Danger Man 3.12 – The Man on the Beach

Do you know why ITC started planning to shoot Danger Man‘s fourth season in color? It wasn’t because CBS told them that they were going all-color in September 1966. It was because of costumes like this dress.

But seriously, “The Man on the Beach” is a very good adventure, and I’m glad that the kid liked it more than the previous two. It was first shown in December 1965 in the UK and February 1966 in the US. Happily, it’s another winner from the pen of Philip Broadley. I mentioned last week that some of his later scripts for ITC left me a little cold, but he seems to have excelled in this series’ world of espionage and double agents. Our son was a little confused by a couple of things in the story, but he came around. It’s a great opportunity to see Drake cut off from any support. He’s been framed while allegedly working one assignment, but some much-higher-up had him secretly working another one. But suddenly the much-higher-up cannot be located, and the person with whom he has been staying denies all knowledge of him. This many lies required a little recap for our boy.

Anyway, if you’ve been following along, you’ll be disappointed to learn that this installment, unlike the previous two, does not feature any performers who were later in Moon Zero Two. Although, had I picked “Have a Glass of Wine” or “The Colonel’s Daughter,” we would have seen Warren Mitchell. No, this one features Juliet Harmer, who would star in Adam Adamant Lives! the following summer, and the great Glyn Houston. There’s one bit right at the end where Houston’s left eye starts twitching. Normally I can recognize an actor and it not take me out of the story at all, but just for a moment there, I was so amazed by Houston’s control of his facial muscles that I had no idea how the episode actually ended.

Jason King 1.14 – Uneasy Lies the Head

Watch closely, unlike our son, or you’ll miss a thing or two, just like he did. So Jason is laid up in Paris with a broken leg, and somebody who claims to be him shows up in Istanbul. He’s been summoned by the local police to assist with their inquiries. The real Jason has already turned down this assignment after the slimy Rowland tried to get him to help. But we’ve seen this guy before, haven’t we? Well, if we just blank out on faces like our kid does, we haven’t, but those of us who pay a little attention have seen him. He drove Jason to the airport in London*, and he posed as a telephone repairman in Paris, and he actually arranged for Jason’s accident. So who is this guy?

Unfortunately, the kid was lost, but I thought this was terrific. I was starting to question it a little in the middle. We’ve seen a few cases where Ronald Lacey’s character whines and prods and tries to get Jason to help, but this episode appeared to be all prodding until the big switcheroo in Istanbul. The story’s by Donald James, and it won me over completely once things got moving. Lance Percival plays the fake Jason, and Juliet Harmer seems to be in on the scam as well. I like a story that keeps you guessing.

*After this sequence, I wound back and watched it again, pausing a couple of times and tried pointing out a little of how TV is made to the kid. The Heathrow sequence was a good opportunity to show how one film crew would film Percival and Peter Wyngarde in a mocked-up cab with the familiar brown brickwork of the Elstree Studios behind them, and mixed it in with footage of a black cab arriving at Heathrow. There’s not much of it, but there’s a little bit here of interest to people curious how Heathrow’s terminals looked in the late 1960s or whenever it was originally shot, with the old names of the Oceanic and Europa Terminals on the buildings.

Department S 1.17 – A Ticket to Nowhere

If you’re a regular reader of this dopey blog, you’ve certainly run across me saying that Peter Wyngarde shoulda played the Master at least once opposite Tom Baker. Usually when I say something like this, I’ve got a silly illustration to “prove” my point. See, here’s Wyngarde along with Anthony Ainley. He’s one of several familiar faces this time with teeny little parts, including Juliet Harmer and Neil McCarthy. I wonder whether Harmer is meant to be playing the same character she played in the first episode.

Michael Gwynn is also here, in a variation of the “photo of the recognizable actor” problem we talked about in the previous episode. There’s also a recognizable location. The country club where the villains all gather is the Edgwarebury Hotel, which shows up in all sorts of adventure programs from the day, most obviously as the escape-proof hotel in the Avengers episode “Wish You Were Here”.

Tony Williamson’s script is a complete cracker, one of the best so far. The villains are using ultrasonics to brainwash their victims and wipe memories. This is definitely the sort of larger-than-life wild criminal scheme I enjoy in this kind of show, with the added plus that these are very clever villains who are ahead of the heroes for most of the story. This comes to a head in a great scene where Stewart and Jason return to Paris having no idea that they’re even on a case, much less who put the whammy on them the day before.

Department S 1.1 – The Man in the Elegant Room

Well, yes, as a matter of fact, I imagine many of the screencaps I’ll use to illustrate Department S will feature Peter Wyngarde and a pretty guest star, in this case Juliet Harmer from Adam Adamant Lives!.

