Dave Barrie I met Ian a little over two years ago. He was writing a book on THE PRISONER and I was able to offer a little background information. We quickly realised that each of us had a similar sort of outlook. What impressed me was Ian found this thing about the morals in THE PRISONER. When he came to work on it, it wasn't just working on a TV series - because of his background in South Africa under apartheid the series resonated with him.
IAN L. RAKOFF (1999) UND SEIN BUCH "INSIDE THE PRISONER"
A fair number of people the society interviews talk about working with Patrick McGoohan but it is fairly lightweight stuff some- times and they are quite intrigued by our interest in them. With some people, one or two of the guests in particular, we have gone quite a bit deeper. They can see what we are getting at and THE PRISONER really means something to them.
I have to say that with Ian, more than anyone else, I have noticed that. It has been a moral yardstick for him, if I may be so bold.
Ian Rakoff You've talked about my interest in THE PRISONER - I'd just like to articulate the origins. I grew up in South Africa, which was a pretty vile society, and I reacted against it from an almost abnormally young age. About the age of, I think, twelve I was a precocious reader. I didn't read stuff then like Charles Dickens but what I was really taken with was, because of the conditions and situation in South Africa, what they called Utopian literature.
I was particularly interested in Samuel Butler, Thomas More, H.G. Wells and George Orwell; those were about the only English writers that I read. I was always concerned with the creation of a perfect society and I'm actually now doing something on that level which in a way is the development of THE PRISONER which released something inside of me.
IN A WAY THE PRISONER WAS LOOKING
FOR THE PERFECT SOCIETY
Prior to that, I'd come to this country and worked on some British comedies, I'd had a good education in documentary films, then I broke into features, but once I worked on THE PRISONER, at the end of it, which wasn't very happy for me in many ways, Isaid "I can't work in television because I know that there ain't gonna be nothing like this ever again. This has got a standard of concern and focus that really is the realm of feature film making." That's when I went in that direction. In a way, THE PRISONER was looking for the perfect society, I think I can say.
Dave Barrie You have always sought out projects that have some substance to them.
Ian Rakoff Yes, that's my pretension (laughs). You see I was an active politico in my later years. I was always in trouble at school. Somehow I managed to keep being liked but I got censored. I did a school magazine when I was about twelve and
they closed me down and accused me of being a thief - it was very heavy for a young kid actually. The truth of the matter is that I was closed down after three issues because they all sold. My main hero, (who) I did a serial on, was Jack Johnson, the first black, heavyweight boxing champion of the world. That, plus my editorials made me some kind of a threat but not a word was said to me about that. Isn't that interesting?
Then something happened a few years later. When I was fourteen or fifteen, I took over the Civic Society, in the subversive sense, and gave a talk. I got myself elected onto the committee, and then became secretary or something. I got to a point of great trust by a teacher who was actually a refugee from the Nazis! So I thought whatever I do I'll have some support. I don't think I told him about the meeting but it was spread around the boys that I'd be talking about the origins of race and politics in South Africa which, going to a white boys school, you don't talk about. My oldest sister, who was very politicised, got me banned literature, some UNESCO publications and got me into what you call a township which white boys never got to really and I actually saw the way people lived.
Anyway, I gave this talk. One of the UNESCO books was primarily about Gregor Mendel who was a priest that did experiments on the growing of roses, I think it was, and he basically constructed the theory of genetics with dominant and recessive genes - I might have a few things wrong but I think that is roughly it.
A SCHOOLBOY SOUTH AFRICAN
WHO TALKS ABOUT RACE OPENLY
So, I talked about that and I also talked about the conditions in the township - things like two-hundred and fifty people sharing one water tap, no sewage collection and the fact that this place was going to be demolished because it was in an area where they were going to build an airport and it meant that white people would be able to see the shanty towns. I talked to these boys - usually the Civic Society got between six and twelve people to come to a talk and in this case the classroom was packed to the gills, they were sitting on the window sills. They all came to hear this abnormality - a schoolboy South African who talks about race openly!
