Danger Man – Time to Kill

Drake is assigned to eliminate Hans Vogeler (Derren Nesbitt), an assassin responsible for a number of recent kills. He’s reluctant to murder him in cold blood (electing instead to bring Vogeler to justice) but an unexpected chain of events looks like it will force his hand ….

Carl Jaffe (as the unfortunate Professor Barkoff) is today’s actor killed off before the opening credits roll. His death is dramatic, although it’s also slightly comic (see the expression on Barkoff’s face as he slowly sinks to the floor). It’s plain from first sight that Vogeler is an expert – cigarette in mouth, he lines up his target with an almost contemptuous ease.

Drake’s refusal to kill Vogeler chimed with McGoohan’s own feelings on the subject, but it’s also fair to say that the television climate of 1960 probably wouldn’t have countenanced the thought of Drake acting as an assassin. David Callan did so later during the 1960’s, but ITC shows (always with one eye on foreign sales) tended to be more conservative.

It’s learnt that Vogeler has gone bear hunting in Austria, so Drake is dispatched to track him down. Oswestry in Wales stands in for Austria and does so rather well. This is an episode with a hefty amount of film work, although it’s a pity that we have to keep returning to the studio for the dialogue scenes as the transition between film and studio is always going to be noticeable.

Austria is a police state where travel is strictly regulated (the eagle eyed will spot a young Edward Hardwicke playing one of the frontier guards). En route to his destination Drake is waylaid by Lisa Orin (Sarah Lawson), who appears to be a friendly sort of person.

This is the point of the story where you start to wonder about Lisa’s motivations. Drake’s been told that travel along a particular strip of road is forbidden after 4 pm and yet Lisa managed to follow him after this cut-off point. How had she done this and why does she speak the local language so fluently? Everything seems to suggest that she’s an enemy agent, assigned to keep tabs on Drake. And yet …

I like the scene where Drake, having pulled off the road, assembles his rifle. Parts of it are hidden inside several loaves of bread and the rest are scattered about in various different places (in the torch, inside the boot of the car). It’s another little James Bond touch (the episode in general has a feel of the short story For Your Eyes Only).

More homages seem to be in order after Lisa innocently discovers part of Drake’s rifle and a passing patrolman handcuffs them together. Drake knocks out the patrolman and drags the unwilling Lisa cross-country in order to complete his mission (take your pick from The Defiant Ones or The 39 Steps).

Given that Drake is now handicapped with Lisa, it looks like he’ll have to kill Vogeler. But if she wasn’t present, just what was his plan to get him out of the country? And how would the rifle had helped? These are questions to which there’s no particular answer.

After some toing and froing, Drake and Vogeler struggle over possession of another rifle. It goes off and Vogeler dies (killed accidentally by his own hand). You can either view this as poetic justice or a bit of a cop out (the baddy is dead but Drake hasn’t had to soil his own hands).

Even as we get to the end of the story, Lisa’s involvement seems a little hard to credit. Presumably the programme-makers also felt this, as the episode ends with a brief voice-over from Drake confirming that she really was nothing more than an innocent schoolteacher.

Sarah Lawson (who later made several memorable appearances in Callan as Flo Mayhew) provides a good counterpoint to Patrick McGoohan’s dour Drake. And although Derren Nesbitt’s screentime is limited, he’s still able to radiate sneering menace with ease. And I’ll award bonus points for Vogeler’s Austrian hat.

A decent script by Brian Clemens and Ian Stuart Black then, but it’s one where the 25 minute format feels a tad constrictive. A little more time spent with the handcuffed Drake and Lisa, developing their differing views on the rights and wrongs of killing, would have strengthened the episode considerably.

H.G. Wells’ Invisible Man – The Vanishing Evidence

vanishing 01.jpg

When a colleague of Brady’s is murdered and the secret formula he was working on stolen, the Invisible Man is sent on a mission to Amsterdam.  The authorities are hopeful that they’ll be able to retrieve the papers from the thief, Peter Thal (Charles Gray), and they need Brady on hand in order to verify that they’re genuine.  But when the agent tasked with recovering the papers, Jenny Reyden (Sarah Lawson), is forced to kill Thal, Brady has to somehow work out a way to get the papers out of Thal’s safe as well as ensuring Jenny is released from the clutches of the authorities ….

Thal might have gained access to Professor Harper’s (James Raglan) house on the pretext that he was a fellow scientist, but it’s pretty obvious within the first few seconds that he’s a wrong-‘un.  Even with a slightly dodgy foreign accent, Gray is his usual sinister self – best seen when Thal casually confirms that nobody else worked with Harper on the project and also that all the papers are sitting on his desk (a tad convenient, it must be said).  Once he’s satisfied about these points, he shoots Harper in cold blood and coolly walks out with the formula.

It’s a pity that Thal doesn’t stick around the episode longer (he’s killed some ten minutes in) but at least he has a memorable death scene.  After realising that Jenny is a spy rather than his contact, they have a brief struggle.  Physical violence wasn’t really a feature of this era of television (at least not in drama of this type) so it’s slightly unusual to see Thal manhandle Jenny quite so roughly (grabbing her by the throat).  But she’s no shrinking violet – she’s able to reach into her bag, pull out a gun and shoot him.

Thal takes a long time to die, it must be said.   He’s able to stagger about the room, open the window, throw the safe key out of the window, leer at Jenny in a self-satisfied way and then grab the curtains before collapsing.  If you’re going to go, then go in style ….

I don’t quite understand why Jenny, if she’s a spy, also appears to be something of a celebrity.  She’s featured on the front page of a magazine, which enables the hotel porter (played by Michael Ripper) to easily identify her.

Ripper, a very familiar Hammer stalwart, is great fun.  Subtle he isn’t, but entertaining he is.  When the gunshot rings out, the porter becomes boggle-eyed, dashing about in a frenzy.  You can also guess the way he’s going to react when Brady starts doing some invisible antics in front of him (and he doesn’t disappoint).  Michael Ripper, master of the shocked and surprised expression. For some reason, Brady elects to play two invisible people (a man and a woman) whilst lifting Thal’s flat key from under the porter’s nose – all the better to bamboozle him I guess.

Sarah Lawson had plenty of credits to her name, although for me her role as Flo Mayhew in Callan was especially noteworthy.  The always dependable Ewen Solon appears as Superintendent Van Reyneveld whilst Peter Illing somewhat chews the scenery as Inspector Strang.

This is another story where Brady’s invisible abilities are somewhat underused (yes, he breaks into Thal’s flat to get the papers, but since he took the porter along it was hardly clandestine).  It’s also a pity that the oddities of Jenny’s character are never addressed.  Not the best story then, but a substantial comic role for Michael Ripper helps to soften the blow a little.

vanishing 02.jpg