“Every government has its secret service branch. America, CIA; France, Deuxième Bureau; England, MI5. NATO also has its own. A messy job? Well that’s when they usually call on me or someone like me. Oh yes, my name is Drake, John Drake.”
Before Patrick McGoohan was The Prisoner, he was John Drake, the maverick agent of Britain’s top secret M9 security force, in the series Danger Man (renamed Secret Agent in the U.S.). The show began in 1960, before the first Bond feature was released, in a 30-minute format, with the cool, clever undercover operative Drake sneaking into Eastern bloc regimes and Latin American dictatorships to flush out traitors and assassins, recover stolen secrets, and dabble in a little espionage himself.
The first incarnation of the show is more serious that the later hour-long reinvention, without the knowing humor or the sense of ambivalence that creeped in. But like the U.S. series The Man From U.N.C.L.E., it is a cleverly-constructed show built of elaborate espionage shell games and diplomatic chicanery, with McGoohan as the ingenious con man behind the bluffs and feints, and this first season moves at a rapid clip.
All 39 half-hour episodes are available to stream for free (with commercials) on Shout! Factory TV.