Skip to main content

Today, there just isn’t enough war to go round.

The Avengers
4.20: The Danger Makers

A bit of a plod this one, enlivened by a couple of scenes, admittedly, but not enough to salvage The Danger Makers. The title pretty much tells you the score, as military personnel, dismayed by the lack of conflict in peacetime, create thrill-seeking exercises for themselves. Unfortunately, the thrill seeking only intermittently extends to viewer enthralment.


Robertson: There are very few wars nowadays. They’re rapidly becoming push-button affairs. No, your concept of military life is changing, Mrs Peel. The military man is becoming defunct, obsolete, a dodo.

On the plus side, veteran film director Charles Crichton delivers a polished rendition of Roger Marshall’s screenplay, in which Apollo (revealed to be Dr Long, played by Douglas Wilmer, perhaps best known as the BBC ‘60s Sherlock Holmes, before Peter Cushing took over) has discovered that, in some soldiers, combat fatigue led to mental regression because they actually missed the shock of war – “Yes, you could call it an addiction to danger” – and envisages tapping into “all that potential energy, destructive energy”.


His plan to harness it, having set various veterans on jaunts where they are “dicing with death like irresponsible beatniks” (including Admiral Jackson crossing the Atlantic in Force 8 gale and chemical warfare expert Gordon Lamble “trying to climb the side of St Paul’s Cathedral when he fell”) is to be put into action via a rather mundane plot to steal the Crown Jewels (why not, I guess).


Mrs Peel: What have we got so far?
Steed: Two black roses, three corpses.
Mrs Peel: Four white feathers…
Steed: And a partridge in a pear tree.

The black roses are the Danger Makers symbol (making Steed’s access remarkably easy, announcing himself as a member of their Northern Chapter), the feathers one of failure, both appearing on the crest of Manton House, a military museum run by Colonel Adams (Fabia Drake), oblivious to the goings-on. While Steed fakes being one of the select group, Emma attempts to join up, seeking an in with Major Robertson (an eyepatched Nigel Davenport). Steed suggests: “Show him… (looking at her cleavage) Show him your bumps. He’s a part-time phrenologist”.


Steed: Clearer?
Mrs Peel: Much. A bunch of schizoid, paranoid sociopaths.
Steed: And incidentally dangerous.

Maybe I’m being a bit hard on this one. There are a number of nice moments, such as Steed making up his society name; plumping for a Roman God, he naturally picks Bacchus, and receives a funny look from Peters (Moray Watson, The Quatermass Experiment, Black Orchid). There’s also a lovely punchline to the scene in which Emma receives a box of chocolates from Robertson, and Steed warns her not to touch it while he apparently inspects it for explosives:


Steed: Whatever you do, don’t touch the wrapped ones.
Mrs Peel: Why not?
Steed: Cos I like ‘em.


Mrs Peel’s initiation, in which she plays a deadly, full-scale version of the wire loop game (touch the sides and she’s electrocuted), moving along seesaws, is a masterful set piece, full of sweaty close-ups from the onlookers (and an impromptu cough from Robertson). 


And then there’s Steed, who was unable to hoodwink Apollo that he was a member, obviously, facing his would-be executioner with disarming cheerfulness:

Robertson: I’ve got to kill you.
Steed: Don’t make too much noise about it, will you.
Robertson: I said, I’ve got to kill you.
Steed (reading the newspaper): My goodness me, British tin down another point.
Robertson: Stand up.
Steed: Why?
Robertson: Because I’m going to kill you.
Steed: Major, your hand isn’t shaking at all. It’s as steady as rock. There’s more danger in stamp collecting.


He appeals Robertson’s flair for jeopardy, persuading him they should both have an equal chance of taking the gun, placed on the table. They sit opposite each other, the Major beginning a count to three. Robertson doesn’t get to two when Steed plucks up the gun and promptly hits him over the head with it (“Sorry, Major. I never did believe in rules”). Ungentlemanly, but very amusing.


Steed: How did you get out?
Mrs Peel: I knotted some sheets.
Steed: Oh, that old thing.
Mrs Peel: Well, originality didn’t seem imperative at the time.

