Archive for April, 2010

TV Shows: The Prisoner

April 26, 2010

The Prisoner

Starring: Patrick McGoohan, Angelo Muscat, Leo McKern, Fenella Fielding

Year: 1967 – 1968

Genre: Science Fiction

The Prisoner ran for a short period in 1967 to 1968 and spanned 17 episodes, with a lot of the episodes written and directed by the star and co-creator himself Patrick McGoohan. It combined spy fiction and science fiction and has sparked much debate to the meaning and reasons for each episode and the series as a whole.

The plot outline for the series follows McGoohan as a former British secret agent who is kidnapped from his home and held prisoner in a mysterious seaside village. His captors remain anonymous and they attempt to find out why he abruptly resigned from his job. McGoohan is named as Number 6 and is watched by the mysterious organisation and the man who appears to be the head of the village known only as Number Two. To add an extra quirky element to the series the actor to play Number Two changes each time, and it appears if the current Number Two fails in his mission to find out why Number Six resigned he is immediately replaced.

Take a peek at the opening credits for The Prisoner below! Includes that awesome funky intro music!

Some of the places you see in the series and opening credits above can still be seen in London. For instance I believe Buckingham Place is the location of the house used for the series opening credits and in various episodes throughout the series, check it out below!

Google Street View “Buckingham Place”

Tour Page from the website “The Unmutual” showing the annual tour of the prisoner locations in London.

Although sold as a thriller in the mould of McGoohan’s previous series, Danger Man (called Secret Agent in its U.S. release), the show had a brilliant combination of 1960s cultural themes and a surreal setting which had a far-reaching impact on science fiction and television programs then and now, you only have to look at recent shows such as Lost for references and ideas influenced by The Prisoner. The show was bizarre at best and some of the episodes very weird in places, however throughout the series McGoohan’s writing is compelling and edgy and keeps you interested. He plays the paranoid agent brilliantly and draws the audience into his plight and into the quirky mysterious setting of The Village.

The setting for The Prisoner is a real village called Port Meirion. I’ll probably get there myself one day but would be good to hear from people who have been there already! Oddly enough the closest I’ve gotten to “The Village” is through the online virtual community Second Life. Research into something you love for long enough and it can take you to some bizarre places. I couldn’t resist finding out more, and going against my nature as a gamer I dived right in. Second Life members had re-created a pretty accurate version of “The Village” in this virtual world, you can join the community and you are assigned a number. After an initial look around I chatted to a few residents who said they loved hanging out the in the Village, I guess not quite the same as the visiting the real thing but it was fun for a while and worth a quick visit, although I don’t think I’ll be needing to look any further into Second Life.

For further information (and just the tip of the iceberg really) take a look at the sites below:

  • Please check out the website The Unmutual which is a fantastic resource of all things The Prisoner, from cast and crew information, news, locations and the Prisoner London tour.

 

  • Patrick McGoohans IMDB page here!

 

There are also numerous other websites, information, and video clips to be found on the interweb.

Final thoughts

The Prisoner is one of my most favourite sci-fi shows right alongside Farscape, Stargate and Red Dwarf. The Prisoner, Number 6 and the Village were, and still are a fascinating concept. Watching, listening and reading McGoohan’s thoughts on the show reveal even he didn’t know how it was going to end, with the final episode “Fall Out” literally a mystery right up to the day of writing it, the mystery was only solved, albeit in a very unusual way, when he wrote it.

Some of my favourite episodes include:

 A, B and C (Episode 3) - A desperate Number Two tampers with Number Six’s dreams to discover where his loyalties lie.

Checkmate (Episode 9) - Number Six thinks he has a means to tell the prisoners from the warders, and assembles a group for an escape attempt.

Fall Out (Episode 17) - Number Six finally discovers the answers to the questions he has been asking, what follows is a bizarre but satisfying end to the series in my opinion, but apparently not too popular back in 1968.

The new series starring Jim Caviezel as Number Six (or just “Six” in this series) follows a similar storyline and scenario to the original. Being a die-hard fan of McGoohan it was hard to get into the new series but I still highly enjoyed it and it wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. Caviezel can’t pull off angry and paranoid as well as his predecessor but there were enough homages to the original and McGoohan references and style to keep me interested, right down to the banging of a fist on a desk and spilling tea. 

Hope you enjoyed reading this as much as i enjoyed researching it!