I was a bit shocked when so many turned up - being absolutely truthful. I thought I'd get twelve people not sure, maybe six would be on my side, the rest would be very angry. I was totally wrong - everybody was angry! (laughter) They threw things and were screaming at me - nothing like that had ever been done. It turned violent, I got attacked. It was the only time they found me fighting in the corridors - one of the teachers - and I got caned for that. The only time I got caned. The teacher, who I said was [supportive] - whose name was Freund (not Freud!) - was this huge hulking man. He said "You betrayed me, how could you do such a thing." I was obviously kicked out of the Civic Society!
Dave Barrie You must have had a very strong sense of self belief to be an outsider like this, endure those slings and arrows and yet continue?
Ian Rakoff Well, other people were a lot worse and the lady who brought me up gave me what I like to think of as a level of humanity I have to be quite honest, my mother used to sit on the end of my bed at the age of five and cry and say "You're going to die, that's a crime." That wasn't the crime. The crime was that I was going to leave her. All the time I was told I didn't have long to go because of illness.
EPISODENWÜRDIGUNG: HARMONY (D)
APPRECIATIVE EXAMINATON: LIVING IN HARMONY (E)
Eventually I got out of it which I attribute to the lady who brought me up. Somehow I got out of it when I was thirteen and I thought I was Superman. I thought I could do anything and it just sort of stayed with me. I was frightened out of my wits of everything but I was also very fearless and absolutely dogmatic about what was right and what was wrong. A lot of this has got to do with exposure to black society. I had a childhood friend who used to come and draw [and] read comics with me. I reconnected with him some years ago when I went back to see my dying father and we had a deathbed reconciliation - that was discarding the politics and all that. This childhood friend, Cliffie, was the son of a servant. Ugly things happened to his mother and he would never come back. Somehow he retained a good vision of me, we met up and he's my best correspondent - he writes wonderful letters. He lives in a terrible place - you can't go out at night where he lives with his wife.
A YOUNG POLITICO
We're building up a picture of what has made Ian Ian. These seminal experiences moulded you and made you a young politico. When I was seventeen I went bananas - dangerous, violent. I'd just throw myself into situations. I was just searching for the lower depths and crossing the colour line but only on the violent level.
Then I met these politicos and they reformed me. They said "You can't go around putting knives in people. If you believe in us you have got to stop being so violent until we say so." That totally changed me and that was the happiest period of my life. I found a community that I could feel a part of. I was the only white member of the group and I was given orders to leave. I got tipped off by an old school friend who had become a detective: "Rakoff, didn't you want to leave South Africa , how soon can you leave, ten days would be good!" (laughter) The white police were going to come for you, so you came over here. That's quite a tough upbringing?
The thing that most interested me today [at the seminar] was the sentence from Sarah Jenkin where she talked about: "Does the individual have to stand out from the crowd?" This journey, the search for Utopia, has led me back to something I have been working on for thirty years actually - what South Africa was like before the white man came there which, in my opinion, is the
PRISONER PRESS LAUNCH 1967: PATRICK McGOOHAN IM COWBOY-KOSTÜM
DIREKT VON DEN DREHARBEITEN
closest society has ever got to Utopia. There were people who actually turned their back on materialism, away from this vast affluence and all these barriers. They marched away and they walked for five hundred years until they foundit - aplace to settle and spread out. It's these very societies that I am writing about at the moment.
Again this is a development on THE PRISONER.
Dave Barrie Tell us the import of this?
Ian Rakoff The import of it is that it was a
society which, because of its tremendous control - individuals were restricted, imagination was restricted - if you wanted change you had to prove that was valid. If there was a shortage of men, then polygamy at one stage was permitted. Everything was co-ordinated according to a balance in society. This, after all, wouldhave been where man lived closest to the largeet variety of animals. These people - great warriors etc. - they didn't eat much meat. They thought eating too much meat was wrong. In other words, you couldn't go out hunting and just kill as you wanted, everything was controlled by ritual. Everything was related to the ancestors. Some terrible things happened there and I have some of the most grotesque stories, historically. It's fiction but it is based on a great deal of research and some factual stuff. Everything that happened there seemed to go on a different scale. This was Africa.
