Nov 14, 2009

"I Am Not A Number, I Am A Free Man!"

"I will not be pushed, filed, stamped, briefed, debriefed or numbered. My life is my own."

This is GOING to be a post about AMC's new "The Prisoner" remake. I've been told, however, that I am now required to post something about the puppies in each and every post, however, so here goes:

Belle has taken to spending less and less time with the little ones, starting the weaning process. The puppies have a different idea, however. They LIKE nursing--often, and rather violently, and Belle gets tired of that level of abuse pretty fast so she often gets up with a full compliment of whelps attached. The resulting sound of vacuum-seals breaking is surprisingly like the sound of all those snaky black tubes popping off Neo when Morpheus first released him from the Matrix.


Okay. 'nuff said.

The Prisoner. If you've not seen the 1960's era cult classic, you need to. Do yourself the treat. It's entertaining, engaging, surreal and often rather intelligent. It deals with our peception of reality, the ways we treat others and even the nature of the relationships between jailor and jailed.

Did I mention it's surreal? One of the great joys of The Prisoner is that they didn't have the biggest budget in the world, so they really had to drag every ounce of story out of every piece of scene, make the absolute best out of every prop. Something like a white weather balloon, guided by fishing line and some engineered gusts of wind, aided by some weird growls and roars on the soundtrack became Rover, a terrifying, suffocating mechanical threat on the island. An off-season vacation spot became The Village, a place where spies are taken to be emptied of their useful information in whatever means the jailors see fit.

And now AMC has gotten it into their heads to remake that incredible series. With a massive budget they can film in Tunisa, they can remake a city block in said city into New York, can hire the likes of Sir Ian McKellan to be the chief heavy in The Village--Number Two.

I don't remember when I first discovered The Prisoner, much in the same way I don't remember when I first discovered Blake's 7 or The Avengers. They were always there, it seems, only waiting for me to find them, reveal to me their mysteries and their sly winks and their gasping surprises.

I do remember the feeling of joy as I watched each episode open, reveal its plot, the little twists and turns, the cleverly hidden clues that said "Yes, this is the same retired spy from 'Secret Agent Man' only we're not going to come out and admit it." There was always some little something to make you wonder. The Tally Ho, printed seemingly as the 'news' happened in The Village. The living chessboard. The statuary with cameras for eyes. The allusions to people who came and went from the outside world. Number 2's green dome, and Angelo Muscat's quiet, mysterious butler character who never spoke a word, but who no doubt knew more than any Number 2 ever did. For that matter, the ever-changing Number 2--each episode there was a new Number 2, eager to crack Number 6's iron will, desperate to dig through his mind, picking out the information like meat from a cracked walnut.

Except in this reinvisioned Village he's not Number Two, just "Two." Just as John Casiavetesetees whatever his name is is just "Six." And so far as I can tell there's no butler, silently absorbing everything. Cut from the story to streamline it, I suppose. Like the titles of the six episodes they're airing--the hauntingly named "Do Not Forsake Me Oh My Darling" is now simply "Darling." "Living In Harmony," the weirdly-canted American Western episode is now simply "Harmony." Each new episode bears a trimmed-down version of an original episode's name.

A lot of it seems to have that feeling--like it's been streamlined, cleaned up, modernized. The round buttons that each prisoner used to wear, the buttons that had the penny-farthing bicycle logo and the prisoner's number have been replaced by retail-style glossy rectangular badges with a number and a somewhat Art-Deco rendering of a city skyline; several tall, round-topped rectangles. The quaint little holiday houses that once dotted The Village's manicured park have been replaced by Aspen-style cookie-cutter cottages. Rover, from the previews, seems to be about five stories tall and awfully ethereal.

Another thing that bothers me? Two has a family. Yes, a FAMILY. A wife who from the previews seems to be bedbound (but perhaps kept that way?) and a son, "12-13" who Six seems to be trying to sway to the side of liberation, freedom from the restraining Village. Interesting, but way off the mark. A family is weakness, a liability, a way to do damage to an otherwise strong, untouchable target. No Number 2 would have tied himself to something as dangerous as a family.

I will say this, and this comes as no surprise--Ian McKellan's Two looks and sounds consumately wonderful. Set as it is in a desert (Tunisia, I'm told from the multiple making-of's) he's always resplendant in an ivory suit, an ice-cream cone fresh from the freezer on a hot day. He's dapper, always impeccably dressed in vest and coat and slacks and a beautiful ivory-white fedora. He oozes charm and power. He speaks like a man who is accustomed to wielding that power, a man to whom the ways and procedures of extracting information "by hook or by crook" come as naturally as breathing. But then again an actor of that caliber makes it look easy. I only hope the rest of the cast can pull it off.

So. Starting tomorrow night on AMC we get to see this re-invented Village, this new Six and Two. There's even at least one grossly overt nod to the original--when Six wakes up in the desert outskirts of The Village he is witness to an elderly man who seemingly has escaped. This elder wears the trademark black sport coat with white trim, khaki pants, boat shoes and deep blue shirt that Patrick McGoohan's Number 6 always wore. The director says it's to tie the two together, so that we can imagine that Number 6 has been trying and failing since the 60's to escape from The Village, and the new Six meets his numbersake.

Uhm...did anyone think to watch the original first? The trial never happened? "Fallout" never occurred? Number 6 met and unmasked Number 1, seeing himself beneath the layered masks? What about his apartment door in London opening with that eerie mechanical whine, just like his apartment in The Village? Jailor as prisoner, and the butler returning
"home" with him...

Yes, I'm going to watch. Probably will even watch every single one even if they stink, and I really sincerely hope they don't, but we'll see. I'll let you know in a few days what my initial verdict is.

Be seeing you.


Gordo said...

These kind of things almost seem to be an attempt for a second or third-tier tv network to raise their reputation or something like that. I'm glad that we don't have AMC up here. Perhaps it's time to expose my twelve-year-old to the original.

Oh, the puppy demanders aren't likely to be satisfied with just words. ;-)

Irrelephant said...

And for the most part A&E isn't THAT bad, not really. I mean, it's not Fox or something like that. It's no AMC but hey. Plus they own IFC, so that's a positive step, right?

I don't know. I'm just weary of the remake and re-remake attempts, the constant regurgitation of something that WAS really good, and the remakes tend to be, for the most part, sad little copies.

Not satisfied, eh? Blast. I guess that demands photos then, yes?

meno said...

No puppy pictures?

No comment!

Gordo said...

Yah, I still don't understand why they insist on re-making the good stuff and avoiding all the things that were *close*, but not quite on the mark the first time around.

Rather amusing that the re-make of The Cay the Earth Stood Still came with the original as well. :-)

Mickey Glitter said...

Oi, I've no intention of even searching this one out. I haven't quite made it through the original series yet; it makes my brain hurt in ways I didn't think it could, but Jesus, Mary, and Joseph. Don't fuck with the classics. Please. Even if they do make my head hurt, as I sit here in this blue police box that's bigger on the inside than the outside and can't find my way out (or don't want to) and wish like hell Liz had gotten to take a spin in it.

Plus, it was BRITISH. Don't make it NOT British now, please. Just by that, it's lost its cred with me because the Brits do weird like we can't. And they make it work.

Great pictures of the babies, BTW. YOU. MUST. POST. MORE.

Be seeing you.

Irrelephant said...

Mix, it hurts in a good way, right? *lol* But you're right, the Brits do have a way with weird that we just don't get.

Be seeing you!