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DANGER MAN

Danger Man (retitled Secret Agent in the United States for the revived series, and Destination Danger and John Drake in other overseas markets) was a British television series broadcast between 1960 and 1962, and again between 1964 and 1968. The series featured Patrick McGoohan as secret agent John Drake.

The idea for Danger Man originated with Ralph Smart an associate working with Lew Grade, head of ITC Entertainment. Grade was looking for formats that could be exported.

Ian Fleming was brought in to collaborate on series development, but left before development was complete (just as he had done for the Man From U.N.C.L.E.). Like James Bond, the main character is a globetrotting British spy (although one who works for NATO rather than MI6), who cleverly extricates himself from life-threatening situations and introduces himself as "Drake... John Drake."

When Fleming left the project he was replaced by Ian Stuart Black, and a new format/character initially called "Lone Wolf" was developed. This later evolved into Danger Man.

After Patrick McGoohan (right) was cast, he also affected characters development. A key difference from Bond traces to the family-oriented star's preferences: no firearms (with a few rare exceptions, such as episode 26, "The Journey Ends Halfway") and no outright seduction of female co-stars (though Drake did engage in low-key romance in a few episodes). As a practicing Catholic, McGoohan felt explicit sexual content and excessive violence were unacceptable, a conviction that allegedly resulted in him turning down the part of James Bond.

The first series of 39 half hour, black and white episodes portrayed John Drake as working for a Washington, D.C. based intelligence organization, apparently on behalf of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), whose assignments frequently took him to Africa, Latin America, and the Far East. In episode 9, "The Sanctuary", Drake identifies himself as an Irish-American.

Drake is sometimes 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.

For the second and third series which aired several years after the first, the episode's length was extended to an hour and Drake underwent retconning. His nationality became British, and he was an agent working for a secret British government department, called M9 (analogous to Secret Intelligence Service), though his Mid-Atlantic English accent persists for the first few episodes in in the second series. These were also filmed in black and white.

Other than the largely nominal change of employer and nationality, Drake's mandate remains the same: "to undertake missions involving national and global security". In keeping with the episodic format of such series in the 1960s, there are no ongoing story arcs and there is no reference made to Drake's NATO adventures in the later M9 episodes.

The pilot episode was written by Brian Clemens, who later co-created The Avengers. In an interview Clemens said, "The pilot I wrote was called 'View from the Villa' and it was set in Italy, but the production manager set the shoot on location in Portmeirion, 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."

During production of the second series some location and background material was shot by a second unit director. When Ralph Smart saw the dailies in the diring room he hated them. Smart 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 was John Schlesinger.

When American financing for a second series failed to materialize, the programme was cancelled. The first series had aired in America each Wednesday, 8:30 to 9:00 pm on CBS from April to September in 1961. It was used by the network as a late-spring replacement for Wanted Dead or Alive, which had just wrapped its third and final season. A five-disc box set DVD release of Danger Man's first series by A&E Home Video in 2000 erroneously states on its cover notes that these first 39 episodes were never broadcast in the US.

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. Danger Man's creator, Ralph Smart, rethought the concept; the second series' (1964) episodes were an hour long and had a new musical theme, Edwin Astley's "High Wire". Drake gained an English accent and did not clash with his bosses at first. The revived Danger Man was broadcast in the U.S. as Secret Agent, first shown as a CBS summer-replacement program. It had a new U.S.-only theme song, "Secret Agent Man", sung by Johnny Rivers, which became a success in its own right. In other parts of the world, the show was titled Destination Danger or John Drake.

The fourth series consists of only two episodes, "Koroshi" and "Shinda Shima", the only two episodes of Danger Man to be filmed in colour. These two separate but related episodes were recut together as a feature for cinemas in Europe and for American broadcast, as done with two-parters from other ITC series such as The Baron and The Saint. Whilst "Koroshi" retains a strong plot-line and sharp characterizations, "Shinda Shima" drew heavily on contemporary Bond movies, principally Dr. No. 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 aired (in black and white) in the UK in the time slot of The Prisoner, which could not make its scheduled broadcast dates. The European cinema film feature version, Koroshi, did not receive theatrical release in the US, but instead aired on network television as a TV movie in 1968.

