Thursday, August 04, 2011

The Prisoner: Living In Harmony

I recently purchased--at the unspoken behest of the geek hivemind--the classic BBC series The Prisoner. I'm watching it offshore to pass the time and sharing spoiler-free responses/reviews with the internet without provcation, cause, or request because that's what the internet is for. Enjoy.

This episode is going to be a little bit different, you guys.

And a little bit racist.

This week, we go backwards, to the wild west. I’m sorry: the American wild west. We get thirty minutes or so of solid, western television from an era when westerns ruled television. Wild West Action Prisoner resigns from his job, wanders through the countryside, and is then set upon by a gang (gunslingers, not Crips). He’s subdued, dragged into the city of Harmony and forced to become sheriff.

It’s an almost-standard western from that point on, but everything’s off by forty-five degrees. Sheriff The Prisoner doesn’t carry a gun. Harmony has typically dusty streets lined with horse troughs, but the surrounding countryside is green rolling hills. Sure, the best gunslinger in town is the quiet stranger who rode in one morning, but his chief opponent is a mute psycho kid, like Blazing Saddles on Bizarro World. I don’t know if it’s intentional or not, but it all produces a dream-like Western setting where the details—right down to the slightly-off American accents—just never settle down to become that comfortably familiar Western setting. It could be the needs of the story and available setting/actors limiting what the director can do, or it could be a deliberate (and effective) stylistic choice.

Speaking of stylistic choices, top hat with underwear and coveralls? Never in style. Not in 1966. Not in 2011. Not in 1866. Never. What the fuck?

It’s a little strained in places, and some of the editing isn’t so great (the cuts between shots don’t match up, making me wish the one guy from Free Enterprise was around, because he was apparently pretty good at this stuff). The Keeper’s plan doesn’t really hold water(surprise!). And the less said about…

…the better.

However, The Prisoner punches a guy out by swinging in on a rope and magical cowboy music plays every time he does some implausible cowboy thing. The episode lets me say the words “Puppy-Love Hottie Gunslinging Psycho Rapist with a Top Hat”[1] and people either know the character I’m talking about, or say “I thought Malcom McDowell wore a bowler in that movie.” Ultimately, it’s a good, fun episode[2], one that I enjoyed and that makes me look forward to next week’s fare[3]. To be honest, the only second guessing I would do is to suggest they have Patrick McGoohan imagining he’s Sharon Stone instead of a standard Wild West lawman because I loves me some The Quick and the Dead.

It also includes copious footage of McGoohan stage running, which is, and will always be, 3-7 times funnier than Kosho.

[1] And boy, howdy, the raping.
[2] Well, with the exception of the rapes.
[3] Oh. It’s called, “The Girl Who Was Death,” so, maybe not as fun.

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