Danger Man – The Girl in Pink Pajamas

Having survived an assassination attempt, President Varnold (Robert Cawdron), lies unconscious and seriously ill in the local hospital. In order to protect him from further harm he’s been isolated under an assumed name, but an amnesic American woman – found wandering in the countryside – seems to know something about another attack which is due very soon ….

The Girl in Pink Pajamas easily wins the award for the most intriguing episode title from DM‘s initial run and the pre-credits sequence is pretty arresting as well. The unnamed girl (played by Angela Browne) is seen wandering barefoot through the sort of quarry usually favoured by Dr Who, dressed only in pink pajamas (well, given we’re watching in black and white we have to assume they’re pink).

This part of the story is put on the back burner for a while as Drake arrives at the hospital to check that all security procedures are in place. The man in charge, Major Minos (Alan Tilvern), seems very efficient but since Tilvern was one of those actors blessed with a remarkably shifty face, it won’t come as too much of a shock to learn that Minos later turns out to be a wrong ‘un.

The mystery of the girl (who we learn is called Anna Wilson) has the feel of a proto Department S storyline, although given that a fair few of those episodes tended to have weak resolutions to puzzling set-ups, I wonder how well this one is resolved? Well …..

It’s revealed that Anna jumped (or maybe was pushed) from a train. My immediate reaction is to wonder why she didn’t have a scratch on her (had the train been moving at any speed then it’s impossible to see how this could have been avoided). And you have to raise an eyebrow at the chatty villain who clearly couldn’t just kill her (first he had to mention that bad things were due to happen at the hospital)

Anna, a nurse, was travelling with Dr Keller. Keller’s a specialist surgeon due to operate on President Varnold, who has a bullet lodged in his brain. The plan was to kill Anna and Dr Keller and substitute them with black hats who could finish Varnold off for good. Keller was duly killed, but somehow (the story isn’t too clear on this) Anna managed to get away.

You have to say it’s a reasonably good plan, although it seems rather overcomplicated once you realise that, for security reasons, Varnold isn’t guarded at all (since that would only draw attention to him). The most puzzling part of the story occurs midway through when (due to the dramatic music) we can infer that a mystery person was up to no good when he/she turned up Varnold’s oxygen. Since he was unprotected at this point, why not kill him there and then?

Okay, that’s enough quibbling. What works well in the story? Angela Browne does for one thing. Drake’s questioning of Anna zigzags between gentle and harsh (McGoohan could always do you a nice line in brutal). The camera certainly seems to like Anna as she gets some good close ups (these close ups come into their own during the scene where Drake is at his most hectoring).

The key showdown – Drake confronts the faux Keller (John Crawford) who’s about to operate – also gets the thumbs up. Everyone in the operating theatre, apart from Drake, are masked, which makes the scene especially interesting.  Crawford, limited in his acting choices due to the mask, can only use his eyes as Drake attempts to convince the others that the man they think is Keller poses a danger to the President. Drake bluffs his way through by pretending to speak to Keller’s superiors on the phone – an excellent example of Drake thinking on his feet.

There’s also a satisfyingly punch up at the end after Drake takes on three baddies and wins. Plus Colette Wilde adds a dash to humour to the episode as a somewhat grumpy farmer’s wife who’s very keen for Drake to take Anna off her hands.

Plot-wise, this one’s a bit patchy then but I’ve still got a lot of time for The Girl in Pink Pajamas. Ralph Smart and Brian Clemens always knew what they were doing.

H.G. Wells’ Invisible Man – Odds Against Death

odds 01

Brady is appalled to learn that one of his most trusted colleagues, Professor Owens (Walter Fitzgerald), is refusing to return from his holiday in Italy.  Instead he’s taken to spending all his time at the roulette table.  Brady rushes out to confront him, but everything’s not as it seems ….

It’s a little odd that the opening scene effectively blows the mystery.  We see Owens and his teenage daughter Suzy (Julia Lockwood) being menaced by Curly Caletta (Alan Tilvern) which makes it pretty obvious that Owens is being forced to use his mathematical skills in order to win huge sums of money for Caletta.

Had this scene not been included, then the reason for Owens’ sudden change of character would have been less easy to understand.  But no matter, bringing Tilvern in at the start means that he’s got a little more screentime (which is most welcome).

Alan Tilvern had the sort of face which ensured he spent a great deal of his time playing villains.  He only has to pop up here in the background, glowering gently, and you just know that his character’s a bad type.  And with a name like Curly Caletta it might not surprise you to hear that he’s an American gangster of Italian extraction.

Walter Fitzgerald, who earned a guest star credit, isn’t called on to do a great deal except look  worried and bewildered whilst Julia Lockwood, playing Owens’ daughter, has the sort of cut-class accent which wouldn’t have sounded out of place in a 1930’s film.  She’s very winsome and appealing as a damsel in distress though, even if she doesn’t have a great deal to do.

odds 02

Once Brady learns of Owens’ dilemma he pledges to help, which means using his invisible skills to rig the roulette table.  It’s rather strange that nobody questions the way that the ball seems to suddenly have developed a mind of its own – dashing from left to right until it settles precisely where Brady wants it to go!  Dee, who unexpectedly turns out to be a devotee of the roulette table, is more than delighted at the way things turn out.

Familiar faces can be spotted at the casino.  Olaf Pooley is the harassed casino manager whilst Oliver Reed is an uncredited player at the roulette table.

Like the ITC shows of the sixties, this episode mixes stock footage and studio sets to create an impression of foreign climes (pretty effectively it must be said).  The climax allows the invisible Brady to confront Caletta with a string of obvious comments. “Your luck’s run out. The odds are against you. You spun the wheel just once too often.”

Another agreeable twenty five minutes, helped along by Alan Tilvern’s polished villainy.

odds 03