Reviews

Danger Mouse: The Complete Seasons 5 & 6

Chadwick Jenkins

Lest audiences should think that American Idol's Simon Cowell is the apotheosis of British wit, allow me to submit for your consideration the name of Danger Mouse.


Danger Mouse

Distributor: A&E Home Video
Cast: David Jason, Terry Scott, Edward Kelsey, and Brian Trueman
Subtitle: The Complete Seasons 5 & 6
US Release Date: 2006-03-28
Amazon affiliate
Amazon

Lest audiences (other than UK audiences who doubtless know better) should think that American Idol's Simon Cowell is the apotheosis of British wit, allow me to submit for your consideration the name of Danger Mouse. He is the star of a series of cartoons originally aired during the '80s, created by the Cosgrove Hall animation studios (the company that brought you The Wind in the Willows and Count Duckula). American audiences may remember DangerMouse as a mainstay during the early years of Nickelodeon.

For those of you requiring an introduction, Danger Mouse is the eponymous, diminutive, rodent superhero of this surreal serial who, arrayed in a white jumpsuit and an eye patch, continually rescues the world (or at least certain sections of London) from the nefarious clutches of his nemesis Baron Silas Greenback (a toad with a penchant for costume jewelry) with the aid of his pusillanimous sidekick, Penfold (a bespectacled hamster inexplicably attired in a rumpled business suit).

Danger Mouse is a wizard of gadgetry (even if at times the gadgets get the better of him), a master of the martial arts, a paragon of bravery (although he does favor a rubber ducky as a bath companion), an advocate for asinine alliteration, and a preening purveyor of preposterously paltry puns that periodically plummet over the precipice of preciosity. Penfold, on the other hand, excels in timidity to such a degree that he absents himself from the majority of one episode in order to deliver an address titled "Cowardice without Guilt" to the national meeting of Cowards Anonymous, held at a chicken farm. After the lukewarm reception he receives upon his return, he threatens to go back to the farm and would probably carry his threat into execution except he is rather afraid of chickens.

The unlikely duo resides in a mock letterbox on a corner of Baker Street (the famed residence of one Sherlock Holmes) where they receive their orders from Colonel K (a walrus) over a telemonitor. Most episodes begin and/or end with a conversation over the telemonitor featuring large doses of droll dialogue for which the 'action' often serves as little more than an excuse. An example: Colonel K informs the heroes that a dragon is menacing Wales and exhorts them to "go forth and vanquish that dragon" whereupon Penfold muses aloud "go fourth?--Who are the other three then?"

Greenback, like so many arch-villains that have preceded him, is bent on world domination. We are told in the brief Bonus Feature biography that the source of his malevolence derived from a trick played on him as a boy at school (someone let the air out of one of the tires of his bicycle). Whatever the cause, his antisocial behavior is effective only insofar as it gives Danger Mouse a subject on which to crack wise; this may be why Danger Mouse never seems concerned that the bad guys continually evade his grasp. The tyrannical toad is joined in his evil quest by his bumbling henchman Stiletto Mafiosa (a black crow) and his pet Nero (a hairy caterpillar cum squeak toy).

The villains are rather underdeveloped and this may strike one as a weakness of the series. Perhaps Stiletto may even ruffle some PC feathers with his Italian accent in the tradition of Chico Marx, but then cartoons almost always rely on such stereotypes. In the original American broadcasts, Stiletto's voice was dubbed with a Cockney accent, but on these DVDs he is unmistakably Italian in more than name only.

However, the one-dimensionality of the evildoers only serves to sharpen the focus on the hero and his sidekick. Indeed, it is often Penfold who, in his unmitigated yet endearing spinelessness, steals the show.

Briticisms abound but they are never so abstruse that a non-Britisher should have any trouble interpreting the reference. When all the tea in England disappears, Colonel K warns the hero "civil service has gone uncivil." And when Penfold is informed that the House of Commons was attacked during an "all-night sitting" he remarks that he thought all of the Knights were in the House of Lords. If it sounds droll in my retelling, it is even more so when viewing the show. However, this kind of comedy simply cannot be described adequately. It is a matter of delivery and the voice talents behind this series have the delivery down to an exact (if rather wacky) science.

Moreover, there is an array of additional characters that presents a panorama of types associated with the United Kingdom. There is the Welsh dragon given to fourth-wall shattering asides to the audience in which he makes bad "dragon" jokes and then proceeds to explain in detail why they are funny. There is the Irish gadget salesman Egregious M. Murphy who, when asked, "what is the 'M' for", responds, "The M4 is a motorway that runs from London to South Wales." There is also an alien with a deep Scottish brogue whose robot companion cannot cease groveling.

Finally, the series features a neurotic narrator who alternates between threats to quit the show in order to promote his poetry career and attempts to derail the proceedings altogether by hijacking the course of events. In one particularly memorable episode ("Once Upon a Timeslip"), he transports the characters into the Robin Hood legend and then has them confronted with angry hordes, an earthquake, a volcano, and a runaway locomotive.

There really isn't much in the way of extras. The second DVD contains a lukewarm episode of Count Duckula, a karaoke version of the DangerMouse theme song (consisting of the opening credits with the addition of the lyrics and a bouncing bomb) and some rather lame character biographies. However, this is hardly the kind of collection within which one would expect much in the way of extras. The cartoons themselves are entirely sufficient.

