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The Prisoner ... on Blu-ray

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#121 of 127 OFFLINE   Hollywoodaholic


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Posted March 16 2010 - 02:08 AM

After listening to all the fantastic interviews on the disc 5 documentary (longer than 90 minutes, btw), I can only come to the conclusion that what The Prisoner is really about ... is the performer/actor/genius going stark raving mad. That's right, it's the television version of Roger Water's "Dark Side of the Moon."

The evidence really starts to add up, once you gather all the testimony.

McGoohan was coming off 86 episodes of Danger Man and really burned out on the character. And it's Drake's face/photo that's being typed over and desecrated in the title sequence of The Prisoner. So the premise of the show really is about Drake being 'retired,' but the show or McGoohan were obviously never allowed to admit that because of obvious proprietary character copyrights, etc. "I am not a number ... (86!), I am a free man!" Not quite, Patrick. You're about to push yourself over the edge.

The actresses on the show said that even though the script called for him to kiss them, he never would. This supports Joseph's comments above about his strict religious beliefs and morality. But some of these women were pretty hot for the day, so I have no choice but to put this one in the 'crazy' column.
Leo McKern, God rest his soul (and happy birthday, btw). The penultimate episode was not the last episode, "Fall Out," but the one where McGoohan and McKern as Number 2 go at each other in a room like an EST Course From Hell ("Once Upon a Time"). McGooghan was so over-the-top intense that McKern claims he was actually physically strangling him for real in one sequence. McKern had a nervous breakdown, filming was suspended, and you get the feeling he never really recovered (especially from the fried look of him in this ever-so-brief interview they probably nicked from him in a pub). It wasn't a show any more at this point to McGoohan; it was real. And he lost it, big time.

Then there's the pressure of coming up with a finale. He'd already alienated and banished the co-creator of the concept; George Markstein - probably the one guy who could have put a coherent finale together nicely tying things up. McGoohan had also fired numerous directors in the middle of episodes and taken over their duties. His control of the show had become so meglomaniacal that the whole enterprise was becoming just an extension of his own ego ... and his id.

Meanwhile, just before coming up with the final episode, he goes off to Hollywood to do a movie with Rock Hudson. That's just crazy. OK, maybe not so much if you think about all the women he wouldn't kiss. But seriously, he does a major action film, Ice Station Zebra, with 14 shows already in the can, more shooting without him (don't even GO there), and everyone waiting on the finale, then flies back to England, locks himself in a room for 36 hours and starts scribbling out the episode that became "Fall Out.". So what state of mind do you suppose infused that little exercise? A more apt title for the episode ... "Freak Out!"

Actually, that episode was probably the most honest reflection of what was actually going on in his head at the time. How could it not be with NO OTHER INPUT, except the thoughts banging around in his brain after 86 episodes of Danger Man, 16 control freak episodes of The Prisoner that he had shepharded forth, 3 months holding off Rock Hudson's hungry eyes, and Sir Lew Grade, his benefactor, and the entire fan public for the show demanding CLOSURE??

So he flipped. He went starkers. He lost it. He went round the bend. To the dark side of the moon. And then he FILMED THE WHOLE THING.

And that's when everyone else promptly went mad.

Apparently, fans were so upset, he was accosted on the street after the show aired by fans screaming at him for ruining the show. What the hell happened?

Now we could give him the benefit of the doubt and attribute the process he went through for 36 hours putting that story together to some Grade A blotter acid he brought back from L.A. After all, the show featured several episodes detailing with the use of hallucinogenics to trick or coerce Number 6 to talk. Cary Grant was treated by his Beverly Hills psychiatrist with LSD more than 83 times (it was legal until 1966), and there are reports that McGoohan had some experience with the drug, too, whether therapeutic or perhaps at a Peter Fonda party.

But that's just an easy excuse.

No, I'd like to believe that ... due to his temprament, his strict beliefs, his ridiculous work schedule, his meglomaniacal need for control or perfection, his loss of personal privacy, his fear of kissing hot actresses ...  he just went stark, rovering mad, and The Prisoner is his magnum opus to that experience. And, just like "Dark Side of the Moon", it will remain a timeless masterpiece for everyone else to witness or share that experience.

And if anyone wants to defnitely know what in the name of babbling monkeys that last episode is all about, I'm just calling the whole thing the "Dark Side of the McGoohan."

That's my intepretation and I'm sticking to it. 

#122 of 127 OFFLINE   TonyD


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Posted March 16 2010 - 02:14 AM

^ Works for me.


#123 of 127 ONLINE   Nelson Au

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Posted March 16 2010 - 04:46 AM

Thanks for your post Joseph.

I woke up this morning thinking about it and perhaps the intention of Dry Bones was an allusion to the prisoners of the Village. They are dead and dry mindless cabbages who've lost their individuality. Number 48 was referring to them coming back alive.

Wayne, I'm not sure McGoohan went totally over the bend. He probably had been really stressed and has admitted to struggling to find a way to end it. But after you watch it, I think he knew all along, even in a sub conscience level, he knew what he wanted to say. I think he went over the top visually and I think it was a guise to show a drug induced Number 6 that he appears to have won, but it was just another plot by the powers that be to break him.

Regarding Ice Station Zebra, I bet he or his agent got him this job some time ago and he may have been committed to it and being an actor then, why not take advantage of the opportunities when you have them.

But everyone has their theories. Yours is as valid as mine!

