on 29 May 2010
For some reason, the reviews for both the DVD and blu ray releases have been linked together by Amazon.
So to avoid any confusion, this review is for the standard DVD set and NOT the blu ray collection.
(EDIT 28/01/13) The reviews are now linked together for at least four other box sets, so for further clarification, this review refers to the 7 disc standard DVD box set released by 'Network' in the UK (Amazon ASIN: B001AQVFDO).
'The Prisoner' episodes themselves are so well known and familiar to most people that there is little point describing or trying to explain them here.
So what's in the digitally restored DVD set from network? Well just about everything!
As well as the 17 episodes themselves (several with commentaries), there's original/alternate edits of 'Arrival' and 'The Chimes of Big Ben'. 'Arrival' is also presented as an original edit with the complete (and abandoned) Wilfred Josephs music score only (no dialogue). 'Arrival's' opening credits are also shown in side by side 'before and after' restored quality comparison. The alternate 'Chimes' appears to be the one previously released on the Carlton box set a few years ago.
There's a fine documentary about the making of 'The Prisoner' called 'Don't knock yourself out', featuring original cast and production team members.
A 'clean' opening and closing sequence, with no titles or credits superimposed is included, along with the original animated penny farthing 'advert bumpers' that were used for the commercial breaks on the ITV transmitions. There's also some shots of the filing cabinets from the opening credits with the 'resigned' label done in different languages for overseas sales.
Trailers for all the episodes ( I think these may be the same as on the Carlton release).
Photos/production stills - There's loads and loads of 'em. I wouldn't be surprised if every publicity shot ever taken for 'The Prisoner' isn't here, including around 50 photos from the 1967 press conference. As well as stills, there's also production designs by Jack Shampan.
16mm and 8mm home movie footage show behind the scenes of the filming in Portmeirion.
Put the discs in a PC and there's PDF files to view. Each disc has scans of original scripts. On disc seven, there's two unused scripts ('Don't get yourself killed' and 'The Outsider'), and two unused storylines ('Friend or Foe' and 'Ticket to Eternity'). There's also two 'Tally Ho' village newspaper front pages, call sheets, magazine and book covers, etc. Phew!
To top it off, there's an excellent paperback book by Andrew Pixley. This must be worth at least a tenner alone! Readers of other work by Andrew Pixley will know that his attention to detail on the making of genre TV classics is second to none and this book is no exception.
So, what's the quality of the DVDs like? Well, I already had the Carlton box set and was quite satisfied with the quality of that. I really purchased this new set for the wealth of extras. Having said that, the picture quality on this set is superb. The main improvement that I found over the Carlton release was on the opening titles. They are much cleaner and fresher on the new release. But I personally couldn't see a great deal of difference (if any) on the picture quality of the actual episodes themselves. But that's just my opinion.
Sound wise, I personally find the new Dolby 5.1 sound just a little bit 'tinny' for my taste but there's the option of the original mono sound to choose from if required.
All in all, a fantastic package.
My verdict. An absolutely brilliant buy!
If you already have the Carlton box set and only want to improve on the picture quality of the episodes, it may best to go for blu ray. If you have the Carlton set and want tons more extras, get this now!
One final note : Why are the plastic cases so reluctant to let you remove a disc!! I keep expecting a disc to snap before it comes out!
on 1 April 2005
If by chance you haven't ever heard of let alone seen the Prisoner, you should be told it is a 1960's ITC (Lew Grade) series running to 17 episodes, which follow a man known only as No. 6, who finds himself imprisoned in the mysterious and beautiful Village (Hotel Portmeirion in North Wales). We are never told exactly what No.6 did before - most likely some sort of secret agent, possibly even John Drake (of DangerMan), who was also played by Patrick McGoohan. The Prisoner's first objective is to escape, but his aims and objectives become more ambiguous as the series progresses. The 17 episodes - each a self contained story, except for the 2-part finale - range from more straightforward "will he escape" stories - "Chimes of Big Ben", Checkmate" - to social commentaries on subjects like education "The General"; and elections - "Free for All". It must be said, some episodes stand head and shoulders above others, and McGoohans original idea of a mini-series running to 7 stories was, by the end, becoming stretched in places. But some episodes justify the 5 stars on their own - "Arrival" (never has there been a more dramatic, well crafted pilot to any series- ever!); "Free for All"; Dance of the Dead" (with its beautiful encounter between "Mr Tuxedo" and "Peter Pan" on the Portmeirion sands); and a particular favourite of mine, "ABC". The final two episodes - Once Upon A Time and Fall Out - are complex, difficult to watch in places, but ultimately rewarding. Don't even think of jumping ahead and watching them first.
