keeps getting underfoot, for some rare comedy relief. Not a bad episode at all, thanks largely to Merrow.





The Mirror's New
UK original airdate: 9 March 1965
US original airdate: 5 June 1965

"Today's Wednesday, Frances. Are you in love or something?" - Edmund Bierce

The episode opens cryptically with a murder set to Ravel's Bolero. Drake is then assigned to unravel the mystery of Bierce (Donald Houston), a diplomat to East Germany, who shows up with a bump on his head, missing a day. In one of the quirkier moments, Drake poses as a German encyclopedia salesman as he tries to untangle the threads of Bierce's double or triple life.





Colony Three
UK original airdate: 27 October 1964
US original airdate: 12 June 1965

"This Village is one of our best kept secrets." - Donovan

Drake poses as Robert Fuller, a clerk, in order to investigate a series of large-scale defections that result in complete disappearances. The path leads him on a train to nowhere, at a supposedly British town of Hamden, also referred to as The Village, run by Donovan (Niall McGinnis), which is really a school for spies to infiltrate British life. Drake's investigation is further compromised by a troublesome roommate. If this sounds familiar, it ought to. This episode contains the clear genesis of The Prisoner, with the roommate taking the role of Number 6 and trying to escape. The name Donovan seems to be a reference to William Donovan, head of the OSS during the war. Another wrinkle that shows up in the later series is M9's callousness towards civilians, such as Janet (Catherine Woodville), a young woman being held in the Village, and Drake's slow burn at her treatment by his own superiors. The air of paranoia and feeling of being utterly trapped would make this an excellent episode even if it weren't for the connection with the classic later series. If Drake is Number 6, this episode neatly explains why Number 6 suspects that his Village might be set up by the other side, since he's had intimate experience with





It's Up to the Lady
UK original airdate: 23 February 1965
US original airdate: 19 June 1965

"Just a moment, I'm interfering with the privacy of a citizen." - John Drake

Charles Glover (Robert Urquhart), an authority on China is defecting, and it's up to Drake to convince him not to. The means is Glover's wife, Paula (Sylvia Sims), who is following him to Greece, and thence via Albania to China. Drake in best Mickey Spillane fashion takes a bullet, and the M9 division shows itself to be a good deal worse than the other side, spying, tapping telephones and lying repeatedly in order to get its results. Drake is obviously chafing about the situations that his superiors are putting him into.





Whatever Happened to George Foster?
UK original airdate: 19 January 1965
US original airdate: 26 June 1965

"Could it be that there's more than one Peter Jones—or no Peter Jones at all?" - John Drake

In the nation of Santa Marco, Lord Ammenford (Bernard Lee, best known as M in the James Bond films) is using his wealth to influence politics unduly. Drake steps outside of his mission to expose Ammenford by researching his past in Wales. But things aren't as clear as they might seem at first blush. An adequate episode.





The Galloping Major
UK original airdate: 3 November 1964
US original airdate: 3 July 1965

"Democracy in Africa is only skin deep, you know." - Prime Minister Mamungo

In a newly independent African nation, the prime minister (William Marshall, who would later play Blacula in several exploitation pictures) fears an assassination attempt. Drake attempts to infiltrate the plot being pushed by the prime minister's electoral rival, Dr. Manudu (Edric Connor). This episode makes good use of the then-current collapse of the British Empire and the background of resistant colonial power in the face of black nationalism. The show is stolen by Nora Nicholson as the gin-tippling Mrs. Manningham, who is unrepentently imperialist in her sentiments. Drake shows a more ironic side here as well.





The Colonel's Daughter
UK original airdate: 24 November 1964
US original airdate: 10 July 1965

"I can only assume that possibly, quite by accident of course, you have become involved in something that is none of your business." - Chopra

The final episode in the set finds Drake in India. Diverted from his mission by police officer Khan (Zia Mohyeddin) onto a suspicious Colonel Blakeley (Michael Trubshawe), Drake uses the colonel's daughter Joanna (Virginia Maskell) to get close to her father and try to break up a ring of traitors. Unfortunately for Drake, several highly-placed members of the government are part of the plot and they will stop at nothing to silence him. The soundstages and backprojection don't mesh well at all with the stock footage, but this isn't bad at all.



Rating for Style: B+
Rating for Substance: B+

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyes
Anamorphicno


Image Transfer Review: The video is presented in its original full frame aspect. Shot on film, the picture is detailed and clear, with generally attractive black and white photography. A few sequences are overly dark, but by and large it's quite good, with deep blacks and a wide range of greys. A few speckles and bits of damage are noted (notably worse in the stock footage), but this looks miles ahead of The Avengers from the same period that exist only in kinescopes. Unlike the first volume, edge enhancement or compression ringing is visible on contrasting vertical lines.

Image Transfer Grade: B

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
MonoEnglishno


Audio Transfer Review: The sound is an adequate 2.0 mono. There is some hiss and crackle that generally isn't too bad. Many episodes have a spotty burring sound under dialogue but overall the audio is clear and easily followed. The harpsichord theme comes through delightfully well.

Audio Transfer Grade: B-

 

Disc Extras

Static menu with music
Scene Access with 48 cues and remote access
Cast and Crew Biographies
Cast and Crew Filmographies
Production Notes
1 Documentaries
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
2 Discs
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extra Extras:
  1. Photo gallery
  2. US opening sequence
Extras Review: Those longing for the Johnny Rivers theme music don't need to worry; the crudely animated US opening is presented here as an extra (it also provides the lead-in to the main menu). A two-screen bio of McGoohan, plus a fairly extensive filmography are included. All of these extras appear on both discs. Wrapping up the package are photos, with a little more generous sampling of 4 or 5 per episode. These are presented slightly windowboxed, but they do occupy most of the screen, which is a major improvement for the A&E television releases. Chaptering is a marginally adequate 6 stops per episode.

Extras Grade: C-

 

Final Comments

Eight episodes from 1964-65, given a very nice transfer. A little lacking, as usual, in extras, but worthwhile for fans of spy tales. Fans of The Prisoner will definitely want to obtain this volume to see the Village at the other end of the spy system.

 


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