Thursday, 30 June 2011

The Prisoner Local Group Meeting

    Tuesday 28th was the last Tuesday of the month, which meant a meeting of the Prisoner Local Group, at the Goat & Compasses public house. The meeting was due to commence at 7pm, and there was a one hundred percent turn out. Namely myself and Tommy Moke. After ordering two pints of best bitter, two packets of cheese and onion crisps, a packet of salted nuts, and pork scratchings, we settled down at a corner table in the lounge bar. I had arrived armed with two copies of the Prisoner based newsletter The Tally Ho, to which I have the honour to contribute, having brought one copy for Tommy. And it was while we sipped our beer that we thumbed through the newspaper, Tommy then setting his copy to one side, saying that he would enjoy reading it later that night with a cup of coffee. For readers here, I reproduce, with the kind permission of the editor, the front page of the latest issue of The Tally Ho. As it happens my latest article for this newsletter is quite controversial for me, and I will include a copy posted at the end of this piece of blog.
 Tommy came to the meeting with a copy of Rupert Booth's biography 'Not A Number; Patrick McGoohan A Life. Tommy said that there is little or nothing in the biography which he didn't know about McGoohan, save for the fact that he was done for drink driving in 1964, Patrick McGoohan that is, not Tommy Moke, and had spent six days in prison. The trouble is, Tommy added, that there is no mention of which prison McGoohan had spent those six days, and as far as Tommy could read, it is not at all substantiated by Booth in his book. Tommy told me to thumb through the book, and let me know my preliminary thoughts. Well I could tell that much of the text had been taken from newspapers and magazines, prior interviews with Patrick McGoohan on television, or video, and Rupert Booth makes no pains in hiding the fact. All in all I don't think I would be buying a copy of this book, and told Tommy as much. In reply Tommy said that he didn't actually buy the book, but borrowed it through his local library. We both came to the same conclusion, that even though we are fans of both Danger Man and the Prisoner, the cover of the biography on the life of Patrick McGoohan is very P*** poor! Even I could have come up with a better design than that. After all what has the front cover got, the image of a fictional character the Prisoner-No.6, and that is Tommy and my point in a nut shell, it's always that, and not Patrick McGoohan the man himself! What follows is my article for the latest issue of The Tally Ho. I hope you enjoy it, and perhaps find it somewhat controvertial, as was the idea behind it.
            We ordered more drinks, and went on to discuss the situation as it is today with appreciation for the Prisoner. I think it was The Tally Ho which had us thinking back to the heyday of Prisoner appreciation. There used to be numerous newsletters and magazines produced on the subject of the Prisoner. Local groups sprang up the length and breadth of England and Scotland. This of course was between 1979 and the early 1990's. Of course nearly all of the local groups have gone, as have the newsletters and magazines, The Tally Ho being one of the remaining two left, as far as Tommy and I are aware. The reader of this may of course know different. Even Six of One: The Prisoner Appreciation Society is a poor shadow of it's former self. Today appreciation for the Prisoner is made up with fans mostly meeting up on line in forum groups and the like, which is good, because it means that a fan, like myself, can reach out to all four corners of the globe, something which I could not do through Six of One even. But there we were, Tommy Moke and I, flying the flag for the prisoner at a local group meeting. Even if we did look a bit strange to other regulars, dressed as I was in regular piped blazer, straw boater, and deckshoes. While Tommy wore his colourful striped cape, which he used to wear on the chessboard at Prisoner conventions at Portmeirion, but not made perhaps for the outside world!
    The meeting continued through the evening, talking about all things Prisoner, at one point discussing our favourite episodes, and those which were not so favourite. In fact we both came to the same conclusion, that the Prisoner would have been better if the series had stopped at seven episodes! Tommy remarked that originally there was to have been twenty-six or even thirty-six episodes for the series. I said they struggled to produce seventeen, so what price all those others? No price at all!
    Then we came to No.2, who was the best and worst. We both agreed that lLo McKern made the best No.2, and that perhaps that Clifford Evans or David Bauer made the worst No.2. Tommy said that he felt sorry for No.2 of Hammer Into Anvil, after all had he trusted in those about him more, then No.6 would never have got the upper hand, and put the question of what might have happened to that particular No.2? I said that it seems likely to me, that No.2 having reported the breakdown in control, in all probability, spent the rest of his life in the psychiatric ward of the hospital, before being retired into the Old People's Home!
I'm Johnny Prisoner

Thursday, 23 June 2011

I Have A Very Low Pain Threshold!