Criticisms? Sometimes the series shows its age - it was made in the 60's after all. Some of the technology and fashions look dated by todays standards. As time went on, so some of the scripts became a little weak (like "Its Your Funeral"). As storylines got stretched, sometimes the Prisoner even left the Village - "Living in Harmony" is set in the Wild West.
There is not much in the way of extras on the DVD's and the one, US documentary is a little dissapointing. However the overall quality of the production is very good.
Watch it with an open mind. It works on several levels - adventure series; social commentary; and as another commentator put it, "allegorical conundrum". One thing is for sure - nothing else on TV has really ever got close to it's range and depth.
on 3 August 2003
Any one of the available reviews will tell you the plot so let's get to the meat of the matter:
It is either a damning or praising thing to say that this show is the best thing that ever happened to British television.
Praise indeed for the show but damning also since it was made in the 1960s and there has been little to rival it ever since.
Truly thought provoking and insightful this show simply refuses to lie down and go away. It's Orwellian view of a world watched by cameras and a population subjugated by petty belief systems predicts our life today. And therein lies some of it's appeal. We like this stuff. There's an element of the rebel in almost every one of us. We will not be told to shut up and toe the line. And this series still pulls at those strings. The Prisoner has not dated and with often intriguing stories, excellent scripts and a sterling lead role performance by Patrick McGoohan it continues to provoke active discussion and entertains a large and loyal fanbase.
Having this boxed set is a must. For this show is unlike many others in that it has a beginning, a middle and a conclusion. So therefore seeing it all is a prerequisite. And despite the reports stating that the 'answer' is never made clear, any intelligent viewer will understand what it's all about.
The quality of the DVDs is very good. The remastering has brought out the full glory of the show. In fact I'd hazard to say that few of those people who saw the series on it's original run would have seen it look so wonderful.
It's little wonder that this show has been slyly referred to within the plots of other shows, (The Avengers, Columbo and The Simpsons to name but three).
Mysterious and at times demanding this wonderful series rewards the inquisitive viewer with insight and above all great entertainment.
Brilliant fun and worth the money.
on 23 February 2009
I was too young to watch this series when it was first shown back in the late 60's but as there has always been this 'cult viewing' description attached to it I wanted to see it for myself. Well, it certainly lives up to the decription! Whilst there is a story in each episode, it's essential that you see the first one to have any way of understanding those that follow and even then you'll have to open your mind a little.
Seemingly based on the 'you can resign but you'll never leave' belief held by many about government employees especially those from MI5, it teeters between reality and madness but in a truly colourful way.
The digital reproduction is excellent and it's hard to believe this was made in the 60's, the imagery, setting and acting is first class and looks more like something that could have been made last week rather than 40 years ago. Top Draw!!
on 10 April 2002
The greatest TV series ever produced on one DVD set. Don't miss it! The series covers the incarceration of "Number 6" in The Village, a mysterious place which is a fusion of Mediterraenean architecture and quaint upper class British themes. McGoohan is quirky, unpredictable but ultimately defiant as the ex-spy who refuses to reveal to his captors the reasons for his resignation. At first confused, and often out-thought and out-manouvered by his captors, the tone changes subtly through each episode as The Prisoner becomes more than a match for each new "Number 2" who takes control of the Village. The plots also become more fantastic as the series progresses, mixing elements of mystery thriller, action-adventure, and SF, with The Prisoner battling Zombie-like Villagers, Super Computers, Mind-Swap devices, altered realities and the ever-present "Rovers" - strange bubble-like creatures which relentlessly track, pursue and engulf would-be escapees.
....and THAT final episode...!
Watch this to see what can be accomplished in the medium with a big budget, an ingenious plot and a who's who of guest stars that would be impossible in today's TV.
The Prisoner is one of the most significantly original TV series from Britain ever. This DVD set is excellent in every way. There are 17 episodes and plenty of extras. Network have done a fabulous job of restoration on the film and the picture quality is stunning not only for a British show from the late 1960s, but it is also very appealing to the eye in the present. The colour is excellent and the sharpness and light are very engaging.
