It was weird.
I have a curious habit in that if I like the song I’m listening to on the car stereo when I park, I’ll cue it up for when I start off again. This particular morning I was pulling into work listening to The Times playing “I Helped Patrick McGoohan Escape”, a favorite little song of mine so it got cued up for my return home. So after a shocking day of death announcements (both Patrick McGoohan and Ricardo Montalban) I climbed into my little car, turned it on and out came the song I had forgotten about cuing up over eight hours earlier.
Actually, weird isn’t the word – spooky is…
Patrick McGoohan’s death was a little bit of a surprise to me. It really shouldn’t have, but since he all ways kept to himself I haven’t heard anything about him in ages. He’s one of those rare actors that never seemed to want the attention, which is probably why his marriage lasted half a century – something that the Brad Cruise’s of the world could look up to (except they have to be the center of attention at all times, not something that engenders a healthy marriage.) Actually, from all the things I’ve been reading recently it appears that Patrick was a moral man – which is maybe why in choosing projects he never took jobs with romantic involvements, or wanted John Drake to never carry a gun (and probably why he turned down playing James Bond.)
My big introduction to Patrick McGoohan was in The Prisoner. I was around seven at the time, maybe a touch older, and was hooked on the series. I often joke that it was because I am the sixth kid in my family – and often referred to as number six by my accountant father. I think the truth is more that the series fascinated me, and inspired me to be more of an individual (hard to do when you’re part of a uniformed herd in a Catholic school.) I also think it was visually stunning, especially to someone so young, and I can see the influence it had on some of my photography (I’ll go for a jaunty angle, over a flat shot, if I can.) Suffice to say, The Prisoner was as big influence on me. In the ’90s when I was doing my stint on the radio I went by the nome de plume “The Prisoner”, translating that to my on-line life as DPrisoner and my web site DVillage. I even went so far as to drag my wife to Portmeireon – the real life location of the Village – on our honeymoon (just by chance, it was a week after McGoohan’s 80th birthday!)
I will have to admit that I have not been a devout follower of McGoohan’s career. I used to watch (and have recently bought the DVD set of) Danger Man/Secret Agent. I’ve acquired copies of a couple of his earlier films (Hell Drivers and All Night Long.) But I’ve not gone out of my way to see any of his other work. I only saw Braveheart because it was out and it was free, and I didn’t go see Baby or Scanners (or even on video later.) I’ve probably seen some other things he’s been in, but by chance rather than design. The notable exception would be his “appearance” on The Simpsons, playing Number Six. Then again, it’s a comic extension to The Prisoner and therefore something I would naturally be attracted to.
So that night, after the spooky musical trip home from work, I decided to pop a couple items in the DVD player. I started off with Hell Drivers. This is one of those geeky films for me, not that the film itself is geeky. No, it’s geeky in that the cast list is one to raise a geeks interest – especially one like myself. Patrick McGoohan plays the baddie in this, a short haul lorry driver who will do anything to protect his position as the fastest in the firm. The firm is run by William Hartnell, the original Doctor Who. Some of the other drivers are Sean Connery (the original James Bond, if you didn’t know) Herbert Lom (inspector Dreyfus from the Pink Panther films) and Alfie Bass (Are You Being Served.) Also showing up are David McCallum (The Man from UNCLE) and his real life bride Jill Ireland (they were married the same year as Hell Drivers, but not sure if they were when they made it – plus they didn’t even share screen time…) Even though my wife cam in half way through the film, she was thoroughly engrossed in it. So when the player in the living room started to skip over bits, she was distraught. We’d eventually finish watching it on her lap top later on…
The other item we watched that night was an episode of the original half-hour Danger Man series. We’ve been watching them in the order presented on the DVDs, and the next one on our list was “The Vacation.” Coincidentally, this was Patrick McGoohan’s first stint at directing – so it was doubly appropriate for our little McGoohan night. A fairly enjoyable story of John Drake not getting quite the vacation he planned for, when he’s seated next to an assassin on the plane ride.
Maybe I’ll pop more gems in over the next week. I’m even thinking of trying to pick up the woefully underproduced (in terms of quantity) Dr. Syn DVD release – the only time I’ll have personally set out to buy a Disney title. In fact, I’m going to load up my NetFlix queue with Patrick McGoohan films and spend the next couple weeks watching him in productions I’ve never seen – and quite frankly, there’s a lot to watch…
From all of us still here in our own Village: Be Seeing You!