   If I were in Number Six's shoes, I would have soon told them why I resigned! Well I have a very low pain threshold you see, and it wouldn't have taken me long to talk. I've been watching the 1979 television series Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy on video, you know the Series, the one with Alec Guinness as George Smiley. It is a pity that John Le Carre wrote the novel well after the Prisoner, because I think had it been possible to have brought George Smiley to the Village, he would have made the perfect Number Two. Smiley would have made Number Six talk, just by walking into the room, sitting down, taking off his spectacles, and having cleaned them, put his spectacles back on and anyone who he was inquisiting........soon blabbed about all they knew. Those peoeple who have seen the television series, or have read the book, will know where I'm coming from.
    The nastiest, possibly scariest Number Two in the Prisoner, was played by John Sharp. When Number Two said to Number Six I'm not angry with you dear friend. That is just the way things seem to be to you, because your new world is so quiet by contrast, the way Number Two whispers those words to Number Six always sends a chill down my spine.
    I suppose that there could be the chance that the first Number Two could be Colonel Ross from the film The Ipcress File, highly unlikely of course, but possible. After all Guy Doleman does play the two roles in much the same way. Well he did until he got kicked off the production of Arrival........well that's why you don't see the face of Number Two, hidden behind the loud-hailer when Number Two is directing the Prisoner to the labour exchange, it's because it's not Guy Dolman!
    Anyway, I can't sit here all day typing words to you like this. I have things to do, places to be, and people to see. Because next Tuesday is the last Tuesday in the month, and that means a meeting of The Prisoner Local Group at the Goat And Compasses public house to start organising. There are just two members of the group, myself and Tommy Moke. I suggested to Tommy that we hold a marathon screening of the 2009 series of THEPRIS6NER, like we did last year for the original series. But Tommy isn't interested in the new series. I think he was disappointed in the fact that it wasn't filmed at Portmeirion, plus the fact that Patrick McGoohan had had nothing to do with it. I bet Tommy, and all the other fans of the original series would have been all over THEPRIS6NER had Patrick McGoohan been in it, and praising it to high heaven. I found THEPRIS6NER a real breath of fresh air. Just like the music video by Sophia Cacciola, have you seen it? I found it awesome, and brilliantly filmed, and executed. I was pleased not to see Portmeirion in the music video, filmed as it was in Boston, and around New England. All the detail that Sophia, her band Do Not Forsake Me Oh My Darling had put into the video, it's quite astounding really. And to achieve a shot by shot replica opening sequence to the Prisoner, is quite marvellous to see. And you can see it, by clicking on the link below. Then you can compare the music video 'Episode 1 Arrival' to the opening sequence to the Prisoner. It's great!

I'm Johnny Prisoner

Thursday, 16 June 2011

The Italianate Village of Portmeirion

 When I first went to Portmeirion, it was for a weeks holiday in the September of 1988. When I arrived, the first thing which struck me, was the smallness of the Village! I had expected somewhere a little larger. But as Clough Williams-Ellis {the architect behind Portmeirion} said of the Village, "Portmeirion is basically tiny." Well he got that right.
   So I settled myself into my self-catering cottage, prepared to be a prisoner for one teeny weeny week! And as I began to explore the Village in ernest the next day, following in Patrick McGoohan's footsteps for the very first time. But I found much of the Village seen in the Prisoner, not to exist at Portmeirion. Especially what we see in The General, Hammer Into Anvil, and It's Your Funeral.
   I quickly found out that rushing about, trying to see everything in Portmeirion at the same time, doesn't work. You have to sit down and just look, drinking the whole atmosphere from a bench. And on Sundays, there's the Brass Band Concert to attend, the Band even played the Prisoner theme music, very atmospheric.
    Oh I was dressed in full Village attire. Turtle neck jersey. Beige trousers, deck shoes, and piped blazer. No.6's house being the Prisoner shop run by Max Hora at the time, whom I had met the previous day. But the next day, when I went to purchase merchandise, I found the Prisoner shop to be closed!!! I looked at my watch, the time was ten thirty, and the Prisoner shop, as I was to learn, didn't actually open until after eleven O'clock!!! I've known people go to Portmeirion for just a few hours, as part of their holiday in North Wales, only to arrive and find the Prisoner shop to be closed. And having only a few hours in the Village, they leave never having been able to step one foot in the Prisoner shop, and having left disappointed!!! Then again the shop can be closed for five minutes, when that happens, there's a scribbled note on a Prisoner shop paper bag, stuck on the shop door. Well there was in those days.
   But boy oh boy, when the shop was open, and you stood there in what was the Prisoners house, for the very first time, it was quite amazing. And to be in the Prisoner shop, always well stocked with all mammer of merchandise connected with the series, and I bought something of each item, to take home with me after my holiday.
   There's a quirkiness about Portmeirion, with it's arches which you can only just walk through, even though from afar they look huge. And the Fire Station, marked on a pair of doors. There is no Fire Station, because it is just as you see it, two doors marked Fire Staion in red lettering on two doors simply attached to the wall of the Hercules Hall.
   I would go running about on the beach shouting 'I am not a number. I am a free man.' And go in search of the cave of the Therapy Zone. There is a cave, just round the headland from where the graveyard in on the beach in Arrival, the lighthouse on the headland, there's no bell, there's no light!! But there is a small cave, in the cove where No.6 found that body washed up on the beach in Dance of the Dead.
   I used to got to Portmeirion at least twice a year. Once for a holiday, and again for the Prisoner convention held there annually. And there would also be the occasional day visit. It was always like coming home, going to Portmeirion. and when I arrived there, it felt as though I had never been away. A real home from home.
    Have I been back to Portmeirion in recent years? No. I have to say I haven't. Why? Well, it' not the same somehow. The last time I was in Portmeirion, was when I was getting ready to leave Six of One: The Prisoner Appreciation Society, and somehow things there didn't feel the same. I suppose in my early days of visits to Portmeirion, it was like going there on a pilgrimage. Oh I still hold Portmeirion in my heart, and have many happy memories of my times there. These days I'm no longer the Pilgrim that I once was. Besides which Portmeirion has been 'messed about with,' and is no longer, for me, the place it once was. Besides it's so damned expensive to actually stay there now, and my purse in not as full as it once was.
I'm Johnny Prisoner

Thursday, 9 June 2011

How many Prisoners Does It Take To Build A Lotus 7?

