Complete at last on DVDs--and with bonuses yet!
F. Behrens | Keene, NH USA | 09/01/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
" It is a lovely day in the Village now that A&E has released the final episodes of "The Prisoner" on two DVDs as Set 5 of the complete collection. Here we have the wonderful spoof of all spy films, "The Girl Who Was Death," in which the ubiquitous villainess (Justine Lord) is always one step ahead of the beleaguered agent (McGoohan) and in which we have the cleverest of all twist endings in the series. But Prisoner-lovers will want this set especially for the final two episodes. There is "Once Upon a Time," in which an early Number 2 (Leo McKern) risks his very sanity to break down Number 6--and, we are told, the actor actually came close to or just into a nervous breakdown during the intense filming. And of course, the "resolution" to the series, "Fall Out," in which the elusive Number 1 is finally (and literally) unmasked and revealed as the only logical person it could have been. I have to admit to a slight dislike of the smugness in this last episode, especially that of the character of the young rebel (Alexis Kanner, who had been featured in the "Living in Harmony" episode earlier in the series). But since McGoohan himself, in all probability, wanted only to keep us mystified throughout 17 episodes--4 more than he had originally planned-- I strongly suspect never really had any concrete idea of what the ultimate "revelation" would be until most of them had been filmed. But who cares? It is a lot of fun, once you toss logic to the winds and take the whole thing as something out of Kafka and/or Beckett and/or Orwell.
The second DVD hold as two special bonuses a detailed overview of the series, "The Prisoner Video Companion" and an even more revealing 16 mm home movie taken by the Production Manager, showing how the scenes were actually shot around guests staying at the location that is now world-famous for being The Village. Be seeing you."
THE LAST EPISODES OF A GREAT SHOW
Darrin Lanchbury | Lake Charles, Louisiana United States | 08/10/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This review is based on the "Channel 5" VHS video release of the 3 epidodes. The DVD version will provide additional material.For those of you who don't know what The Prisoner is then I suggest you buy the first 4 sets and watch them in order - you won't be disappointed. Basically, the storyline involves a kidnapped British secret agent who wakes up to find himself prisoner in a village populated by captured agents, scientists and politicians from both sides of the iron curtain. The authorities want to know why he resigned from his job, but as he doesn't know which side is running "The Village" he resists and they are forced to invent new and original ways to extract the information from him...These are the last three episodes from the series and all three rank in my top 5 favourite episodes list, but are very "non-typical" when compared to the rest of the series.The first episode, The Girl Who Was Death, is almost a comedy episode and, if this is the first time you've seen it, may confuse the viewers into thinking they're watching a different show. In this story, Number 6 is back in England working as a secret agent and trying to track down an arch criminal who has already killed another agent. As McGoohan picks up the trail he faces multiple attemps on his life by a female assassin until he eventually tracks her back to her lair and untimately to the master villian himself. As the story progresses you start to wonder what the script writer was smoking! The assassin's assualt on McGoohan during the car chase is absurd... until the ending clears it all up. The second time you watch it you can then relax and enjoy it for the classic it is... without having to worry about some of the weird situations. 10 out of 10.The last two episodes, Once Upon a Time and Fall Out, are really a single, double length epidode. Leo McKern returns as everybodys favourite Number 2 and engages in the ultimate high-stakes battle to break Number Six from which there can be only one winner. Here, Number 2 regresses Number 6 back to his childhood and then guides him through major points in his life in order to win his trust and extract the reason for his resignation. ...As endings go, this one is about as final as you can get, but a lot of questions go unanswered and are left to the viewers to decide for themselves. Years later, the meaning of Fall Out is still being hotly debated by the legion of Prisoner fans. I have my own personal opinion of what happened, but I'll keep it to myself. Does anyone else find it interesting that when Number 6 gets back to London and enters his old home that the number above the door is "1"? Hmmmm"
Where all your questions DON"T get answered.
David H. Downing | Psoli, PA | 04/09/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Here concludes Patrick McGoohan's classic miniseries about ex-secret agent "No. 6," and his struggles to understand and escape from "The Village," where he's held by unidentified captors. Here is where the series transforms from offbeat spy thriller to surrealistic allegory.
In A&E's revised, "fan-preferred" order, "Girl Who Was Death" remains immediately before the two-part finale. This supports my theory that "Girl" is more than a comedy (with one disturbing detail -- children as interrogation tools) thrown in to fill space. Instead, "Girl" seem deliberately intended as part of what's been called "one of the cruelest juxtapositions in the history of television"*. "Girl" also indirectly foreshadow the final episode by using both actors and sets appearing therein.
