THE PRISONER IN PORTMEIRION
by Roger Langley
Reviewed by Geoff Lake
I was lucky enough to stay in the village this year during what would normally have been the convention week. I had a wonderful week enjoying the breath taking beauty of Portmeirion, good company and although we had some bad weather, it did not spoil my enjoyment. . . . which is more than I can say for this book. If I regret anything during my stay it was wasting some of that precious time reading this book. Anyone who read my review of Decoding the Prisoner by Chris whatsisface will know if I don't like something I'll say so. I wish I could like this book, I want to, I really do. . . It flippin' cost me ten quid.
I felt that when I was reviewing Decoding the Prisoner that it was a book written by someone with little knowledge of The Prisoner, but surely I was onto a winner with Mr. Roger Langley. The jacket of the book even boasts that Mr. Langley has 'extensive knowledge' of the Prisoner. After all, I have read that he has sometimes been referred to as the President of Six of One. Perhaps they meant that nutty president from Fallout.
We will start with the quality. The pages are printed on glossy paper which is nice, however some of the reproduction is quite simply awful. Long time Six of Oners might remember the map of the village a few years back, which contained a credit list for all seventeen episodes. This has been reprinted but is barely legible. I think I am right in saying the original was produced by Steven Ricks (please don't write if I am wrong ) but an earlier village map was also produced by Roger Langley and part of this is also reproduced. Why only part of it is shown, God knows but it is also barely readable.
The books pertains to be a sort of reference guide to the filming at Portmeirion. The book does read this way but sometimes loses the plot and goes off on a tangent elsewhere.
Included is a wealth of photographs some of good quality and some not so good. In fairness, some of the pictures (one would assume) were taken by extras/day trippers etc and so this is excused. The photographs are laid out in such a way that it is possible to work out the Portmeirion locations and get a feel of how certain sequences might have been filmed. Some of the pictures do make interesting viewing in that many have not been seen before, well not by the writer anyway.
The book also includes interviews with McGoohan, most of which would have been read by long term Six of Oners but again in fairness, I feel the book is not aimed at long termers but more for the Prisoner/Portmeirion virgins etc.
One section includes fifty facts of which again most of us already know such as: the village voice is Fenella Feilding, Villa Winch is missing a roof in aerial shots of Portmeirion and such banal facts as the only time a litter bin is seen is in Checkmate!?!
Calls sheets from the production crew are reproduced (badly), as are a few convention pictures.
We then move onto what can only be described as the same thing twice. A section entitled 'Episodes Information' gives us facts such as Arrival was filmed first, The Prisoner lives at No 1 Buckingham Place, Free For All was shown fourth but was second to be filmed. It was at this point that a couple of words sprung to mind such as 'Rope' and 'Old' and 'money for'. The 'twice' reference is to the next chapter which again is about all seventeen episodes but is more of a synopsis.
It is this synopsis that the book really falls by the wayside. It is unfortunately a problem with any book on The Prisoner that an episode guide is essential. However, when you have read all there is to read on The Prisoner, it can be tiresome reading more or less the same thing over and over again. A series like The Prisoner cannot be summed up in a few words, thus it is important to try to explain the action to the reader. It's not a job I would want to do but if you are to attempt it, it is imperative that one gets it right. This book gets it wrong several times. I believe what I am trying to say is, trying explain the series is difficult but explaining them wrong is totally unacceptable.
For example : Arrival, the Prisoner is taken to the Labour Exchange and is met by Christopher Benjamin who wants to know information such as, what he likes to eat, what he was, what he wants to be and when the phrase "Any politics?" is asked Number Six then proceeds to knock the wooden contraption which Mr. Benjamin has been toying with across the room, he does not tear up a questionnaire as it says in this book Wrong episode, he tears up a questionnaire in A Change of Mind.
On the subject of A Change of Mind another error informs the reader that after Number Six has been drugged and hypnotised by the young woman, she then proceeds to declare Number Two 'unmutual' the book then describes the action and states that the crowd chases him out of office and away from his headquarters. . . .Sorry?, wrong again, Number Two in fact runs to his office not away. These are not the only mistakes there are several more of this ilk.
The episode guide acknowledges Markalan Joplin for the 1978 synopses so I suppose one could forgive Mr. Langley for these errors but I again refer to the jacket of the book that states Mr. Langley has "extensive knowledge of The Prisoner." In other words, surely if Mr. Langley wanted to include this episode synopsis then surely he should have checked it first.
So, in summing up all I can say is save your money. Buy a Prisoner T shirt or better still, put the money towards a Prisoner boxed set of videos, it will be far more entertaining.
|Ed Note: It appears Geoff is not the only one who dislikes this book, see review from Dreamwatch elsewhere in this issue.|