While researching my previous posts about NTSF:SD:SUV:: and Eagleheart, the internet suggested that I might also enjoy an Australian action comedy series called Danger 5 (2012)… and, as it turns out, the internet was absolutely right… though I’m going to have trouble describing the show here in a way that does it justice, because the premise is so off-the-wall: Basically, it’s kinda like a live-action Team America set during World War II, but painstakingly styled to resemble a “Swinging Sixties”-style spy caper, with deliberately shoddy dubbing, cheesy miniature model shots, cheap costumes, offensive “ethnic” make-up, and a little Nazi/nun/sexploitation thrown in for good/bad measure… while the enemies encountered over the course of the series include rampaging stop-motion dinosaurs*, talking puppety dogs, giant rubber-suited robots, and bullet-proofed warrior-women! There weren’t many straight-up jokes in any of the episodes, just oodles of straight-faced absurdity and crazy incongruity… so it’s often more chuckle-worthy than laugh-out-loud funny… but a real trip to watch, all the same.
For some reason they valiantly chose to have most of the foreign characters speak to each other in their native languages, while one of the heroines (who I’ll have a lot more to say about in a second) speaks to her English/American team-mates in untranslated Russian… which must be quite off-putting for those lazy types who hate having to read subtitles while watching TV. In fact several episodes feature a large number of German-language-only scenes… which may explain why Deutschland is the only country outside of Oz where the DVDs have been released, despite the potentially controversial, Swastika-strewn irreverance.
The “Danger 5” squad comprises three men and two women, hailing from various Allied nations… but regular readers may not be too surprised to learn that my favourite-by-far was ‘Ilsa’, the vodka-swilling, chain-smoking, Soviet bad-girl played by Natasa Ristic. She maintains a sort of scoffing, insouciant swagger throughout her adventures, and is rarely seen without a strong drink in her hand… but she’s also a skilled hand-to-hand fighter, deadly with a machine gun, and sexy-as-hell. Hotcha! On the downside, she can also be a tad temperamental, and isn’t above leaving her sister-in-arms ‘Claire’ (Amanda Simons) chained-up in a dungeon, simply because their captors paid the good-girl blonde more ogling attention, and she’s feeling jealous! Tch! Besides her general bad-assery, Ilsa has numerous standout moments over the course of the first season, such as: charming a cell full of aggressive ape-men into taking a nap instead of attacking the squad… casually giving Goebbels an implied off-screen blow-job to distract/delay him during a sabotage mission… blasting alcohol-fuelled flame-breath at a gladiatorial lizard-man… removing her underwear during a staring contest between two male team-mates, then intermittently flashing them, just for giggles… and casually revealing that she used to be married to Rommel, after easily wrapping “The Desert Fox” around her finger by being all flirty and adorable with him. Bless.
Although all of the characters’ voices were dubbed, often by other actors, and occasionally in a different language to the one that was spoken on set, I get the sense from other fans’ comments that Ristic actually speaks Russian, and recorded all of her own dialogue for the dub… though there isn’t any official confirmation/proof of that, as far as I’m aware. On the other hand, she was nominated for a “Most Outstanding New Talent” Logie Award in 2013, which suggests she was doing more than just mindlessly flapping her mouth under another actress’s voice… right…? Incidentally, I recently started reading a collection of Modesty Blaise comic-strips (The Hell-Makers, in case you’re curious), and couldn’t help seeing a remarkable resemblance between Ristic and the iconic anti-heroine… though I’m not sure if that was intentional, or simply a side-effect of the retro styling…? Meanwhile, there weren’t any recognisable supporting actresses with speaking roles here, but I reckon Susanna Dekker deserves a shout-out for appearing in numerous episodes as a wide variety of totally unrelated characters (even if she wasn’t necessarily responsible for voicing them).
Note: If you’re watching the first season on Netflix (or similar streaming services), then I’d suggest scrolling down to episode #1.7 (aka “The Diamond Girls”), and watching that one first, because it’s actually the pilot episode (which was originally released as a series of YouTube webisodes), and explains how the squad came together.
* Although the rest of the FX were pretty rinky-dink by design, I thought the stop-motion dinosaurs were beautifully animated. Kudos!