Re: The Prisoner - A Discussion

7289 wrote:

Paddy Fitz (McGoohan) did a fairly long interview with Canadian TV years back. Probably the one you are referring to. I saw it a couple of times on PBS, but it is not in the DVD set. Too bad because its more than Paddy ever said about the show anywhere else.

Here is Patrick McGoohan's 1977 Canadian TV interview in which he talks about the making and meaning of The Prisoner. Watched the interview myself for the first time last night. Fascinating stuff, learned a thing or two from it.

The Prisoner Puzzle - A Rare Interview With Patrick McGoohan

Moore Not Less 4371 posts (2002 - 2007)       Moore Than (2012 - 2016)


Re: The Prisoner - A Discussion


I just picked up the complete Secret Agent aka Danger Man box set, hope nobody minds me discussing it in the Prisoner thread


I've never seen this show before! the episodes are awesome, the tone is so different from The Prisoner, they are globetrotting spy stories played straight. In fact, had Fleming got his teevee series made in 1958 that evolved into For Your Eyes Only, I imagine it would have looked much like this.

In one episode, both Lois Maxwell and Donald Pleasance costar, two years before Dr No. Maxwell gets a lot of lines, as a local agent actively helping Drake on his case, much more screentime than she ever got in a BondFilm. One could choose to imagine that she is the same character, and this is the original Moneypenny's field agent days before switching to a desk job, like we watched 21st century Moneypenny choose to do!

McGoohan also says "oh me? my name is Drake. John Drake" two years before Connery says "Bond. James Bond"

The stories are very good, short but complex with moral ambiguities. Drake's manipulations of innocent people aren't always nice but get the job done (I'm thinking of what is done to Pleasance's character in that same episode). And he uses lots of gadgets, and talks in funny voices when he goes undercover.

Good use of scenery too, as he travels from Italy to the Middle East to Latin America to the north coast of Scotland. I imagine that's all creative location shooting within a days drive of London, but persuasive. The Italian set for the first episode is the same Welsh holiday village that we all know and love from The Prisoner, that's how he discovered that legendary set!

I'm still midway through season 1, the half hour episodes, so I'm wondering... did the tone evolve gradually towards the trippy mindphuk of McGoohan's later series, or was Secret Agent always played straight til the end then McGoohan all of a sudden blew everyone's minds when he debuted his next series?
no don't tell me, I'll wait and see. But I know the Avengers changed tone from season to season and became almost as surreal as the Prisoner by Rigg's second season.


Re: The Prisoner - A Discussion

and on topic:
by coincidence the other night I watched an old episode of the Simpsons, where Homer buys a computer, sets up his own webpage, and starts spreading FakeNews years before there was such a thing.
in the third act, he is kidnapped because he got too close to the truth, and wakes up in a tripped out holiday camp called The Island. The next ten minutes are the Prisoner recreated in Simpsons animated style! Number Six is even there, and is voiced by the real Patrick McGoohan. Its full of jokes only a Prisoner fan would get.


Re: The Prisoner - A Discussion

I was and AM the target audience of the Simpsons... ajb007/lol

Dalton & Connery rule. Brozz was cool. Craig is too.


Re: The Prisoner - A Discussion

Holy smokes is this thread 12 years old!


Re: The Prisoner - A Discussion

it's the most recent Prisoner/Danger Man/McGoohan thread I could find, and there's some swell discussion on the first page


Re: The Prisoner - A Discussion

I agree!


Re: The Prisoner - A Discussion

according to Wikipedia, Fleming had some involvement in the creation of Danger Man.
I never heard that before, I knew he was involved in the Man from UNCLE, but this is news to me. Anyone know more?

this fan site says

[Ralph]Smart came up with a concept entitled "Lone Wolf", an espionage thriller concerning one man going it alone in a world of spies. Smart had several meetings with James Bond author Ian Fleming, the two men even considered bringing 007 to the TV screens, but Fleming had already sold the rights to Eon Productions and was unable to buy them back.

In consequence the two men used Bond as a spring board to invent a new character. A cool, handsome man, a user of women, he would get the job done no matter what.

but when McGoohan signed on, he changed much of that, as he did not approve of Bond's attitude.


