Danger Man – Position of Trust

Drake is in El Dura, a Middle Eastern country whose government has grown rich from the sale of heroin. Determined to stop the flood of these narcotics into the US, Drake enlists the reluctant assistance of Captain Aldrich (Donald Pleasence), a minor official in the El Dura government, who has the information Drake needs ….

Once again there’s no voice over during this episode and there’s another sign that the series is becoming more confident that the audience will get quickly up to speed (the episode opens with a brief establishing shot of New York but there’s no onscreen caption to hammer this point home).

Drake’s clearly knows New York well (several people call him Johnny, which is a tad disconcerting) although his stay today is brief. Calling on an old friend, Paul (John Phililps), he’s horrified to learn that Paul’s daughter is now a junkie. This is revealed in a striking – if rather melodramatic – way. Paul, in his luxurious apartment, lingers over a photo of his daughter on the sideboard (youthful, smiling) before showing Drake another photo (a police mugshot of his now hopeless looking daughter).

After deciding that rounding up the pushers will do no good, Drake heads off to El Dura, intent on extracting a list of the organsations the government sells the heroin to. The drug aspect of the story then becomes a Macguffin (the list could be about anything) as from now on the episode centres around the manipulation of the hapless Aldrich.

Pleasence’s second Danger Man appearance is a memorable one and he’s responsible for making the episode so watchable. Aldrich is a British ex-pat, ex-public schoolboy who pretends that he holds a position of trust (as per the episode’s title) but is nothing more than a minor clerk, barely tolerated by his superiors.

Drake decides to gain his trust by posing as an old boy from the same public school (so McGoohan gets to drop the American accent for a while and try out an English one). Aldrich is pathetically grateful to meet anyone from the old country and immediately latches onto Drake. The question is then posed as to why Aldrich has never returned home – we’re not given a definite answer but the arrival of Mrs Aldrich (Irene Prador) strongly hints that since his wife is a local, he might be concerned about the welcome she’d receive in the UK.

Austrian born Prador (possibly best known for playing Mrs Lemenski in Dear John) provides subtle support to Pleasance. Both Mr and Mrs Aldrich seem to be decent people, which makes Drake’s ruthless manipulation of Captain Aldrich all the more cruel (Drake no doubt believes that the ends justify the means).

Having plied Aldrich with drink and encouraged him to lose heavily at the roulette table, he’s now forced by Drake (back with the American accent) to steal the document he needs. That Aldrich is no sneak thief is confirmed by the fact that he walks out of the office with the secret file in full view – immediately alerting Fawzi (Martin Benson).

A comedy then plays out in which Drake manages to manipulate Fawzi, the end result being that Drake and Mr and Mrs Aldrich are unable to be charged but will be deported by an irritated government immediately. Drake promises to use his contacts to find Aldrich a new job (who, after realising the horror of the heroin trade, has now regained his self respect).

Everything’s wrapped up neatly then, although you could argue that it’s just too neat. Maybe later in the series’ run the innocent Aldrich might have been sacrificed, giving us a downbeat ending, but here everything concludes happily.

With Lois Maxwell also featuring strongly as Drake’s local contact Sandi Lewis, Position of Trust is a compact and satisfying script by Jo Eisinger (one of six he wrote for the first series).

Danger Man – Find and Return

The British Government are keen to extradite Vanessa Stewart (Moira Lister), who they accuse of treason. She’s fled to the Middle Eastern state of Beth Ja Brin and Drake is tasked with the job of bringing her back home, by any means necessary ….

It’s plain that Drake and the British Government’s representative, Hardy (Richard Wattis), don’t get on. Drake’s insouciant body language during their meeting is evidence of this, as is the way he occasionally stops bantering to reveal his colder personality. This scene (and a few others in the episode) could almost be McGoohan’s rehearsal for the role of James Bond, although given his distaste for the character that was never a possibility.

Drake’s contact in Beth Ja Brin is Nikolides. He’s played by Donald Pleasence, which is a major plus point in this episode’s favour. Nikolides initially gives off a faintly comic air – grumbling about his unpaid expenses – but, as we’ll see later, he has a ruthlessness which belies his placid demeanour.

