Danger Man: s03 e07 – English Lady Takes Lodgers


I’ve been intrigued about this episode for quite some time now, it’s title having stood out, and been eager to find just what might lurk behind that bland reminder of days long gone. Sadly, now I’ve seen it, I am much less impressed by the outcome.

It didn’t help to find that this is one of those thankfully few episodes mastered from a less than perfect print, making the images blurred and dark. The murkiness of the visuals did, however, reflect the murkiness of the plot, which had Our Man Drake called to Portugal to break-up a spy ring selling secrets to the highest bidder, under the cover of an ordinary smuggling operation.

Who the ‘villains’ were was betrayed in the open, set on a patio outside a rather decent-looking villa. Four people sit around, silently. Three of them, who we will learn are the smuggler, George Stanway, whose villa this is, and his partners Commander Collinson (Howard Marion Crawford) and Phillippe Granville (Frederick Bartman), are morose and thoughtful, for reasons that we will, at the end, fully understand. The fourth is Emma Stanway (Gabriella Licudi), the rather younger and decidedly sleek and attractive wife of George, who is sarcastic about the lack of entertainment, or indeed conversation, that the three men have provided for her that night. Everyone departs. Emma goes upstairs. Within moments she becomes the widow of George, who is shot. Cue Edwin Astley.

Enter Drake. His contact in Portugal is the somewhat foolish and oblivious Mr Pilkington (Robert Urquhart), who plays the comic relief. He’s Head of Security at the British Embassy, flustered at not being allowed to investigate this matter himself instead of having a London Agent forced on him, though as he assures Drake there is no such agency in Portugal since if there was he would know about it, this would ensure a very short investigation indeed. He also regards George as one of his very best pals, and Emma as ‘that dreadful woman’ who came to Portugal in the first place to dance professionally (ahh! a nostalgic hint at a P.G. Wodehouse chorus girl).

But Emma, who has a soft heart, takes in lodgers, especially waifs and strays. So struggling (and drinking) impecunious writer John Drake worms his way into the villa, where George has been reported missing and Emma is bravely bearing up under the stress, even though she knows he’s dead. Collinson is all bluff, hearty, ex-Naval officer, Granville is vaguely foreign and sinister, but they draw Drake into the gang, where he both does as he’s told in relation to a bag swap involving American actress Rosalind Fielding (a bit part for the lovely Judy Huxtable, we are being treated) and acts of his own initiative.

So far, Drake’s been playing along, slightly nervous but willing to be talked into smuggling if it makes him money. His one (overt) reservation is that they’re not smuggling drugs. But when he retrieves, and recognises, a smuggled fuse, he rounds on Emma over her lies, threatens to clear off because espionage is too rich for him – and she reassures him: they are working for British Intelligence! Yes, George was a British Agent. She knows this because the Commander and Phillippe told her.

Well, from there it’s all a bit straightforward. The suspicious Phillippe follows Drake, discovers him reporting to Pilkington. He and the Commander intend shooting Drake and burying him in the woods, just as they did with George when he discovered his partners were smuggling information and threatened to go to the authorities – that morose open now explained – but Drake uses a variation on one of his gadgets, dives in the river and swims away underwater (clearly filmed in a swimming pool). At his instruction, Pilkington informs on the gang to Colonel Torres, Emma finds out that Phillippe murdered her husband, he and the Commander are arrested, but Drake runs off with Emma, who’s going to London to be asked a lot of questions, and they escape by diving into the river and swimming underwater (that swimming pool again!)

So. A slow and somewhat confused episode, very talky, with some low comedy in the form of the hapless Pilkington shoe-horned in to discomfort, rather like the red herring of the airport porter who, on Drake’s arrival in Lisbon, makes a beeline for him and insists on carrying his bag, causing us to go A-ha! a contact, but who then has nothing to do with anything. Still, average Danger Man does have its appeal, and I don’t just mean Gabriella Licudi, of whom I don’t recall hearing before. I’d like a better episode next week anyway.

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