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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » The Prisoner: Set 3
The Prisoner: Set 3
A&E Video
List Price: Unknown [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Adam Tyner | posted June 13, 2001 | E-mail the Author
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C O N T E N T
V I D E O
A U D I O
E X T R A S
R E P L A Y
A D V I C E
Highly Recommended
E - M A I L
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P R I N T
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"I am not a number! I am a free man!"

A nameless agent weary of playing spy games for the British government resigns, but there's little in this world that's more dangerous than a man with knowledge. He may have thought he was leaving that life behind, but upon returning to his ritzy flat, our agent is gassed and spirited away to a beautiful and highly unconventional remote prison known as the Village. Prisoners and jailkeepers alike are referred to by number, and the newly-dubbed Number 6 steadfastly refuses to divulge any information. In between escape attempts, Number 6 is mentally tortured by his captors, led by the constantly-rotating Number 2, in a series of futile attempts to discover why he resigned and what he knows. Even if you haven't seen "The Prisoner" previously, you've almost certainly heard someone talking about its surreal final episode or been subjected to knowing winks to the series in any number of movies and television shows. Even "The Simpsons" has had star Patrick McGoohan lend his voice to the Prisoner-themed "Pokey Mom", and two season 12 episodes, "The Joy of Sect" and "The Computer Wore Menace Shoes", have scenes clearly inspired by the program. A&E Video currently has four 2-disc sets collecting the majority of the 18-episode cult British series, and this, the third set, presents the following episodes:
  • The Schizoid Man: Of the ten episodes I've seen, this is by far my favorite. After assisting Number 24 with her mind-reading exercises, Number 6 is drugged and given an unsolicited makeover, courtesy of Number 2 and his minions. He awakes sporting a moustache, a "Number 12" badge, and newfound lefthandedness, and the renumbered prisoner learns over a flapjack breakfast with Number 2 that his assignment is to take the place of Number 6. Each man claiming to bear the mantle of Number 6 is insistent that he is the genuine article, leading to a barrage of tests that are later turned against the villainous Number 2.
  • Many Happy Returns: Number 6 awakens one morning, expecting a full day of the traditional mindgames and failed escape attempts, but much to his surprise, the Village has become a ghost town. No one, not even the hounding Rover, stands in his way as he at long last makes the arduous journey home by sea. However, upon his return, Number 6 quickly discovers that things are not as he left them and goes about convincing his previous employers of the existence of the Village.
  • It's Your Funeral: A beautiful young woman, an unwitting tool of the masterminds of the Village, is steered towards Number 6 to prevent an assassination attempt against the retiring Number 2. Number 6 pays her little attention until he realizes that the would-be assassin is her father, and he quickly discovers that the administration dismisses his claims just as he ignored the watchmaker's daughter who sought his assistance.
Video: I'd bought a new television after watching the previous two sets, and when I was wowed by the difference between the first two releases and this third set, I chalked it up to my 36" Wega grossly outclassing my old RCA 32". After popping one of the other discs in to compare, it's not just my new TV -- these two discs are noticeably superior to the earlier releases. The image is better defined and not marred by the occasionally slightly-cloudy appearance of the first batch. Print flaws are on the pleasant side of minor, and colors are balanced exceptionally well, particularly the rather deep blacks. Though wear over the decades is still evident, this third "The Prisoner" release looks about as great as a show of its age realistically can, and those pleased with the first batch of discs from A&E can expect to be wowed even further.

Audio: The mono soundtrack of these episodes is free of the usual nasties like hiss and distortion, and the psychotic flanging from early pressings of the second set is thankfully not present. A series over thirty years old isn't going to sound much more robust than this without the sort of pricey remixes given to the "Thunderbirds". The volume in "The Schizoid Man" seemed to be on the low side and required some fiddling with the remote, but perhaps it just seemed quieter when placed alongside the louder and more recently recorded interview with Bernie Williams. I didn't notice any volume issues with the episodes on disc 6. All in all, a solid effort.

Supplements: The same sorts of extras from the previous releases -- commercials, photos, trivia, and an interactive map -- turn up here as well, but the most notable supplement is the lengthy and newly-recorded interview with production manager Bernie Williams, whose production credits also include "Barry Lyndon", "A Clockwork Orange", and, perhaps more impressively, "Who's That Girl?". The 25-minute interview is truly exceptional, covering every facet of the series and how difficult it was to produce a television show that was still being conceptualized while filming was well underway. Somewhat disappointingly, this interview takes the place of a fourth episode, despite the extensive amount of space remaining on the two discs in this set, though the quality of what Williams has to offer more than makes up for the loss.

Conclusion: Available at the bargain basement price of $19.18 shipped from Deep Discount DVD, there's no excuse for anyone with the faintest interest in "The Prisoner" to not have this set resting comfortably on a DVD rack. Highly recommended.
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