CAST & CREW INTERVIEWS
ALEXIS KANNER - THE KID (HARMONY), 48 (FALL OUT), PHOTOGRAPHER (GIRL)
Adapted from a 1984 article by Arabella McIntyre Brown, with her kind permission.
"Thanks for the trip..."
by Arabella McIntyre Brown
This evening I put
the video tape of Living in Harmony on and sat back to watch once more. The
difference this time was that I was watching not so much the happenings on screen,
but those off the screen. Watching the tape with me, and seeing the episode
for the first time in many years, was Alexis Kanner, a.k.a. The Kid, No.8, No.48.
Occasionally a smile would appear, an eyebrow would be raised, a sharp "Hah!" or, softly, "strange. .. ". Now and then he would echo a line of dialogue, or make a pithy remark about one of the characters on screen. Kanner is never still for more than a few moments at a time. He would sit cross-legged on the floor, shoulders hunched, only inches from the screen, watching intently, then stretch out, move back, and shift again. It was curious to look at the screen and watch the psychotic Kid of 1967, then look to the right to see the actor of 1984 engrossed in a world of seventeen years ago.
After Harmony in quick succession on the television came Kanner's very brief appearance in The Girl who was Death, then Fall Out; then some three hours of stories, memories, thoughts, opinions and speculation. The following are extracts from the tapes ...
"It's strange to hear the Kid talk at all. And then to hear him talk with a British accent ... Harmony was Dave's (Tomblin) idea - I think he always wanted to do a western, and it seemed to be a wonderful way to get out of the Village in a way, without leaving the Village. Also it gave the series a chance to explore the parable from another point of view - it's the same ongoing, eternal parable. Same guy who wants to quit, doesn't want to be briefed, armed, didn't want to submit to violence and exploitation of the baser elements in people, and the weaker ingredients in society. The people who cause the plot to revolve in Harmony are either a broken-down saloon girl, or a psychopathic kid with no known lineage of any kind - I mean, those are old Apache trousers found off some old Indian, and a top hat stolen from somebody else, guns from somebody else. All the people who make the plot move are like flotsam and jetsam on the sea of life - they're not really rooted. The rooted ones are either neutral townsfolk who will do nothing, as a kind of middle-class position, or the power-hungry and corrupt, as in the judge, or indeed the manipulator back in the Village.
It's a very good parable, and it also incorporates every bit of every Western you ever saw - the short, hard road to make the guy put on the gun; the short, hard road to the show-down. The only thing is that it would not have worked as a western if it hadn't had the end as it was, because the point at which it really becomes doubly ironic, and doubly satisfying, is only because the judge shoots him into the present time, and in the present, history repeats itself. If it had ended right there, with maybe another outcome with him shooting the Judge, or any other variations on the plot, it would of course have been just a third-rate and hum-drum western which would not have taken on an epical proportions - not a parable, just a tacky western. But of course, they could only afford to do that, knowing that it would be bracketed by the contemporary re-playing of the same events like mirror images, so that by refracting off each other, they would lend each other some greater credence. As a brainwashing item of drama, it works quite well, and as a western it works quite well, yet if you separated the two, neither would work.
No.8... I didn't realise I had that high a rank. I always thought of myself as No.48. The death of the girl, and the death of No.8 is just a confusion of the hallucinations and the realities. It's interesting that you find it acceptable, you find it real. It seemed to me to be real - when he said "Cathy. .. " there was something odd about that right away, and you accepted that he went bananas. It also helped that he was screaming and not her. The shot of the Kid leaning back against the wall, having just killed Cathy ... they had to trim the head off the shot so that you didn't see the Kid with his hands round her neck, because I suspect that what I was probably doing was either strangling her and kissing her at the same time - or kissing what was left of her - or something. But there was something frankly sexual about the end of that. The Kid looked to me now as though he was sort of released - there's something very sick about that, and that nature of killing.
Patrick's way of handling objects - props - which is very persuasive, and very articulate and very sharp and precise and very graceful. The way he flips off the transmission switch at the beginning of Kings and Desperate Men when he and the judge are leaving - and the way he ties the gun on in Living in Harmony. The way he flips the coin down to pay for the drink.... When he's given an object - when it's put in his hand, he does something with it. He doesn't really adopt it. It becomes something to wrestle with - he takes- a stance with it.
Was there anything of the Kid inside myself... ? When you play a part you search for ways to make it real, and the only ways that you find that are successful are by transmuting yourself somehow into that person. So that small things like putting on your hat become something else. In the case of the Kid they become some kind of restoration of his dignity, and the fact that his dignity is all wrapped up in this apparel that he's got on, is pathetic, and therefore dangerous. Now I wouldn't put on a hat like that, but on the other hand, it was my feeling that made me put the hat on that way, so I suppose in some dark corner of one's heart, if that is all one had in life - those two guns, and a pair of stolen Indian buckskin trousers and a top hat, and no other form of status, and not much in the way of basic IQ, you can see how you can be reduced to that. Caliban was like that. Caliban was an extreme form of that. Caliban - although he has some of the best lines in Shakespeare - he's an animal. A pretty low form of life. So's the Kid.
