..

THE PRISONER

         

Review by Gordon Justesen

Stars: Patrick McGoohan, Angelo Muscat
Director: Don Chaffey
Audio: English 2-Channel Mono
Video: Standard 1.33:1
Studio: A&E
Features: See Review
Length: 208 Minutes each
Release Date: October 31, 2000

Film ***

Prior to this review, I had no knowledge of The Prisoner, and yet, the show has built a unique cult status since its debut on CBS back in 1967. It doesnít surprise me at all that the show, which only ran 17 episodes, has a huge fan base. Most science fiction television shows eventually build up a group of somewhat close-knit fans, such as Star Trek and The X-Files. What does surprise me is the fact that I had no knowledge of such a show, being that I am as devoted to science fiction entertainment as much as anybody else is. Well thanks to the people at A&E, I am able to experience the adventures of Number Six, AKA The Prisoner, with the new collectorís set edition which contains three pivotal episodes; Arrival, Free For All, and Dance of the Dead.

In Arrival, we are introduced to the man soon to be known as Number Six, played by renowned British actor Patrick McGoohan, who you may have seen in such films as Braveheart and A Time to Kill. The man awakes, apparently still in his London apartment. He goes to the window but instead of the familiar tall buildings he sees a colorful village. Leaving the apartment he finds the Village at first deserted, then as he starts to encounter others, he is met with evasive answers to questions. The cafe waitress simply informs him that he is in "the villageĒ and he also learns that the phones and taxis are only "local". The Village store offers to sell him a map but it covers only the immediate village buildings, surrounded by "the sea" and "the mountains". Summoned to "The Green Dome", he meets No.2, who explains that they know a great deal about the prisoner's life but want to know why he resigned. He resolutely declines to cooperate in any way. The Prisoner is shown around the Village and receives a chilling demonstration of the deadly efficiency of the Village guardian.

Later, the Prisoner attempts his first escape and is brought back more dead than alive. At this point the stripping away of his individuality commences as he is forced to wear Village garb and is given an identification badge with just a numeral on it which he wears for only a few seconds before discarding it. Trying to force explanations, he goes back to the Green Dome to face Number Two, only to find that even this short-lived acquaintance has been replaced - something which recurs in virtually every episode.

It's also hammered home that he's now a number. "For official purposes, everyone has a number. Yours is Number Six!"

In Free For All, The new No.2 talks the prisoner into becoming a candidate for the village election. No.6 is told that, if elected, No.1 will no longer be a mystery to him. In the Village square he's encouraged to make a political speech and announces that he intends to discover who the prisoners and who the warders are. The audience reacts according to the cue cards held by the butler. The moment he announces his intention to run for office, the villagers produce election placards from nowhere with his face on them.  No. 6 is interviewed by the local newspaper, the "Tally Ho" but the answers are invented by the journalists and he's assigned an assistant, a chalet maid No. 58,for the duration of the campaign. Constantly enthusiastic, she follows No. 6 everywhere, but speaking only a strange foreign language.

Summoned to the Town Hall, No. 6 challenges the councilmen and questions the legitimacy of their positions. No.2 puts an end to his speech and No. 6 endures a series of brainwashing sessions after which he appears to be a perfect political candidate, promising a lot but actually saying very little. Recovering slightly, No.6 attempts an escape but is brought back by Rover and brainwashed again. No.58 leads him to the "therapy zone", an illicit drinking area, where he meets No.2 who appears drunk. After accepting a drink, No. 6 collapses having been drugged yet again by No.2, now revealed to be perfectly sober.

At the election, No.6 enjoys a landslide victory and becomes the new No.2. Once in his new office, he and his assistant play with the electronic devices until a pulsating light puts him into a trance-like state. No.58 now reveals herself to be something more sinister than a dotty chalet maid and slaps him repeatedly and sadistically in the face. No. 6, now understanding his situation attempts to escape himself but is badly beaten and brought back to the office where No. 58 awaits him. Now wearing the No. 2 badge and speaking perfect English, she reveals that the whole scenario was rigged from the start as a lesson to him that they can break him in many ways, including both mental and physical torture.

Dance of the Dead is a particularly intriguing episode. The episode opens with a heavily drugged No. 6 being duped into revealing some of his secrets to a former colleague, Dutton, who seems to have endured a considerable amount of brainwashing himself. However, even drugged, No 6 fights the attempt and No.2 stops the experiment as she fears for his life. No.6 wakes up in his cottage, apparently unaware of the previous night's ordeal, and receives an invitation to the village carnival.

The following night, after hearing No 2's "soothing" sleep message, he manages to get out and reaches the beach where he discovers a dead man washed up on the shore. He finds a wallet and a small radio on the body. Hiding the body in a nearby cave he returns to the Village and later, on the lookout point while trying to listen to the radio, No.2 and No.6's observer appear and confiscate it. Apparently he's transgressed some unwritten rule, and quite seriously by all accounts. Back in the cave, No.6 writes a message which he puts into the dead man's wallet and puts him back in the sea, attached to a lifebelt. Dutton, who reveals that his death is scheduled by the village authorities, watches him.

Video ***

A nice surprise from A&E. I have never watched a television show on DVD before, and The Prisoner was my first view at how a TV show can turn out on the format. The result is an overall impressive one, as A&Eís transfer is as good as it can get. Image is mostly clear, without any noticeable flaws. This is also the first disc Iíve viewed from A&E, and they definitely have some potential in the market.

Audio **1/2

The audio used on the disc is simple English 2-Channel Mono. It isnít of tremendous quality, and I guess there isnít much that can be done with a remastered presentation of a late 60s television show, so Iím giving as high a rate as I can in this department.

Features ***1/2

A&E really did their homework in this department. Any devoted fan of the show should take immediate notice! The interactive menus are a neat kick. Also included is just about all the publicity on the featured episodes, some never before seen bonus footage, an alternate cut of the episode The Chimes of Big Ben, and much, much more. A marvelous achievement!

Summary:

In short, each of these episodes was very entertaining, and somewhat intriguing. Of the three, I think Dance of the Dead was one I enjoyed the most. I am now proud to say that I have experienced a few of the many adventures of Number Six, as well as experienced this DVD set.