Sunday, 15 June 2014

Danger Man: You're Not in Any Trouble, Are You?

I've skipped over Parallel Lines Do Meet, although its opening beach scene has had me craving the sun so much, rather than our present thundery weather here, that I shall probably return to it. The reason for my jump to this one is it has made me think of the most persuasive evidence I have seen so far that Drake is *not* Number Six. It isn't really in this episode, as such, so perhaps I'd better come clean. I have an addiction. I have sufficient addiction thinking that I'm incredibly proud of it. It is to tobacco. I'm young enough that (in Britain at least) the kind of smoking shown in the opening scene of this episode - lighting up in an enclosed public place - would not have been illegal in Britain for some at least of the time I was smoking, but you'd have been asked to leave. I'm also old enough to remember my dad smoking in a department store & being asked to stop for the reason that it would set the sprinklers off, rather than any other reason. Until I stopped I've smoked in season & out, regardless of whether it was allowed or not. Like all addictions you have a relationship with tobacco, & there is a smokers' mythology of real smokers & the ones who aren't. Here's the point of this rambling: John Drake smokes, Number Six does not. I've just realised this. Yes, he could have given up, but The Village would be exactly the kind of setting to start a smoker off again, & Village Cigarettes would be a branding opportunity not to be missed. They'd probably have some weird chemicals mixed in with them, or else they'd be ridiculously low tar. My point here is that this is a marked difference between the two men, & to me with an insight into the addiction, indicates permanently that they are different people. This really isn't anything to do with the episode under discussion: it is just that the murderer lighting up just before getting into the lift, made me think of it.
None of that is really a propos this episode, so for a start let me say that I don't personally object to the reusing of a script from the first series, Name, Date, & Place. Of course I'm going to wind up watching that & comparing it to this. My guess is that since this is one of my favourite Danger Mans, I'll prefer this one. Sometimes, as in The Avengers, it's interesting to see how remade stories develop the series & the characters. In fact I think some of the recycled Avengers stories are among the best.
I have watched this Danger Man many times now, not just with a view to this blog post, & an idea has grown on me through the repeated watchings. It's very tongue in cheek, but surely this is a parody of...well, virtually all the sixties spy shows I can think of & then a few more. Don't get me wrong, it is *extremely* tongue in cheek, if it was intended at all.
The first scene that gave me this impression was when Drake makes contact with 'Murder Inc' in a car: the American accent that announces that it is a 'hot car' is so overdone that it can only be a parody of the detective genre. It surely can't be that this show falls down on the American accent there - it didn't have to be an American accent, it could well have been an Italian accent. This idea is reinforced for me by the way the Italian accents in the rest of the show don't come across as overdone (to English ears, that is). In fact I was sure they were being so careful with the accents that the bellboy was going to be silent - but then he makes a noise of some sort, which is his sole oral contribution to this. The noise is noncommittal - he could be pretty well any nationality. Since this show is so careful about this, I suspect the overdone American accent (overdone to my ears, that is) is deliberate.
Then it comes across as a carefully-constructed parody of James Bond's romantic exploits. Maintaining Drake's careful non-involvement-beyond-the-bounds-of-duty with women, he has a woman literally throw herself at him. Drake needs to befriend her to some extent to get into her bedroom for the all-important 'shaver' - he is shown using one himself. Of course Bond would have gone there, & of course Drake does not. The fact that she does not get her man, despite her best efforts, is what completely inverts the Bond plot.
The - relatively underplayed - spy technology thing is another Bondian reference. Nor, in case I'm showing my lack of knowledge of the Bond films & the love & gadgets came after this, need Bond be the only source for these aspects of the spy genre that are - as I theorise - parodied here. The Man from UNCLE, for example, that would be another source. In fact virtually any of the Cold War spy thrillers. In fact, I see there was a contraption of tear gas in a briefcase in From Russia With Love (1963) - a perfect gadgety/Cold War inspiration for this.
It is funny, this post coming straight after my last about British perceptions of Chinese people, that the agent designated to kill Drake should be played by Burt Kwouk. He'd already been in a James Bond at this point, & there is no particular reason for having a British actor of Chinese descent at this point - except that the Chinese are supposed to have strange mystical knowledge of how to kill people. Given that the piece is set in Italy, it could just as well have been a Mafia man to kill him, if we're talking stereotypes. And my point here remains that that is exactly what we are talking about - a stereotypical Chinese killer appearing for no reason, except that this show is so obviously a parody of all sorts of British films. Normally I don't like these repetitive actors in sixties shows - but Kwouk works very well here as a stereotypically interchangeable Oriental character. What prevents this becoming a Fu Manchu parody is the fact that the murder enterprise is ruled over by another evil mastermind - how Bond can you get! This is quite different from many of the baddies in Danger Man, who are quite frequently sad characters, or sympathisers for the Other Side: it is rare to see the Evil Genius himself.
So all in all, a favourite Danger Man episode of mine, which has had a developing effect on me as I have watched it repeatedly.
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