Tag Archives: forgotten television

THE PRISONER: CHECKMATE

Balladeer’s Blog continues its examination of the 1967 science fiction/ existential drama The Prisoner. For Part One, in which I examined the themes and concepts at play in the series click HERE 

CheckmateEpisode Title: CHECKMATE … In the ongoing debate about the exact numbering of the 17 episodes of The Prisoner I place this as the 4th in the series.

Peter Wyngarde portrays this episode’s Number Two, the rotating series of executive figures running the futuristic prison city called the Village. Balladeer’s Blog’s readers may remember him from my reviews of his shows Department S and Jason King. X-Men fans will recognize him as the obvious model used by Chris Claremont and John Byrne for Mastermind’s “Jason Wyngarde” persona in The Dark Phoenix Saga

Peter Wyngarde without moustacheThe episode begins with the Prisoner witnessing yet another sudden unleashing of “Rover” the bioelectrical synthetic creation which the Villagekeepers use to subdue outbreaks of disobedient behavior among the Villagers. As usual everyone freezes in their tracks, knowing Rover will attack anyone perceived as resisting.

For once, one of the residents shows no fear of Rover. An elderly man with a walking stick (George Coulouris from Citizen Kane) continues strolling along, ignoring Rover, who shows unprecedented deference to the man before moving on to subdue whichever Villager has raised the ire of the Villagekeepers.

Our protagonist is intrigued by this and follows the Man With A Walking Stick. The two share a casual conversation in which each man is wary of the other, given that nobody can ever be sure if a fellow Villager is secretly working for the conspirators behind the Village.

gettyimages-73691209Walking Stick Man invites McGoohan’s character to a game of chess he is heading to. The Prisoner goes along and finds that the game is played with human chess pieces in one of the least subtle of the program’s metaphors.

Walking Stick Man is one of the two “players” who sit above the game shouting their moves through bullhorns. The Villagers serving as chess pieces move accordingly. Continue reading

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THE PRISONER (1967): THE CHIMES OF BIG BEN

Balladeer’s Blog continues its examination of the science fiction/ existential drama The Prisoner. For Part One, in which I examined the themes and concepts at play in the series click HERE  

Chimes of Big BenEpisode Title: THE CHIMES OF BIG BEN. In the ongoing debate about the exact numbering of the 17 episodes of The Prisoner I place this as the 3rd in the series. Any comments that I have regarding the Alternate Chimes of Big Ben will be made in this same post.

Leo McKern makes the first of his three appearances as one of the Village’s rotating series of Number Twos. Despite his villainous role he gets the audience on his side right off the bat. He does that while watching the surveillance video of Number Six as he wakes up for the day and voices his observation that the Prisoner “Can make even the act of putting on a dressing gown seem like a gesture of defiance.”

Leo McKern as Number TwoLeo McKern’s character’s verbal fencing with Patrick McGoohan is as much fun to watch as Columbo’s cat and mouse games with the murderers on his show. (And yes, I know McGoohan was no stranger to Columbo, both the 1970s series and the later revival.)

The part where the Prisoner intentionally adds three lumps of sugar to his tea just because Number Two says his file reflects that he takes NO sugar is particularly enjoyable. It’s also one of those scenes that is not appreciated by people who don’t have a nonconformist bone in their body.   

McKern as Number Two also proves to be the most informative of those rotating Village executives. His attempts to persuade our protagonist to just tell the Villagekeepers why he resigned and then join their conspiracy go beyond just admitting that he, too, tried to resist when he was brought to the Village.

Prisoner and McKernLeo makes it clear that the Village represents the model for the Earth of the future as pursued by highly-placed elements from both sides of the Cold War. He paints a picture of inevitability for the Prisoner in hopes that he can make McGoohan cave in while retaining his sense of personal honor. If a Global “Village” is inevitable there’s no shame in surrendering to it. Continue reading

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THE TIMES’ SONG “I HELPED PATRICK MCGOOHAN ESCAPE”

Balladeer’s Blog’s Give Them A Shoutout Before They’re Dead strikes again with this tie-in to my ongoing examination of Patrick McGoohan’s science fiction/ existential drama The Prisoner. The video is quintessential 1980s cultural kitsch and was filmed at the Portmeirion Resort for Village authenticity. 

