LIVING IN HARMONY
"I AM NOT
SCREENPLAY David Tomblin, story by Ian L. Rakoff
RANKED 6th Offbeat excursion into a Western parable with stylizing good photography, also Alexis Kanners expressive acting. Wouldve been better with a more vigorous finish.
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!
There's no credit sequence, just actor McGoohan and some rather neutral opening titles. It is only near the end of the film that viewers get the notion of a PRISONER episode they had been watching.
The distinctive characteristic of "Living In Harmony" is the postmodern transfer of the action of a TV series into the setting of a different genre, in this case: fantasy/science-fiction to the wild west. When this episode was made nobody was aware of this fact, however.
"Living In Harmony" is one of a bunch of four episodes that were created after the filming had been resumed and where the production crew had changed almost completely. Out of the 17 episodes this one stands out not only because of its unusual story with an unfortunately rather mediocre resolution. It is a fresh approach using previously unseen locations instead of the Village. It may or may not be necessary to mention that the exterior shots of the "prairie" were made in England, of course, in the Dunstable Downs of Bedfordshire. Also, an american accent is spoken by the actors to complete the image.
"Why don't we do a western?" - this, alledgedly, was David Tomblin's (of Everyman Films, McGoohan's co-producer) reaction to the decison to produce only 17 episodes of THE PRISONER and as time to hire new scriptwriters was running short. So, team members were asked to provide possible script ideas. The basis of this episode is a story by Ian L. Rakoff. Rakoff, born and raised in the apartheid Republic of South Africa, was working on THE PRISONER as the assistant editor.
YES AND NO, BUT NOT CLINT EASTWOOD IN RAWHIDE - IT'S PATRICK McGOOHAN
"LIVING IN HARMONY", ANY SIMILARITY COULD BE ON PURPOSE.
The idea and the images are just great, this paraphrase on countless westerns and on THE PRISONER itself: The opening sequence shows a man on a horseback riding through the plains. Next he is seen front of a Marshall removing his sheriff's badge from the vest, laying down his gun and holster on the desk. With the saddle on his shoulders he leaves only to encounter a couple of rogue gunmen a few hills on waiting for him with sinister plans. The man is kidnapped and taken to a place unknown to him, welcome to Harmony!
There is the Judge who then takes him under "protective custody" until the man resumes his former Sheriff's job. Which the man refuses to do. There is a saloongirl who appears to be the sole ally to the man. But there's also a hot-tempered young adorer with a quick draw. So, the situation for the would-be-no-more-Sheriff without a gun is critical. All builds up to a shoot-out where the man gets shot. And we are back from the western world in a well known Village.
NOT YET THE END OF THE MATTER BETWEEN THE KID AND NUMBER SIX
What's more, there is excellent and partly hand-held stylizing photography and there is a, at the time, young and unknown actor, Alexis Kanner, who plays "the Kid" expressively, full of oppressed desire and with a physical presence which is unique within the whole series. Kanner was seen also briefly in "The Girl Who Was Death" and in Fallout" where he performed the hippie Number 48. However, what Kanner was allowed to display and embody was denied to Kathy actress Valerie French on the other hand. Lying on the ground, the mere notion of her breast nipples under her clothes had McGoohan call for more shadow over that part of her body. If Tomblin had written and directed more than one or two epsiodes, who knows what outcome one could have expected with this series.
In the USA this episode wasn't aired at first by CBS in the year 1968. There are various guessings about the reason for this. Some say it was censorship because of the Vietnam war background while others contend the use of drugs could not be shown. In the days of the beginning interest in and research of THE PRISONER series fans and scholars had few doubts that this really extraordinary episode would have likely been canceled by the TV network for its allegations and associations with hindsight of the then current US policy. But the reason for dropping the episode is probably much simpler.
