Friday, January 16, 2009

Patrick McGoohan, No. 6 of The Prisoner (1928 - 2009)

Patrick McGoohan as No. 6 in The Prisoner: "I am not a number, I am a free man!"

The Prisoner opening credits/sequence

Patrick McGoohan has died at the age of 80. The Irish-American actor appeared in such films as Ice Station Zebra (which was the favourite film of Howard Hughes, the one the hermit millionare kept watching repeatedly), Escape from Alcatraz, Scanners and Braveheart; and such TV shows as Danger Man and Columbo (for which he received two Emmy Awards).

However, the one from which McGoohan will be best remembered for was The Prisoner, a British-made cult TV series of 17 episodes, first aired in between 1967 and 1968. A brainchild of McGoohan, who also starred in the series as an ex-agent only called "No.6", The Prisoner was a combination of spy genre very much in vogue in the 60s, science fiction, psychological drama and even socio-political allegory, which reflected the turbulent spirit of its time, as if James Bond had been rewritten by a team of George Orwell, Herbert Marcuse and Harold Pinter.

Every episode followed the attempts of No. 6 to escape from a mysterious place called The Village (an obvious reference to the then-fashionable works of Marshall McLuhan) where he was held by his captors trying to get out of him "by hook or by crook" the information behind the reason of his having resigned from the Secret Service. No. 6/McGoohan's trademark outcry "I'm not a number, I'm a free man!" appealed to the rebellious youth of the 60s but also those who were afraid of State's power over the individual: The Prisoner has spawned endless interpretations as to the real meaning behind the show and continues to intrigue both fans and critics. McGoohan's production company Everyman took its name from a 15th-century English morality play, which gave a clue to The Prisoner's allegorical nature in its handling of such universal topics as politics, war, individual's rights and so on.

  • Patrick McGoohan and The Prisoner @ Feuilleton

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