15 August 2008

TV noir

We've recently enjoyed DVDs of the original TV series Danger Man with Patrick MacGoohan. The first few episodes were a little dated and clunky, but then the writers seemed to hit their collective strides and the show's pace and dramatic intensity took off. MacGoohan is terrific of course, thoroughly hard-boiled, though not quite pulling off an American accent. "John Drake" is a tightly wound fellow, very principled and patriotic, but a man of action and, as the title suggests, absolutely fearless. The show is more spy-vs.-spy than anything, pre-dating both James Bond and Mission: Impossible, but I classify it as noir because of MacGoohan's straight-faced, laconic, and utterly stoic interpretation of the action hero. John Drake lacks the cynicism of classic noir anti-heroes, but he's willing to bend the rules to help a damsel-in-distress or right a wrong. He's also a realist--he knows that even the good guys can have evil and corruption lurking in the corridors of power. The show later morphed into Secret Agent. MacGoohan, of course, made the unique and original The Prisoner series, and starred in many films. My favorites? His very noir-ish bad guy in the wonderful Wilder/Pryor vehicle Silver Streak, and the brooding intelligence operative in the smart, tense thriller Ice Station Zebra (with Rock Hudson and Jim Brown).

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