I do a lot about the women in it and they way women functioned. At one stage women redeemed the society. One of the villains is a woman ... It is to do also with the power of conversion. One chief I read about said "No-one is going to drink, alcohol is a bad thing." Nobody ever drank. As long as the values were good they were generally sustained, but this was a bad woman and at her peak she had an army of fifty thousand cannibals and everybody ate people - it had never been known then, even in starvation. It's a rich adventure on the one hand but it is very much a serious analysis of how to live with the animals and with the people. There are the various prejudices in it but I don't use any terms of reference that are recognisable. I don't write about the "bushmen", I use one of the ethnic names, the Batwa and all of my references which I have been researching come from first impressions because there was no written language. Also there wasn't any wheel, there weren't any horses.
"UBUNTU" MEANS "BALANCED SOCIETY,
TOGETHERNESS, HUMANITY" -
IN THAT DIRECTION
The strange thing is that most Utopian works go into the realm of science fiction or the future.
My Utopia ... you can't write about Athens and Greek democracies as Utopia, that's nonsense, that's slavery and as far as I am concerned that's a no-no. Epituris had a balanced, co-ordinated thing but it was on a small scale, this was on a vast scale and still today, when you meet black South Africans you can see this inner human dignity which is just incomparable. That's 'ubuntu'. The word ubuntu - which is now appearing in various things about South Africa and also prevalent in central and some parts of northern Africa - is, for me, more important than the word amandla which is freedom. Ubuntu means 'balanced society', "togetherness", "humanity" - it's in that
direction. This can't be recreated - a time when a vast array of humanity lived in communities with incredible balance and tremendous simplicity and an amazing absence of greed.
As the first missionaries wrote, when they met these people, they had the best teeth because they didn't eat meat - they would take a bone and chew that for a week and so their teeth were perfect. They had tremendous thighs - you can still see signs of all this - physically, I can't remember which missionary it was but he said "I met the perfect human specimens, they have just got it compared to the Europeans."
Dave Barrie You seem to have a moral standing. You are not in the business of entertainment. When we have had some speakers they have said "I'll give you some nice stories to entertain you." That's something you don't do.
Ian Rakoff Yes, but I hope it is entertaining! (laughter) This is where the intuition of Lindsay Anderson (anm.: 1923 - 1994, britischer film- und theaterregisseur) was so important.
He had a very good commercial sense, although people wouldn't believe that. He actually knew what functioned commercially. People think of him as a man of great moral intelligence, a thinker, and a committed "leftie"! He did have a sense of what it was. He was limited by what he wanted to do but he had the balance right and that's what I'm actually keen on. It's is no good having a moral sensitivity if nobody is bloody listening to you, so if you can get a few laughs in... !
Dave Barrie Why did you choose the title "The Moral Significance"?
Ian Rakoff I had a letter from David Sherwin. I was talking to someone who said he'd read this book "Going Mad In Hollywood" which is by David Sherwin who wrote IF (Lindsay Anderson, 1968). ..., O LUCKY MAN and I think he did SUNDAY, BLOODY SUNDAY (John Schlesinger, 1971). This book was pretty well reviewed and received. I hadn't seen David for some time and apparently he went to the library and got a copy of "lnside The Prisoner" and I received this letter:
I loved your book "Inside The Prisoner". I thought it very powerful and good to see morality and moral writing. I liked the story of your early life, could have been ten times longer. I had to smile at Lindsay's comment to you that I hadn't written a line of IF ... and shouldn't have a credit. After I'd finished the script he told the Rice's I was the only genius and poet he'd met and they gave me a job while he was in Poland making THE SINGING LESSON. And uniquely shocking to read was he kicking your broken ankle -a bully. I remember he told me after O LUCKY MAN that Malcolm was a saint. Later, when black mouthing him, I reminded him of this. He called me a fucking liar but the monster mellowed until the decay of his last year.
I'm so glad your comic books have a safe haven. Lidsay told me of your robbery by an insider - must have been heart-breaking. I spent two years working on a film for Michael Flatley, who seems to have disappeared like an Irish bogey. Nice man, but ruined by America. Last July I got double pneumonia and now I have M.E. which acupuncture helps.
Have had so much time to think, I'm writing much better. I guess I'll go on 'till I drop. Anyway, thanks again for writing a brilliant book about the unique sixties which were the renaissance. Now we have decadence. Can't read the newspapers or watch TV. Have seen only one great American film L.A. CONFIDENTIAL.
