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The Prisoner


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Liberating the Last Prisoner 

 

Bruce Clark never gives up, and devotees of Patrick McGoohan's 17 -episode TV series, The Prisoner, have him to thank for it. "I had heard about a 'lost' episode," recalls the insurance underwriter who serves as the American coordinator for Britain's Prisoner fan club. "A version of Chimes of Big Ben, the second episode, had been prepared for the British press while the series was still in production. It was not supposed to be televised and was noticeably different from the broadcast version." 

 

Clark's quest began in 1985 when he learned that two fans had seen the show on New York TV in the early '70s. He contacted the offices of the show's owner, ITC, in both New York and London, but they had no record of it. He checked with collectors across the country, as well as local TV stations, and scoured ads for dealers offering bootleg programs. Near despair after a year of fruitless searching, he heard from lTC's Canadian office. They had located a 16mm print of the show on a shelf. It had been slated for destruction within the month. 

 

"There are at least 25 differences between this show and the released version," explains Clark, "in the scenes, the dialogue, and the opening credits. It's not a historic find in terms of world history, but for Prisoner fans, it's a major discovery." MaljacklMPI, which has released all the other episodes on video, is planning to issue it later this year. 

 

February 1987 Video 

 

 

THE PRISONER: 

CHIMES OF BIG BEN 

1967. Patrick McCoohan, Leo McKern, Nadia Gray; dir. Don Chaffey. 60m. $29.95. MPl. Image: good. 

A lost episode of The Prisoner seems quite appropriate. The paranoid-some consider it Kafkaesque-fantasy series was an unusual entry in the prime-time arena of late '60s TV: a show about a top British intelligence officer (McGoohan) who resigns his job only to be kidnapped and transported to a Disneyland-like seaside town. In "The Village," the agent is renamed Number Six; everyone else has numbers for names and hidden motives behind their cherubic smiles. The 17 -episode series explored surreal ground -everything is apparently normal but askew, a terrible dream in which nothing can be trusted but the self, and even that is suspect

The Chimes of Big Ben was among the first episodes produced and was completed before the series was telecast in 1967. This alternate version, long thought lost but recently uncovered, was prepared for an advance press screening. There is different opening and closing title music and a short scene not in the official episode. Beyond that, you have to be an eagle-eyed, true-blue fan to notice (he changes: slightly varied background music, alternate takes that give a different emphasis to lines. Subtle stuff. The whole episode seems familiar yet unfamiliar, slightly altered, slightly off. Like the Village. Like the series. 

 

VIDEO, August 1987