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A view on Blu-ray by Gary W. Tooze

 

 

The Prisoner (UK 6-disc Complete Series vs. US 5-disc Complete Series) [Blu-ray]

 

(Patrick McGoohan, David Tomblin, Robert Asher, Don Chaffey etc., 1967)

 

 

 

   

             

 

Comparison by Gary Tooze

 

Production:

Broadcast: Incorporated Television Company (ITC)

Video: Network (UK) vs. A & E Home Video (US)

 

Disc:

Region: UK is 'B'-locked and US is region 'A'-locked (as verified by the Momitsu region FREE Blu-ray player)

Average Episode Runtime: 0:50:19.000  X 17 (approx. 850 mins + extras)

Disc one Size: 43,429,255,960 bytes / A&E: 43,431,603,948 bytes

Episode One Size: 8,419,651,584 bytes / A&E: 8,419,651,584

Video Bitrate: 20.00 Mbps / 20.00 Mbps

Chapters: 10

Case: Custom Package (see images below)

Release date: September 28th, 2009 / October 27th, 2009

 

Video (same for both):

Aspect ratio: 1.33:1 matted to 1.78

Resolution: 1080p / 23.976 fps

Video codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video

 

Episodes:

 

 

Audio:

Dolby Digital Audio English 448 kbps 5.1 / 48 kHz / 448 kbps
Dolby Digital Audio English 256 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 256 kbps
Commentaries: Dolby Digital Audio English 256 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 256 kbps

 

Dolby Digital Audio English 448 kbps 5.1 / 48 kHz / 448 kbps
Dolby Digital Audio English 256 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 256 kbps
Commentaries: Dolby Digital Audio English 256 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 256 kbps

 

Subtitles:

English, none

 

Extras:

Network:

• 290-page Book: The Prisoner - A Complete Production guide by Andrew Pixley

"Don't Knock Yourself Out" (1:34:54) this exclusive, feature-length documentary is the definitive look at the production of THE PRISONER, told by those involved in its creation. It includes a combination of archive and newly-filmed interviews with 40 people, including Amette Andre, Bernard Williams, David Tomblin, Derren Nesbitt, Peter Wyngarde, Anton Rodgers, Michael Grade, George Baker and Peter Bowles.

7 Commentaries -  Arrival (Bernie Williams + Tony Sloman), The General (director Peter Graham Scott), The Schizoid Man (Pat Jackson), The Chimes of Big Ben (Vincent Tilsley), A Change of Mind (Roger Parkes), Dance of the Dead (Bernie Williams, Tony Sloman + John S. Smith) and Fall Out (Eric Mival + Noreen Ackland)

Newly restored original edit of ‘Arrival’ with an optional music-only soundtrack featuring Wilfred Josephs’ complete and abandoned score
• Newly created 5.1 audio soundtracks for each show, plus the original mono soundtrack
• Trailers for all episodes
• Archive textless material, including the title sequence with clean themes by Ron Grainer, Wilfred Josephs and Robert Farnon
• Commercial Break Bumpers
• Behind-the-scenes footage, including much previously unseen
• Script and Production Documentation PDFs
• Image Galleries with Music Suites on each of the first 4 discs

 