Emma, of course, proves just as resourceful in her own off-camera way (above). Despite the high points, though, this one tends to the rather dry and militaristic elsewhere, right down to a Journey’s End-inspired character name (Stanhope, played by Adrian Ropes, although he’s more of a Raleigh, plotwise). The laugh-off is similarly breathless to The Girl from Auntie’s verbiage, only with Steed delivering this time, before their stunt doubles head off in go-carts:


Mrs Peel: Steed, I still don’t understand how you stumbled on the Danger Makers.
Steed: Simple, Mrs Peel. When Groves died, I saw Lowry, who put me on to Lamble, who led me to Robertson, through whom I met Stanhope, who later was killed, who passed on info about Manton, where I met Colonel Adams. I simply put two and two together.
Mrs Peel: Elementary.
Steed: Basic.
Mrs Peel: Shall we drive?













Agree? Disagree? Mildly or vehemently? Let me know in the comments below.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Why would I turn into a filing cabinet?

Captain Marvel (2019)
(SPOILERS) All superhero movies are formulaic to a greater or lesser degree. Mostly greater. The key to an actually great one – or just a pretty good one – is making that a virtue, rather than something you’re conscious of limiting the whole exercise. The irony of the last two stand-alone MCU pictures is that, while attempting to bring somewhat down-the-line progressive cachet to the series, they’ve delivered rather pedestrian results. Of course, that didn’t dim Black Panther’s cultural cachet (and what do I know, swathes of people also profess to loving it), and Captain Marvel has hit half a billion in its first few days – it seems that, unless you’re poor unloved Ant-Man, an easy $1bn is the new $700m for the MCU – but neither’s protagonist really made that all-important iconic impact.

She writes Twilight fan fiction.

Vampire Academy (2014)
My willingness to give writer Daniel Waters some slack on the grounds of early glories sometimes pays off (Sex and Death 101) and sometimes, as with this messy and indistinct Young Adult adaptation, it doesn’t. If Vampire Academy plods along as a less than innovative smart-mouthed Buffy rip-off that might be because, if you added vampires to Heathers, you would probably get something not so far from the world of Joss Whedon. Unfortunately inspiration is a low ebb throughout, not helped any by tepid direction from Daniel’s sometimes-reliable brother Mark and a couple of hopelessly plankish leads who do their best to dampen down any wit that occasionally attempts to surface.

I can only presume there’s a never-ending pile of Young Adult fiction poised for big screen failure, all of it comprising multi-novel storylines just begging for a moment in the Sun. Every time an adaptation crashes and burns (and the odds are that they will) another one rises, hydra-like, hoping…

Can you float through the air when you smell a delicious pie?

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (2018)
(SPOILERS) Ironically, given the source material, think I probably fell into the category of many who weren't overly disposed to give this big screen Spider-Man a go on the grounds that it was an animation. After all, if it wasn’t "good enough" for live-action, why should I give it my time? Not even Phil Lord and Christopher Miller's pedigree wholly persuaded me; they'd had their stumble of late, although admittedly in that live-action arena. As such, it was only the near-unanimous critics' approval that swayed me, suggesting I'd have been missing out. They – not always the most reliable arbiters of such populist fare, which made the vote of confidence all the more notable – were right. Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is not only a first-rate Spider-Man movie, it's a fresh, playful and (perhaps) surprisingly heartfelt origins story.

Sorry I’m late. I was taking a crap.

The Sting (1973)
(SPOILERS) In any given list of the best things – not just movies – ever, Mark Kermode would include The Exorcist, so it wasn’t a surprise when William Friedkin’s film made an appearance in his Nine films that should have won Best Picture at the Oscars list last month. Of the nominees that year, I suspect he’s correct in his assessment (I don’t think I’ve seen A Touch of Class, so it would be unfair of me to dismiss it outright; if we’re simply talking best film of that year, though, The Exorcist isn’t even 1973’s best horror, that would be Don’t Look Now). He’s certainly not wrong that The Exorcistremains a superior work” to The Sting; the latter’s one of those films, like The Return of the King and The Departed, where the Academy rewarded the cast and crew too late. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid is the masterpiece from George Roy Hill, Paul Newman and Robert Redford, not this flaccid trifle.

I don’t think you will see President Pierce again.

The Ballad of Buster Scruggs (2018)
(SPOILERS) The Ballad of Buster Scruggs and other tall tales of the American frontier is the title of "the book" from which the Coen brothers' latest derives, and so announces itself as fiction up front as heavily as Fargo purported to be based on a true story. In the world of the portmanteau western – has there even been one before? – theme and content aren't really all that distinct from the more familiar horror collection, and as such, these six tales rely on sudden twists or reveals, most of them revolving around death. And inevitably with the anthology, some tall tales are stronger than other tall tales, the former dutifully taking up the slack.

