THE UNMUTUAL WEBSITE
PRISONER FAN FILMS - A COMPLETE GUIDE & REVIEWS
By The Village Observer
This page of The Unmutual Website is a complete guide to the films and videos made by Prisoner Fans over the last 25 years. Please note that these are not professionally produced Prisoner spoofs (such as The Simpson's episode "The Computer Wore Menace Shoes" - a guide to broadcast Prisoner spoofs will appear at The Unmutual Website soon). This guide also does not include Prisoner Documentaries. It is a guide to Drama and Comedy films made by Prisoner fans, and is split up into sections according to the producers.
Guide to review ratings: *****Excellent/unmissable. ****Very good effort. ***Perfectly watchable. **Don't bother. *An embarrassment to Prisoner fandom.
OF ONE PRISONER SOCIETY:
"BY PUBLIC DEMAND" (1979)
The first known Prisoner fan film - an hour long drama based on the series. The plot is centred around a group of Village rebels who wear outfits based on playing-cards. A little too pretentious for its own good, and confusing in the extreme. A couple of nice performances, but also some terribly wooden ones. Sound and editing poor. However, one must put it into context of the time in which it was made (and the limited equipment available) - and it's nice to see the pre-fire Portmeirion Hotel interior. Perhaps it is best left in 1979, however, as the experience of viewing the film is ultimately an uncomfortable one.
A 5-minute short film, produced and directed by Grahem Currie, filmed purely as an opener to that year's Convention, with Dave Barrie turning into Superman to enable him to get from Worcestor to Portmeirion in time. Some very funny moments and very well shot. Blink and you'll miss it, but worth including in this list because of its quality.
PRISONBEAR - REVIVAL" (2006)
Based on the "Toy Movie" segments of the 1990s Channel 4 series "The Adam and Joe Show", "The Prisonerbear - Revival" is a 12-minute spoof of the opening episode of the series, "Arrival" using Teddy bears and toys in the lead roles. Superb production and puppetry, alongside an incredibly witty script, make this arguably the finest fan-film ever made to be based on the series. It also remains wonderfully true to the original, whilst also providing countless laughs along the way. Worth a mention also are the countless "hard to spot" background references, and the tremendously well-produced props (such as the "model village" map and "Bally Hoo" newspaper). Simply wonderful. The finished film is available to view online HERE.
PRISONBEAR II - STALEMATE" (2006)
A follow-up to the above-reviewed short film, and this one too doesn't fail to disappoint. Turning his attention to several Prisoner episodes this time, this second effort is somewhat darker than the first, leading to a slightly smaller "laugh count" than "revival". Nevertheless, there are still enough moments of hilarity (and some returning catchphrases and welcome re-appearances such as the delicious-sounding Village Announcer) too to keep one in good spirits, and the production efforts are again second-to-none, with the helicopter escape sequence and control room particularly superb. Paul's vocal range for a variety of comedy voices are also worthy of mention, as are the fantastic sets and model work on view. Can't wait for the next one! The finished film is available to view online HERE.
"VILLAGE DAY" (1998)
Easily the most ambitious project ever attempted by Prisoner fans - a full-length feature film based on the series, with David Stimpson (best known for his re-enactments at 1990s Conventions) starring, Directing and Producing. The kindest word I can find to describe the film is embarrassing. The plot idea is fine when viewed in isolation (a colleague of Number Six, searching for him, gets abducted also) but the execution is appalling. The acting (Erica Whittle's maid and Nigel Kitcher's Corpse aside), not to mention the stunts, are laughable in the extreme. Many scenes go on for far too long, with little editing and appropriate direction - if one cuts out the padding you're left with 15 minutes of the 90. The sound quality isn't much better, with many scenes inexplicably filmed in zoomed long-shot with no additional mic. The original music is Prisoneresque and is the film's only plus point. A great shame as the enthusiasm that went into the project is unrivalled.
TR7 PRODUCTIONS/STEVEN RICKS
In latter years, Steven Ricks became famous for his tireless documentary making regarding The Prisoner, unearthing incredible information about the series. His early forays into Prisoner film-making, however, were more light-hearted.
PENNY FARTHING MYSTERY" (1987)
Perhaps one of the most ambitious, and also most enjoyable, Prisoner projects ever attempted. A 30-minute animated puppet version of The Prisoner, based on the Tony Reeve "P-Nuts" comic strips of the 1980s. Ricks and his team display incredible talents with regards to film-making in what must be a terribly difficult format to pull off. There are some genuinely hilarious sequences (instead of a Hearse in the opening sequence, insert Postman Pat and you get the idea) with the central theme (based on the episode "A, B and C") of The Village trying to find out what the central character, Paddy McGoolash, would have done had he not resigned from his last TV series, "Blunderman". Superb.