In the second series, Drake displays an increasingly resentful attitude towards his superiors at M9, first answering unwillingly to "Gorton" (Raymond Adamson) and later to "The Admiral" or Hobbs (Peter Madden). In the series "Hardy" was played by Richard Wattis.

Guest stars included Donald Pleasence, Howard Marion Crawford, Donald Houston, Maurice Denham, Joan Greenwood, John Le Mesurier, Sylvia Syms, Paul Eddington, Patsy Ann Noble, Lois Maxwell and Burt Kwouk.

"Every government has its secret service branch. America, CIA; France, Deuxième Bureau; England, MI5. NATO 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."

- From the first series voice-over

The first series intro featured a Washington title sequence, a composite of the United States Capitol 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. In reality, no such building is allowed to exist in Washington, D.C., as the Height of Buildings Act of 1910 limits the heights of building (except churches) to 130 feet, thus giving the United States Capitol building, at 289 feet, an unobstructed view from any part of the city. (This has led to the popular belief that buildings in Washington, D.C. are restricted to the height of the U.S. Capitol building.) In the opening title voice over the line "NATO also has its own" is not always present. The sequence featured McGoohan leaving a building and getting into a convertible and driving off.

The first opening sequence for the hour-long series features a photograph of a benevolently-smiling McGoohan zooms partly out towards the right of the frame, then stops, adding the legend "Patrick McGoohan as". The three-ringed 'target' revolves round in time to the three-note orchestra hits to obscure McGoohan's photo as it reveals the programme logo on a pure black background. The second version was in two segments. The first segment is filmed, comprising a full-length McGoohan in stark negative, menacingly taking a few paces towards the camera, before he then stops. In quick succession, the camera zooms-in fast onto his eyes, freeze-frames, then switches from negative to positive. The legend "Patrick McGoohan as" is added. This then switches to a different photo with McGoohan looking left out of picture. The familiar three-ringed 'target' then reveals the programme logo on a pure black background as before. The music was re-recorded for this version of the ident and lasted for the rest of the programme's run.

The second Danger Man theme, "High Wire," first appeared in series 2. The original version features a subdued rhythm section with almost inaudible drums. This was replaced with a revised version with drums and bass pushed to the fore in the mix. The end credits theme tune was set to end in the same manner as the opening theme, ending on the held, questioning, lower "E". The two-note coda was added soon afterwards to make a definite ending. The revised theme featured this as a normal end to the tune. As series 4 was to be made in colour, a completely new arrangement was recorded which owed much to the arrangement on Astley's full-length version of "High Wire" (released on single the previous year). The feature film Koroshi was created from the only two episodes made for series 4, "Koroshi" and "Shinda Shima", and uses this new arrangement over the closing titles only.

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Danger Man was broadcast in the U.S. as Secret Agent, first shown as a CBS summer-replacement program. It had a new U.S. only theme song, "Secret Agent Man", sung by Johnny Rivers, which became a success in its own right. Rivers' version peaked at #3 on the Billboard Hot 100 and #4 on the Canadian RPM charts, one of the biggest hits of his career. Numerous covers and adaptations have been recorded since then with the song becoming both a rock standard and one of Johnny Rivers' signature songs. Surf rock band the Ventures did an instrumental version for their 1966 album, "Go with the Ventures". In 1974, the song was recorded by Devo and again in 1979 on the "Duty Now for the Future" album with a jerky, heavily modified arrangement and significantly altered lyrics. Bruce Willis recorded a version for his 1987 album "The Return of Bruno".

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In the United States from 1964 to 1966, Danger Man was rebranded, "Secret Agent Man", and got it's own theme song written by P. F. Sloan and Steve Barri and sung by Johnny Rivers. The Rivers' version peaked at #3 on the Billboard Hot 100 and #4 on the Canadian RPM charts, one of the biggest hits of his career. Numerous covers and adaptations have been recorded since then with the song becoming both a rock standard and one of Johnny Rivers' signature songs.

