on 31 March 2005
Those who watch this will realise that had McGoohan picked his film roles more carefully, and perhaps appeared more on our stage, he could have become one of the greatest actors of his
generation. Maybe there are other reasons why this did not happen but lack of acting skill is not one. McGoohan's presence is towering; his acting is huge, however at this time, 1959, his acting was developed for the stage, and he hadn't yet learnt that acting in front of the camera involved different skills. This DVD presents a BBC film of the stageplay, with McGoohan as the fiercely devout priest, demanding "all or nothing" from his flock, and prepared to sacrifice everything - his Mother, his child, his wife, himself - in pursuit of his devotion to God. There are no light moments here, no relief, a role to which McGoohan seems well suited; the one criticism that might be levelled at him is that he can be rather pious and humourless in his roles.
The quality of the original film is a little poor, the sets are simple, but the perfomances shine through. The story of how Steven Ricks - who produces this DVD, and made several excellent "Prisoner" documentaries - found the film is not given, but it is wonderful that it has survived at all. Full marks to Steven for giving us a fascinating interview with Peter Sallis (voice of "Wallace") who plays the Doctor and the Provost in the play. After "The Prisoner", one of McGoohan's pet projects was said to have been a film of Brand, to be shot on location in Norway, but sadly it came to nothing.
But at least we have this film to savour. This Ibsen play was revived in the West End in Summer 2003, with Ralph Fiennes in the lead role. It was a good performance, but sitting there watching it, I couldn't help wonder what it would have been like to have watched McGoohan in full cry all those years ago.
on 18 September 2010
As a big fan of Patrick McGoohan, I had to order this when I discovered that he considered it his best work. Nothing wrong with the acting in it, but I found the whole thing depressing, with no point for me except that what some consider greatness, is actually weakness. That's my opinion. Brand is supposed to be a strong character according to the critics, but I found his sort of character of no use to anyone. Not a satisfying thing to watch - an awful story, with nothing uplifting about it.