A&E Region 'A'-locked Blu-ray

"Don't Knock Yourself Out": this exclusive, feature-length documentary is the definitive look at the production of THE PRISONER, told by those involved in its creation. It includes a combination of archive and newly-filmed interviews with nearly 40 people, including Amette Andre, Bernard Williams, David Tomblin, Derren Nesbitt, Peter Wyngarde, Anton Rodgers, Michael Grade, George Baker and Peter Bowles. (1:34:48)
"The Pink Prisoner": Peter Wyngarde pays tribute to the series in this unique cross between an interview and comedy sketch (9:24)
"You Make Sure it Fits": music editor Eric Mival discusses his role behind the scenes in making 'The Prisoner' and provides a unique look at the Music Bible for the show (9:16)
Newly restored original edit of "Arrival" with an optional music-only soundtrack featuring Wilfred Josephs' complete and abandoned score
Original edit of the episode "The Chimes of Big Ben" (50:34)
Production crew audio commentaries on seven episodes
Image Archive: individual galleries of over 1,200 stills are featured throughout this set, including episodic shots, generic/PR Photos, coverage of the original press conference in 1967 and Jack Shampan's designs.
Archive material, including textless titles with clean themes by Ron Grainer, Wilfred Josephs, and Robert Farnon (3:06 each without effects), as well as material from Rover, Foreign 'Filing Cabinet' title footage (2:28 - mute) and the McGoohan photo montage from "Arrival" (slideshow - :49) .
Production Paperwork Archive: original scripts for each episode, along with other rarely-seen production documentation, press releases, call sheets and other memorabilia. This unique collection is sourced from the personal archives of Tony Sloman, Steven Ricks, and Simon Coward and is reproduced here with their permission and assistance. (84 PDF files of 605 MB)
Exposure strips gallery
Commercial break bumpers
Trailers for all episodes
Preview of AMC's 'The Prisoner' mini-series remake (:31)

 

Bitrate Disc 1:

Network - Region 'B'- Blu-ray TOP vs. A&E Home Video - Region 'A' - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 

 

 

Description: Though it ran for a mere 17 episodes, the sci-fi spy drama THE PRISONER is one of television's biggest cult hits. The brainchild of star Patrick McGoohan, the series followed the adventures of No. 6 (McGoohan), a former secret agent who is being held captive in a highly secured village, the location of which remains a mystery throughout the series. This groundbreaking and innovative show reached an unfortunate end as TV bosses got cold feet following low ratings and increasingly strange story lines. But McGoohan himself took control and steered the show to an ending that continues to cause great debate among THE PRISONER's faithful fans. This release includes the entire series of the show, digitally restored. Some fans think I should sell my car for a chance to own the iconic KAR 120C Lotus Seven Series II featured on the Network Package cover, but I'll leave that to the diehard fans of the show.

 

Network Package:

 

 

A & E Package:

 

 

Title:

 

 

The Series:

If a top-level spy decided he didn't want to be a spy anymore, could he just walk into HQ and hand in his resignation? With all that classified knowledge in his head, would he be allowed to become a civilian again, free to go about his life? The answer, according to the stylish, brilliantly conceived 1960s British TV series The Prisoner, is a resounding no. In fact, instead of receiving a gold watch for his years of faithful service, our hero (played by Patrick McGoohan) is followed home to his London flat and knocked unconscious. When he awakens, he finds himself in a picturesque village where everyone is known by a number. Where is it? Why was he brought here? And, most important, how does he leave?

 

 

As we learn in Episode 1, Number 6 can't leave. The Village's "citizens" might dress colorfully and stroll around its manicured gardens while a band plays bouncy Strauss marches, but the place is actually a prison. Surveillance is near total, and if all else fails, there's always the large, mysterious white ball that subdues potential escapees by temporarily smothering them. Who runs the Village? An ever-changing Number 2, who wants to know why Number 6 resigned. If he'd only cooperate, he's told, life can be made very pleasant. "I've resigned," he fumes. "I will not be pushed, filed, stamped, indexed, briefed, debriefed, or numbered. My life is my own." So sets the stage for the ultimate battle of wills: Number 6's struggle to retain his privacy, sanity, and individuality against the array of psychological and physical methods the Village uses to break him.

Excerpt from Steve Landau at Amazon located HERE

The Opening:


Image :    NOTE: The below Blu-ray captures were ripped directly from the Blu-ray disc.
 

