Monday, April 24, 2017

Villain Retrospect - Baron Silas Greenback

I remember watching Danger Mouse as a kid and for some reason the end credits gave me a real downer vibe.  Every time those credits started, with the woman singing that Danger Mouse was the strongest, the quickest ("He's the best!"), I was sure he and Penfold were going to die.  Yeah, there's the bombs and giant letters trying to crush or maim him, but there was something more that just filled me with dread.  Maybe I though one episode they'd actually succeed and Danger Mouse would die and then the show would have been over. 

Danger Mouse was a British cartoon featuring the titular hero saving the United Kingdom from all sorts of threats.  He's receive his orders from Colonel K (I always read his name plate and Colon Elk), and he and his helper Penfold would stop whatever nefarious plan had been set in motion, whether it was a giant robot (for a mouse) or kidnapping bagpipes (which live in the mountains of Scotland, don't you know?).  Most of those plans would be the work on one Baron Silas Greenback, criminal mastermind, and his lackey, Stiletto.  While the cartoon focused on diminutive animal characters, and most didn't show a single human being, the targets of Greenback's schemes were sometimes human and more often than not world leaders.
The cartoon draws a lot of parallels with the James Bond movie series, but was more specifically based off the 1960s television show, Danger Man.  Originally starting off quite serious in the pilot, Danger Mouse's creator turned the cartoon silly to fit the anthropomorphic characters better.  I've never had a chance to watch the pilot, but I can't imagine what it would be like if it weren't goofy like the show ended up being.  I am glad they changed the villain's name in the transition - Greenback fits a lot better than Greenteeth.

Speaking of the Baron, he's your typical James Bond-esque bad guy.  He's even got the clich√© white pet, replaced here as a caterpillar named Nero.  It makes a lot of weird noises and bounces up and down and that always got me to laugh as a kid.  Greenback's got a really raspy voice and I can't help but think that might have been the inspiration for Dr. Claw's voice as well.  You'll usually see him sitting at his desk running his hands down Nero's back and shaking his fist in the air, but there are the rare instances that he leaves his hidden base to spearhead his schemes.
Most times, though, Stiletto is out on his own, controlling whatever mechanical creation is terrorizing the world.  Originally played with an Italian accent, when it was broadcast on Nickelodeon, he was changed to a cockney.  I don't know why it would have mattered, as a kid, I doubted I could tell the difference.  Greenback had another toadie (get it, Greenback's a toad) called Leatherhead that showed up in a few episodes before going off to read comics forever.
Considering Danger Mouse had made the shift from a more serious cartoon to a goofy one, it's going to be difficult to rate this guy.  Is he supposed to be cool?  Is he supposed to be effective?  I don't think so.  Greenback is a caricature of your typical James Bond villain, and the precursor of the similarly slapstick Inspector Gadget.  I think rating this guy in the same categories as real villains like Saw Boss, Tex Hex, and Doc Terror doesn't do them justice and ruins the humor intended.  So I'll give Baron Greenback a pass.  I wonder if he's any better in the remake.  Hmmm, remakes...


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