The most enigmatic television series of all time is The Prisoner – the cult classic 1960s show that was the brainchild of equally enigmatic star Patrick McGoohan. At the time it was made, McGoohan was the highest-paid actor on British television (better paid even than Roger Moore). He’d enjoyed huge success with Danger Man and even turned down the offer to be the very first James Bond: hugely regrettable, but then if he’d done the Bond gig, we would never have had The Prisoner…
Set in a mysterious village from which there was no escape, McGoohan’s Number Six was subjected to a series of efforts by pen-pushing bureaucrats (the ever-changing Number Two and his minions) to find out why he resigned from his top government job. A series about identity, the conflict between the power of the state versus individual freedom, and the sacrifices one has to make to stand up for one’s principles, The Prisoner confounded viewers at the time and remains open to multiple interpretations to this day. Clever, unique, barking mad and immensely entertaining, The Prisoner is one of the most iconic and important television dramas ever made.
It also proved the peak of McGoohan’s career. The final episode caused a furore – and he never quite hit the same heights of popularity again, later working with his close friend Peter Falk and making a few Hollywood howlers, notably playing the villain in Mel Gibson’s execrable Braveheart that did for history what the iceberg did for the Titanic. When he died in 2009, many secrets went to the grave with him. The 1960s was still a time when major stars could turn down interviews and shun the limelight off-camera, and be as private as they liked.
Interviews and McGoohan were generally things apart. In My Mind is an account by award-winning filmmaker Chris Rodley of his efforts, as a rookie, to track down McGoohan in 1983 and ask him to spill the beans about The Prisoner. The resulting programme, Six Into One, went out on Channel 4… and McGoohan disowned it.
In My Mind is a must-see for fans of The Prisoner. Clearly, making the original documentary in 1983 has haunted Rodley. Parts of the story are told in Proustian detail, including where they first met, and the sequence of events that saw footage for the programme slowly becoming less and less satisfactory for all concerned. There is some archive footage that hasn’t seen before (the reason why is best revealed by the documentary) but what really shines through is how much In My Mind is a labour of love for Rodley, every bit as much as the original 1983 effort was. Returning to the same locations – Santa Monica in Los Angeles and the surrounding areas that were McGoohan’s home, as well as to Portmeirion, the incredible village in Wales used as the main location for The Prisoner – In My Mind is a love letter to a dead hero, as well as an attempt to lay old ghosts and past regrets to rest.
McGoohan may be gone, but Rodley tracks down his daughter, Catherine McGoohan, who gives her view on her father’s series and the original interview. She is most compelling talking about his qualities as an actor, especially his remarkable performance in Ibsen’s Brand – a 1950s production of which survives on film and is well-worth viewing. Yet there is a reticence to delve too deep. She is warmer than her notoriously prickly father, but equally cagey. In the original documentary, McGoohan concealed himself by giving a performance, and teased Rodley by dropping in phrases from The Prisoner. Like father, like daughter.
Although the footage of the original documentaries is poor, looking on our lavish modern TVs as if it was shot on a camcorder, the new material is pristine, and includes excellent drone footage over Portmeirion. The story of In My Mind is about the making of the original documentary; but make no mistake, the subject matter (Patrick McGoohan/The Prisoner) suffers no sudden clarity, and remains as mysterious as ever.
In My Mind can be purchased as an individual title, but Network have included it with a 50th anniversary special Blu-ray box-set of The Prisoner.
Cast: Patrick McGoohan, Catherine McGoohan Director: Chris Rodley Running Time: 78 mins Released By: Network Release Date: 30th October 2017