Re: The Prisoner - A Discussion

When it comes to television production Fleming seems to have had more success as a consultant than a producer. While the idea might have come from I.F. It’s pretty clear that McGoohan drove “Secret Agent”/“Danger Man”.


Re: The Prisoner - A Discussion

I'm now on to the second season of Danger Man, which is in many ways quite different from the first.

the first season of half hour episodes ran from Sept 1960 to Feb 1962 (39 total), then for some reason no more were made. Does any body know why they stopped?

then the series began again in Oct 1964, in a more standard one hour format … almost three years later.
I would have to assume the success of our James Bond films was responsible for its revival.

the opening credits and music are completely different … the new theme sounds harpsichord based!
No more ominous tones and explanatory voiceover.

Drake is no longer an American agent working for NATO, but is now working for M9 out of London (same precisely clipped midAmerican accent though, except for when he's doing all those funny voices while undercover)

The full length episodes offer more time for plot complexity and characterization.
We get to know each episodes supporting characters very well, which is important to the flavour of this particular show.
We also get a mission briefing in a London office at the start of each episode (following cold opening teaser and main credits), as with Bond and M, except here neither Drake nor his bosses seem to like each other very much.
Drake seems to resent a lot of the missions he is sent on, which is why it is so important time is spent to explore the characters of the people he meets, as he often decides to "re-interpret" his orders once in the field to protect those he realises are innocent.

also Ralph Smart's name starts to disappear from the writing credits. As does Brian Clemens (who presumably was busy with the Avengers by now). The two of them wrote almost all the first season, now there are many other writers. The rare Smart written episodes so far are amongst the best.

Best episode I think I've seen yet is No Marks for Servility, where Drake is forced to go undercover as the butler to a corrupt and abusive government official. I see some foreshadowing of the Prisoner in that one, especially when you consider who was the one character aside from McGoohan to appear in every episode of the later show.

warning: the deuced dvd set I have (pictured above) I now realise has these 2nd season episodes in the wrong order. This fansite lists them in production order, and wikipedia in broadcast order. oh well, I'm too lazy/confused to try to watch them in the right order, but I trust they would make more sense, as Drake's attitude to his bosses is obviously a developing theme.

I do miss the concision of those first season episodes. There is an art to packing that much plot into twentytwo minutes, having it all make sense, and keeping each one unique and memorable. It often reminded me of Will Eisner's The Spirit comic, in that sense, if you know your comics history.


Re: The Prisoner - A Discussion

Of all the 60’s spy melodramas “Secret Agent” was the most grounded. Quality doesn’t suffer throughout the run. I think Fleming himself would find the plots very acceptable, even if there are no misguided missiles, mad Doctors or millionaires trying to blow up Fort Knox.

I always enjoyed the fist fights in nearly every episode. The lack of gunplay and sex kept the plotting believable. Planning on breaking my DVD set out soon for another run through ... actually looking forward to it!


Re: The Prisoner - A Discussion

2nd season episode Colony Three sure has a lot of images and ideas that would reappear in the Prisoner.
I'm not going to spoil it, so others watching the show for the first time can have the thrill of spotting those elements themselves. But it's one to look forward to.


Re: The Prisoner - A Discussion

thinking more about that 2nd season theme music...
its rather unusual for mid60s spy music, isnt it? its not melodramatic or heroic or hip or glamourous, its almost more like cabaret or puppet show music ... that harpsichord sounds almost like a musical box.

To me it suggests that Drake and the characters he meets on his missions are puppets, playing out roles unwillingly as dictated by their masters above. When he argues with his own boss, as he often does, he seems to give him more attitude than he does to the Opposition he meets in the field.
Its almost like theres a deep metaphysical question he is on the verge of asking.

I might concede I'm overanalysing, maybe there were other harpsichord based spy themes and the choice of instrumentation is nothing significant. Except we all have memorised those opening credits of the next show McGoohan did, and know he most certainly did worry about the unseen rulers from above dictating our choices in a supposedly free world.