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THE PRISONER (1967): DANCE OF THE DEAD

Balladeer’s Blog continues its examination of the science fiction/ existential drama The Prisoner. For Part One, in which I examined the themes and concepts at play in the series click HERE 

Prisoner Dance of the DeadEpisode Title: DANCE OF THE DEAD

In the eternally-open debate about the exact order of the 17 episodes of The Prisoner I unashamedly hold with those who place Dance of the Dead as Episode Two. My main reason is the fact that the Prisoner himself and other characters bluntly state he is new to the Village.

Plus this episode features him betraying so much lack of awareness of the Villagekeepers’ Head Games and their placement of cameras everywhere that to me Dance of the Dead only makes sense coming immediately after the first episode, Arrival.

Mary Morris as Number TwoMary Morris as this episode’s Number Two is one of the most memorable Number Twos in the rotating series of those Village executives. As we all know Trevor Howard was originally slated for this episode but Morris is a more than welcome change.

The title is perfect for anyone with the Prisoner mindset. So-called “mainstream society”, including its bizarre rituals which so many willingly and mindlessly play along with, truly is a Dance of the Dead. Today Facebook and Twitter and social media in general take the whole concept beyond the point of parody.  

To me part of the argument for placing Dance of the Dead as Episode Two comes from the way it embodies the television industry problem called Second Episode Blues in which a strong opening episode is often followed by one that is a bit aimless compared to that debut.

Dance of the Dead‘s storyline – fragmented though it may seem – features a nice selection of elements that show up in various combinations in nearly every subsequent Prisoner episode: 

“THIS MAN HAS A FUTURE WITH US” – On the literal level it IS true that a talented former Intelligence Agent like Number Six could be an asset to the conspirators behind the Village.

On the allegorical level, the leadership in even the most conformist and oppressive societies stays on the lookout for capable recruits. It’s often the most efficient way of co-opting individuals whose abilities might otherwise lead them to establish rebellions. The Powers That Be can even dangle the carrot of certain privileges not enjoyed by the rest of the population as an added incentive for talented individuals, enticing them to sell out and come over to the side of the ruling class.     Continue reading

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FRIDAY THE 13th PART 3D (1982): ON THE TEXAS TWENTY-SEVEN FILM VAULT

Friday the 13th Part 3DBefore MST3K there was … The Texas 27 Film Vault! In the middle 1980s, way down on Level 31 Randy Clower and Richard Malmos, machine-gun toting Film Vault Technicians First Class hosted this neglected cult show. 

ORIGINAL BROADCAST DATE: Saturday February 14th, 1987 from 10:30pm to 1:00am. 

SERIAL: None. The movie, Film Vault Corps comedy sketches and commercials filled up the entire two and a half hours this time.

FILM VAULT LORE: This episode marked the second time The Texas 27 Film Vault came with a warning about violent content. It was also at least the second time they riffed on a movie that was originally in 3-D. Randy and Richard did various jokes about wearing 3-D glasses and 3-D effects coming out of the screen at them as they watched the movie.

Randy and Richard firing their machine guns at giant rats, cellumites and other subterranean creatures.

Randy and Richard firing their machine guns on the T27FV 3D poster.

When you throw in the previous year’s “Mock 3D” interview with Ben Johnson and the 1987 release of The Texas 27 Film Vault‘s official 3-D poster you could say Randy, Richard, Ken “Tex” Miller, Joe Riley and Laurie Savino had a definite fondness for taking shots at the whole 3-D concept.  

