I vaguely remember “The Prisoner” television series from the sixties. My father liked watching it. I remember that big white ball that sucked people into it scared the bejeezus out of me.
The original series starred Patrick McGoohan who also co-created the show. In the series, McGoohan is a British agent who unexpectedly resigns. He is then kidnapped and taken to “The Village” – a seaside community where many ex-agents live. Names are not used as each resident is assigned a number. McGoohan’s character is Number Six.
Now I see that the American Movie Classes station (AMC) will be airing a remake of the series beginning November 15. This one stars competent actor James Caviezel. The setting is different; it will be set in a desert, tropical area instead of seaside.
I have encountered people over the years who are big fans of the original series. From all I can gather, it would seem the original series is considered a cult classic. So it will be interesting to see the differences between the two.
Once I saw the advertisement of the remake, I became intrigued as to the attraction of this cult classic. Especially since the most prominent memory I have is of that big white bubble.
The AMC website actually allows you to watch all seventeen episodes of the original “The Prisoner.” Thus far, I have viewed the first two episodes.
It was like opening a time capsule from the past and discovering a reflection of the present. Wardrobe, vehicles and filming date the film. But issues in the film are issues contemporary society continues to deal with to this day: mind control, identity theft, and individualism versus collectivism.
The filming is typical sixties documentary/soap-opera style. But the storytelling is timeless, raising more questions for the audience with each episode viewed. Hopefully, those questions will be answered in the final episode.
Escape is foremost on Number Six’s mind in the first two episodes. Of course, there is no escape from “The Village.” Yet Number Six himself is intrigued with The Village and learns more for as long as he remains there.
All they want to know from Number Six is the reason behind his resignation. Why this is so important has yet to be disclosed. The only clue about the relevance of Number Six’s resignation is “someone” wants to know which “side” he is on.
Number Six refuses to talk but he’s playing the game. Everyone in The Village has given himself or herself over to the “community,” giving up individuality to conform. The Village uses “work units” rather than money. Subtle brainwashing is used throughout the show with signs posted in obvious locations to discourage curiosity and the questioning mind.
But Number Six has their number. Or thinks he has. He mimics the gestures and phrases commonly used in The Village and he is circumspect in his attempts to escape. Nevertheless, he is under constant observation and though he is led to believe, on occasion, that he has succeeded to pulling one over on Number Two (the guy in charge of The Village), in the end, his plans to escape are foiled and he ends up right back where he started – at his “Number Six” residence in The Village.
And that big white bubble has already made quite a few appearances in the first two episodes. It doesn’t scare me like it did when I was a kid, but it has piqued my curiosity.
I cannot possibly sit through seventeen consecutive hours at my computer watching all the episodes of the original Prisoner series. But I will continue watching one per day until I have seen all seventeen. I am intrigued and I enjoy being intrigued by a movie or television show. I like things revealed slowly, questions answered at the end, rather than at the beginning.
The original has captured my attention, but will the remake? James Caviezel is a good actor. I liked his performances in both “Frequency” (2000) and “Pay It Forward” (2000). He has a “soft” male voice, reminiscent of Father Mulcahy (William Christopher) from the “M*A*S*H” television series. Soft-spoken actors often try harder to make their characters believable to compensate for that soft voice.
But he is pitted against the classic performance of Patrick McGoohan.
I’ll have to watch at least the initial episode of “The Prisoner” on AMC November 15 to see how it compares to a true television classic.