Patrick McGoohan is both star and co creator of the show. McGoohan made the show become a reality by taking the idea to head of ITC Lew Grade. This was after the success of the series Danger Man in which McGoohan starred as secret agent John Drake. It is clear that the origin for the series can be found in various places. George Markstein was the script editor and co-writer of "Arrival," the first episode of the prisoner, and script editor of the previous Danger Man series.
He claimed that during research into World War II he had discovered that there had been a place called Inverlair Lodge near Inverness in Scotland that had been used as a safe haven for secret agents during the war. This place also was used as a retirement home for spies who "knew too much" and therefore a threat to national security. Markstein also had used this idea in one of his novels "The cooler".
Also there is inspiration from an episode of Danger Man called "Colony Three" in which Drake infiltrates a spy school in Eastern Europe that looks like a normal English town. Everyone there acts out life like a normal town but they are in fact virtual prisoners with no hope of ever leaving.
It should also be remembered that there is the episode of Danger Man called "View from the Villa" in which the location shots are filmed in Portmerion in Wales where the Prisoner would also be filmed.
The series "The Prisoner "was made by a production company set up by McGoohan and David Tomblin.
The series follows a British Secret Agent who resigns and is gassed while at home preparing to take a trip. He wakes up in what appears to be the same room but when looking through the window he finds himself in a new location. He is now a prisoner in a mysterious seaside village that is isolated by mountains and sea. The Village is further secured by numerous monitoring systems and security forces, including a mysterious balloon-like device called Rover that captures those who attempt escape. No one has a name. Instead they all have a number. The agent is called number six.
His captors try to find out why he resigned. They want "information". Every episodes sees a new number two who is always trying to get information from number six. Number two seems to act on behalf of a never seen number one.
Number six displays distrust of anyone in the village. He attempts to determine who controls the village. He also tries to find out who is number one. He is defiant to authority. He denies and does not accept he is a number. He insists in his own individuality.
Number six recognises that the village controls people and their lives. He recognises that he cannot trust anyone except himself. He recognised that the village promotes notions of democracy and personal freedom that in truth do not exist. There is no democracy, there is no personal freedom. People are told what they like, who to vote for and how to behave.
The show has elements of counterculture, fantasy and a surreal setting. There are themes of hypnosis, identity theft, mind control, social indoctrination and manipulation.
The series is thought provoking and invites us to compare the village to our own society. Are we all prisoners? After all there are not bars, locks or chains to act as a prison in the village anymore than so called free people in our own society.
In the end who is to be trusted? Who is important? And what matters?
The show has been thought to be a continuation of the earlier Danger Man and there are credible reasons to assume this. But McGoohan denied this continuation. It maybe that admitting to a continuation would have meant paying royalties to the creator of Danger Man Ralph Smart.
However there are the obvious connections of the location of Portmerion. The same actor playing a secret agent in both shows. Also Number Six meets up with a man called "Potter" who had been a contact for John Drake in Danger Man.
The Prisoner is an iconic piece of television that is very original in its conception.
The whole DVD series is excellent
There are no subtitles for the deaf or hard of hearing and no Audio description for the visually impaired. But this is a good release from Network DVD.
on 24 December 2000
The prisoner. Perhaps the only tv series ever that poses more questions than it answers. With an underlying metaphor on today's society the prisoner is viewing for people who don't want their viewing spoon fed to them, but want to think about what they are watching. This series, particularly the ending, breaks the mould of how a tv series should be, hence the indifference it received when it was originally shown in the 60's. No safe hero, happy ending and neat tie-ups here, you have to fill the gaps yourself and think about what you are watching.The plots are brilliant, genius in fact, the scripts and screenplay direct and to the point.The perfect set and psychadelic special effects have lost nothing of their impact, even today. The rapport between characters is uncanny, patrticularly between Patrick Magoohan and Leo Mackern, .... To explain the series itself would be futile and subjective, such is the complex nature of this televisual beast. It is something you have to do yourself and draw your own conclusions, perhaps the finest aspect of the series. To say that to have all the episodes in their entirety on DVD and VHS is a treasure is a gross understatemant. I have waited years for this. There is so much more to this series than "I am not a number etc"-as you will see for yourself. My favourite episodes, are check-mate and The general, both with such cleverly executed undertones about modern life, but fundamentally superb entertainment. Even the way the style of the series changes half way through on the departure of the co-producer lends something to this series. Before you add any other series to your collection do your self a favour. Get this, no collection is complete without the greatest series of all time. You can stop your inner deliberation. Be seeing you.
on 30 October 2009
This is quite simply the most amazing example of television ever produced. The Prisoner was a conscious attempt to stretch colour television to its limits, and the result really is a work of art.