Re: The Prisoner - A Discussion

Perhaps a touch too much analysis. Have to rely on a spotty memory, but I don’t think “Dangerman” music was too unique in the 60’s.

If you consider that the show reflects McGoohan’s interests then it’s not surprising that when he was unleashed in “The Prisoner” he was free to explore themes that would have been out of place in a more conventional spy series.


Re: The Prisoner - A Discussion

further Bond connections:

Bernard Lee plays the villain in Whatever Happened to George Foster?, a selfmade millionaire with secrets in his past, financing revolution in a postColonial democracy to preserve profits.

Eric Pohlman, voice of Blofeld in the early films, plays a film projectionist with dangerous evidence in The Affair at Castelevara

Eunice Gayson (Sylvia Trench) is in A Man to Be Trusted, the wife of a murdered British spy.

Martine Beswick (one of the gypsy girls in FRWL, and Paula in Thunderball) is one of a group of party girls in Such Men are Dangerous (I don't think she got any lines in this one)

Nadja Regin RIP (Kerim Bey's girlfriend in FRWL and the dancing girl from Goldfinger) is in two: Find and Destroy and The Professionals, where she plays a Christine Keeler type character. In her first episode, she appears in a black and white checked onepiece swimsuit, and when she pivots could be an effect in a 3D movie. Surely a candidate for this other thread

Good to see some of these Bond actors with smaller parts get to stretch their acting chops in a similar spy series.

John Glen is credited as editor in a lot these. imdb names 20 episodes, and also claims he worked on the Avengers, but does not specify which episodes for that series.

Last edited by caractacus potts (27th Jul 2019 18:16)


Re: The Prisoner - A Discussion

You omitted Robert Shaw ...


Re: The Prisoner - A Discussion

I was going to guess I hadn't got to that one yet, but I see its a first season episode (Bury the Dead), so I must not have recognised him.
I try to pause the credits at the end of each episode to see which names I recognise, but my above post was going by memory and I know there's a lot I've forgot.


Re: The Prisoner - A Discussion

I'm reading a book right now called Saints and Avengers: British Adventure Series of the 1960s, by James Chapman. It's a history of all those great 60s British spy shows, with a lot of academic analysis.
I'll post more comments in the Last Book Read... thread once done.

The long first chapter is all about Danger Man, which the author claims began this long trend of spy shows, but also argues the first season evolved out of recent police and adventure series in the late50s. Particularly, Ralph Smart had made one season of Interpol Calling, about a policeman investigating crimes in exotic foreign locales. The big difference being Drake is a secret agent, officially empowered but always undercover and deniable by his employers.

Also in the late 50s, there was a decline in British film thanks to the competition from teevee, so a lot of experienced film industry talent looking for work were involved in that first season of Danger Man, giving it an exceptionally professional look that set it apart.

McGoohan is actually American, and Smart and Grade believed McGoohan's nationality would help export the show to the larger US market (the ultimate goal of all these shows). But it was actually the  ostentatiously english Avengers, and to a lesser extent the Saint, which were popular with American audiences. They had enough American action heroes of their own, didnt need a British-made imitation.

The author really likes his categories, and places Danger Man in the realist tradition of spy fiction (eg le Carre) rather than the fantastic (eg Fleming). He also really likes the idea that the appeal of a teevee series is that it is variations on a predictable theme, the spy genre even more than most, and goes on to demonstrate recurring elements in Danger Man. He gets deep into perceived signs of political ideologies, that I am tempted to argue with (for example he sees an implied natural superiority of the Brits recurring in the show, whereas I see Drake is consistently more sympathetic to the peoples he meets abroad than he is to his own bosses).

There is maybe three pages about the Prisoner at the end of the Danger Man chapter. Since he tells us it is the Prisoner and the Rigg episodes of the Avengers that are mostly still remembered today, I would expect more focus on McGoohan's second show.  The Persuaders get its own chapter, so why not the Prisoner?

Chapman mostly discusses how weird and unformulaic was the Prisoner, classing it as tripped out cult tv only comparable to Twin Peaks. I think the author is so into his categories that when a show transcends category he doesn't know what to say.