A&E's order IS unique in pairing "Girl" with "Living in Harmony" (set 4), which seem like serious and comic treatments of the same scenario; No. 6 is placed in an imaginary setting and given an imaginary identity to get information from him.
After the relatively lighthearted "Girl" comes the dark, grim, and intense "Once Upon A Time" -- an episode stressful enough to give guest star Leo McKern a heart attack. "Time" is the first half of the series finale, written and directed by McGoohan.
A returning No. 2 insists on "Degree Absolute," the ultimate last-resort method that carries the risk of death for either No. 2 or No. 6. It's a kind of perverted psychoanalysis performed in a subterranean chamber designated The Embryo Room, under a one-week time limit. The descent into The Embryo Room begins a motif of descent that will continue into the final episode.
Through electronic brainwashing, No. 6 is regressed back to childhood, then brought forward to the pivotal decision his captors want explained -- why he resigned. But the process must be repeated many times, and No. 2 grows increasingly anxious with each failure as the deadline approaches. As the final seconds tick by, a voice commands, "Die, six, die." But it's No. 2 who gasps, "Two ... one ... " and falls over dead. What's puzzling is that there's no apparent cause, except possibly a bottle of liquor. My speculation is that No. 2 is somehow physically and mentally linked to No. 6 during the initial brainwashing, so that either one of them can push the other one over the edge.
"Time" concludes with a cliffhanger that I feel should have made it into TV Guide's 100 Greatest Moment in Television --
-- which brings us to "Fall Out," the episode that forced McGoohan into hiding because it so angered viewers who wanted concrete answers, not an enigma.
"Fall Out" replaces the standard introduction with a recap of "Time." We then find out where the series was filmed -- in the grounds of The Hotel Portmeirion in North Wales. I find it ironic to learn the real location in the episode that forces us to question whether The Village is really a physical place.
The motif of descent continues as No. 6, the Silent Butler, and the Controller descend from the Embryo Room to yet a lower level. The dreamlike logic of the episode begins immediately as we hear The Beatles "All You Need Is Love." This is one of several unexpected musical items encountered in "Fall Out," two other of note being two pop/rock-oriented bit of incidental music, one upbeat, the other balladic. The music and the elaborate soundtrack in the fourth act make me really wish this episode had been remixed for surround sound.
The first three acts of "Fall Out" concern an official proceeding -- which No. 1 appears to be watching from a remote location -- inviting No. 6 to either lead or leave The Village. We're warned the affair will be be tedious, but it's also downright bizarre. No. 2 is resurrected, using a technology that involves shaving his beard and cutting his hair. Another sort of resurrection is seen in No. 48, played by Alexis Kanner, who was "the kid" in "Living in Harmony." The OFFICIAL word is that there's no relationship to that character, but I like to think otherwise. And since McGoohan has given everyone permission to find their own meaning in this episode, I feel free to do so. At one point, No 48 and the entire assembly of robed figures dance to the spiritual "Dry Bones," A fully orchestrated performance of the song is heard on the soundtrack, and presumably in the assembly room. This is the most direct religious reference in the series.
Finally, it's time for the meeting with No. 1, which involves yet another level of descent, into a room we recognizable from "Girl." From this point forward, I can't really describe the action, partly because "That would be telling," and party because it involves the same sort of challenge you face when trying to tell someone about a nightmare that scared you to death, only to have them say, "THAT scared you??"
The main point to be made is that if you're looking for a concrete resolution such as "It's the Russians," or "It's his own people," you'll be frustrated. The ending forces you to rethink the whole idea of The Village as a physical place, run by any sort of external, real-world organization. Instead, we must see The Village in a more spiritual/psychological light. It's a state of being -- a physical manifestation of the darker sides of humanity.
"The Prisoner Companion" is a decent introduction to the series, but watch it AFTER you've seen "Fall Out," because it contains one major spoiler.
"Behind the Scenes" is an interesting collection of "home movies," shot during the making of the series, and explained by production manager Bernie Williams. Among the items is footage of the original Rover, before they decided on the weather balloon. My only complaint is that I wish this feature and the interview with Williams in set 3 had been combined.
*THE OFFICIAL PRISONER COMPANION, by Matthew White and Jaffer Ali."