#124 of 127 OFFLINE   Hollywoodaholic


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Posted March 16 2010 - 05:39 AM

Thanks for finding those, Nelson. McGoohan's comments were woefully missing from the documentary and I wonder why these weren't included (since they used ones from Lew Grade and the Dem Bones actor here). Still, when he says, "It's an allegory, an ALLEGORY," are we sure he doesn't really mean, "It was an aneurysim, an ANEURYISM."  Or judging by the serene setting (his Pacific Palisades back yard?), and the sunset, maybe ... "It was Tequila, a TEQUILA!" Sorry, couldn't resist. But the only one who got a clear answer from him on how the series should end (to piss everyone off) ... seems to be David Chase.

#125 of 127 OFFLINE   Harry-N



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Posted January 20 2011 - 03:18 PM

A thread bump from someone who's just come aboard the Blu-ray bandwagon. I've been slow to even consider going with Blu-ray.  I always knew it would happen someday, but I wasn't eager to do the upgrade-the-library routine again.  I'm 60 years old and am largely happy with DVD and my collection of favored titles. That said, I received a new Sony BD-570 player for my recent birthday, and one title I wanted to upgrade was THE PRISONER.  I'd been a fan of the show since the premiere on CBS back in the summer of 1968.  Stuck watching most of it in black & white that year (and the following), I nevertheless fell under the spell of the seriesm and it's never left me after all these years. In the '70s, I caught the series again running in a syndication run, this time I finally saw it in color, but in somewhat washed-out prints on local television.  By the '80s, with home video a reality, I taped the series on VHS when our local PBS station ran them. At this point in time, having access to the entire show, without edits, was a big plus.  Nevermind that the prints were horrible - they were all THERE. With a promise of something slightly better in the early/mid '80s, I spent a small fortune buying up every episode on pre-recorded VHS tapes from MPI.  One episode per tape - and a list price of $39.95 per tape.  Ouch!  The big claim-to-fame with these was the newly discovered alternate "Chimes Of Big Ben" episode.  On the old 25" Sony, these all looked pretty good.  Well, the alternate episode ALWAYS looked bad, but it was a historical artifact, so it was welcome.  At this point in time, I was even enamored enough with the series to join the Six Of One club for a year.  It was difficult to manage though, with having to do "internation reply coupons" to send them yearly dues, so I opted out.  Their newsletters and mailings were quite informative though, and I learned a lot through them. In the late '80s and early '90s, I was into LaserDiscs, and began purchasing some of the episodes - but never managed to complete them as they were difficult to find in those pre-Internet days. When the DVDs came out, I was early to grab each of the five sets of two-discs each from A&E.  With DVD's promise of great pictures, I thought this would finally put my purchasing of these 17 episodes of television to rest.  It was not to be so.  As recently as a little more than a year ago, upon learning of the great release of THE PRISONER in remastered form in Europe, I mistakenly thought that the re-issued set of standard DVDs from A&E would contain those new remasters, but when I got them home and plopped them in the player, I was disheartened to see the exact same menus as the old DVDs that I already owned.  The video was no better - it wasn't remastered - it was just a repackaging.  And I spent a fairly large wad of cash on this second set to boot.  I was severely disappointed but took my lumps and put them on the shelf as a monument of sorts to my stupidity. So, having heard how good the Blu-ray set was, I put that fact in the back of my mind and used it as a sort of justification for adding Blu-ray to mu home video hobby. If I could get the new release of THE PRISONER, it would sort of erase my old stupidity!  Well, the Blu-ray set arrived the other day, and I got a chance to watch the premiere episode "Arrival". Just like someone else in this thread, I sat there open-mouthed in disbelief in what I was witnessing.  It was like seeing this show for the first time.  I simply cannot believe how wonderful a job they did on remastering this show.  Just fabulous. And I've been meaning to comment here on the Home Theater Forum to a bunch of guys who know what it's like.  Thanks for reading.  I can't wait to watch further episodes and explore the extras. Harry  
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A fugitive moves on, through anguished tunnels of time, down dim streets, into dark corners. And each new day offers fear and frustration, tastes of honey and hemlock. But if there is a hazard, there is also hope. - Closing narration to THE FUGITIVE, "Death Is The Door Prize".

#126 of 127 OFFLINE   Joe Tor1

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Posted January 20 2011 - 07:08 PM

Harry: You’ll find, as I did one year ago at this time – for MY birthday, that everything (with the exception of third season LOST IN SPACE) looks better in HD / Blu-ray, whether it’s Blu or not!  Needless to say, as with you, I’m currently enjoying the final volume of VOYAGE TO THE BOTTOM OF THE SEA in crispness and detail previously unimagined.  I bought THE PRISONER Blu in November, and am slowly working my way through it now, along with SPACE 1999 Season One on Blu, and THE FUGITIVE Season 4 Volume 1 Aside from one or two occasional viewings in the seventies or eighties I never really got into THE PRISONER – but I’m sure enjoying it now.  Makes me want to go back and get DANGER MAN too!  To all on this thread… Is that voice actor PAUL FREES doing the narration to the Next Week Previews? 

#127 of 127 OFFLINE   Sam Favate

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Posted October 17 2011 - 08:08 AM

Just finished watching the series again on Blu-ray. I still think it's great (and the BDs look terrific). The ending, as we discussed, is not for everyone. One thing I came across this time, a detail I had overlooked, is that when No. 6 is being led to the chamber where the crowd and the president await, there is a mold of No. 6 there. He pauses and another character says "we thought you'd be more comfortable if it looked familiar" (or something like that). So I suppose one interpretation is that No. 1 has been made to look like No. 6. Not sure that idea holds up under scrutiny, but it's at least as valid as the other theories out there.

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