"I AM NOT
SCREENPLAY & DIRECTED by Patrick McGoohan
RANKED 7th: For the farce on the French Revolution and a certain surrealism-cum-happening with Kenneth Griffith as the President of the assembly and Alexis Kanner as the youthful revolutioner. More questions than solutions remain.
Don't read any further unless you know THE PRSIONER already and you want to delve more indepth into theoretical discussions and facts around the history of the production. - Be seeing you!
Whereas "Once Upon A Time", the penultimate episode, was a decidedly staged intensive intimate play, an acting event using a minimum cast and virtually one set only, the Embryo room, the ingredients of "Fallout" are manifold, a saucerful of secrets, a colourful balloon full of ideas or, less favourably said, a bubble of rudimentary plot and, disregarding of some stock footage, merely two sets, one of them an underground cavern, the other one location footage without any dialogues shot in London.
GRIFFITH, THE PRESIDENT - A BLESSED SPEAKER IN FRONT
OF AN EXTRAORDINARY AUDITORIUM
"Fallout" - the German title "Demaskierung" deceptively hinting to definite unmasking and the expectation of some higher truth - was created out of the utter necessity to terminate THE PRISONER as a series. At first the episode reaches back recalling events from the previous "Once Upon A Time" which, in turn, is the only time this happens throughout the series. "Once Upon A Time" in fact had been produced months earlier as the finale of a proposed first season but nobody ever imagined the end would come so quickly. After having overcome the psychological ordeal of Degree Absolute Number Six is put to some sort of trial. The location is a subterranean cavern fitted with technical equipment the setting and design of which reminding of Ken Adam's creations of a couple of famous James Bond filmsets.
Surprisingly he is welcomed as the guest of honour and, as the President of the assembly says, he has vindicated the right of the individual and must no longer be addressed by a number but "Sir", which is very much to his, and our, surprise. The moment Number Six, the Supervisor and the Butler enter the subterranean cavern on the soundtrack we hear "All You Need Is Love" by the Beatles, a flower-power song propagating peace, released also in 1967. Why McGoohan exactly chose this particular song suggested to him by music editor Eric Mival remains up to speculation. In his auto-biography "Cutting Edge. My Life in Film and Television" (2016) Mival writes: "I was disappointed n the fighting and violence apparently needed to escape The Village, and after all the ingenuity that Pat had shown with the series, he had opted for this form of ending. I know this was the irony of it all, and that is why I chose "All You Need is Love", but I still think Pat could have come up with something more conducive to the series. But it is still a wonderful episode and still my favourite." It is clear that its use, at the same time, causes irritation by means of alienation as well as a highly ambialent confirmation of what's about to happen next: a tribunal. It is interesting that the initial chords of this song are those of the Marseillaise, the French national anthem from the time of the French Revolution of 1792, the era of courtmartialing and political (show) trials, when political adversaries were being disposed of in short order. Contrasting to this we have those emphatic verses of the song on the battle for the fatherland.
ALL YOU NEED IS LOVE
The surrounding places are occupied by hooded guises donning black & white face masks who represent certain roles: "nationalists", "reactionaries", "dissidents" etc.
Kenneth Griffith, as the President of the assembly, wrote his speech himself according to McGoohan's wish because he was too busy getting the storyline of this episode done. THE PRISONER here, McGoohan's brainchild, is less child and much more brain in dealing with a discourse on revolt and nonconformity. Quite likely that many TV viewers in the 60s exasperatedly turned their TV-sets off. Indeed, they missed the chance of experiencing some unique piece of TV history. Thereby the President bringing forth his didactic presentations right to the very point that any parliamentary session ought to be lucky to witness.
As with the spoken prologue of the credit sequence the German dubbing version of 1969 by dialogue director Joachim Brinkmanns once again takes its own very significant course here with the battle of words between the hippie Number 48 (Alexis Kanner) and the president (Kenneth Griffith). No reason is given for the obvious changes Brinkmann has made.
One thing is sure: Roughly two years had past since the production of "Fall Out" in the summer of 1967. Two years that, particularly in continental Europe, the USA and Germany, were filled with events that Brinkmann must have had in mind ever since. In 1967 violent protests were raging in Berlin against the visit of Persian (Iran's) dictator-emperor The Shah and the subsequent killing of student Benno Ohnesorg by a police officer on June 2nd; the assassination attempt at political master mind and student leader Rudi Dutschke in April of 1968 which left him severly injured; student's protests and demonstrations, the occupation of universities were followed by a general strike in France during May 1968; the Vietcong Tet-offensive in September of 1968 was followed by violent demonstrations against the Vietnam war in many parts of the USA. And, not the least, there was the political and cultural upheaval in Germany that had been going strong since the beginning of the student's movement by the early mid-60s against outdated structures of what was then called the "university of the ordinaries" as well as against the silent fathers and politicians as to their own past involvement during the period of the Third Reich in Germany and the enduring influence of old Nazis in contemporary federal German politics.
Thus, adaptation and the norm, the generation conflict manifest in both characters the President and the Hippie - the subjects of the English dialogue - were considerably reworked and rewritten by Brinkmann, even given new meaning, into a rather cryptical dispute on violence and coercion.
LONLEY AT THE TOP: NUMBER SIX ALL ON HIS OWN - AND THE BUTLER...