So anyway, we started a few days ago with the first episode that is typically broadcast, but “The Man in the Elegant Room,” written by Terry Nation, was the first one they produced, and it’s a somewhat better introduction to the characters. It’s not perfect on that front, because this was made in an era when TV series were made to be shown in any order whatsoever, so I still ended up pausing the episode to explain to our son that this Mark Caine dude they keep mentioning is the fictional superspy who stars in Jason King’s celebrated paperbacks.

But overall, he agreed that this was far less confusing, even though the plot is, delightfully, a real headscratcher. A real estate agent shows off one of his warehouse properties, only to find that in the five months since he last inspected it, somebody has built a full-size mockup of an elegant room inside. And trapped behind bars in this room, there’s a dead woman and a young man who is so disturbed he can barely speak anymore. Jason reasons that the room must be a replica of a room in a real home somewhere in London, and it’s been designed to plan a robbery. But they find the home and the owner, played by Stratford Johns, shows them that the only thing in his room worth stealing is a small amount of jewelry in the wall safe.

Overall, I thought this was much better than “Six Days” and should have been the first one shown. It kept us guessing for a good while and ends with a satisfactory shootout. I was amused to see Stratford Johns in this because I believe this was made in April of 1968, meaning he was at work on “Legacy of Death”, another Terry Nation script, this time for The Avengers, just a few weeks later.

Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased) 1.5 – You Can Always Find a Fall Guy

Deeply weird coincidence alert: I broke disk 1 of this set the other night, and so we started the second disk tonight. That means that this morning and this evening we happened to watch two separate programs that were filmed on the grounds of Grim’s Dyke Hotel. It appears in several episodes of The Champions, including “The Mission,” and was also the villain’s stately manor in the Avengers episode “Game.” I kept thinking to myself “Man, this big house looks familiar.” Well, that’s because you just saw it ten hours ago, Holmes.

I deliberately don’t know a great deal about Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased), but I’ve read many times that Jeff Randall gets clobbered more than your average TV hero. In Donald James’s “You Can Always Find a Fall Guy,” he gets one heck of a beatdown, not a simple club on the back of the head like Simon Templar often received. Amusingly, Jeremy Young plays a character who owns the houseboat where Randall gets the daylights thrashed out of him, but he’s an effete dandy who cowers against the wall when the real bad guy storms in to do the business. Since we’ve seen Young cast as a villain and give a good account of himself in so many other programs, usually with a sword in hand, I found that funny.

Joining Young this week are several other familiar faces, including Patrick Barr, Juliet Harmer, Garfield Morgan, and Tony Steedman. None of these actors took me out of the experience nearly as much as a throwaway sign on a grocery store window. The episode is packed with lovely location filming on the streets of London, and in one scene, finished back in the studio with rear-screen projection, Mike Pratt and Garfield Morgan are having a conversation in a parked car. There’s a sticker on the grocers’ window for Findus. I don’t know that Findus products were ever sold in North America; I only know them as the purveyors of fish fingers with a crumb-crisp coating. Takes me right out of the action when I’m replaying Orson Welles commercials in my head. At least I didn’t subject my family to my poor Welles impression.

It’s a great story with some really amusing ghost business. Our son really enjoyed the scene where Marty puts the frighteners on a pair of guard dogs, but I most loved the moment where Marty visits several hospitals in London looking for just the right surgical situation. I think this would be a fine little show even if one of the detectives wasn’t a ghost, but since he is, the writers are finding a lot of humor in the situation.

Numbering note: Not that I imagine anybody’s all that bothered, but we’re watching The Champions in broadcast order and Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased) in production order because I have no idea what The Champions’ production order is, and there’s a downright terrific R&H site that you should visit and bookmark that confirms the Network DVDs have the episodes in the sequence that they were made.

Adam Adamant Lives! 2.13 – A Sinister Sort of Service

Well, they certainly didn’t go out with their strongest episode. The first sixteen of the episodes we watched were all really good, but Tony Williamson’s “A Sinister Sort of Service” was just kind of dull. The villain is played by T.P. McKenna, and he has an evil supercomputer. I got more of a giggle out of our son suggesting that instead of it being a real computer, there’s a little man inside typing everything out than anything that actually happened in the story! But they can’t all be winners, and I was glad to renew my acquaintance with Adam, Simms, and Miss Jones. It’s a very good little show, and I hope that another one or two of the missing twelve episodes turns up one of these days!

(Note: I can play them, but I’m not presently able to get screencaps from Region 4 DVDs, so many of these entries will just have a photo of the set to illustrate it. Click the link to purchase it from Amazon UK.)