IN WONDERLAND" (1988)
A sequel to the above effort. Whilst the filming techniques have improved further, with some very clever shooting and puppetry on show, the film suffers perhaps from being a little too clever, and its running time of 50-minutes means it drags a little. Based on "Alice in Wonderland" this film is more clever than amusing, and whilst employing Stanley Unwin to provide some character voiceovers was a masterstroke, the film is ultimately a disappointment compared to the original.
Live action drama this time for Steven Ricks and co. A nice idea - the main plot being that a Village Guardian is made a Prisoner. As one would expect from TR7, the filmmaking is excellent but this film suffers where most fan-films do in that, whilst talented film makers, Ricks and co are not professional actors and, as such, the film suffers. Possibly the best fan-made live-action Prisoner-based drama made, but then the competition, as you'll see, isn't up to much.
MATHEW LOCK/UNNORMAL PRODUCTIONS:
PADDY FITZ AFFAIR" (1989)
Max Hora - murdered during a Six of One Convention. But who is the mysterious balaclava'd man? Has the feel of a typical fan film but at only 15-minutes in length doesn't suffer from being too long for its own good. A few problems with the sound dubbing but quite well acted and shot in a way that keeps you watching. Good use of Convention footage intercut with the scripted sequences. The music reminded me of Davison-era Doctor Who, which can only be a good thing.
A typically surreal offering from Lock - Cardigan Bay's 2 finest detectives (played by Leon Finch and Geoff Lake) search for Max Hora's missing cat. Some nice film-making techniques employed, a nice idea, and a couple of amusing moments, do not, sadly, make up for the fact that it goes on a little too long, and the acting is only a little better than that which you'd find in a school nativity play.
Intended to follow "Fall Out", with The Village being de-commissioned, this effort from Mathew is an interesting mix of stills photography and sound. Oddly, it works. The photography and sound are both of a very high quality throughout and the dialogue is at times gripping, and Prisoneresque. The music is also top-notch. The only down side is my mind's own tendency to wander when watching slide shows, and i'm not sure about Number Six's voice, but this shouldn't take anything away from a very decent, and brave, 12-minute film of high quality.
6 FROM OUT OF THE VILLAGE" (1996)
A spoof genuinely of the highest order, filmed in the style of a 1950s sci-fi B-movie with added (intentionally) poor special effects, scratchy film and ham acting. Mathew really grasps the genre well throughout - with even the films flyers and trailers done in the same style. However, it does suffer a little from being a "one-joke" movie, whereby the idea of the film itself is funny but the novelty soon wears off. After a while it becomes difficult to watch (as with B-Movies themselves, I guess) but is a very well-executed piece of work. Well worth watching.
Consisting of Mitch Benn (now a famous comedian in his own right), James Roberts, Jamie Riley, Simon Threadgill, Paul Collings, Richard Baker, Graham Currie, Roy Fishwick and Janet Fishwick.
NOT FOR GOD'S SAKE" (1986)
Their first foray into Prisoner spoofdom. A 50-minute amusing take on The Prisoner. Despite their (then) youth, the team show a remarkable eye for film-making and precision. However, the film suffers from being their first (one-off features are not the best format for their comedic talents) and after a while it drags on a little.
MAN SHOW" (1986)
A tried and trusted format of dubbing apt music, or comedy sketches, over the top of Prisoner footage. Some predictable sequences, but the "Not the Nine O Clock News" dubs are very amusing.
MAN SHOW ONE" (1987)
Another 15-minute effort matching the same format as the previous year's effort. More of the same, with some amusing sequences. Benefits from not being too long.
REALLY NOGGER PICTURE SHOW" (1987)
The first truly funny fan-film. A selection of filmed sketches lampooning the series and Six of One ("Really Nogger" is an anagram of Roger Langley). Although there are heavy doses of Python and "Not the Nine O Clock News", if you're going to rip off anything it's best to choose the best comedy examples to draw inspiration from. It is a truly funny effort. Some of the writing is superb, and coupled with some excellent performances (particularly by Benn) and the sheer likeability of the performers makes this one not to miss. The highlights are the "Dead Rover" sketch and "Prisoner Points of View".
II - SON OF NOGGER" (1988)
A mixture of filmed sketches and live on stage material from the 1988 Prisoner Convention and a true "tour-de-force". There is not a poor sketch amongst the 50 laugh-filled minutes. Again, much is borrowed from some familiar comedy material but their ability to transpose the sketches into Prisoner-related subjects is a joy to watch. Much of the material is based on Six of One, but there are still some wonderful Prisoner-related sketches with a Prisoner version of The Two Ronnies' "Mastermind" sketch and a near-perfect Prisoner take on the BBC series "The Duty Men" the highlights. Unmissable.
