THE UNMUTUAL PRISONER ARTICLE ARCHIVE
"IMPRESSIONS OF MANY HAPPY RETURNS", By Steve Yarde
'Many Happy Returns' is a unique episode. There is a real sense of mystery in the opening scenes. It is unsettling as The Prisoner explores an abandoned Village. Even though The Village Inhabitants re-appear at the end of the episode, the reason for their disappearance is never explained.
The gunrunners are a ruthless pair. One of them dumps The Prisoner into the sea without any hesitation. However, he manages to board their boat and capture the two gunrunners. They succeed in escaping and attempt to regain control of their vessel. The fight that ensues is well directed.
Mrs Butterworth shows much kindness to The Prisoner. One assumes she was expecting him, considering that the character turns out to be a Number 2. He does not seem particularly suspicious of her. If he was very tired after the voyage and encounter with the gunrunners, it could have affected his judgement.
The Colonel is sceptical of his ex-colleague's claims about The Village. When The Prisoner is adamant about ascertaining which side runs The Village, The Colonel relents and decides to investigate the story he's been told. Donald Sinden was an ideal choice for the role. Patrick Cargill puts in a good performance as Thorpe. At first, the character comes across as caustic. Later, Thorpe is more amenable, even giving The Prisoner a supportive wave before the latter boards the plane. Patrick Cargill also appeared in the episode 'Hammer Into Anvil.'
In another review of this episode it is stated that there wasn't any allegory. I think that there is a little. When The Prisoner is returned to the Village and soon after entering his apartment, he finds that the shower is working and the kettle is boiling. These things failed to work at the beginining of the episode and yet after he's brought back, they suddenly start up again quite normally. It's possible that this signifies The Prisoner has no life outside of The Village.
The only thing I dislike about this episode is the rather abrupt ending. I've read that originally, there was going to be an exchange of dialogue between The Prisoner and Number 2, with her revealing a headline story from the Tally Ho which indicated the aircraft was lost at sea with no survivors. If this is correct, it's a pity the scene was never used.
Many Happy Returns is beautifully filmed. Even though there does not seem much purpose to the escape, it is an enjoyable story. The dialogue between Mrs Butterworth and The Prisoner is a highlight of the episode as are the shots of a deserted Village. Perhaps The Prisoner was allowed to escape and then brought back, to try and enforce the idea he'd never be free of The Village.
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