CBS, solicited publishers to contribute a 15-second piece of music for the opening of the U.S. show to replace the British theme, "High Wire". CBS executives were worried the show might not be successful without a "hummable" theme song. Sloan wrote the guitar lick and the first few lines of the song, with Barri (Sloan's songwriting partner) contributing to the chorus. This fragment was recorded as a demo by Sloan and Barri, submitted to CBS, and, to Sloan's surprise, picked as the show theme, which led to Sloan and Barri writing a full-length version of the song. The original demo of the song used the "Danger Man" title, as shown by the surviving demo of the song, which Sloan sang. When the show's title was changed, the lyrics were also changed. Ultimately, "High Wire" was also retained by CBS, as it played over the episode credits following the "Secret Agent" titles.

In 1965, surf rock band The Challengers recorded a version for their album The Man From U.N.C.L.E. that features vocal harmonies, horns, and vibraphone. This would be the first commercial release of the song, though it was never released as a single and consequently didn't garner much attention.

Sloan and Barri's publisher/producer, Lou Adler, also produced and managed Johnny Rivers, so Rivers was chosen to add the vocals for the TV show. Rivers claimed he came up with the opening guitar riff that was inspired by the "James Bond Theme", although the lick is clearly heard on Sloan's demo version. Rivers' original recording was merely the show theme, with one verse and one chorus. Later, after the song gained in popularity, Rivers recorded it live, with two more verses, and the chorus repeated twice more. The live version was recorded in 1966 at the Whisky a Go Go, but not released until after a few studio production touch-ups were done by Adler shortly after. The song evokes secret agents both musically (making use of a memorable guitar riff) and through its lyrics (which describe the dangerous life of a secret agent). The lyric; "they've given you a number and taken away your name" referred to the numerical code names given to secret agents, as in "007" for James Bond, although it also acts as the (unintentional) setup to the "continuation" of Danger Man, the cult classic The Prisoner.

Several original novels based upon Danger Man were published in the UK and US, the majority during 1965 and 1966.

Target for Tonight by Richard Telfair, 1962
(published in US only)


Departure Deferred and Storm Over Rockall
by W. Howard Baker, 1965

Hell for Tomorrow by Peter Leslie, 1965

The Exterminator
by W.A. Balinger [W. Howard Baker], 1966

No Way Out by Wilfred McNeilly, 1966

Several of the above novels were translated into French and published in France, 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.

At least one of the novels, The Exterminator, was later republished in the 1970s by Zenith Publications in the UK, with no direct reference to Danger Man on the cover.

The adventures of John Drake have also been depicted in comic book form. In 1961, Dell Comics in the US (whose book-publishing cousin issued the Telfair novel) 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 red 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 hour-long 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 hardback 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.

DRAKE, JOHN DRAKE

Unlike James Bond, John Drake, the fictional secret agent played by Patrick McGoohan in Danger Man never carried a gun, never got the girl, never killed anyone on screen and rarely used far-fetched gadgets.

The gadgets Drake employed were more realistic in nature, related to actual items used in spycraft. No underwater sub cars for Danger Man. The first gadget appeared in the episode "Time to Kill" in 1959, three years before Bond hit the big screen with Sean Connery. That "gadget" was a sighted rifle made from parts hidden in a car and a loaf of bread. Other equipment Drake used included a cigarette lighter that hid a tiny camera, a smoker's pipe that fires a radio transmitter dart, toothpaste that can melt glass, the contents of a toilet case that assemble into a shortwave radio, cigars that were exploding flash bombs, microphones hidden in fishing rods, rifles that shoot movies, umbrellas that shoot tracking darts, an electric razor that has on different occasions been a concealed tape recorder, a drill and a radio transmitter. Drake also had a portable typewritter that had a hidden camera, a tracking receiver and could also be used, in emergencies, as a typewritter.

Drake's background was never explored in detail in the series. In the first Danger Man series (1960–61), Drake speaks with a slightly exaggerated American accent (commonly referred to as a Mid-Atlantic accent), and is described as being an Irish American. In this series he's an operative working as a liaison to NATO from an unknown Washington-based agency. In the second series (1964–66), Drake speaks with a less pronounced accent that is more British with Irish undertones which was McGoohan's natural accent. In this later version, he works for a fictional British secret service branch called M9; no further reference is made to him being American. He is now said to be British, except in one episode in which he identifies himself as being Irish. In both versions of the series, Drake is depicted as something of a lone wolf and a maverick. In one early episode he initially refuses a mission that requires him to assassinate a man; he reluctantly takes the mission and is visibly upset when his target is accidentally shot during a struggle. Other episodes (particularly during the later series) have him clashing with his superiors, or at least strongly disagreeing with their methods. In the history of the series, Drake is shown only once intentionally shooting anyone to death, and then only in self-defence. (He is shown shooting people on another occasion, but only during a dream sequence; the aforementioned early episode shooting is depicted as being unintended). Drake was not opposed to using lethal force when absolutely necessary, however, and on rare occasions did kill villains using other methods (throwing off a train, causing the collision of two airplanes, etc.).