Adam Adamant Lives! 2.2 – Black Echo

As we get to the two surviving episodes from the second season of Adam Adamant Lives!, I’m afraid the quality of the picture and the sound has fallen completely off a cliff. Worse, there’s one character who speaks in a rasping whisper, and we could make out maybe every fifteenth word: adamant, trap, pleasure, possibly empire. After we’d ejected the DVD, my wife mentioned there may be a subtitles option. There is; we watched it again. The word was indeed empire.

And it’s a real shame that this print is in such sore shape, because it’s amazing! This time, the Ministry Twit of the Week are a pair of bankers played by the wonderful Donald Eccles and Peter Bathurst, who I’m sure was also wonderful, but I only know him as that awful blowhard Chinn in “The Claws of Axos,” poor guy. They want Adam to confirm the identity of somebody claiming to be a Romanov, a Grand Duchess from Saint Petersburg who Adam knew in 1901 as a young lady and who is now 87 years old.

From time to time, people have suggested the BBC should remake Adam Adamant Lives!. I’m totally in favor of such a thing in principle, but tonight’s story is one that they couldn’t do in 2019. Back in ’66, there would have been a few people around the age of 87 who knew Adam from his past. Come to think of it, it’s kind of odd they didn’t hit on such a plot before now.

Now, I’d argue that there are a couple of magnificent twists in this story, but Marie figured one of them out instantly. The Grand Duchess is played by the excellent actress Gladys Cooper – I reminded our son of her knockout good episodes of The Twilight Zone – and her granddaughter by Judy Parfitt. They’re hiding a secret in the cellar so horrifying that it turned a deliveryman’s hair white. So there’s a lot going on in this adventure, and with a brilliant fight scene and one hell of a payoff at the end, it’s worth struggling through the muddy sound to appreciate.

(Note: I can play them, but I’m not presently able to get screencaps from Region 4 DVDs, so many of these entries will just have a photo of the set to illustrate it. Click the link to purchase it from Amazon UK.)

Photo credit: https://excusesandhalftruths.com

Adam Adamant Lives! 1.16 – D for Destruction

In case you missed last time we watched an episode: if any readers have been disappointed or annoyed by the lack of photos to accompany these posts, I’ve got great news. The fab site Archive TV Musings has been writing about Adam Adamant Lives! with screencaps. So pop over there and enjoy his much longer posts and tell ’em that we sent you!

And speaking of great news, “D for Destruction” was lost for many years, one of the many victims of the BBC’s junking of old programs. A copy turned up in 2003, and while the picture quality is clearly not as good as the previous episodes we’ve enjoyed, it looks no worse than a VHS release might have looked in the mid-nineties. It’s so surprising that we should watch this relatively recent discovery today, because earlier this afternoon, the great people at Network confirmed a rumor we’ve been hearing, that two lost episodes of the sixties sitcom The Likely Lads (which co-starred Rodney Bewes, who we saw this month in “Resurrection of the Daleks“) have been recovered and will be released as bonus features on a new Blu-Ray release of the Likely Lads feature film.

When they announced Tony Williamson’s “D for Destruction” had been found, my interest in old TV was pretty low, and my stupidly large and cumbersome VHS collection was being whittled away in a series of moves from one suburb to another to another anyway. But once upon a time, that “M for Missing” in my old episode guide notebook was a real sore point because I’d read that Patrick Troughton was in this one. As it turns out, it’s a very small part, basically the Ministry Twit of the Week, only he’s a general, so it’s a Military Twit of the Week instead. Michael Sheard is also here, in an even smaller part, because the most important characters are played by Iain Cuthbertson and Michael Ripper.

The story’s about some strange goings-on and an unusual number of accidents in Adam’s old yeomanry regiment, the 51st. Since the army never actually cancelled his commission (is that the right term?) after he went missing in 1902, Colonel Adamant is asked to return to service and investigate. It’s a pretty good story, but it took our son a little work to understand what was happening. He was very restless at first, but a great scene where one of the corrupted soldiers corners Adam in the firing range got him sitting up straight and paying really close attention. There’s an even more action-packed finale than usual – and how Gerald Harper kept from dislocating his jaw when he low-tackles a guy on a concrete floor I have no idea – and it ends with a tremendously good gag about Georgie answering the phone and getting a big surprise. The audience was in on the joke: the criminals had just made their demands to Number 10, Downing Street.

“D for Destruction” was the last episode of the first series, but there was virtually no break behind the scenes at all as the production team began work on the next thirteen episodes. The show was only off the air for about two months before the new run started. Unfortunately, only two of these thirteen survive, but we’ll check one of them out later this weekend.

(Note: I can play them, but I’m not presently able to get screencaps from Region 4 DVDs, so many of these entries will just have a photo of the set to illustrate it. Click the link to purchase it from Amazon UK.)

