THE PROJECTION ROOM (The Prisoner Compared...)


By Sam Denham

Were any other Prisoner fans lucky enough to catch a movie called "Seven Thunders" screened in recent years? If they did, I'm sure they'd have noticed it had uncanny Prisoner similarities - to me it seemed like a real missing link in the chain of influences on the show. Set in occupied France, during World War II, it follows two British officers attempts to escape the superficially tolerant German controlled port of Marseilles. When their promised safe passage fails to materialise, they fall into the hands of a seemingly helpful doctor who turns out to be a callous murderer. Atmospherically set in the twisting alleys and tenements of the city's run-down old quarter, the combination of Mediterranean architectural styles, and unpredictable cosmopolitan characters trapped in a self-contained world exactly echoed the essence of the Village, while the two war prisoners desire to escape their deceptively congenial surroundings couldn't have been closer to Number 6's experience of incarceration.

Adding to the sensation that you might be watching a seamier and seedier missing episode of the series - or at times that The Prisoner might be a colour remake of this 1957 film - was the cast, which included several key players from the series, all but one in roles foreshadowing their Prisoner appearances. George Coulouris and Martin Miller both appear as trapped victims of the scheming Number 2 style murderer, played - shades of Leo McKern - by James Robertson Justice, while Rosalie Crutchley plays a doting, put-upon mouse consigned to a loveless relationship, and Katherine Kath appears as the gregarious Madam of a bordello (a hostess, if not a society hostess). Only Denis Shaw, as a German soldier, is out of Prisoner character. Features of the plot also included seemingly innocent drugged drinks, an escape, Many Happy Returns style, through adjoining cupboards, and a cataclysmic final bid for freedom as mass evacuation is followed by chaos and destruction.

As a bonus link, the Danger Man episode The Journey Ends Halfway, which includes footage shot at Portmeirion, directly lifts the film's character of the refugee robbing and murdering doctor. Although like me, they might miss the point of the title, I'm sure anyone who loves The Prisoner would appreciate this seemingly forgotten movie.

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