Review by Gordon Justesen
McGoohan, Angelo Muscat
Director: Don Chaffey
Audio: English 2-Channel Mono
Video: Standard 1.33:1
Features: See Review
Length: 208 Minutes
Release Date: October 31, 2000
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
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.
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.
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.
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!