The Girl who was Death ...I wasn't supposed to be in that. Why was I around? It was in the way of having a day trip to the seaside ... no, actually, Dave (Tomblin) was a little lonely, and a little short of energy at the time, and I think he wanted his mate to come down and provide more fun. I wasn't going to do anything in it, I was just going to hang around with him down there, that's all. It was obviously an emergency. . .I had on what I had on when I went down, and I nicked bits off the stills photographer, and anything that could be found, borrowed a hat, and I think I used shoe polish, black shoe polish on my hair. The theory was that no-one would really be able to recognise me ... and sure, the dialogue was mine. There was this very rough guy called Roy - he was the guy who was driving me up to the studio every day (you're not allowed to drive yourself for insurance reasons), and he was a real East Ender. I'd gotten to know him, and he was always swearing and cursing under his breath at other drivers on the road, and that dialogue was just a compilation of all the threats that I heard come out of his mouth. .. "Here, what's your game, Sherlock Holmes? I'll spread your nose all over your face. I'll run you up and down this fairground. You'll never pick up your teeth with a broken arm. I'll tear off your leg and beat you over the head with it. .. "
Fall Out - ah, that carbon dioxide! ... my, that was cold. That's genuine snow on my face ... The chase ... he made me do that - what, 150 times? Oh, man, that carbon dioxide ... Fall Out took a long time. Television is supposed to be done in ten days - even really high-class shows. It seemed to me that it took forever. The set took up two entire sound stages - some of these techniques had never been used before.
That lorry - the caged lorry in Fall Out was fully equipped. We had a table with brandies, cognacs - a real celebratory van. The Rolls Bentley was Pat's - I'm sorry he doesn't have it any more. It was an absolutely beautiful car.
Pat's state of mind by that stage was exactly the way it is when he tries to make that speech in Fall Out - as you see him when he hits the gavel, and you see the look in his eyes. That's pretty much how he was then. The kind of rising edge ... everybody was like that then.
The location footage for Fall Out was shot right at the end. Boy - we were really happy to be in that van, with the cigar and the tea-tray, just dancing around away from the set, out in the fresh air. We were really happy. I mean, Leo and I were dancing - we were really happy. The out-takes of Fall Out would make a full-length motion picture. Amazing footage. There were enormous numbers of takes, but there were so many new angles and so many new ideas, chunks of script. You could stretch his walk into the cavern, through the strange area with the dummies - you could stretch that walk out for five minutes and not repeat youself if you had all the out-takes.
Pat is obsessed with the relationship - or the lack of relationship - between the enormous advances in technology and the short advances in humanity, as any reasonable and thinking person would be today. The fact is that our modern technological capacity has temporarily outrun our evolution as people, as a civilisation. So we suddenly have all these dangerous toys, in the hands of all these people who are not grown up enough to be handling them. That's been true, I guess since 1945. That's the era we live in, and the cloud under which we act out our lives. I think Pat is very conscious of that all the time. Much of the material Pat writes - ideas for screenplays, ideas we discuss for pictures - find themselves in Victorian settings, even though they are contemporary stories. He still believes in the niceties of life from another period. I remember him, only a few weeks ago, telling me on the 'phone with great delight of his new discovery - a place that actually serves afternoon tea in Westwood, Los Angeles. This was the big highlight of the week ...
George Markstein - if he had continued on the series, it would not have evolved the way it did. It would have been another ordinary television series. If you spent five minutes in the company of George Markstein, and five minutes in the company of Patrick McGoohan, you would be in no doubt as to whose personality you are watching when you watch The Prisoner. We didn't run just now what I recall as being the best piece of drama in the series - that is good enough to work as a stage play - the two-hander with Leo (Once Upon a Time). That kind of acting is where it's at. I mean, you really have to have utter commitment to get that quality of work on the screen. Not involvement, but commitment. I have a good analogy on the difference between involvement and commitment - ham and eggs - in which the hen is involved, but the pig is committed ...
You know, I'm really surprised just watching The Prisoner now with you at how good it is. I thought I'd be really embarrassed but it's good. It's very moving. I mean, when they get out of that place in the end you really have an extraordinary sense of real exhilirating freedom - humanity. I think the series stands up beautifully. It's got so much more calibre in the photography, editing, in the writing, the acting - it's just a class act. There's so much love and attention to detail, and such a high standard.
What am I doing next? I don't know. I really don't know what I'm supposed to be doing. But I know I'm late…”
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