He does tell us much of the creative team working on Danger Man by the third season simply followed McGoohan to his new show.  So in a sense they are the same show, moreso than the first and second seasons of Danger Man when much of the behind the scenes talent was replaced.

Also, he claims the ITV switchboards lit up with outraged viewers calling to complain about that final episode. Awesome the public cared so much!

as an overanalyser myself, all the academic stuff is cool by me, even when I might debate him. But there is nonetheless a lot of history and background context that makes this worthwhile to any fan of these shows.

Last edited by caractacus potts (28th Jul 2019 14:55)


Re: The Prisoner - A Discussion

caractacus potts wrote:

thinking more about that 2nd season...

‘High Wire’ (the name of the Danger Man theme by Edwin Astley) was quite a big hit and spawned a release as a 45rpm single and has been covered by artists from its release up until quite recently  such as Jools Holland’s version: - https://www.shazam.com/gb/track/10835952/dangerman#

The initial bars of the title theme when Drake walks into view in B&w are pure secret agent theme territory, before giving way to the full harpsichord theme as the cast and crew names are revealed. The harpsichord was not so unusual at the time, being used in the Miss Marple theme, alongside use in the themes from The Avengers, The Addams Family and even in episodes of Star Trek. Patrick McGoohan though had nowhere near the creative control which Lew Grade gave him six years later for The Prisoner - for which McGoohan rewrote the originally recorded title theme.

Last edited by Charmed & Dangerous (29th Jul 2019 08:16)

"How was your lamb?" "Skewered. One sympathises."


Re: The Prisoner - A Discussion

McGoohan did not rewrite the Prisoner theme, he did insist the tempo be sped up.


Re: The Prisoner - A Discussion

He didn’t literally rewrite it - Ron Grainer did that - but he insisted that the originally envisaged theme was replaced (it was later reused as an incidental piece in Arrival). McGoohan took a set of bongos and demonstrated to Grainer what he wanted in terms of tempo, so perhaps it would be more precise to say that he insisted on its rewriting and inspired the theme which was ultimately used.

"How was your lamb?" "Skewered. One sympathises."


Re: The Prisoner - A Discussion

aha! I just got to the one with Desmond Lewellyn. hah!
The PAN film tie-in edition of FRWL figures prominently in an early scene, but James Bond connections are not the most interesting thing about this episode.

There is quite a lot action in Drake's apartment, and we clearly see the address number on his front door. And no more shall I say about this one.


Re: The Prisoner - A Discussion

Charmed & Dangerous wrote:

‘High Wire’ (the name of the Danger Man theme by Edwin Astley) was quite a big hit and spawned a release as a 45rpm single and has been covered by artists from its release up until quite recently  such as Jools Holland’s version: - https://www.shazam.com/gb/track/10835952/dangerman#

The initial bars of the title theme when Drake walks into view in B&w are pure secret agent theme territory, before giving way to the full harpsichord theme as the cast and crew names are revealed. The harpsichord was not so unusual at the time, being used in the Miss Marple theme, alongside use in the themes from The Avengers, The Addams Family and even in episodes of Star Trek. Patrick McGoohan though had nowhere near the creative control which Lew Grade gave him six years later for The Prisoner - for which McGoohan rewrote the originally recorded title theme.

thanks C&D, it sure is a good toon. The episode I watched last weekend featured lots of variations of the harpsichord bit as Drake chased a traitor through London.

The Addams Family, of course I forgot that one, my 2nd favourite sitcom of the 60s (missing first place spot by that much). The harpsichord goes perfectly with the whole "they live in a museum" aesthetic.
But which season of the Avengers features the instrument?
here is the theme from the 2nd Rigg season ... I hear keyboard in the twitchy groove that properly starts it (the bit that sounds like Peter Gunn), then again in the quick descending bit that links some of the sections ... is that keyboard the harpsichord part?
Or do you mean it was used in one of the earlier seasons?


Re: The Prisoner - A Discussion

Shout! Factory dvds' website has lots of old teevee series and weirdo cult films available for free streaming,
the first two seasons of Danger Man
The Prisoner!

I know some of you are running out of stuff to watch, so here's some essential SpyTV that always deserves another careful examination!
Be seeing you...