Drake is most often shown working alone, having received his orders from unidentified officials (or sometimes stumbling upon a case by himself). During the 1960 - '62 series, he is shown occasionally answering to a British superior named Hardy (played by Richard Wattis), and in one episode Drake's Washington, DC office is shown and it's learned that he has a secretary. The first season of the '64 - '66 series sees Drake receiving orders from Hobbs, a somewhat cold M9 official who is always seen fiddling with a letter opener. In the following season his superior is a former brigadier, Gorton. During the final full season, Drake is on his own, except for one episode in which he takes orders from an M-like character played by Bernard Lee who played M in the James Bond films. In one episode of the third series, viewers are introduced to a group of M9 technicians who support Drake's missions, including a Q-like gadget man and a wardrobe supervisor.

Drake is almost never shown becoming romantically involved with his leading ladies. This was a requirement put in place by McGoohan who didn't want Drake to become a clone of James Bond in that respect. McGoohan allowed a couple of exceptions (particularly in two episodes guest starring Susan Hampshire, both of which imply Drake and the two different characters played by Hampshire continue a relationship "off camera") and there is a considerable amount of sexual tension present in other episodes. In "The Black Book", an episode in which Drake becomes attracted to a young woman involved in a spy ring, it's learned that Drake cannot allow himself to become involved with anyone due to his line of work; this is graphically illustrated in the American version of the opening credits which depict a female form being separated from Drake by a set of bars.

After Danger Man McGoohan went on to make The Prisoner. Prisoner fans frequently debate whether John Drake of Danger Man and Number Six in The Prisoner are the same person, (we say he is). Like John Drake, Number Six is evidently a secret agent, who clashes with his bosses, but one who has resigned from his job.

McGoohan denied that the character of Number Six in The Prisoner was meant to be Drake, and stated in a 1985 interview that the two characters were not the same, and that he had originally wanted a different actor to play the role of Number Six. His co-creator of The Prisoner, George Markstein, claimed otherwise. Markstein had wanted the character to be a continuation of Drake, but by officially doing so would have meant paying royalties to Ralph Smart, the creator of Danger Man.

The debate over the identity of Number Six stems from references in dialogue to the character being a former agent, the appearance of "Potter", a character from the final season of Danger Man, and the fact one episode ("The Girl Who Was Death") was based upon a script originally written for Danger Man. Some of the officially licensed novels based upon the series refer to Number Six as "Drake", including Number Two (1969) by David McDaniel which does so in the very first line of the book.

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. In this surreal episode, Number Six meets "Potter", John Drake's Danger Man contact. Christopher Benjamin portrayed the character in both series, with the episode also featuring an actor named John Drake in a small, non-speaking role. As well as guest-starring in this show, Paul Eddington played another spy and No.6's former colleague, Cobb, in the opening episode of the latter show.

The first Danger Man season includes four episodes which use footage filmed in the Welsh resort of Portmeirion, which later became the primary shooting location of the Village in The Prisoner. Further inspiration came from a Danger Man episode called "Colony Three", in which Drake infiltrates a spy school in Eastern Europe during the Cold War. The school, in the middle of nowhere, is set up to look like a normal English town in which pupils and instructors mix as in any other normal city, but the instructors are virtual prisoners with little hope of ever leaving. It is often thought this episode was a precursor to The Prisoner; it was filmed in the new town of Hatfield, Hertfordshire.

Even reference books conflict on The Prisoner as a Danger Man continuation. Vincent Terrace's The Complete Encyclopedia of Television Programs 1947-1979 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.

The Drake/Number Six debate may never be solved but we thought of a way to confuse things even further. Why not make a feature film of The Prisoner and cast an ex-James Bond actor as Number Six, say Pierce Brosnan or Daniel Craig?

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