A 30-minute selection of sketches filmed in Portmeirion, made purely for the enjoyment of themselves and their friends, with Six of One coordinators bearing the brunt of their humour on this occasion. Not of interest unless you know the subjects. If you do, the "Oscar Wood" and "Howard The Duck" sequences will amuse.
Another collection of video sketches and live material similar to the previous 2 years offerings. Suffering a little from a lack of ideas, and missing the incomparable Mitch Benn, the formula is perhaps a little tired. However, a live ballet version of The Prisoner opening titles, and "Carry on Prisoner" are a nice reminder of the group's collective talent.
Aware that there is perhaps more milage in lampooning their friends and Six of One personnel rather than The Prisoner, the group ditch the video sketches to perform a live, and mostly improvised, show in one of the Portmeirion cottages. Very funny if you know the targets, dull if you don't - but then it wasn't filmed for the purposes of distributing amongst general fandom.
The same format as the above offering, but with another drop in personnel and no proper writing the fully-improvised amusements, whilst hilarious to the (slightly sozzled) cottage audience at the time, mean that subsequent viewing finds little of interest.
LONDON PRISONER GROUP:
Cashing in on the success of the previous years "Nogger Show" from the Liverpool Group, the London Group try their hand at Portmeirion and London-filmed Prisoner comedy sketches and don't disappoint. The "Randall and Hopkirk" spoof is highly amusing (with Nigel Kitcher superb in the lead role), as is the lampooning of Dave Lally's London Walkabout patter. Some sequences, such as "The Flashing Prisoner", however, don't work. At 15-minutes it's a nice romp and well worth watching.
BITCH TO EDIT" (1990)
Similar format to the above, but this time suffers from a lack of genuinely funny ideas. Nice opening sequence (based on "The Professionals") and the "Assault in Battery" sketch are the only worthwhile moments.
The opening episode of The Prisoner condensed into 10 minutes. Filmed in one take with no editing (employing simply a "stop/start" method of recording) mean the film is amateurish in the extreme, but that's the whole point and only adds to its bizarre charm. Some devilishly funny sequences, with Darren Stokes' Number Six, and Simon Wells' Welsh Taxi Driver being the highlights of this very, very funny short film.
Taking its inspiration from the above mentioned "Village Day", a short series of sketches written and performed by Nigel Kitcher, Sarah Jenkin and Erica Whittle. Barely a funny moment to be found - just a collection of high-pitched screaming and abominable acting/performance. Perhaps it wasn't meant for a wider audience? One can only hope so.
THE LEICESTER GROUP:
GET READY TO LAUGH" (1996)
I was ready, but the laughter never came. A series of filmed sketches which when they begin promise much (the "Bravefart" idea had promise but didn't deliver) but ultimately disappoint. Some of the "Fast Show" ideas are OK but, as with many of these films, perhaps suffer from not being made by professional comic writers.
THE SHREWSBURY GROUP:
OF THE DAMNED" (1995)
Based on the 1980s short-film "Le Prisoner Du Village", a live-action drama which finds the lead character (played by Geoff Lake) attending his first convention only to find Portmeirion deserted, other than some strangely-masked individuals. A nice idea and, to be fair, they make a decent effort of it but, as usual, the ham acting and poor editing let it down.
A 30-minute drama about a ridiculed fan. Prisoneresque rather than Prisoner-based. I only hope the film itself was an April fool as if it was serious, the mind boggles, although one can see some genuine creativity here and there.
PRISONER INSPIRED" (1988)
Yet another collection of Prisoner sequences over-dubbed with apt music, this time choosing the format of other TV series theme tunes, with M*A*S*H being the highlight. Perfectly watchable and amusing in places!
"THE PILLOCK" (1990)
9-minute comedy pastiche of the series. Nicely filmed opening sequence, and very nicely edited and put together piece overall, with some amusing gags (especially the Number 10 character), which are well performed by likeable performers. Especially good when you consider the short space of time it was filmed in.
OPINIONS IN THE VILLAGE" (1994)
35-minute comedy spoof filmed in Portmeirion which is a very difficult watch. As always, hats off to anyone willing to give these things a go, but other than the Bristolian accents causing an inappropriate chuckle ("Oi voted for namber foive"), it's not worth the bother. Nice idea and a few decent lines and good use of music do not make up for the general poorness of acting and delivery.
Do you know of a Prisoner fan film not mentioned on this list? If so, contact us and we'll try and include it. If you're thinking of making your own, a little piece of advice. If it isn't supposed to be funny, and you have no professional actors or technicians at your disposal, don't bother. :-)
With thanks to Mark Hevingham and Paul Wadsworth.
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