That's how the moral thing came into it. David and I swapped this dialogue: neither of us could have written our books if Lindsay was alive.
Dave Barrie Lindsay was quite an influence on you and you say that Lindsay was unmaterialistic and also had this strong sense of moral standing.
Ian Rakoff Lindsay, for me, was in many ways a continuation of Pat McGoohan. What Pat couldn't do for me, to put it crudely, Lindsay could. Lindsay was that type of person. He was always interested in helping people and lifting them up. He told me one day that I should become a writer. Then I broke my leg in judo and couldn't move so I started writing. In South Africa I thought writing was hopeless. Open political activism I thought was hopeless and that's why I joined this group which was "underground" underground. There were people at university where there were various underground groups but nobody knew about these people - only had suspicions.
THIS WAS A WORK OF TREMENDOUS MORAL CONCERN. AND THAT WAS MCGOOHAN
Dave Barrie So when it came to working on THE PRISONER you had this recognition of what the creators were trying to achieve. Would it be fair to say that?
Ian Rakoff Well, I don't know what gave me the faith because I have to tell you I went as an assistant editor on possibly two of the poorest bloody episodes - "The General" and "It's Your Funeral" - and that was not an inspiration. I then saw some other episode - I don't know which one it was John S. Smith and I saw - but we were taken with it. And then of course I met McGoohan who came to work with us in the cutting room and just got talking. The moral thing then came upon me that this was a work of tremendous moral concern. And that was McGoohan.
Everyone was running around looking for a big break and were writing scripts and submitting them. So I said "What is the vehicle in western culture that facilitates moral investigation?" Being an addict of western comic books - Gene Autry I particularly liked, Roy Rogers not so much, he was a fascist but Gene was a liberal in the comic books (laughter) - so I thought I'd write a western.
I remember various people connected with THE PRISONER said (incredulously) "You've got people being killed in it, you've got sexual implications! There is no way McGoohan is going to do this." I stole a bit from a Gene Autry comic book of the fifties, I put this thing together. I had this interview with Pat because Ileft the series - I got a grant from the BFI and I did a thing which McGoohan hated because he read the script of that also. He said: "Do you want to do a western for me?" having read my western. I can't remember the order of events but he went bananas with me. Of all the stories that I've heard I don't know of anything so ferocious - and McGoohan is without a doubt the biggest physical presence I've ever known in my life. I was talking to Leslie (Glen) earlier and I was saying "I've been in some bad places!" I was telling Leslie about a man I met when I was about fourteen when I used to go to this black gym - which was, of course, illegal. There was this one guy who came in who was a tsotsi. He sort of adopted me and I think he was the first
LIVING IN HARMONY: MEHR SEX UND GEWALT, ALS DER REGISSEUR ERLAUBT?
heroic character I met. This man was wonderful. He went to the rescue of my friend Cliffie, who was few years older, who was being beaten up by the resident heavyweight. He'd never put on boxing gloves, won hands down, punched the guy out, jumped out of the ring, ran like crazy and disappeared. Then the information came back - fourteen attributed murders, suspected of a hundred. He was a tsotsi which means he used to wear these "zoot suits" they used to call them. He was like a charming chap. I've never met anyone like McGoohan, I'm saying.
Dave Barrie He fills the available space.
Ian Rakoff That office he had was huge! It was bigger than this room and I was like in a cubicle and I kept on thinking can I get to the door before he kills me!
Dave Barrie But you had a high regard for him?
Ian Rakoff Oh, he was a moral force, without a doubt. Here was a guy who really cares about the condition of humanity. He's just not interested in those other things that people working around there were. That's what I felt.
Dave Barrie The entertainment industry is "well known for people who are looking for a break and who are looking to try and grab some credit perhaps at the expense of someone else, but you did not feel that that was the case with McGoohan?
Ian Rakoff There was the actor ego there but as far as I was concerned that was secondary. That, I couldn't get across to Lindsay. Someone said that if you see one episode of THE PRISONER it is not going to get you much. I just showed Lindsay one and a half and then he fell asleep. He especially did that when I was writing for him - that was the test. If he was awake by the end of my reading it meant it was OK. Usually he was asleep!
