THE UNMUTUAL PRISONER LOCATIONS GUIDE
MGM BACKLOT & ABPC STUDIOS, BOREHAMWOOD
Special Photo Report: Dave Healey, with thanks to Kieran McAleer, Mike Grant, Billy Casper, James Richard G, and the other members of the MGM Borehamwood Memories Facebook Group.
Photos: Mike Grant, Dave Healey, Rick Davy, Kieran McAleer, Richard James G, Gary Kent. Video: Nick-M.
the 1960s, which saw the heyday of action adventure TV shows in the UK, principally
as a result of Lew Grade's ITC, the Borehamwood/Elstree area was a thriving
centre for feature film production with many studios situated within its boundaries.
These included of course MGM, whose massive soundstages were home to not only
The Prisoner but also landmark epics such 2001 A Space Odyssey.
While feature films often had budgets which enabled location work to be shot around the world, most TV shows could not justify such extravagance. As a result small screen film crews would scour Borehamwood for suitable backdrops in add flavour to their productions. Borehamwood and its immediate area would be utilised for all manner of exotic locations in order to keep production budgets under control.
The Prisoner was somewhat different as it had an unusually long location shoot in Portmeirion. However, it was back to Borehamwood for many of the non-'Village' linking sequences, and these are included on various pages of this Locations Guide.
The huge MGM backlot also played host to several Prisoner scenes, including the town of Harmony, the town of Witchwood from "The Girl Who Was Death" as well as the Recreation Hall area from several episodes and the "French Street" from "A, B, and C" and Kandersfeld in "Do Not Forsake". The backlot itself made way for housing estate some years ago, after being demolished in 1974. Below are some images of the backlot during demolition, thanks to Gary Kent who visited the site at this time (click thumbnail for full image).
The images below show the site some years later (1991). The left photo shows what used to be the Witchwood location, the other two show what used to be home to Harmony.
Over the years, there has been much discussion regarding the location of the tree seen in the centre of the western village of Harmony from the "Prisoner" episode "Living in Harmony", in which Number Six is fed hallucinatory drugs. There are several large trees in the estate, and for years debates have arisen as to which one, if any, is the one seen in the episode (from which Kathy's brother is hanged). Finally, in July 2012, the debate was laid to rest thanks to excellent detective work from Kieran McAleer and the members of the MGM Borehamwood memories Facebook Group, who have pin-pointed the exact location of the Harmony set including the infamous tree. These images show the then and now perspectives of the Harmony set;
Colour code: Blue: Thrift Farm site. Yellow: Trees/ today, line of Toby Carvery. Orange: Tracks.Red: Toby Carvery Tree distance reference. Maroon: "Mound" outline. Dark Green: Harmony Trees. Purple: Harmony site. White: Harmony set buildings. Light Green: "Sister" tree to Harmony trees (believed to be still standing).
Blue: Thrift Farm site. Yellow: Trees/ today, line of Toby Carvery. Orange: Tracks.Red: Toby Carvery Tree distance reference. Maroon: "Mound" outline. Dark Green: Harmony Trees. Purple: Harmony site. White: Harmony set buildings. Light Green: "Sister" tree to Harmony trees (believed to be still standing). Black: Backlot set footprint, still visible from the air today.
Kieran has also done some extensive research into other areas of the MGM backlot. He writes with reference to the following 2 images; "The yellow lines show the boundaries of the fields which the lot previously existed on. It's remarkable how the planners used as much of the existing hard-standing from the lot, to make the roads and street of the new estate. It's like the lot still exists, but for real... The green triangle, shows where the they built the second water tank, for the, "Where Eagles Dare" set. Even this was utilised, and is now hard-standing for cars. Ignore the green line, top right."
The following image is from 1985 and shows Studio Way cutting through what was the Harmony set;
For a special page all about the ongoing discussions related to the location of the "Harmony Tree", click HERE. Below are a few more "then and now" (this time from on the ground) shots from "Living in harmony" scenes;
A lot of the exterior sequences were of course filmed at MGM studios, particularly the latter episodes shot where it was only possible to film a few pickup shots in Portmeirion (in March 1967). One such scene is in the episode "Hammer Into Anvil" where a walking Number Six is pounced upon by some heavies arriving in a Mini Moke taxi and then taken to see Patrick Cargill's sadistic Number Two. Thanks to Kieran McAleer again,the below two shots represent the "now and then" location of the fight scene!
From an on-ground persepective, here is the same location (then and now);
Here is a lovely transition video showing the changes to the Harmony location: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zcm8ZBsr9uo
as a film production centre is a mere shadow of its glory days with many of
the studios no longer in operation. Indeed, during the visit when the following
photos were taken demolition work was being carried out. On this occasion it
was a sad sight to witness the destruction of the once proud soundstages of
ABPC Studios. The studios can be seen briefly over McGoohan's shoulder as he
talks to Potter at the shoe shine stand in "The Girl Who Was Death".
Interestingly, the film crew parked a van in front of the studio sign so as
not to give screen time to a rival studio. The video HERE
from British Pathe shows the Street in earlier years.
Click here to return to the Unmutual Locations Guide
Click here to return to the Unmutual Home Page