years after the first screen appearance many people would remember
THE PRISONER for just one detail, as the series with the white balloon.
white ballon that can be seen during the opening and closing sequences
emerging out of the sea and drifting over the shores according to the episode "The Schizoid Man" is called Rover. This episode did not play
in German until the year 2010. And it even has an important supporting role.
It is only in the first episode "Arrival"
that the thing, for once, is called Hystero in the German version. This
is actually "Be still!", the command to all Village
inhabitants/inmates to stand still without a move. Otherwise they
would be in danger of being suffocated by Rover in a horrific image.
Here Number 6 receives a demonstration of Rover's abilities.
underwater test tube seems to Rover's place of birth. On appearing
he is recognized acoustically by some impressive dinosaur-roaring
noise. This watchdog patrols
the Village borders, paralizes and catches fugitives. Internally
it is utilized to establish and enforce the rules. Quite a lot of
pictures show Number Six driven by Rover from behind.
Rovers final realization, though, was rather improvised by the props department. According to the shooting script - which is supported
by old photographs - Rover was to be a hemispherical unmanned mechanical
vehicle with no windows and a rotating blue police light on top of it. Thus
it was to roam the Portmeirion streets and beaches.
THE PRIMAL ROVER: 8-MM FILM FOOTAGE
SHOT BY A PORTMEIRION HOTEL GUEST IN 1966
as soon as the very first test shots in the Village took place it became
obvious that this would not be working. The team had imported a vehicle
on a go-kart chassis which was much too disproportionate
and could only be driven on solid ground. Because it was too heavy
it would sink into the estuary sand. Elaborate shots were impossible
to accomplish - as the dreaded watchdog it was all but ease and
unpredictability. Besides, driving proved torture for the person
inside, with the sun shining and the way ahead hardly discernible.
in shape, Rover is said by some to be McGoohan's idea while others
maintain that production manager Bernard Williams came up with the idea; passing weather balloons may
have been the prime source of inspiration. In his McGoohan biography "Danger Man or Prisoner" Roger Langley mentions that the balloons were specified on the props list and were sent from London to Wales. Whatever the meaning of this may be.
But in front of the camera
they wouldn't display their skills. They were too lightweight and
tended to vanish in the sky or were easily damaged. So tests were
made, they were partly filled with water to improve their bouncing
behaviour and to receive a better control in navigating them.
Eventually, what was most important in order to get the best performance,
an almost invisible thread was attached to the balloons, they were
dragged and the sequence was screened in reverse.
is this simple explanation why the Villagers had to stand motionlessly
while Rover was at large. In
the history of movie mistakes and continuity errors there is also
one particular scene where, on passing Rover, smoke is seen returning
into the chimney - for those watching closely...
and cleverly visionalized, Rover is the absolutely synthesized embodiment
of the ever-present oppression in the Village and a symbol of the double character of progress.
ROVER = LAVA LAMP?
watching closely will surely discover
Rover's "birth" graphically brought to the eye by the
Rover mini replica, the famous Lava Lamp. One piece can be
seen in Number Six' flat, another one in Number Two's control room
where scenes of the Rover coming-to-life can also be spotted occasionally
on the big wall screen as a kind of screen-saver.
This designer artwork piece was created in 1963 by Edward
Craven Walker who intoduced it as the "Astro Lamp".
In 1965 it was marketed in greater scale as the "Lava Lamp".
Technically it's a glas container with heated up wax in a special
liquid forming bubbles rising upwards, cooling down and then
sinking and rising again. Walker was born in Singapore. He served in the British RAF's aerial reconnaissance during WWII. He had the idea for the Lava lamp when he saw a cocktail shaker in a bar with a mixure of oil and water in it heated by a light bulb. The bubbles created by the oil were projected as shadows upon a wall. And because the inventor of this device was already dead Walker went on to develop his idea by experimenting on the viscosity of the oil-water mixture until the bubbles' ascending and sinking was thought satisfactory enough. For the outer shape of the the Lava lamp he borrowed from the then popular "Tree Top" syrup bottle.
After its initial success the Lava lamp was rather forgotten until in the 1980s Mathmos purchased the object launching a whole product range on it which was distributed by furnishing houses.
By choosing this piece of artwork as a prop the PRISONER producers
showed their understanding of forms and artistic taste as well as their
fine sense in recognizing contemporary artistic trends.
WORSHIPPING? THERAPY? INSTRUCTIONS?
UNSOLVED MYSTERY IN "FREE FOR ALL"