We see the reappearance of two of the previous characters: Alexis Kanner, The Kid of "Living In Harmony", who as a rebellious juvenile hippie with ruchings upstages almost all the others jumping around, rapping, jingling his bell, singing and reciting the spiritual "Dem Bones" (more...). This causes some considerable chaos among the participants of the assembly. Leo McKern, as the ex Number Two, had been called into position again by the authorities for the job in "Once Upon A Time" and then died - or had he? - is reanimated. He finds himself being brought to trial, too, as a member of the establishment who bit the hand that fed him. And Number Six? He is allowed to be sitting on a throne observing the proceeding, then he is to decide on whether to govern or to leave. It is not without satisfaction that he is demonstrated his uselessness for any kind of community or society. Because he is the true revolter and individualist, "the last stubborn remnant of a dying breed" (as Number Two in the short film RESOLUTION would put it decades on) and, who knows, maybe he's the very first individual as well...? Let's not forget the many difficulties the McGoohan character encountered in his fight for individuality and integrity of his person. Indeed, he was pushed, filed, stamped, indexed, briefed, debriefed or numbered!
From a remark by Number Two in "Fall Out" we can conclude that he considered Number Six the best replacement for himself if ever the were successful in getting Number Six to join them: now it's up to him to make up his mind eventually, decide on whether to rule or to leave. There is the key scene where Number Six is allowed a speech to the assembly. As he starts his very first word "I" is interrupted by the masked knocking on their tables and shouting repeatedly: "I, I, I!" to leave his speech unheard in this - well calculated - pandemonium. The crucial point of this scene is the double character, the the taunting affirmation "Aye, aye, aye...! of just how much his efforts are Janus-faced. Next is chaos.
A FEW SECONDS OF TV HISTORY
Time to think of Number One, too: Author B. Frank has pointed out (in a German-language article) that McGoohan's options for a suitable top villain had been limited. The fact that Number Six is Number One, after all, was without alternative - what could have been more wicked than the worst nightmarish monster: one's own alter ego, the vicious twin personality, the evil side of man, Mr Hyde in the garb of Dr. Jeckyll. McGoohan was obliged to both the TV station and the audience to deliver a solution to the show. But he denied the audience what it wanted most: Mr. X, Dr. Mabuse, extraterrestrials - some conclusion according to the genre rules. He was far beyond this point.
What we eventually experience, almost the entire "Fallout" episode, onscreen, is less cinematic than stage-looking in its congruence of action, time and setting; and the appearance of its backdrop-like sets, the dialogues being elocutionary, the theatre-stage acting. Which, probably, contributes a lot to the disregard of this most extraordinary monster expulsion in the history of TV series. So much for the esteem that ought to be attributed to this episode.
It is remarkable how many comments tend to neglect those few crucial images. Let's take a closer look, all happens very quickly. The "disclosure" of Number One, in the reel, is only marginally longer than it is in this little animation. And that's quite right. It would have been with too much ostentation otherwise, and never would it have been better.
In the oder of appearance:
1. From the trial into the catacombs, Number Six is in a control room (which will we'll see later to be that of a rocket) where he encounters a hooded and masked person like one of the trial before. He is offered a crystal sphere.
2. Number Six approaches, takes the sphere, frontally the masked spreading his arms presents himself - and to us; the sphere is dropped and breaks.
3. Clearly as anything the number "1" can be seen.
4. Number Six grabs at the facemask and snatches it off.
5. The face of an ape is under it, babbling, giggling, taunting.
6. Bemused Number Six realizes that the ape is a mask, too. Again, he snatches the mask off; beneath it...
7. ... his own face! But a strange looking one, warped, aggressive, challenging.
8. For only a few instances both their faces, that of Number Six and that of his doppelgänger/alter ego, blend in. There is shouting by both of them.
9. Rapidly Number "One-Six" escapes the room by clambering up a vertical ladder. Number "Six-Six", shocked for one moment, hurries after him, but too late.
10. "Serves you right! - You won't get me!" It's the last glimpse of Number "One-Six" before the hatch door shuts, never ever to be seen again.
One of the supposedly biggest secrets in the history of TV series making is deflated by McGoohan within only a couple of shots, rather detached, utilizing a little Brechtian epic theatre style, a little "catch-me-if-you-can" child's play. As such it wouldn't work. Not as expected.
years on the chutzpah employed by McGoohan is still admirable for merging
elements contradicting, incommensurate and disparate. And yet, against
anticipation, all this does have some impact. No, this episode isn't really
a good one. Not in terms of TV serialized entertainment. It's too good
for many others.
What remains are images, sounds, the moods, "Collar bone's connected to the neck bone... Hear the word of the Lord (more...)!"
end is (almost like) the beginning: a London street scene with the Lotus Seven, the word Prisoner - [German] Gefangener - superimposed. As simple as that but it's enigmatic. The scene dropped in the original German screening from 1969/70.
In the final image we see the character we used to know as Number Six driving his Lotus on the same (?) lost highway as he does at the outset of each episode. Yet here, the end of the road is just the beginning. Thus, a "fitting end"? Yes, "fitting" insofar as McGoohan eschewed any mainstream solution as well as audience's expectations for his anyway offbeat series. "Logical" not necessarily but perhaps unavoidable.
Text: Arno Baumgärtel