There are seventeen one-hour episodes which make up a great story, with heavy doses of psychological intrigue, philosophy, politics, psychedelia and 1960's Zeitgeist in general, and replete with that unique British eccentricity which is as charmingly understated as a cup of warm tea. It draws on a range of influences as varied and diverse as Kafka, Macchiavelli, Baudelaire, Orwell, the Beatles, James Bond, and Alice in Wonderland.
Every single aspect of The Prisoner is excellent: Patrick McGoohan is perfectly cast as Number Six, the whole thing is visually impressive, the seventeen plots are fascinating, Ron Grainer's riveting theme music conveys speed, power and intrigue, and even the graphic design of The Village's brand logo - the Penny Farthing with a parasol on top - adds to the feeling of something deeply sinister masquerading as an apparently delightful oddity.
In the 43 years since it was produced, nobody has come up with anything half so creative, enjoyable or thought-inspiring for television. Unfortunately, it's so good that it makes absolutely everything on TV today look like simple-minded kindergarten bilge. Nothing else has come close since.
Be seeing you, Number Six! Many times over.
on 25 November 2000
This has to be one of the most thought-provoking television series ever made and despite the countless TV re-runs and re-issues on video, the release on DVD was greatly anticipated.
Patrick McGoohan plays the part of a man who resigns from his top-secret position of an unknown agency, but is soon abducted and imprisoned in a place called The Village. The reason? Why did he resign? Stripped of his name and now known only as Number 6, the prisoner makes various attempts to escape from The Village and struggles to prevent his captors from extracting this information. Such a simple story line and yet after watching all 17 episodes, the viewer is still left with more questions than answers and maybe that's where it's long standing appeal lies.
First televised in the late 60's, this show has many devotees and fan clubs, but this cult status shouldn't put off the first time viewer. I guarantee that you'll be totally enthralled by it. As for its release on DVD, the picture and sound quality are first rate and although the extra footage and Prisoner facts on each disk may be old news for Prisoner aficionados, I'm sure that they'll be welcomed by those first time viewers in their search for more answers!
A sure fire hit for all.
on 29 September 2009
Before its release I had read a variety of views and hopes about how this first ever Blu-ray box set of the complete series of the The Prisoner would work out. Having literally just received it this morning and admittedly only having watched the first episode, I'm happy to report it's very, very impressive indeed (so far)! The picture has been remastered very well. I've seen a lot of good old remasters recently, but in my opinion this one appears to be up there with the Bond remasters, Zulu and The Italian Job (and that's a high standard!). The image is sharp. There is little to no noise in the dark scenes and picture areas. The colours are lovely, really allowing the set and costume design to shine. There's also a good level of fine detail. Of course the picture quality may differ in the rest of the series, but taking the first episode on the first disc as the benchmark, I'm optimistic about the overall result. The sound is available in standard Dolby 5.1 (not HD audio from what I can see) but it's well done. Some of the dialogue is a little muffled, but I think that's due to the use of on location/on set sound as opposed to extensive use of ADR (which we are all, I guess, most used to these days). The music covers the surround sound field very nicely and is crisp and nice quality. There's also the option to listen to the original mono soundtrack, which I briefly tried. The menu and presentation on the disc is also nicely done. It's worth mentioning the cardboard box itself. It's larger than I expected but it provides a very attractive housing for the whole package. It's about the width of 2.5 Blu-ray boxes, and about 2-3 boxes high (I'm not really sure how/where I'm going to store it, to be honest!). Inside there's a long book companion to the series alongside a bespoke Blu-ray case holding the multiple discs (about the same size as the Star Trek Original Series 1 box, for reference, so I suppose you can keep that our your shelf and store the presentation box elsewhere...). I'm now looking forward to enjoying this magnificent series with picture and sound quality befitting of such an unique, unusual and timeless programme. Overall, very highly recommended!
Edit: Still working my way through this, but have noticed that not all of the discs are Blu-rays. Discs 1 to 4 are Blu-rays, with the 13 episodes, plus a new HD version of the first episode (Arrival) on Disc 4. Discs 5 and 6 are DVDs, with all SD extras. So the Blu-ray exclusive extras may just be the commentaries, the extra episode version (Arrival in HD). I'll confirm when I can.