On the 4th of June 1968 Robert Kennedy, brother of the late John F. Kennedy, assassinated in 1963, and running for president himself, was lethally shot of which he died the other day. In his blog anonymous PRISONER researcher Moor Larkin wrote in June 2009 what he would call "the Big Lih":
"If Living in Harmony had been 'internally' censored by CBS, it would inevitably have been reported and have been news at the time. ... The event that caused one week of the 17 weeks of The Prisoner to be lost was the June 8, 1968 State funeral of Senator Robert Kennedy. The passage of the funeral train and the night-time Arlington interment was covered by the prime-time American networks on the very evening that 'Chimes of Big Ben' was due to be shown. Not surprisingly the postponement of an episode of a new summer season TV show [remark.: the replacement for the "Jackie Gleason Show"] passed by entirely unremarked upon at the time. The loss of one week of the schedule did however mean that one episode had to be dropped, sooner or later. We are still left with the question why did CBS choose to drop the cowboy episode. Perhaps the reason was exactly because in the land of the cowboy this episode seemed most disposable, but that would be my speculation. What is demonstrable is that the dropping of an episode was actually not even noticed in the whirl of those historically tragic but then current events. ... when The Prisoner and Patrick McGoohan were discussed in the American press, in 1968, with references to TV censorship, no mention is made of any controversy at CBS. CBS allocated 17 weeks to their 1968 showing of The Prisoner; that is clear from the listings. One week was postponed prior to Episode 4. At the end of the run, commentators knew there had been 17 weeks, but did not seem aware that any episode had been missed out at all - certainly not the sensational news that an episode had been pulled by the network at the last moment. http://numbersixwasinnocent.blogspot.com/2009/06/who-controls-past-controls-future-who.html
Another extremely interesting aspect about this episode is the almost complete hallucinatory, vulgo 2016: virtual action here.
As early as in the episode "A. B. and C." a psycho-active, a dream manipulating drug was used and tested on Number Six. Entry and exit into or from those altered states of reality, however, always remained clearly defined in relation to the "ordinary" world around us. Now, in "Living In Harmony" from the beginning viewers find themelves in a virutal environment. It isn't until the final minutes that it becomes evident that everything that had happened was in the Number Six' head. It is uncertain whether or not Number Six was drugged for this particular plot or if it was kind of a posthypnotic or even a technical effect that made it happen. No such explanation is ever given thus leaving it to viewers to pick up the thread.
NOW THE JUDGE, GOT HIM! BUT...
This type of virtual reality, however, was actually ahead of ours of 2016. Because here Number Six obviously was involved very much in a haptic way, he was physically active inasmuch as he was moving either virtually as well as in reality within the confines of the props that of which the western town of Harmony was built.
But there are still question marks left. People who put on VR goggles immerse themselves knowingly that, what they experience, is a fictitious reality that may be enhanced, more or less credibly, by the use of haptic means. It is different in "Living In Harmony". Number Six wasn't aware of that when the action started. When Number Six regaines consciousness lying on the saloon floor he's wearing headphones. It can be assumed that they would be used to communicate with him and also to create an acoustic environment. The life-size cardboard cut-outs of the Judge, the gunslinger Kid or of horses would certainly serve to reinforce interacting with this hallucination. But why so? Would Number Six, kind of "shadow boxing", be wandering around in this environment? Where there real physical counterparts? Why would physical, material props be needed in a psychogenic reality? More, why would a whole western village be constructed within the vicinity of the Village? Most likely Number Six's treatment alone would not have been the reason for doing so.
Perhaps the simplest way of explaining these artefacts would be for dramatic reasons, as a means of conveying not an over-complicated tale to the viewing audiences of 1967/68. For people, having watched THE PRISONER so far, had been already treated with quite a number of plots: an election campaign, a doppelganger, an odyssey, a game of chess with human pieces and so on. After all, there was still time for THE PRISONER's real public success but not before about ten years would have gone by.
RAKOFF'S FABLES - INTERVIEW WITH DAVE BARRIE
Shooting the scenes for "Living In Harmony", the Western village, took place on the grounds of the Borehamwood studios in London which today does not exist any more.
TEXT: Arno Baumgärtel