Danger Man: s03 e22 – The Paper Chase


danger

After this there’s just one episode to go in series 3, and by the standards the programme has set for itself previously, it’s just as well. The reviewer of this episode at imdb hails it as one of his favourites, links it to ‘The Girl who was Death’ in The Prisoner and regards it as a deliberately cartoon episode that allowed everyone involved to let off steam. I don’t. To me, it’s evidence of the clearest that Patrick McGoohan – who directed this episode – was right to demur at another full season.

The set-up is serious enough. We’re in Rome in the rain. My apologies for the clarity, or otherwise, of the image above but that’s truly representative of the open, which is so dark as to be invisible at times. Gordon, a British diplomat driving home, stops off at a bar to have a drink wth a pretty, affectionate, dark-haired girl. He attracts the attention of Tamasio (another seriously OTT performance by Aubrey Morris, giving it the full monty as a volatile, loud, deeply untrustworthy small-time Italian crook, on a scooter naturally) who steals his car keys and robs his car of an expensive looking camera, a posh umbrella, put to immediate use, and a briefcase.

Unfortunately, the briefcase contains highly classified documents that shouldn’t have even been removed from the Embassy and which, when their loss is discovered, will lead to Gordon being crucified by the Foreign Office. Fortunately, Gordon’s old friend John Drake has a free weekend and can fly out to retrieve the papers.

Interestingly, McGoohan wears the same white raincoat and white flat cap combination he sports for ‘The Girl who was Death’, whilst underneath he has on the all-black jacket, polo-short and trousers outfit in which Number 6 is kidnapped. Add to this Aubrey Morris and a small part for Peter Swanwick (the Controller) and it’s very much reminiscent of the series to come.

So far, so sensible. But what we’ve got next is a very plot-loose assemblage of scenes in which McGoohan plays it straight and cool whilst the guest stars are allowed to go very OTT before you learn that Tamasio has sold the briefcase on, and Eddie Gelb has sold the briefcase on, and Signora Nandini is professionally sheltering Laprade, who is negotiating to sell the briefcase on to Constantin, who we trust is the Other Side.

Therefore we get Morris at his most extreme, which can be fun except he’s encouraged by McGoohan to be a spectacle you could see from Venus. Then Kenneth J. Warren, a bit-part actor and pretend tough guy, hosts a poker game with a bunch of bald men. Eddie Gelb is supposed to be the guy to look up to, burly, thick head of hair in contrast to everyone else (it’s a wig, sorry to upset the reveal), living in a plush apartment with his photo everywhere and a classy blonde girlfriend in a floor-length dress, tinkling the ivories because she has nothing better to do during the poker game that lasts far longer than it need to and comes over as a time-filler because the story is short on depth.

Then we get Laparde, a straight part by Ferdy Mayne. Laparde is hiding out at Signora Nandini’s, a ‘hotel’ for people on the run from authority. She is played by veteran actress Joan Greenwood, with her beautiful, smokey voice. It’s very noticeable that, with McGoohan himself at the directorial helm, there is no trace of the statutory glam girl amd the leading female guest star is a woman in her mid-Forties but playing easily two decades older. Greenwood is brilliant as the kind of woman who was once a real beauty and even at her advanced age, possesses the kind of delicately boned, fine features that hold the eye. She dresses in a tastefully elegant, floaty style, and acts like a calm, serene, in control woman.

In fact, Greenwood is the best part of the episode. She takes to ‘Troy Davidson’ immediately, professing to have ‘a good feeling’ about him. She is cold watching him ransack Laparde’s room on closed-circuit TV, and her disappointment in ‘Davidson’ for letting her down is evident even as it seems she will have him ‘removed’. When he beats up her two heavies, she crowns him with a vase, only to have him taken to a small hotel from which he is free to go.

It’s a marvellous parting, too good for this episode. Nandina asks for ‘Davidson’s real name, but Drake gives it as Ari Verdecci. Nandina accepts this and leaves. In the hall outside, she pauses as he asks her, with genuine interest at her enigma, what she was. Long ago? she enquires, then turns and walks out of camera shot, only to return once, and merely smile. They should have built the entire episode around her.

After that the pay-off is just a bit drab. Drake sets Laparde up at Tamasio’s crummy little flat, God knows why, pays 100,000 Swiss Francs (genuinely) for the briefcase, Constantin shoots Laparde dead and Drake escapes with an amusing gimmick that is a gimmick, and genuinely more suited to the surrealism of The Prisoner, a hidden go-kart.

No, this does not go down on my list of the ten best episodes of Danger Man, and I suspect it would be hard-pressed to break into the forty-three best episodes I’ve seen to date. When I consider how good the series can be, and was, for so long ago, it’s a terrible shame. But if it helped lead to The Prisoner

2 thoughts on “Danger Man: s03 e22 – The Paper Chase

  1. I’ve been waiting for this one, wondering how much we’d collide. Because since the first seeing the series this has been one of my all time favorites, with the chase scene reminiscent of the climax of What’s New Pussycat, a movie of which I am one of the few defenders these days.

    1. What I made of this when I watched it as a kid, I have no idea. Re-watching has been like coming to the series afresh with only decades of familiarity with The Prisoner to guide me. I am definitely into Danger Man as the serious, intense espionage drama I love and episodes like this, which are a million miles removed, just don’t do it for me.

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