The Prisoner was another of those 60's TV Series that was shot on 35mm and although I expected an HD transfer to look good - I didn't think it would look this... incredible. On Blu-ray it is pristinely sharp and detailed without a pixel out-of-place.  It really is quite flawless and we will assume the A+E set coming October 27th, 2009 will be the same transfer - stay tuned. At times this image from a TV series made over 40 years ago - looks just S-T-U-N-N-I-N-G. I often sat open-mouthed approaching disbelief that contrast and colors could be rendered so adeptly bringing out the sharpness to such a lofty level. I noticed a few very minor speckles but that is the fullest extent of any complaints I might have about these Blu-ray visuals. This 1080P transfer advances light years beyond the last DVD editions in several areas - most notably detail and colors. The expanded captures below can speak to disbelievers.

 

Our assumption was correct - the technical statistics bear out that these are essentially the exact same excellent transfers with each episode taking up about 8 Gig (ex. episode one takes up the e-x-a-c-t same disc space!). There may be some minor deviation (colors), but I haven't found anything dramatic yet. I suspect that there is no one, independent of the system it was played on, that could distinguish the difference between the Network and the A&E transfers. This is contrary to the DVD packages where Network won out handily. The A&E set has the series over 4 discs with a 5th dual-layered DVD of supplements. I matched the captures below as precisely as I could. In short there is no difference in image quality - both are magnificent.   

 

CLICK EACH BLU-RAY CAPTURE TO SEE ALL IMAGES IN FULL 1920X1080 RESOLUTION

 

Network - Region 'B'- Blu-ray TOP vs. A&E Home Video - Region 'A' - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 

 

Network - Region 'B'- Blu-ray TOP vs. A&E Home Video - Region 'A' - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 

 

Network - Region 'B'- Blu-ray TOP vs. A&E Home Video - Region 'A' - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 

 

Network - Region 'B'- Blu-ray TOP vs. A&E Home Video - Region 'A' - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 

 

More Network captures

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A & E Home Video Captures

 

 

 

 

 

Audio :

Network: The new 5.1 track has some keen moments with the deep crackling thunder clap as McGoohan pounds his fist on his superior's desk with his resignation delivered 'Private and Personal - By Hand' in the much viewed opening. It's a decent 5.1 separation but it's not lossless - limited without that level of depth and range. Too much effort in an audio mix can render it an uncomfortable marriage to an older transferred image BUT as this video is so strong it might have actually worked (ala Star Trek). Anyway - we'll never know - the DD 5.1 has some 'Village' crowd moments reaching the rears and dialogue is always crisp and audible but there are optional English subtitles for those who desire them. Thankfully, for purists, the original mono is included an option. My Momitsu has identified it as being a region 'B'-locked.

 

A&E: No difference at all in audio transfer either. Not PCM or lossless HD but clear and crisp enough standard 5.1. The original mono is included as an option - as are optional English subtitles and my Momitsu identifies it as Region 'A'-locked.

 

 

 

Extras :

It would be shorter to list what isn't included. Let's focus on the big stuff though - in the package is Andrew Pixley's 290-page book: The Prisoner - A Complete Production Guide. It's an exhaustive, in-depth look at the production of the 17 episodes which uncovers a wealth of information set into the context of the production run of the series. Disc 5 has "Don't Knock Yourself Out" this exclusive, 1.5 hour documentary is the definitive look at the production of THE PRISONER, told by those involved in its creation. It includes a combination of archive and newly-filmed interviews with over 40 people, including Amette Andre, Bernard Williams, David Tomblin, Derren Nesbitt, Peter Wyngarde, Anton Rodgers, Michael Grade, George Baker and Peter Bowles. On the first 4 discs are 7 full length commentaries - specifically Arrival (with Production Manager Bernie Williams + Film Librarian Tony Sloman), The General (director Peter Graham Scott), The Schizoid Man (Pat Jackson), The Chimes of Big Ben (Vincent Tilsley), A Change of Mind (Roger Parkes), Dance of the Dead (Bernie Williams, Tony Sloman + editor John S. Smith) and Fall Out (Eric Mival + Noreen Ackland). After that you have a never-ending run of Behind the Scenes Footage, a newly restored original edit of ‘Arrival’ with an optional music-only soundtrack featuring Wilfred Josephs’ complete and abandoned score, trailers for all episodes, archive textless material, including the title sequence with clean themes by Ron Grainer, Wilfred Josephs and Robert Farnon, commercial 'Break Bumpers', Never before offered footage, Script and Production Documentation PDFs and image galleries with music suites on each of the first 4 discs (see below).