In addition to Pleasence’s excellent turn, there’s a brief appearance by Warren Mitchell as Stashig. He’s a member of the opposition who’s also been given orders to locate and extract Vanessa. Mitchell lights up the screen for the few minutes he appears, deftly establishing Stashig’s friendly rivalry with Drake. Stashig is murdered off-screen by Nikolides, who reports the news to Drake in a calm, matter-of-fact way – allowing a good moment for McGoohan to register, briefly, shock and rage.

Drake dons a white dinner jacket for a trip to the casino, once again playing the James Bond role well, especially when he indulges in a spot of baccarat with Vanessa. Mind you, I’m surprised that the casino not only allowed his bet without any apparent security but didn’t seem bothered about making him pay up after he lost!

Paul Stassino and Zena Marshall also feature, as Mr and Mrs Ramfi. Ramfi is a wealthy industrialist who is hiding Vanessa in his well-guarded mansion whilst Mrs Ramfi glowers at the way her husband has been captivated by this outsider. Neither character is particularly fleshed out, Ramfi’s longing for the trappings of British high society being his defining trait.

Given that Moira Lister was the episode’s main guest star, it’s slightly surprising that Vanessa remains off-screen for a large part of the episode, only really making an impression during the last few minutes. But even though McGoohan and Lister don’t have a great deal to do together, there’s still an appealing spark between Drake and Vanessa.

Returning Vanessa to England with embarrassing ease, Drake then demonstrates his independent spirit by burning her passport (if he’d handed it over to Hardy it would have put another eight years on her jail sentence).

We never learn exactly what Vanessa did, but her defence (that she isn’t a British subject, despite owning a British passport) is one that Drake accepts instantly. Without knowing more about her case, it’s hard to know whether he’s been wise or foolhardy. But it’s a sign that he’s always prepared to trust his instinct.

The Rivals of Sherlock Holmes – The Horse of the Invisible


Donald Pleasence as Carnacki in The Horse of the Invisible by William Hope Hodgson
Adapted by Philip Mackie.  Directed by Alan Cooke

Captain Hisgins (Tony Steedman) is a worried man.  According to family tradition, if the first-born is a female then she will be haunted and ultimately killed by an invisible horse during her engagement.  And for the first time in several generations, there is a first-born female.  Mary (Michele Dotrice) has heard the horse and her fiance Charles Beaumont (Michael Johnson) injured his arm when he tried to protect her from the apparition.

Hisgins doesn’t want his daughter to die, so he calls on Carnacki (Donald Pleasence).  Most detectives would raise an eyebrow at this story, but Carnacki is a ghost detective.  He doesn’t discount the supernatural possibility, although he also concedes that it could all be achieved by trickery.  But as he spends some time at the Hisgins home, the strange events come thick and fast ….

Thomas Carnacki was created by William Hope Hodgson and appeared in a number of short stories published between 1910 and 1912. These were collected together as Carnacki the Ghost-Finder and they can be read here.

The Horse of the Invisible is certainly different, that’s for sure.  It’s pitched at such a level of melodrama (with suitably dramatic music) that it’s difficult to take it entirely seriously.  The major saving grace is Donald Pleasence.  He plays Carnacki in a slightly absent-minded, self-effacing way that’s very effective.  When everyone around him is descending into hysteria, he’s very much the still point.

It’s fair to say that it’s a story that tries to have its cake and eat it – since it’s revealed that some of the hauntings were faked, but at the end we do witness a real ghost horse as well.  And Carnacki is quite honest in admitting that whilst he can explain some of the events, others are a mystery to him.

The last five or ten minutes, when we discover the identity of the faker (and for good measure he’s dressed as a horse!) might be the point when many people lose patience with the tale.  Quite why he went through all this rigmarole is something that’s never made that clear – surely there were easier ways for him to achieve his ends?

Michele Dotrice is suitably winsome as Mary, although Tony Steedman is slightly odd casting as her father.  At the time he was only in his early forties and he’s obviously made up to be much older – complete with a false moustache and a white wig.  This is a little distracting, and it begs the question as to why an older actor wasn’t cast.

The Horse of the Invisible is very watchable, thanks to Donald Pleasence, although it’s probably not a story that will appeal to all.

Next Episode – The Case of the Mirror of Portugal