Be seeing you.

Mid Week Mini: Frank Welker

April 15, 2010

Frank Welker

Born: 12 March 1946, Denver, Colorado, USA

Job: Voice Actor

I have the utmost respect for voice artists, who  are the talented individuals who we never really seem to hear much about (ironically), and don’t seem to be as recognised in the public eye as on-screen actors, even though they bring as much talent, hard work and entertainment to our screens, if not that little bit more.  

There are many talents in the voice acting world, but none have left me as impressed and star struck as Frank Welker. This mid week mini is a dedication to a veteran actor, who specialises in voice acting and who is responsible for a broad spectrum of character voices and other vocal effects that have appeared over the last 40 years in film and television. Frank Welker’s resume is as impressive as his range of vocal talents and memorable character voices. Please check out Franks IMDB page to see the impressive list of over 600 projects he has been involved in.

I actually became fascinated by voice acting through Futurama, I realised some of the talent involved in this show actually voiced characters from cartoons going back to my childhood. After I discovered Maurice LaMarche (Kif Kroker, Morbo, Calculon) voiced Egon Spengler from The Real Ghostbusters I decided to look further. I found Frank Welker’s impressive career not only started back in the 1960’s but quickly realised he practically voiced all my favourite cartoon characters from my childhood. Amongst others he voiced Ray Stantz and Slimer from The Real Ghostbusters as well as Nibbler from Futurama. Frank Welker lends his talents to more distinct voice acting including animal and creature vocals as well as speaking roles.

Frank Welker’s most recurring role is as the voice of Fred from Scooby-Doo. According to the ‘interweb’ (take it or leave it) he has done every voicing of Freddy “Fred” Jones for all of the Scooby-Doo series with the sole exception of “A Pup Named Scooby-Doo” (1988). Even in parodies and cameos on different TV shows (such as Family Guy) he has always done this voice and has played the character since 1969.

Another character I instantly recognised was that of Megatron in Transformers (1984). Recent speculation as to why Welker didn’t return to the role alongside Peter Cullen in the Transformers Movie was strange news indeed but at least he reprised his role for the Transformers video game, you can check out a small clip of Peter Cullen (Optimus Prime) and Frank Welker (Megatron) working together again below.

Characters such as Nibbler (non-speaking and speaking) and Slimer, who don’t really talk but speak through different noises and sounds all have a similar Welker sound to them, each one reminds me of the other in some way. I love the way he can change from a character such as Ray to Slimer instantly and you’d think it was two different actors. Looking at IMDB Frank is often cast in animated productions as the “voice” of various animal or creature characters or listed as “additional vocal effects”. Other famous “non-speaking” roles include the voice of the monkey Abu from Aladdin (1992), its sequels and the TV series adaptation as well as Dungeons and Dragons (1983 – 1985) as Tiamat the dragon and Uni, two very different characters of good and evil in the same show.

The character I remember most fondly is Dr. Raymond Stantz from The Real Ghostbusters cartoon series (1986-1991) as well as a few episodes of Extreme Ghostbusters (1997). I think he brought great character to Ray and it was great to see the interaction between him and Slimer. Slimer’s voice is what also made me realise his work in other cartoon series.

Animal vocals you might also recognise include Santas Little Helper (The Simpsons), Dino (The Flintstones), Furrball, Gogo Dodo (Tiny Toon Adventures). These are just a few of the ones I’ve recognised, more so since I became aware of Frank’s distinct talents and style. I could probably go on but these particular projects I have grown up with and love to re-watch when the mood takes me, I love listening out for all the parts played by Frank Welker as well as keeping up to date with other voice artists and finding out what they have been in.

As well as the IMDB page please visit this webpage on Frank Welker it is a goldmine of information and has its own interesting information, vids, downloads and links.

One of the clips from the website is from a Rolf’s Cartoon Club Special on The Real Ghostbusters cartoon, this clip includes a reading session with Maurice LeMarche (Egon) and Frank Welker (Ray and Slimer)

Making of Clip “The Real Ghostbusters”

More Ghostbusters info can be found here at Spook Central!

More recently Frank has been involved in Alice in Wonderland (2010) as additional vocal effects and Toy Story 3 (2010) as the character RC. I always look forward to listening out for Frank Welker in the latest movies and cartoons and when I discover something new or related to cartoons I watched during my childhood it brings back some great memories.


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