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Danger 5: The Diamond Girls Review

on Mon, 12/26/2011 - 00:00

For many, the 1960s has become a romanticized decade of psychedelic nostalgia. From the Beatles and the Stones, Swingers and Mods, Andy Warhol and Brigitte Bardot, the time period is filled with pop culture icons that reflect a “hipper” way of life than that found in the Twenty First Century. It was also an era when smoking had only recently been classified as a health hazard, drinking was the norm and the word “sexy” was taken to fashionable heights. Arguably the personification of this wistful era, however, was a solitary man dressed in a dapper suit, showcasing a dry wit and equipped with a literal “License to Kill”—James Bond.

In addition to the five Sean Connery interpretations of Ian Fleming’s dashing secret agent, as well as one George Lazenby flick, the popularity of the film franchise led to other spy genre productions on both the large and small screens during the decade. While the likes of Derek Flint and Matt Helm found box office success on the big screen, for instance, The Man from U.N.C.L.E. and Get Smart equaled their achievement with solid television ratings. With the evolution of the web series medium, meanwhile, secret agents and 1960s pop culture have found their way onto the World Wide Web with Danger 5: The Diamond Girls.

Although James Bond and his contemporaries faced such fictional evil organizations as SPECTRE and KAOS, as well as villainous masterminds along the likes of Dr. No and Auric Goldfinger, the quartet of Danger 5 agents instead square off against Nazi Germany and Adolf Hitler. It turns out that in addition to reproducing the atmosphere of the 1960s, creators Dario Russo and David Ashby have transported the time period into the 1940s and written a comedic alternate history that is just as entertaining as any Austin Powers spoof.

While the Mike Meyers film trilogy is often considered the epitome of James Bond satire, the 1960s offered more than its fair share of similar parody. In addition to the aforementioned Our Man Flint, Matt Helm and Get Smart, there was the 1967 motion picture Casino Royale, which was loosely based on Ian Fleming’s first Bond novel. Danger 5 shares many similarities with the film, especially in regards to its 1960s brand of British humor. Filled with an all-star cast that features Peter Sellers, David Niven, Ursula Andress, Orson Welles and Woody Allen, Casino Royale is a psychedelic romp of the spy genre that contains a mixed bag of laugh-out-loud moments and head-scratching interludes. Danger 5 equals the humor of Casino Royale but contains a more focused and fluid narrative than its big screen brother while being just as effective as a Bond-era sendup.

Like the secret agents of the 1960s, the Danger 5 team must thwart the diabolical attempts by an evil mastermind to use the inherent properties of black diamonds to produce an army of bullet-proof females. Unaware his plan, Jackson (David Ashby), Pierre (Aldo Mignone) and Tucker (Sean James Murphy) initially go undercover in order to assassinate Adolph Hitler (Carmine Russo) using a triple strategy of bomb, poison and gun. When the Diamond Girls—reminiscent of Dr. Noah’s go-go girl brigade in Casino Royale—intervene, the trio of male Danger 5 agents are assigned two female operatives to further assist in their war efforts. Claire (Amanda Simons) and Ilsa (Natasa Ristic) in turn bring an Emma Peel-esque collection of style, skills and sexuality to the proceedings while proving just as formidable as their male counterparts.

Although clearly a comedy spoof, the narrative of Danger 5: The Diamond Girls is engaging and entertaining in its own right and capable of standing alongside such big screen spy epics as the Derek Flint and Matt Helm film series. The production elements, meanwhile, are not only high in nature but likewise match the sound, design and picture quality of 1960s cinema. The Danger 5 quintet also smoke profusely, drink like professionals and share a deep dislike for Nazis—as well as a keen ability to sense all things German.

“I don’t think I’ve smoked this brand before,” Jackson comments in regards to his cigarette. “Smells kind of German.” During a plane trip in a later installment, meanwhile, Tucker remarks, “All these programs seem to be about corrupt police dogs. I’ve only ever traveled one other airline that had this many canine cop shows. My God, this is a German airline!”

The Danger 5 website contains a trailer for the web series that features small snippets of additional adventures by the Danger 5 team. From Antarctica to Morocco to Japan, the quintet of secret agents fight such Nazi schemes as weapons made from solid gold and crystal implants capable of controlling any animal—along with plenty of shootouts, explosions and sexual tension thrown in for good measure. One scene spotlights a triceratops equipped with a rifle mounted on its horn and a Nazi banner dangling over its side. The depiction brings to mind another 1960s staple, the television productions of Irwin Allen. Allen created such sci-fi dramas as Lost in Space, Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea and Land of the Giants, and there is a definite Irwin Allen vibe to the web series. The uniforms worn by Jackson, Ilsa and their comrades also have a distinct style reminiscent of those shows, adding to the pop culture smorgasbord of Danger 5.

Nazis and diamonds, dashing male leads and kick-ass women, exotic locales and plenty of alcohol—in the capable hands of Danger 5, a little romanticized nostalgia turns out to be a good thing after all.

Anthony Letizia (December 26, 2011)

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