EPISODENWÜRDIGUNG: HARMONY (D)
APPRECIATIVE EXAMINATON: LIVING IN HARMONY (E)
The highlight of my history on that moral level, the thing that obviously reached me the most was THE PRISONER - by hook or by crook!
Dave Barrie You felt that McGoohan was trying to do something that came from the heart?
Ian Rakoff That came from the heart and came from the morality. I think that is why he was so keen on me. And that's why he said the series would go on... "I've got to abandon you, I've got to go to Hollywood," but I think he said "You'll do at least four." I thought that I'd found my niche. Like all movie stories it didn't turn out like that!
HIGH NOON - ZWÖLF UHR MITTAGS (1952), REGIE: FRED ZINNEMANN -
BLAUPAUSE FÜR LIVING IN HARMONY?
Dave Barrie When I first saw "Living In Harmony" I thought it was the classic western. I think that the reason it doesn't score particularly high on any SIX OF ONE poll of episodes is that members tend to like the Village structure and to step outside of that you are stepping into strange territory. But it is well written and well cast and well made. It made me think of High Noon.
Ian Rakoff Is "Do Not Forsake Me Oh My Darling" in HIGH NOON? The tune. Because that was one of my titles. Yes, that was one of the keys for me which made the link. It made a tremendous impact on me, it must have, although I do attribute my inspiration and interest in comic books more. But it was a classic, a classic morality fable.
Dave Barrie The western lends itself very well to telling an allegory. HIGH NOON is THE PRISONER (ein filmausschnitt
It is one man in isolation, deserted by all his so called friends. He makes a stand of conscience; he has to stand against villains who are coming in on the noonday train. I bought this tape and it has a story on it afterwards in which one of the actors said "I had no idea that because of working on HIGH NOON for many years afterwards I would get no work." It came out at the time of McCarthyism and he was a liberal and this was interpreted as a liberal film.
Ian Rakoff I'd forgotten but the similarity, structure, the rolling of the barrel of the gun ... I don't think David Tomblin saw a lot of films but he probably saw that one!
Dave Barrie America is perceived as the land of the free but before we hear Ian's view on this, here something that has been written about in various SIX OF ONE publications. Some people stood on the right to silence. They would not play the game that Senator McCarthy was trying to impose upon them and instead of going along with this ferocious witch hunt they refused to say whether they had ever been a member of the communist party or not. And they were "black-listed" as a result.
Dave Barrie zeigt ausschnitte aus einem film über (den amerikanischen senator) McCarthy und seine "hexenjagd" auf liberale, deren politische ansichten und neigungen.
Ian Rakoff "Living In Harmony" was banned in America the first time it came out, which is interesting. Perhaps because it was a western - not just what it said, but because what it said was on home territory. Let's face it, the western is very much American no matter how many spaghettis were made.
Dave Barrie That was at the time of the Vietnam war and this was very much about a man taking off his gun and saying "I'm not going to be part of this."
Ian Rakoff Handing in his badge. Actually, when I joined this group (of politicos in South Africa) I was talking about I carried a gun. I had to hand that in.
Dave Barrie To the group?
Ian Rakoff No, I got rid of it. I never shot anybody but one of the characters I knew ... I had to give up those characters, they were gangster types. One chap was going out of town and gave me a gun because he knew how much trouble I got into.
Dave Barrie In a way I find you quite a conundrum Ian, because you have this background of being a politico and carrying a gun and yet I find you a gentle, sensitive man.
ALTERNATIVE TITELSEQUNEZ IN LIVING IN HARMONY:
NICHT GEORGE MARKSTEIN UND STATT RÜCKTRITTSSCHREIBEN EIN SHERIFFSTERN
Ian Rakoff That's the lady who brought me up. If I have any qualities - it was as a result of the lady who brought me up. When I went away I worked on a Western - I was about 20 then - I went up to Pretoria, a thousand miles away. When I came back my parents had got rid of this woman who had been with us for fifteen years, just like that, which they didn't dare do while I was around.
Dave Barrie How did you react?
Ian Rakoff I just didn't know what to do. I didn't know where to begin. This was South Africa - it's not like it was Man- chester or somewhere where I could track them down. And also I didn't realise the importance - I just didn't achieve anything. I was already in politics certainly. It was actually shortly after that I had to leave. It was only a few months. This was post-Sharpeville when things were really tightening up, just more repressive.