Adam Adamant Lives! 1.15 – The Village of Evil

If any readers have been disappointed or annoyed by the lack of photos to accompany these posts, I’ve got great news. The fab site Archive TV Musings has been writing about Adam Adamant Lives! with screencaps. So pop over there and enjoy his much longer posts and tell ’em that we sent you!

Well, after 13 consecutive episodes, we’ve had to skip one of the twelve that the BBC destroyed. “Ticket to Terror” is the only story missing from the show’s first series, and it’s the one that everybody who was around in the sixties remembers. It guest starred Max Adrian and had the burned-in-the-memory scene with a London Underground train with several hundred skeletons arriving in a station.

So that brings us to “The Village of Evil,” in which Adam is so outraged by discovering that a Satanic coven is operating in a small and quaint little town that actor Gerald Harper tries to outdo Adam West’s Batman in righteous, overacting fury. To be fair, Harper is always a little arch in the role – it calls for it – but man, does he ever go over the top this time.

Amazingly, this is the first episode where Adam and Simms succeed in keeping Georgie out of trouble and completely ignorant that he’s investigating anything. Unfortunately for Simms, he mainly accomplishes this by losing £6 to her in darts and cards, resulting in another of his cheeky limericks as he bemoans his bad luck. Speaking of sixties Batman, Adam gets trapped in a memorable coulda-been-a-cliffhanger moment with a combine harvester, and the whole shebang is done with flair and lots of wit that had our son cheering with the fights. The main bad guy’s comeuppance is telegraphed from space, but I’m fairly sure nobody saw the femme fatale’s grisly end coming.

(Note: I can play them, but I’m not presently able to get screencaps from Region 4 DVDs, so many of these entries will just have a photo of the set to illustrate it. Click the link to purchase it from Amazon UK.)

Adam Adamant Lives! 1.13 – The League of Uncharitable Ladies

Our son caught a not-even-24-hours bug and went home from school yesterday. Today he’s fully recovered, but I had to take a day to stay with him before he can get back to class. So he’s rewatched both Guardians of the Galaxy movies – I didn’t write about Vol. 2 because I strangely found myself not really enjoying it the second time around – and then we popped back in time for another episode of Adam Adamant Lives!, which my boy really liked.

“The League of Uncharitable Ladies” is mildly famous for being one of the earliest professional jobs for Ridley Scott as a director. He’d worked at the BBC for a few years, and unsurprisingly the corporation managed to wipe several of his TV episodes, including the other Adamant installments that he did in season two.

There’s a massive hole in this one’s plot, which ended up bothering me for most of the hour. There have been a number of mysterious deaths of important diplomats, and nobody can find the connection. It’s that all of the ones who were married have wives who are members of the same club, devoted to peace.

This is perhaps a little predictably male of me, but just as the story subverts the possibilities of an all-woman crew bent on evil by having a man running things from behind the scenes (an Avengers episode from earlier that year had much the same problem), I was more interested in the few male guest stars. The only woman in the cast that I recognized was Geraldine Moffat, but I spotted both John Carson and Gerald Sim. Carson’s role as the master villain hiding in plain sight as a servant is obvious from space, but there is a neat twist about the motive that I didn’t see coming.

But is there anything here that predicts Ridley Scott’s later cinematic success? I wouldn’t say so, but some of the film work in the opening, which sees the camera following a man across St. James’s Park, is first-rate, and he did coax some very good performances from his actors. I really enjoyed the somewhat dark flirtation between Moffat’s character and Adam, which, in a first, doesn’t end with Adam getting conked on the head. In fact, he sees the betrayal coming and avoids it! Good, our hero is learning! He doesn’t get to slay the criminal this time, either. It’s always nice to break from the traditional tropes.

(Note: I can play them, but I’m not presently able to get screencaps from Region 4 DVDs, so many of these entries will just have a photo of the set to illustrate it. Click the link to purchase it from Amazon UK.)

Adam Adamant Lives! 1.12 – Beauty is an Ugly Word

There’s a scene about halfway through this morning’s episode where Adam has a “who’s gonna break first” standoff with the villain, played by Peter Jeffrey. They’re challenging each other over weightlifting, adding twenty pounds each time. Flatly, it’s one of the best directed moments of any sixties BBC program that I’ve seen. You could hear a pin drop in our den, because we were all silent with our eyes wide. The rest of the hour didn’t quite live up to that, but there’s a really hilarious moment where the Ministry Twit of the Week tries to explain beauty pageants to our Victorian hero, and a couple of familiar faces from the period, Annette Andre and Roy Stewart, have small roles.

(Note: I can play them, but I’m not presently able to get screencaps from Region 4 DVDs, so many of these entries will just have a photo of the set to illustrate it. Click the link to purchase it from Amazon UK.)

Photo credit: https://excusesandhalftruths.com