The Timeless Appeal of Secret Agent Man, a DVD Review

20 Jan

By Ed Sum (The Vintage Tempest)

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There can only be one Secret Agent Man (aka Danger Man in the UK) and that’s Paul Drake (played by Patrick McGoohan), an operative who started his career at NATO. Sorry James Bond, but you are more of a super spy for the Crown than a covert ops officer. When considering the producers of this movie franchise first approached McGoohan to play role of Bond in the very first film, Dr. No, and he declined, this fine actor had no regrets. He believed that he had a social responsibility to audiences. The television medium can be like a “third parent” to many a young viewer and this actor’s goal is to provide a good moral compass to anyone who watches the shows he’s in. When looking at the life and times of James Bond, some might think that it’s cool to like him, a Casanova. McGoohan thought otherwise.

Producer/director Ralph Smart created a wonderful television show to spotlight McGoohan’s talents in Danger Man. The stories were realistic scenarios that edged close to what current cold war sentimentality were like back then. To see Drake in conflict with his own superiors showed that he was not going to violate his own sense of principles. Drake’s persona is simply grounded in humility. His experiences with the female persuasion was met with occasional disdain, especially in the early episodes, and the trust must be earned if he’s to ally with them.

The DVD re-release by Timeless Media Group (a subsidiary of Shout! Factory) is nicely packaged at a reasonable price of $65 (MSRP), which comes with a light collection of extras. An audio commentary exists for the episode “View from the Villa,” “An Affair of State” and “The Nurse.” For fans interested in McGoohan’s legacy, an all-new interview with one of his daughters, Catherine, is offered.

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This featurette makes up for the lack of a booklet that some complete releases offers. Usually these items contains behind the scenes or information about how the series came to be. In this video interview, Catherine does a great job in recounting what’s important in her father’s young life that shaped him to become the man that he was. That includes the struggles of balancing fame with family. Sadly, the enigmatic star passed in 2009. As the creator and producer of the cult hit, The Prisoner, viewers are given a few teases to how the two series might relate, but ultimately, audiences have to decide if Drake and the person spirited away to The Village are indeed one and the same.

With 86 episodes made of Danger Man, fans of this actor can watch and re watch the episodes to find clues if the two series are indeed connected. As some viewers may recall, Cobb and Potter appeared in both series. It’s uncertain if the reason is because of the laziness of the writers who did not want to change the characters names when a few of the scripts previously meant for Danger Man were fixed up to be used in another. An examination can now be made to compare how similar in persona these supporting characters are when both products are viewed side-by-side.

Technically, this release offers the best that the DVD medium can offer in putting six to eight episodes per disc. The video quality is crisp and the audio is clear. Sadly, no effort was put into ensuring the aspect ratio is correct when played back on a widescreen television. Viewers will have to change the picture size settings when bouncing back and forth from watching 4:3 and 16:9 aspect television programming. When considering the age of this product (the series originally aired from 1960-68), this series stands the test of time very well. Even the prints are taken from the same source so that there’s consistency between the many releases that have been made available since the advent of the DVD format. Although it’s tough to beat Umbrella Entertainment’s release which includes a 170 page book with behind the scenes information of the series, this Timeless release does a great job at presenting information with the featurette with Catherine McGoohan providing some personal insight to what her father’s life was like. Some secrets are better off revealed that way.

4½ Stars out of 5

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