DVD Review - Danger 5
The 1950's and 60's were a strange time in the post-war era where journalism, pulp fiction and propaganda had a tendency to intersect. Headlines like "Hemingway's Personal Battle With Hitler" and "Seduced by a Nazi Sex Orgy Harem" were on men's magazines everywhere. Father would arrive home to be greeted by Jack and Elizabeth. They would fetch fathers slippers, magazine and pipe, which was prescribed to reduce stress, while mother was in the kitchen cooking meatloaf. Aahhh, they were simpler times.
Danger 5 brings this sense of sensationalism to the screen in what is without a doubt the most ridiculous yet entertaining Australian TV series in recent memory.
"Set in a bizarre, 1960’s inspired version of World War II, action comedy series DANGER 5 follows a team of five spies on a mission to kill Adolf Hitler.
Danger 5 is the finest group of special operatives the Allies have to offer; Jackson from the USA, Tucker from Australia, Ilsa from Russia, Claire from Britain and Pierre from Europe.
In each episode Danger 5 unravels another of Hitler’s diabolical schemes as they travel across a myriad of exotic locations. The action and offbeat humour is relentless as Danger 5 mounts a series of thrilling missions which include discovering Josef Mengele’s perverted Antarctic death circus, busting down Erwin Rommel’s golden murder casino and posing as exotic dancers in an attempt to take out Hitler at his own birthday party."
It would be easy to write Danger 5 off as a cash grab on the recent trend of absurdity found in The Venture Bros and other Cartoon Network series. It could be easy to do this, but it would also be wrong. Danger 5 is its own series which is every part as silly as it is intelligent. Instead of going for cheap laughs by having a fist fight with a pterodactyl, the team from Danger 5 place their tongue firmly in cheek, realising that this sort of scenario really was prevalent in pulp publications at the time. Mind you, they still have the pterodactyl fight.
Everything about this series just works. From what I've been told, the series art production team was forced to make do on a rather small budget. What they managed to do with such a limited budget is truly impressive. Instead of going down the "so cheap its cool" path, they managed to create a visual style that perfectly mimicked the visual styling of mid 60's television. Cost is obviously a large burden on set design so instead of having 6 different sets that are of poor quality, they just used the same sets of a great quality with slight changes as needed in the scene. It would be easy to miss this fact but even after noticing, it certainly doesn't detract. The monster and character designs are equally as great. What we get is Triceratops' with horn mounted machine guns and T-Rex attacks that would make the legendary Ray Harryhausen turn in his grave, hopefully while laughing. It should be no surprise that my favourite costumes are those of Emperor Hirohito's henchmen, the stoic bulletproof chaps in Ultraman inspired suits.
The performances are great and pitch perfect. As with all great teams, Danger 5 has a mix of abilities and personalities which make them all unique from one another. Tucker (Sean Jame Murphy) is the unofficial leader of the team. A handsome young Australian chap, he sports a slight British accent the likes of Bruce Gyngell (Good evening and welcome to television. Jackson (series co-creator David Ashby) is the muscle and Claire (Amanda Simons) is the beauty. The team is rounded off by the foreign lothario Pierre (Aldo Mignone) and Ilsa (Natasa Ristic), the Russian lass with a bad attitude. None of the characters are exactly ground breaking but they aren't supposed to be. They are the classic archetypes that you'd see in any film of the time and each one of them is realised wonderfully.
This reflection of post war society is a hilarious reminder of Winston Churchill's quote "history is written by the victors". In the 50's and 60's publications from allied countries went into overdrive, creating ludicrous stories about all things Nazi. Danger 5 grasps this sensibility and creates a world that is downright ludicrous but exactly what could be expected from a product of the time. Hell, go back and watch some early Bond films and they're not far off the mark. Cue the disco music and as always... kill Hitler!