THE UNMUTUAL WEBSITE
VIDEOS, DVDs, and BLURAY
By Rick Davy. With thanks to David Stimpson and Simon Coward. Images (c) Rick Davy unless otherwise stated.
The below represents a guide to the UK releases of The Prisoner. Whilst overseas releases may be referenced, this is by no means a complete guide to those but it is hoped these will be added in future. If you know of any other releases, please do contact TUW and the page can be updated. In terms of Patrick McGoohan's film and TV appearances and their release on Video, DVD, and BluRay, click HERE for a complete guide to his screen appearances and their media availability.
The first release of The Prisoner came in 1982. The company PRECISION released several ITC shows on video from the late 1970s onwards (at £30 per tape, which is a lot of money in 2020 let alone back in the 1970s). For their Prisoner releases they chose to edit together pairs of episodes to make 90-minute movies. The run stopped after four tapes.
The tapes were released in both VHS and BetaMax format. The episodes were: Arrival / Schizoid Man, Checkmate / Free for All, Many Happy Returns / A, B, and C, The General / Chimes of Big Ben.
Many Happy Returns Betamax, photo (c) David Stimpson
The next release came in 1986, where Channel 5 Video (who advertised under the banner "Videos for under £10") released the entire series, in the original UK transmission order, at two episdoes per tape (apart from Fall Out, which stood alone on the final tape). The cassette artwork included one of the original blazers worn by Patrick McGoohan (the blazer being owned at that time by Peter Jones).
Whilst this article is not intended to cover many non-UK releases, it is worth noting that the first release of The Alternative Chimes (erroneously called The Lost Episode) was released in 1984 by MPI video in the USA, who also released the complete series but with one episode per tape.
The marketing for this MPI release always draws eyebrows, in that it used helicopter imagery not from the series!
It was some time before this release was superceded, 1992 in fact, with the release of the 25th anniversary box set edition (individual releases of each tape within were also available), which included for the first time some bonus material: The Alternative Chimes episode, The Best of The Prisoner (a selection of clips) and The Prisoner Companion, a much-maligned US-produced documentary (which also received a standalone release).
The individual tapes were repackaged (see below the two cover variants for tape 1) for the standalone releases.
The series was also released, at a rate of one episode per disc, on Laserdisc, utilising the existing MPI video artwork.
The 30th anniversary release of 1998 saw an apparent 'restoring' of the picture (more likely better prints were used than the 16mm prints used for the Channel 5 release). The set came in two portions, which fitted together into one box, with postcards and keyring included as free gifts.
When Carlton obtained the rights to the series after purchasing the Polygram business, they re-released the series on video (in one super-length box), and also for the first time the series saw a DVD release of all 17 episodes plus extras including original trailers.
A standalone DVD release celebrating the 35th anniversary of the series was then issued by Carlton, The Prisoner Special Edition 35th Anniversary Companion, featuring for the first time, the alternate edit of Arrival. The disc also featured several special features including textless and foreign language sequences.
The USA then saw its first DVD release, under the A&E label.
A&E DVDs photo (c) Tom Mayer.
Umbrella Entertainment then raised the bar with their Australian 35th anniversary release, which included superior picture quality, and many extras including behind-the-scenes footage of Prisoner filming in Portmeiron in 1966, owned by Steven Ricks.
In 2005, the partwork company DeAgostini launched The Prisoner The Official Fact Files, a 17-part DVD and magazine partwork, where each fortnight subscribers would receive a magazine and a DVD of one episode. After 6 issues, Carlton were bought out by Granada Ventures and the partwork was started again for new subscribers (existing subscribers could continue from issue 7). After 17 issues, the magazine became The Danger Man Collection and episodes of that particular McGoohan series accompanied the magazine on DVD.
Free gifts for subscribers included a 'Map of Your Village', binder, Lotus 7 model, 'Not a Number' t-shirt, a DVD of the movie version of the Danger Man colour episodes Koroshi and Shinda Shima, simply titled Koroshi, and a DVD storage box.
Another free gift was the 'The Prisoner An Official Fact File DVD companion', a re-packaged Carlton 35th anniversary companion (see above).
Earlier in 2004 De Agostini tested the sales market for the Prisoner part-work by releasing it in two areas, one being in London , the other the East Midlands , to see how it would sell. The first two issues of the part work, Arrival and The Chimes of Big Ben were released on both formats of VHS video and DVD . Arrival came with the free Map of Your Village, while The Chimes of Big Ben came with the VHS of Koroshi.
DeAgostini's very rare VHS video releases. Image (c) David Stimpson.
At the same time, HMV produced their own exclusive DVD collection, which included some free postcards, entitled The Prisoner The Ultimate Collection.
The bar was raised far higher in 2007, when Network released the 40th anniversary edition on both DVD and BluRay. With episodes sharper than ever, having been restored from the original film elements, and packed with extras (new documentary Don't Knock Yourself Out, crew audio commentaries, stills galleries, production documents, a production history book by Andrew Pixley and much more).
From 2007-2018 slimmer versions of both DVD and BluRay were released without the accompanying book.
Image (c) Crispin Hodges.
And in 2015 a 'vanilla' DVD slimline release, with fewer extra features, was released for the supermarket market.
The documentary Don't Knock Yourself Out was also given a standalone release.
Following the release of the 2009 AMC remake of the series, which was released on both DVD and BluRay, Network produced a combined set, in Mini Moke canopy style packaging, containing their 40th anniversary set and book, the remake set, and their 40th anniversary soundtrack set, in one box.
Network's restored BluRay was repackaged for the USA market.
Image (c) Tom Mayer.
In 2017 Network then produced a 50th anniversary DVD and BluRay edition, with a mountain of new extras, including text commentaries on all 17 episodes detailing the production history with a different on-screen fact every 8 seconds during every episode, new stills and interviews, Danger Man episodes and Pathe Newsreels on BluRay, a new documentary In My Mind and much more. Click HERE for a review of this and the 40th anniversary release.
As well as individual elements being released separately, there was also a 'mega set' comprising the DVD or BluRay set, 6-CD soundtrack set, Hardback book The Prisoner The Illustrated History by Andrew Pixley, in a large box with surround.
As with their 40th anniversary release, vanilla versions of the 50th anniversary set with few extras for supermarkets were also issued.
The series has been released on video and DVD in several countries, including the USA, France (under the title Le Prisonnier), Italy (under the title Il Prigioneiro) , Denmark, Holland, Germany (under the title Nummer Sechs), Japan, Australia (see above) and elsewhere. Hopefully in future this guide can cover all of those releases.
L-R Dutch, forthcoming 2021 German, French DVD releases.
It is also worth noting the video documentaries produced and released by Steven Ricks in the 1990s: The Prisoner Investigated Parts 1 and 2, The Prisoner Inspired, The Prisoner in Production, The Prisoner in Conclusion, and the later compilations of extended material: The Prisoner on Location, and The Prisoner In Depth Volumes 1-6.
Several events related to the series have also been commercially released. The McGuffin 35th anniversary event in London on VHS, the PM2005 and PM2006 official events in Portmeirion, and the 50th anniversary event at Elstree Studios, all on DVD.
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