Children of Bond - Danger Route
Danger Route was directed by Seth Holt and written by Meade Roberts and
Robert Banks Stewart. It was based on Andrew York's 1966 novel The
Eliminator. Although Amicus Productions was a horror studio they would
occasionally try something out of their usual comfort zone. One such
film was Danger Route, an espionage thriller made at the height of the
sixties spy craze. This film features Richard Johnson as British spy
Jonas Wilde. Jonas wants to retire but is told he can only resign if he
does one last mission. This mission involves killing a Czech defector
who is in the custody of the Americans. Jonas manages to complete his
mission but then becomes aware that his superior has vanished and
British agents are being murdered. There seems to be a traitor or some
sort of double-cross at play. Jonas resolves to get the bottom of this
knotty espionage mystery.
a strange sort of film that positions itself somewhere in the gulf
between the high fantasy Bond films and more down to earth and gritty
Harry Palmer series with Michael Caine. You'd say though that Danger
Route is much closer to Harry Palmer than it is to the likes of
Goldfinger and Thunderball. Jonas Wilde is quite a downbeat character
and clearly has no particular love for his occupation or the people he
works for. When we first meet Jonas in the film he seems as if he wants
nothing more than to walk away from the world of spying and espionage
and put it all behind him. This aspect to the character and the
melancholic jazzy score feels very Harry Palmer.
Route only veers into Bond territory when Jonas seduces or charms women
and karate chops people during fights. Jonas can kill with a single
karate chop - and frequently does! Anyone expecting a James Bond
pastiche or copycat though will probably be disappointed by Danger
Route. Danger Route takes itself far more seriously than the Bond films
and doesn't have much money or spectacle at its disposal.
Johnson featured in much more obviously James Bondish films around this
time as Bulldog Drummond in 'Deadlier Than the Male' and 'Some Girls
Do'. The irony of Johnson's numerous sixties spy roles lay in the fact
that he was the first choice of the Bond producers and director Terence
Young to play James Bond in Dr No but turned down their offer because
he didn't want to sign what he saw as a constrictive long term contract
to one studio. That paved the way for Sean Connery to take the part of
007. If he'd so desired though, Richard Johnson could have been the
first cinema James Bond.
is a pretty good leading man in Danger Route. He's handsome and suave
but rather sarcastic. Jonas Wilde feels much more like a real person
than James Bond and Richard Johnson gives him a believable inner life
of regret and frustration. There's quite a good section of the film
where Jonas poses as a brush salesmen (!) to seduce a housekeeper
played by Diana Dors so he can get close to his target in a big house.
Richard Johnson has to affect a more 'common' accent for this ruse and
it might have come off as risible and preposterous in lesser hands but
the actor sort of makes it work.
great to see Diana Dors here in a part that captures her mid-phase so
to speak. She's no longer Britain's 'version' of Marilyn Monroe and yet
to adopt those battleaxe wife or sinister grandmother parts she would
end up playing in the seventies and early eighties. Here she is
somewhere in the middle trying to work out where her career is going.
By the way, watch a film called Yield to the Night to see what a great
actress Diana Dors could be.
Lynley plays the beautiful and mysterious young woman that Jonas falls
for. Lynley is here to add some glamour to the film and her scenes have
a glitz and soft-focus fantasy aura in contrast to the rest of Danger
Route. The scenes of Johnson and Lynley together in some swanky flat
are the closest Danger Route comes to feeling like a Bond film. Sylvia
Syms also has a rather mysterious part as Barbara Canning although she
doesn't get that much to do in the film.
keep going and back and forth in the story to Johnson on a boat with
Gordon Jackson, who plays some sort of contact. These scenes have some
rather obvious back projection which looks terribly amateurish. I
gather that this was a troubled production and they had to change the
main cameraman at some point. Amicus were never exactly awash with
money and all of this, plus the director apparently falling ill, might
account for a few scenes that seem to lack the reasonably competent
nature of the rest of Danger Route. There's a strange scene where
Johnson and Dors are in a house when - all of a sudden - they seem to
be surrounded by fake plants and acting with just a wall behind them.
Maybe this was a scene they added later?
for a spy film, our hero never actually travels abroad in the story
(although we gather that Jonas has just returned from the West Indies).
Much of the story seems to take place in the Channel Islands. There's
no big set-piece or climax to the film. The only action you get is when
Jonas deploys his faithful karate chop. There's quite a good fight in a
corridor though that wouldn't have shamed a sixties Bond film. It
reminded me slightly of a punch-up George Lazenby has in a corridor in
On Her Majesty's Secret Service.
story in Danger Route is a little confusing at times - although you'll
probably be able to guess who the traitor is long before we reach the
end. I suspect this film might be far too slow and uneventful for some
tastes but Danger Route is not bad at all really - thanks mostly to the
strong performance of Richard Johnson. It's no Harry Palmer film but
Danger Route is a mildly interesting relic from the dusty vaults of