 

NOTE: Disc 6 is a 2.84 Gig single-layered DVD that some players have had issue with because of the inclusion of the imbedded PDF documentation. It played fine though on my Oppo Blu-ray and Malata DVD players but the Momistu treated it as it would when you use the Flash Drive input asking whether content is "Audio" or "Video".

 

This is where we see the differences. Firstly we don't get Andrew Pixley's hefty book but, to be fair, the price reflects that. The fifth disc in the A&E package is a dual-layered NTSC DVD (Region 1) that has the same 1.5 hour "Don't Knock Yourself Out" documentary. Some of the minor supplements are duplicated (see full list above) - included is the original edit of the episode "The Chimes of Big Ben" - which looks in horrible a/v shape comparatively - just to show how far the Blu-ray transfers have come. Included is "The Pink Prisoner" where Peter Wyngarde pays tribute to the series in this unique cross between an interview and comedy sketch and we get a short preview of AMC's 'The Prisoner' mini-series remake. The commentaries are still there and included are the original scripts for each episode, along with other rarely-seen production documentation, press releases, call sheets and other memorabilia as PDF files accessible on the 5th disc DVD of 84 files of 605 MB. I haven't looked too deeply but everything advertised seems to be here. 

 

 

BOTTOM LINE:
While the region 'B' enforcement will make the impatient North American fan wait - it's just under a month. This series is iconic and has only grown in stature in the past decade with a new generation being exposed to its addictive eccentricities. The Blu-ray is up for Best of the Year accolades with the inclusion of the informative 290-page book and exhaustive supplements. Advertised as "Available here for the first time is the complete series, digitally restored in High Definition from the original 35mm film elements, presented at a quality level never previously seen" - that statement seems very accurate. For fans of The Prisoner this is the ultimate gift package and we surely give it our highest endorsement!

 

NOTE: While writing this review I wore a monkey mask. I've just removed it and underneath was...

A&E: Okay, I took off the monkey mask finding yet another monkey mask and removed that too in order to finish my comments. Depending on what you are looking for these sets are both magnificent. Since most people are region-locked you don't really have a choice on which set to purchase. The Region 'B' book may be excessive for many and it makes the US price fairly  reasonable considering the content. We still give this a strong endorsement no matter which set is purchased. This series is wonderful to own in high-definition!

Gary Tooze

September 30th, 2009

October 17th, 2009

 

 

 

   

             

 

About the Reviewer: Hello, fellow Beavers! I have been interested in film since I viewed a Chaplin festival on PBS when I was around 9 years old. I credit DVD with expanding my horizons to fill an almost ravenous desire to seek out new film experiences. I currently own approximately 9500 DVDs and have reviewed over 3500 myself. I appreciate my discussion Listserv for furthering my film education and inspiring me to continue running DVDBeaver. Plus a healthy thanks to those who donate and use our Amazon links.

Although I never wanted to become one of those guys who focused 'too much' on image and sound quality - I find HD is swiftly pushing me in that direction. So be it, but film will always be my first love and I list my favorites on the old YMdb site now accessible HERE.  

Gary's Home Theatre:

60-Inch Class (59.58” Diagonal) 1080p Pioneer KURO Plasma Flat Panel HDTV PDP6020-FD

Oppo Digital BDP-83 Universal Region FREE Blu-ray/SACD Player
Momitsu - BDP-899 Region FREE Blu-ray player
Marantz SA8001 Super Audio CD Player
Marantz SR7002 THX Select2 Surround Receiver
Tannoy DC6-T (fronts) + Energy (centre, rear, subwoofer) speakers (5.1)

APC AV 1.5 kVA H Type Power Conditioner 120V

Gary W. Tooze

 

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