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Thursday 25 February 2016

The Prisoner At 50

     Here we are then, the 50th anniversary of ‘the Prisoner.’ Although I suspect some would argue that point, but I suppose it all depends on whether you consider the production of the series to be its 50th anniversary or the television screening itself. But it could be either or both, if it’s both the 50th anniversary
takes place over three years, 1966 to 1968! 
    I don’t expect ITV to screen the series either on ITV1, 2, 3, or 4, as I think Network DVD will be issuing another ‘Prisoner’ box set, always an easier thing to do than bother to actually screen the series on television, and to include the commercial bumpers. But I’ve already got ‘the Prisoner’ on video from ITC Precision Video of 1982, and onwards. Not to mention the times I’ve collected ‘the Prisoner’ releases on DVD! So I guess I’ll be left to watch the series with via video or DVD to celebrate the 50th anniversary. But it doesn’t sound all that exciting does it? After all I can watch the series any time I like. I could always juggle it about a bit, watch the “alternative” ‘Arrival’ and ‘Chimes of Big Ben’ instead of those two regular episodes, and watch the series in the library order instead of the screening order. Or mix all the episodes up to my own particular screening order.
   For this year2016 I could watch all ‘the Prisoner’ production videos which were produced by Steven Ricks between 1990 and 1994. From the two volume video of ‘the Prisoner’ investigated,’ through to ‘the Prisoner’ 6 in-depth tapes. Then ‘the Prisoner Inspired,’ ‘In Production,’ and ‘In Conclusion.’ Which contain numerous interviews with actors, actresses, and production crew members. And do contain some rare and at the times, unseen production film footage. And ‘the Prisoner In Conclusion’ video, hosted by Norma West, with cameos by actors Norman Mitchell, David Arlen {Karel/Post 5 in Chimes of Big Ben} and James Bree. Because what Steven Ricks did was undertake a most ambitious project, in that he partially filmed dramatisations of an unshot scene from ‘The Girl Who Was
Death.’ The location for which was supposed to be Hampton Court maze, but was filmed at another location. I’m not sure if all the readers of The Tally Ho are aware of this, so here is a short synopsis.
        Originally this episode was to have been a 90 minute feature episode of ‘the Prisoner.’ However dramatic cuts were made to the original script, and the episode was chopped to the regular 50 minutes. So what was contained in those cuts? Well some three and a half pages, of an entirely self contained scene were scrapped, from the point where Mister X was in the boxing ring of Barney's Boxing Booth and the Polish giant Killer Kaminski had told him to go to the Tunnel of Love. Originally Mister X was told to go to Hampton Court Maze. He quickly finds the maze, and the following bizarre sequence unfolds.
    Mister X meets with a jovial showman wearing a waistcoat and bowler hat, standing at the entrance to the maze, who is mumbling something incoherent and then he laughs to himself. Mister X enters the maze which looks innocent enough, but he is not prepared for what he is about to encounter around the next corner.
    The maze is suddenly replaced by a tropical rainforest. The air is filled with exotic bird song and wild screeches. It is not long before he is attacked by a New Guinean head hunter brandishing a machete. But Mister X makes short work of the native, disarming him of the machete in the process.
 Continuing his exploration of the rainforest, he is stopped dead in his tracks by the roar of a lion, which turns out to be a Tabby cat. Now deeper into the rainforest Mister X is instructed by a passing parrot to turn thirty degrees left. With nothing to lose he follows the parrot’s instruction, only to find himself back in the maze!
    Mister X continues to tread carefully paying little attention to the gardener spraying insecticide onto the maze’s well tended hedges. As he draws closer he sees the gardener is, dressed in grey overalls with two metal canisters strapped on his back, the one labelled insecticide, the other homicide! The gardener tries to spray Mister X, but using the machete he took from the native in the rainforest, he knocks his assailant to the ground and piercing one of the tanks strapped to the gardeners back, sends him shooting off into the distance like a rocket!
    After regaining his composure, Mister X encounters someone standing over him, a figure of some twelve feet tall. It is in fact a man with a painted face of a clown, wearing a top hat and tails, on stilts, and armed with a sub-machine gun! He picks himself up and a chase ensues through the maze, as he ducks and dives to escape the hail of bullets fired from the sub-machine gun, as the stilted walker uses his elevated height to trap his quarry. Before long he stumbles into the centre of the maze where he finds suitable cover to hide from his pursuer. Unable to locate his quarry, the stilted man is unaware of what is happening to his feet, as Mister X ties the man’s shoelaces together, causing the stilt walker to come toppling to the ground.
    Now desperate to leave the maze, Mister X hacks his way through the hedge using the machete, and finds himself back in the fairground where he is told off by a disapproving mother. The little boy she has in tow with her is holding a balloon on which a message directs him to the Tunnel of Love. The balloon suddenly explodes........BANG!
    The above is an interesting scene, and would have been visually exciting. But perhaps it would have been one scene too far for ‘The Girl Who was Death!’  
   I think it would be an enjoyable experience to watch these video tapes again, after all they have been in my collection for many years, and it has been a while since I last watched them. And a rather novel way to celebrate the 50th anniversary by delving into ‘the Prisoner’s’ production, rather than the seventeen stories that go to make up the series, which is so familiar.
   And I have to add that if it were not for Steven Ricks’ sterling work back in the early to mid 1990’s all the material gathered and presented on the video tapes below, would have been lost for all time.

