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A&E Home Video presents
The Prisoner: Set #5 (1967)

Number Two: "Why did you resign?"
Number Six: "For peace."
Number Two: "Peace?"
Number Six: "Peace of mind."

- Leo McKern, Patrick McGoohan

Review By: Dan Lopez  
Published: September 25, 2001

Stars: Patrick McGoohan, Angelo Muscat, Leo McKern
Other Stars: Kenneth Griffith
Director: David Tomblin, Patrick McGoohan

Manufacturer: DVDL
MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (mild violence, psychological horror)
Run Time: 03h:15m:00s
Release Date: September 25, 2001
UPC: 733961701814
Genre: television


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
A A+B+B B+

DVD Review

The Prisoner: Set #5 brings the final 3 episodes of this mammoth, experimental TV series home. It all ends here...or does it? After seeing all 17 episodes, I can't see how anyone can doubt that Patrick McGoohan's ambitious drama is a masterwork. An incredible attempt at merging many ideas, statements, and concepts, it was years ahead of it's time in the 1960s, and is still radically different from almost anything on TV. It's sadly unfortunate that it's the nature of television that if you ask the audience to think too much, chances are the show will bomb or be poorly received. The Prisoner, amazingly enough, succeeded to a degree in Britain, but was still too radical to be truly profitable. Regardless, these final 3 episodes are among the most bewildering and strange the series has yet seen. They disorient the viewer and finally leave you asking all the questions series creator Patrick McGoohan wanted you to ask.

In The Girl Who Was Death, we find Number Six in an amusing parody of spy movies, where he's on a mission to find an obscure scientist, but is constantly dogged by a female assassin. As she determines stranger and more elaborate ways to do in Number Six, he must keeping moving fast to stay alive. Quick viewers can spot a number of specific jokes targeted at popular shows and movies of the day, and a generally James Bond-ian theme, not to mention pokes at Patrick McGoohan's own series, Danger Man. There's a lot of comedy, possibly more so than in any other episode, and it makes an interesting choice to go before the final two-parter.

The end begins with Once Upon A Time. Number Two (played once again by Leo McKern) wakes up one morning and makes the decision that there is only one, last, hope to break the mental resolve of Number Six. He engages the ultimate psychological test: Degree Absolute. Using various brain-altering techniques, Number Two lures Six into a single, locked room wherein they will engage in a fierce battle of the minds. Number Two will pretend to be authoritative figures from Six's life in an attempt to weaken him and finally figure out the secret to his resignation or kill him in the attempt. Without a doubt, this is the most dramatically intense and surreal episode out of all 17 shows. Supposedly, Leo McKern suffered serious, nervous exhaustion because of the brutal nature of the filming, and it's easy to see why. This is The Prisoner at its best.

Fall Out is the controversial, final episode. I will not go into details, as Fall Out is best left unspoiled for those who haven't seen it, but Patrick McGoohan has been quoted as saying "If anybody admits to understanding it, then please pass the understanding on to me." Will Fall Out answer all your questions? It might. But then, the majority of people to witness episode 17 usually freak out, and it caused an outcry amongst viewers when it originally aired . Keep in mind, though, that The Prisoner went through a rough time and was cancelled prior to this episode. As a result, the cast and crew were given one show with which to close everything up.

As much I would love to go into my own theories and discussions on these last few episodes, I must exercise restraint so as not to give anything away. I will say, however, that once you've seen the entire scope of the show, it becomes apparent just how truly brilliant it is. Not so much in terms of it's drama or story, but it how it's lessons equate to real life and are meaningful in modern society. The Prisoner is what you take out of it, not so much what is specifically put up on screen. In the end, I think Patrick McGoohan wanted to make a statement about the world, and part of the statement was demanding that his audience do most of the thinking. As a result, the show stands as a great example with what can be done with television when cheap laughs and advertising aren't the only considerations.

Rating for Style: A
Rating for Substance: A+

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyes
Anamorphicno


Image Transfer Review: Like previous installments of Prisoner, this one looks just a great as the others. Source prints are amazingly clean and free of all compression problems. Gorgeous colors and shadow detail area are evident. In fact, a good comparison in quality to the previous, Carlton VHS set can be found in the Prisoner Video Companion on the disc that has footage from the show. Compare that footage to the current DVD, and you have the wonderful improvement in quality we see now.

Image Transfer Grade: B+

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
MonoEnglishyes


Audio Transfer Review: The mono soundtracks are generally crisp and free of any problems. They serve their purpose well and do so with as much power as they can. On occasion, the track gets a little harsh, but this seems directly related to the age of the actual episodes.

Audio Transfer Grade: B

 

Disc Extras

Static menu
Scene Access with 30 cues and remote access
3 Original Trailer(s)
1 Documentaries
Packaging: Amaray
2 Discs
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extra Extras:
  1. Broadcast Trailers
  2. Photo Gallery
  3. Promotional Material Gallery
  4. Behind-the-scenes footage
Extras Review: In a surprising move, this final collection contains the 1990, one-hour documentary The Prisoner Video Companion. Once you've seen the entire series, this program tries to help the viewer make some sense of the whole thing. If the final episodes confused you, this program offers a few bits of trivia and observations that you might have missed, so once educated you should be able to generate better theories. There is much discussion on the ending, which is always a healthy thing. Whether he intended to or not, Patrick McGoohan left an interesting trail of bizarre, hidden clues as to the final meaning of the show, and this tries to point some of them out.

A short reel of previous unreleased 8mm and 16mm footage from the days of filming on Portmerion, including footage of the originally devised Rover security drone which was thankfully abandoned. The footage features commentary by production manager, Bernie Williams.

The usual batch of broadcast trailers, photo gallery, and "Your Village" map are presented, with one key difference being the addition of a promotional gallery, featuring the original brochures from ITC in the 1960s to the material made for various re-broadcasts through time.

Extras Grade: B+

 

Final Comments

The Prisoner stands as one of the great epics of storytelling, an allegory for our struggle to find identity in society. Watch it with family and friends, and I guarantee that once all 17 shows have soaked in, you'll have lots to debate, discuss, and delve into. In this aspect, the show is a success, outliving its original potential by decades. It will be studied and pondered for years to come and I'm sure that somewhere Mr. McGoohan is quietly chuckling over that. On the same day that Set 5 releases, A&E will also be offering a box set of all 10 discs. Rent or buy, but see it.

 


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