 FOR A LOOK AT THE 3-D TEXAS 27 FILM VAULT POSTER (courtesy of Randy Clower) –https://glitternight.com/2013/03/18/movie-hosts-the-texas-27-film-vault-poster/  

THE MOVIE:

Friday the 13th Part 3-D was the most notoriously lame sequel in the Friday the 13th film series during the 1980s. Not only was it part of the laughable 1980s attempt to revive the 3-D craze of the 1950s but it’s also infamous for its DISCO VERSION of the iconic Friday the 13th theme. However it’s essential viewing for horror fans because it was the first time Jason Voorhees put on the hockey mask that is so closely associated with the character.    Continue reading

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IT! THE TERROR FROM BEYOND SPACE (1958) ON THE TEXAS TWENTY-SEVEN FILM VAULT

It! The Terror From Beyond Space

It! The Terror From Beyond Space

IN THE MIDDLE 1980s/ WAY DOWN ON LEVEL 31 …

Before MST3K there was The Texas 27 Film Vault! Balladeer’s Blog continues its examination of this neglected cult show from the 1980s. Randy Clower and Richard Malmos, our machine-gun toting members of the Film Vault Corps (“the few, the proud, the sarcastic”) do their usual bit of showing and mocking an old serial then showing and mocking a bad movie.

Thanks to my interview with Randy Clower, the show’s co-creator and co-star and thanks to my research through VERY old newspapers plus emailed memories from other T27FV fans I’m taking a look at another episode of the show where an exact broadcast date can be determined.

ORIGINALLY BROADCAST: Saturday July 12th, 1986 from 10:30pm to 1:00am.

Atom Man vs SupermanSERIAL: Before the night’s movie Randy and Richard would often present old serials. In this episode of the show our “Film Vault Technicians First Class” showed an episode of the 1950 Columbia serial Atom Man vs Superman to be mockedKirk Alyn starred as Superman with Lyle Talbot as his archenemy Lex Luthor. Lex has his own secret identity in this serial – each episode he dons a lead mask and oversees the villainy as “Atom Man”.

This was one of the liveliest and most campily watchable serials of the 50s. Especially laughable are the bits when Superman “flies” – an effect achieved by switching from live footage of Kirk Alyn to INSERTED CARTOON FOOTAGE of Superman flying. Think of the ‘Toons in Roger Rabbit interacting with the live backgrounds and you have the idea.   

FILM VAULT LORE: This episode of The Texas 27 Film Vault was the first to come with a Viewer Discretion warning. Gore effects fans (And what T27FV fan WASN’T a gore effects fan?) were in Nirvana this night as Film Vault Corps member Joe “The Hypnotic Eye” Riley was given full reign for some of his most graphic effects work during the comedy sketches or Host Segments if you prefer. 

Howling!

Howling!

Direct from the Film Vault Corps Academy in Leadville, Colorado, the Academy’s Little Theater Group was touring Film Vaults across the country. Tonight they were performing on Level 31 of the Film Vault underneath Dallas, where the show was set. The Little Theater Group was reenacting scenes from famous alien monster movies and since It! The Terror From Beyond Space was a partial inspiration for the original Alien, the chest-burster scene was reenacted in darkly comic glory! (As if the chow in the Film Vault Commissary wasn’t unappetizing enough already!)

THE MOVIE: It! The Terror From Beyond Space is one of the consummate low-budget schlockers of the 1950s. It embodies the “so bad it’s good” aesthetic that so many Movie Host shows have always reveled in. In the far-off year 1973 (LMAO) a very fake-looking space-ship on an even more fake-looking matte-painting of a Martian landscape has come to rescue the sole survivor of the previous mission to the Red Planet. (So far it sounds almost like Queen of Blood, shown on T27FV in May of 1986 and reviewed previously) Continue reading

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THE NEW MONKEES (1987): FORGOTTEN TELEVISION

New MonkeesThe New Monkees are remembered as the most pointless re-launch of a band in history AND as one of the worst television shows in history. I’ve never listened to their one and only album so I can’t say if they make it a Hat Trick with one of the worst albums in history, too. 

The premise sounds like a comedy sketch from the glory days of SCTV but unfortunately this thoroughly bizarre attempt to recapture the flukish charm of the original Monkees was 100% real.

Here’s the debut episode of The New Monkees‘ 13 episode run in 1987. Everything you’ve heard is true: We get Rocky Horror Picture Show lips voiced by a black lady, a weird sci-fi mansion home for the title foursome, a built-in diner and their annoying butler, Manford.

The laugh track does NOT go off during the few things that seemed funny, like a couple of apparently ad-libbed jokes by the New Monkees during their screen test footage, but instead goes off during lame, obvious jokes that not even small children would laugh at. Continue reading

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