Be seeing you 


  1. I'm prepared to go along with the date of the first televised screening of Arrival as being the anniversary I'm going to celebrate (like Doctor Who celebrates 23rd November as its 'birthday', rather than whatever day Bill Hartnell and the gang stood in front of the cameras filming the first version of the pilot episode). However, that idea is somewhat complicated by the fact that Canada screened some Prisoner episodes before the series aired in the is the Canadian airdate for Arrival the TRUE anniversary? Oooooh, my brain hurts! :-)

    What is your take on this conundrum, Mr. Stimpson?

    1. Hello Anonymous,

      Thank you for your comment. Okay, perhaps I was stretching a point beyond its elasticity by incorporating the production of ‘the Prisoner’ into the 50th anniversary. So if we go by the date of the first television screening of the Prisoner, and I have to admit I had forgotten to take into account the fact that ‘Arrival’ was screened in Canada first on September 5th, then that date is the true date of the 50th anniversary. Because ‘Arrival’ wasn’t screened here in Britain until September 29th on regional ITV network channels ATV Midlands and Grampian. Then in other parts of Britain ‘Arrival’ wasn’t screened by other ITV’s network channels until October 1st 5th 6th 19th and 27th 1967. I watched ‘Arrival’ on ITV’s Anglia channel on October 1st. So it could be said that here in Britain different parts of the country have a different date for the 50th anniversary for the Prisoner and the screening of ‘Arrival.’
      But to throw something else into the mix, it could be said that September 1966 saw the World Premier of ‘Arrival’ in Porthmadog in North Wales. When each days film rushes of the Prisoner filmed at Portmeirion, had been developed they were screened at the Coliseum cinema in Porthmadog, This allowed the production team to judge their early footage, the silent footage of which was screened by the Coliseum projectionist Bob Piercy every night, including weekends, throughout the four week period in September. The highlight for projectionist Bob Piercy, was when Sir Clough Williams-Ellis the architect and owner of Portmeirion, organised a preview of Arrival. Although the Coliseum only had a six day licence, and was not officially allowed to show films on a Sunday, they went ahead and did so anyway. This was without too much concern, as the Chief Constable of Caernarfon was one of the invited guests! It was a great success for Bob Piercy, and it was confirmed that this was the first showing of the Prisoner anywhere. Indeed there was a note on the film canister saying something of like "Don't scratch this print as it is the only copy." Projectionist Bob Piercy had to clean the projector first and put Vaseline on all the moving parts. Yes the film of ‘Arrival’ was completely silent, but the whole episode was screened.

      Such is my take on this conundrum.
      Very kind regards
      Be seeing you

  2. I surely wish that there would be a 50th Anniversary Tribute to Patrick McGoohan and The Prisoner!
    Danger Man and The Prisoner are my 2 all time favorite tv shows...and Patrick McGoohan is my favorite actor.
    The Prisoner was a one of a kind genius show...made by a truly one of a kind genius!

  3. Greetings. Were there six or seven volumes of In Depth by Steven Ricks? I ask because Volume 6 includes part one of a two-part series on music and teases to an upcoming tape featuring a second part plus a Rachel Herbert interview. Also, are there surviving VHS tapes for sale? I found Dvd dubs of In Depth 1-6 plus Investigated 1-2, On Location, Inspired, On Location and In Conclusion on eBay, but the quality was not the best. Thank you.

    1. Greetings. There are six volumes of The Prisoner In Depth by Steven Ricks. I haven’t seen the DVD’s of these, so I cannot comment on the quality. I do have them VHS video plus Investigated 1-2, Inspired, on location, in Production, and in Conclusion. They are not of the best quality, and I imagine it was these video tapes which were transferred onto DVD. But I forgive the poor quality as Steven did a grand job with the interviews and digging out material about the Prisoner previously unknown, and otherwise would have been lost a long time ago. There are surviving VHS video tapes and from time to time they come up for sale on ebay.

      Best regards