What lit the fire that set off our Mr Reaper?

Death Wish (2018)
(SPOILERS) I haven’t seen the original Death Wish, the odd clip aside, and I don’t especially plan to remedy that, owing to an aversion to Charles Bronson when he isn’t in Once Upon a Time in the West and an aversion to Michael Winner when he wasn’t making ‘60s comedies or Peter Ustinov Hercule Poirots. I also have an aversion to Eli Roth, though (this is the first of his oeuvre I’ve seen, again the odd clip aside, as I have a general distaste for his oeuvre), and mildly to Bruce when he’s on autopilot (most of the last twenty years), so really, I probably shouldn’t have checked this one out. It was duly slated as a fascistic, right-wing rallying cry, even though the same slaters consider such behaviour mostly okay if the protagonist is super-powered and wearing a mask when taking justice into his (or her) own hands, but the truth is this remake is a quite serviceable, occasionally amusing little revenger, one that even has sufficient courage in its skewed convictions …

You had to grab every single dollar you could get your hands on, didn't you?

Triple Frontier (2019)
(SPOILERS) Triple Frontier must have seemed like a no-brainer for Netflix, even by their standards of indiscriminately greenlighting projects whenever anyone who can’t get a job at a proper studio asks. It had, after all, been a hot property – nearly a decade ago now – with Kathryn Bigelow attached as director (she retains a producing credit) and subsequently JC Chandor, who has seen it through to completion. Netflix may not have attracted quite the same level of prospective stars – Johnny Depp, Tom Hanks, Will Smith, Tom Hardy and Channing Tatum were all involved at various points – but as ever, they haven’t stinted on the production. To what end, though? Well, Bigelow’s involvement is a reliable indicator; this is a movie about very male men doing very masculine things and suffering stoically for it.

Our "Bullshit!" team has unearthed spectacular new evidence, which suggests, that Jack the Ripper was, in fact, the Loch Ness Monster.

Amazon Women on the Moon (1987)
Cheeseburger Film Sandwich. Apparently, that’s what the French call Amazon Women on the Moon. Except that it probably sounds a little more elegant, since they’d be saying it in French (I hope so, anyway). Given the title, it should be no surprise that it is regarded as a sequel to Kentucky Fried Movie. Which, in some respects, it is. John Landis originally planned to direct the whole of Amazon Women himself, but brought in other directors due to scheduling issues. The finished film is as much of a mess as Kentucky Fried Movie, arrayed with more miss sketches than hit ones, although it’s decidedly less crude and haphazard than the earlier picture. Some have attempted to reclaim Amazon Women as a dazzling satire on TV’s takeover of our lives, but that’s stretching it. There is a fair bit of satire in there, but the filmmakers were just trying to be funny; there’s no polemic or express commentary. But even on such moderate terms, it only sporadically fulfils…

Trouble’s part of the circus. They said Barnum was in trouble when he lost Tom Thumb.

The Greatest Show on Earth (1952)
(SPOILERS) Anyone of a mind that it’s a recent development for the Oscars to cynically crown underserving recipients should take a good look at this Best Picture winner from the 25thAcademy Awards. In this case, it’s generally reckoned that the Academy felt it was about time to honour Hollywood behemoth Cecil B DeMille, by that point into his seventies and unlikely to be jostling for garlands much longer, before it was too late. Of course, he then only went and made a bona fide best picture contender, The Ten Commandments, and only then pegged it. Because no, The Greatest Show on Earth really isn’t very good.

Poor A. A. Milne. What a ghastly business.

Saving Mr. Banks (2013)
The absolutely true story of how P. L. Travers came to allow Walt Disney to adapt Mary Poppins, after 20 years’ persistent begging on the latter’s part. Except, of course, it isn’t true at all. Walt has worked his magic from beyond the grave over a fairly unremarkable tale of mutual disagreement. Which doesn’t really matter if the result is a decent movie that does something interesting or though-provoking by changing the facts… Which I’m not sure it does. But Saving Mr. Banks at least a half-decent movie, and one considerably buoyed by the performances of its lead actors.

Actually, Mr. Banks is buoyed by the performances of its entire cast. It’s the script that frequently lets the side down, laying it on thick when a lighter touch is needed, repeating its message to the point of nausea. And bloating it out not so neatly to the two-hour mark when the story could have been wrapped up quite nicely in a third less time. The title itself could perhaps be seen as rubbi…