Image A Sound A- Extras B
"Arrival," "The Chimes of Big Ben," "A, B, and C," "Free for All," "The Schizoid Man," "The General," "Many Happy Returns," "Dance of the Dead," "Checkmate," "Hammer into Anvil," "It's Your Funeral," "A Change of Mind," "Do Not Forsake Me Oh My Darling," "Living in Harmony," "The Girl Who Was Death," "Once Upon a Time," "Fall Out"
by Walter Chaw The closest television came to true surrealism until the inception of "Twin Peaks", Patrick McGoohan's remarkable, landmark brainchild "The Prisoner" is the headwaters for a dizzying array of modern genre confections. It's audacious in its ironclad refusal to provide the happy ending; in its determination to bugger expectation with every complex set-up and sadistic resolution, the show effectively honours the surrealist manifesto of defeating classification. The fact of it is the function of it--the delight of it being that the series functions as a tonal sequel to Antonioni's Blowup, using the disappearance of that film's photog protag as the launching point for its hero's imprisonment in his Welsh oubliette. Colourfully, quintessentially mod, it even looks the part, after all, acting in 1967 as prescient post-modern (po-Mod?) commentary on the elasticity of this genre model (Bond films in particular, the lead in said franchise McGoohan was offered, er, once upon a time) as allegory for the plastic-fantastic of a progressively absurd world. In its setting of a small town, isolated and beset by what seems a common psychosis, find a connection to Robin Hardy and Anthony Schaffer's claustrophobic The Wicker Man (1973), John Frankenheimer's similar-feeling Seconds (1966), and, yes, Godard's structuralist textbook Alphaville. Of all the ways to approach "The Prisoner", in fact, the most fulsome--if also potentially the most obscure--is that, like Alphaville, it establishes itself as a structuralist (as in Claude Levi-Strauss) exercise while predicting through its execution the post-structuralism/deconstructionism (and eventually surrealism) of, say, a Jacques Derrida.