Dave Barrie Perhaps you saw England as being a more open society?
Ian Rakoff The vision of England ... the London School of Economics was revered, we talked of the London School of Economics, not Oxbridge. And, of course, England was the land of freedom. It was the place.
Dave Barrie You've seen the clip of HIGH NOON and then the body language of Gary Cooper as he was pressurised into making that sort of statement in the "witch hunt" ...
Ian Rakoff That was incredible wasn't it. It was so bizarre wasn't it. It looked so contrived. He looked like a bad actor performing.
Dave Barrie We both heard on the radio the other night an American lady talking about conformity, didn't we?
Ian Rakoff That's right, she is an American woman who lives over here and she just said that she felt free here and didn't feel free in America. I used to say to people that one of the reasons I could never have gone to America is because I might have been successful and it's so all-consuming. Here you could die of loneliness; people leave you alone, they don't expect you to conform and there they do.
UNPLEASANTLY ACCURATE ILLUSTRATION
OF THE PRESSURE OF CONFORMITY
She told this one story of a friend of hers who was up for tenure - a young man. For his PhD or something he had written this comparative study of attitudes of students over the years at this particular very big university. He was slated for tenure, and tenure means "a job for life".
The only thing that gets you out of that job is a pine box as we say. He was summoned by the head of the university who said "This is great what you are doing but we can't be known for admitting that religion has diminished over the years at our university, so you'll have to remove it." The chap said "I'm sorry, I can't remove it." So the head of the university said: "Fine. Don't remove it, but we'll get over this, you won't!" And the woman was saying that he never got a decent job again. He never got his tenure and ended up as a teacher in some second rate school.
That's an unpleasantly accurate illustration of the pressure of conformity. I used to use the word "pressure" a lot then. If I went to live in America everyone would accept you but you would be swallowed up. Here you have got to get in kicking and screaming.
Dave Barrie Does anyone know the film THE ANGRY SILENCE? Made in 1960,
produced by Brian Forbes with
Richard Attenborough in the lead
It concerns a strike. It was the forerunner of I'M ALRIGHT, JACK. But here it was treated with deadly seriousness. One man refuses to go on this wildcat strike-not an authorised strike. Because he refuses to go on it he is "sent to Coventry". Then he gets pressure from both sides because his work mates, having "sent him to Coventry", give him a really tough time and they won't work while he is working. The management and the owners want a resolution because it is wrecking their business. They want him to make an apology, stand down and leave. This poor chap is caught in the middle.
Ein filmausschnitt zeigt ein Alan-Wicker-interview mit arbeitern, die anscheinend blindlings irgendwelchen personen folgen, ohne verständnis für die situation oder die konsequenzen.
Dave Barrie That film appears somewhat simplistic by today's standards...
Ian Rakoff I don't know if this is in the book "Inside The Prisoner" or not but Lindsay Anderson, in the fifties - with him Karel Reisz and Tony Richardson - started this thing called "Free Cinema" which was documentary film-making, being realistic.
I met Lindsay - I'd been studying, I'd worked in a processing laboratory to get my union ticket, and then I was on my first job. I really wasn't interested in Lindsay Anderson at all, I'd seen his films but for some reason he took to me. He asked me "You've seen my films?" and I said "Yes, I've seen 'Free Cinema' films," and I tried to express what I thought of them. People around like the senior editor couldn't believe it because I just didn't like them. He said "Do you think I'm patronising them?" I said "Yes," and the strange thing is he didn't take against me. He somehow very much liked me. Then I saw THIS SPORTING LIFE (1963) and I thought "Shit, maybe I was wrong," and I went over to Lindsay and I congratulated him and I kissed his hand - it's the only time I've ever done that! (laughter)
I said "I think this is amazing. I'm making a film, will you look at it." I made this compilation film on South Africa and I showed it to Lindsay - I didnothing with it because it was really just an experiment for me to educate myself and I didn't want to expose myself as a liberal in any way, to be categorised as a white liberal. Anyway, he saw it and said "I'll do anything you want to help you in your career in whichever direction you decide to go."
Dave Barrie This was the English "new wave" - people making realistic films.
