Danger 5 was born when Dario Russo and friends asked themselves this simple question: “How can we make the coolest show humanly possible?”
Chances are you’ve already seen Russo’s work even if you don’t know it. He was responsible for the 2007 YouTube sensation Italian Spiderman. It began as a fake trailer made for a third-year university project – a loving homage to the bizarre versions of famous superheroes that pop up around the globe.
“I’d already been posting short films to YouTube and I’d collected a grand total of about 2,000 views or something glorious like that,” says Russo. “Once I uploaded the Spiderman
trailer it grew at an exponential rate.” Soon Italian Spiderman
had a ten-part web series, millions of hits, and a grandiose fake production history. (It includes an undersea expedition to recover a sunken ship carrying Spiderman
’s only surviving print.)
But writer/director Russo – and his Danger 5 co-creator and star David Ashby – knew they had to leave the viral success of Italian Spiderman behind. “We just tried to make something we honestly thought was good, rather than try to build a tricky marketing campaign or transmedia strategy.” They came up with a bizarre World War II story as seen through the lens of 1960s spy cinema and Japanese monster movies: Danger 5.
“Have you seen You Only Live Twice
?” asks Russo. “We wanted all our bases to be volcanic lairs with cathedral ceilings! Then we found out how much money we had and that we had one room ten metres by five tall. Our swelling imaginations were controlled by the practicalities of making this stuff work. The art department suffered the most throughout the experience.” Luckily the results of that suffering are visible on screen. Despite its low budget, the show's painstaking miniatures and other old-school effects are fantastic.
Danger 5 exhibits a surreal logic that would make David Lynch shake his head, but the best thing about it is that it takes its talking dogs and Nazi dinosaurs and cocktail-swilling superspies so seriously. Russo says the last thing he wanted was easy laughs from letting a boom mike drop into shot. “The standard approach to retro genres is to lampoon them. Danger 5’s a comedy – because the plotlines are so ridiculous! – but we didn’t want to make a schlocky pastiche. Half-assedness was never an option.”
Danger 5 premieres on SBS One on Mon 27 Feb, 9.30pm