   Mrs Butterworth was kind enough to lend the Prisoner his own car on the occasion of his return to London, but only on the promise that he would stop the Lotus 7 from over-heating which Mrs Butterworth had been experiencing in traffic. Well it wouldn't have taken the Prisoner long to fix that. All he would have to have done is remove the front number plate from the grill, which was obstructing the air flow to the engine!
    On his arrival home, and finding soeme woman now in possession of his car, he wanted to ask her a few questions about it, this in order to prove that it was actually his car, and that he had built it with his own hands. What's the number of that car? he asked Mrs Butterworth, and told her KAR 120C. Well that's an easy one, after all he'd just stood there and watched Mrs Butterworth drive up and park outside 1 Buckingham Place. What's the engine number? The Prisoner then told her 461034TZ. The Prisoner then went on to explain that he knew every nut, bolt, and cog, because he had built the Lotus 7 with his own hands. And this demonstrates two things. Firstly that the Prisoner had purchased the Lotus seven in kit-car form, and that he is an accomplished motor mechanic. And thirdly, having built the Lotus kit-car the Prisoner would have had to have known every nut, bolt, and cog, and have to have the all the receipts to prove it, in order for the car to have a "year" license plate, otherwise it would have been registered as "Q" instead of "C", as "Q" denotes a year which cannot be proved. Then the Prisoner would have had to present the built Lotus for a road worthiness inspection, by some official inspector, possibly from the Department of Transport, but don't quote me on that.
   How long does it take to build a Lotus/Caterham Seven? Well a pal of a chum of mine built his Caterham Seven kit-car over a weekend, that does not include the spraying of the body-work. I think he sold it in the end. Well the Caterham Seven, formerly the Lotus 7, is a car for the purist, the wind in your hair, the rain on your cheek, the freedom of the open road and all that. There's no radio, not heater, but then you can't drive the 7 in the winter anyway. My pal, of a chum of mine, had to garage his Caterham Seven during the winter months, so having a heater wasn't really a problem!
   One time, I was taken for a long ride in a Caterham Seven..........I remember I had a problem in keeping my eyes open against the wind, and it was bloody cold I can tell you. What's more, I can see why a tall man like Patrick McGoohan would have to lean out of the side of his Lotus 7 in order to see the road ahead, as he does in Many Happy Returns. A man over six foot like McGoohan, would have the top of the windscreen at eye-level!
I'm Johnny Prisoner

Thursday, 2 June 2011

The Man With No Name

    We are all familiar with Clint Eastwood's character from the three Spaghetti Western films A Fistful of Dollars, For A Few Dollars More, and The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly, the Man With No Name. Although he is called by the names of Manco, Joe, and Blondie in the three films. But basically he's the Man With No Name.
    I suppose you could call the stranger on the right the Man With No Name, because if he has a name no-one ever uses it throughout the entire series of the Prisoner, although in his time he has been known as Duval, Schmit. ZM73, and he once called himself Peter Smith, and the Colonel in Many Happy Returns called him Number Six, to which the Prisoner took great offence! So, in the Village he goes by the name of Number Six. Yet in Living In Harmony even this name is taken away from him, and truly becomes the Man With No Name , a 'drifter,' a 'high plains' drifter!
    But before this Man With No Name became a drifter, he was a Town Sheriff of an American Wild west frontier Town in the late 1800's. It was a job from which he resigned, no letter of resignation, but simply signified by the handing in of both his badge and his gun. But why did he resign? A town Sheriff is open to many dangers as he tries to keep the peace. There might be a gang come riding into town, say the James gang, the Dalton boys, the Youngers, or the Clanton gangs, to rob the Bank. And the Sheriff would have to try and stop them, and if he couldn't, then he'd have to form a possy and go after the Bank robbers. A Sheriff, worth his salt, would have to be fast on the draw, otherwise he wouldn't last very long. But then the faster on the draw the Sheriff became, so much greater his reputation, and that in turn would attract every gunslinger out to make a reputation for himself to Town. And each time the Sherrif, who got paid very little, would have to stand up to each and every gunslinger who came to Town, and more than likely would have to face him, or them in a gun-fight. In time, this sort of thing can wear a man down, the killing. Having to put his life on the line every day, for little pay, a few dollars a month. So perhaps this one time Sheriff was fed up with the killing he had to do. Fed up with having to get up every morning, to face having to put his life on the line became too much for him, as it did for many of the time. So it could be as simple as that, as to why the man With No Name resigned!
I'm Johnny 'two guns' Prisoner