These videos should appeal to a range of viewers. Children will enjoy the action and the anthropomorphic animal characters while adults will appreciate the self-aware humor and the groan-inducing one-liners. There is little in the way of a through story. Therefore, viewers can jump from episode to episode without getting lost. And how can you help but love a show that laughs so assiduously at its own jokes? So if you like your wit to resemble a good martini (very, very dry), then join Danger Mouse and Penfold as they fumble their way toward heroism.

4

Music

Books

Film

Recent
Film

The Dance of Male Forms in Denis' 'Beau travail'

Claire Denis' masterwork of cinematic poetry, Beau travail, is a cinematic ballet that tracks through tone and style the sublimation of violent masculine complexes into the silent convulsions of male angst.

Music

The Cradle's 'Laughing in My Sleep' Is an Off-kilter Reflection of Musical Curiosity

The Cradle's Paco Cathcart has curated a thoughtfully multifarious album. Laughing in My Sleep is an impressive collection of 21 tracks, each unapologetic in their rejection of expectations.

Music

Tobin Sprout Goes Americana on 'Empty Horses'

During the heyday of Guided By Voices, Tobin Sprout wasn't afraid to be absurd amongst all that fuzz. Sprout's new album, Empty Horses, is not the Tobin Sprout we know.

Film

'All In: The Fight for Democracy' Spotlights America's Current Voting Restrictions as Jim Crow 2.0

Featuring an ebullient and combative Stacey Abrams, All In: The Fight for Democracy shows just how determined anti-democratic forces are to ensure that certain groups don't get access to the voting booth.

Music

'Transgender Street Legend Vol. 2' Finds Left at London "At My Peak and Still Rising"

"[Pandemic lockdown] has been a detriment to many people's mental health," notes Nat Puff (aka Left at London) around her incendiary, politically-charged new album, "but goddamn it if I haven't been making some bops here and there!"

Music

Daniel Romano's 'How Ill Thy World Is Ordered' Is His Ninth LP of 2020 and It's Glorious

No, this is isn't a typo. Daniel Romano's How Ill Thy World Is Ordered is his ninth full-length release of 2020, and it's a genre-busting thrill ride.

Music

The Masonic Travelers Offer Stirring Rendition of "Rock My Soul" (premiere)

The Last Shall Be First: the JCR Records Story, Volume 1 captures the sacred soul of Memphis in the 1970s and features a wide range of largely forgotten artists waiting to be rediscovered. Hear the Masonic Travelers "Rock My Soul".

Music

GLVES Creates Mesmerizing Dark Folktronica on "Heal Me"

Australian First Nations singer-songwriter GLVES creates dense, deep, and darkish electropop that mesmerizes with its blend of electronics and native sounds on "Heal Me".

Music

Otis Junior and Dr. Dundiff Tells Us "When It's Sweet" It's So Sweet

Neo-soul singer Otis Junior teams with fellow Kentuckian Dr. Dundiff and his hip-hop beats for the silky, groovy "When It's Sweet".

Music

Lars and the Magic Mountain's "Invincible" Is a Shoegazey, Dreamy Delight (premiere)

Dutch space pop/psychedelic band Lars and the Magic Mountain share the dreamy and gorgeous "Invincible".

Film

What 'O Brother, Where Art Thou?' Gets Right (and Wrong) About America

Telling the tale of the cyclops through the lens of high and low culture, in O'Brother, Where Art Thou? the Coens hammer home a fatalistic criticism about the ways that commerce, violence, and cosmetic Christianity prevail in American society .

Music

Alexander Wren's "The Earth Is Flat" Wryly Looks at Lost Love (premiere + interview)

Singer-songwriter Alexander Wren's "The Earth Is Flat" is a less a flat-earther's anthem and more a wry examination of heartache.

Music

Big Little Lions' "Distant Air" Is a Powerful Folk-Anthem (premiere)

Folk-pop's Big Little Lions create a powerful anthem with "Distant Air", a song full of sophisticated pop hooks, smart dynamics, and killer choruses.

Music

The Flat Five Invite You to "Look at the Birdy" (premiere)

Chicago's the Flat Five deliver an exciting new single that exemplifies what some have called "twisted sunshine vocal pop".

Music

Brian Bromberg Pays Tribute to Hendrix With "Jimi" (premiere + interview)

Bass giant Brian Bromberg revisits his 2012 tribute to Jimi Hendrix 50 years after his passing, and reflects on the impact Hendrix's music has had on generations.

Jedd Beaudoin
Music

Shirley Collins' ​'Heart's Ease'​ Affirms Her Musical Prowess

Shirley Collins' Heart's Ease makes it apparent these songs do not belong to her as they are ownerless. Collins is the conveyor of their power while ensuring the music maintains cultural importance.

Books

Ignorance, Fear, and Democracy in America

Anti-intellectualism in America is, sadly, older than the nation itself. A new collection of Richard Hofstadter's work from Library of America traces the history of ideas and cultural currents in American society and politics.

By the Book

Democratizing Our Data: A Manifesto (excerpt)

Just as big tech leads world in data for profit, the US government can produce data for the public good, sans the bureaucracy. This excerpt of Julia Lane's Democratizing Our Data: A Manifesto will whet your appetite for disruptive change in data management, which is critical for democracy's survival.

Julia Lane

Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews



Features
Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.