Ian Rakoff It was all to do with the class system and breaking away from it. One of the great things about the sixties was, living in Chelsea, where I was, it was different. It didn't matter if you were Chinese, Irish, upper class, lower class, you were all invited to the party - the whole world was coming then. It was almost a strange, bizarre sense of responsibility that you could
LIVING IN HARMONY: OFFENE RECHNUNG ZWISCHEN THE KID (ALEXIS KANNER)
UND NUMMER SECHS (PATRICK McGOOHAN)
indulge as much as you wanted to but somehow a certain level of morality was present then. A bizarre thing to say. I remember an ex-girlfriend of mine saying to me that the Rolling Stones were there at this local place. People just mixed - I remember meeting some titled lady - it was a real melting pot.
Dave Barrie Then you got involved in THE PRISONER and so forth.
Ian Rakoff Yes, I showed the film I had made to one other person because I was in documentaries - I was working in British Transport Films - and I got an offer to go to Shepperton to work on a feature film by an editor, John Sherwin. But he said to me: "But listen, you can't just walk out on British Transport Films, and I'm starting on Monday. If you can get out at all..."
So I asked Sir Edgar (Anstey) "Would you look at my film on South Africa?" He made a very famous film in the thirties called "Housing Problems" about life in the Gorbels (anm.: ehemaliger problemstadtteil von Glasgow) - I remember the rats! He said: "Avery fine piece of work. I really must tell you though that there are people in Hampstead who might mistakenly think you were communist!" (laughter) A pure McCarthyism line. "Yes, certainly go into features, no problem, don't worry." So I got out but I've never forgotten that line. I was never connected with commun- ism. The closest I ever got to it, I remember, was in Cape Town. I was dancing with this girl and she said to me: "Come on, join the communist party, they have the best parties!" (laughter)
Dave Barrie Is it true to say that you wanted to change the world and you thought that Patrick McGoohan was also beating that path although not in the political way?
Ian Rakoff It is very difficult for people working i n the media, who think very politicised, and even Lindsay, who made IF..., it was somehow different. I may have been part of CND and all that but I felt like being somewhere else, more active, and yet I had a friendship with Alan Sapper, who was the general secretary of my union. He hadn't been on the barricades or anything but I felt that he understood the nuance, really, of political activism.
Dave Barrie You've mentioned IF.., do you
think that IF was a political
Ian Rakoff Yes, certainly. As close as cinema gets. BATTLE OF ALGIERS - that's a political movie, most of Ponticarlo's films are.
Dave Barrie Lindsay Anderson, aided and abetted by Ian, went back to Lindsay's old public school, where they made this film called IF... which was highly significant in its day. It's about life in a public school which builds to a climax. Ian said that, in order to get into the school, you had to write a false script because the reality probably wouldn't have got through the gates! (laughter)
IF... - WIKIPEDIA-ARITKEL (ENGLISCH)
Ian Rakoff Yes, I'm not sure if David Sherwin wrote it or I did, I have to ask him, but that is the sort of shock job that Lindsay might have given me!
Dave Barrie This is the climax of the film where the three rebels, led by Travis (Malcolm McDowell), have been pushed so far that they are determined to take some sort of revenge and they find a cache of live arms in the school and we open where the school's old boy is making a speech to the assembled throng.
Ian Rakoff I hate that scene but go on. I don't know about the word revenge, it's really meant to be a development of revolution.
Die schlussszene des films wird gezeigt, wo Travis und seine kollegen mit maschinengewehrsalven rache üben an denen, die die versammlung verlassen - "Fall Out" ("Desmaskierung"), wie es leibt und lebt!
Dave Barrie It does have a certain similarity! It's a very angry film and has become one of the classic British films and the last shot has a story behind it which was down to you.
Ian Rakoff The look on Malcolm's face... We'd finished shooting the film, almost finished the cutting, and we didn't have the right piece of film. Malcolm didn't have the right look on his face. So Lindsay got Paramount to throw us some extra money. The set had to be re-built, the props, the actors called back, the cameraman summoned over from Czechoslovakia. All this was being set up and I said: "Lindsay, this is all a waste of time." I found a trim and put it in the moviola, as they were in those days, and I said: "That's the look you want." He said: "Yes Ian, that's the look I want, but it's only that long, so it's useless." "But," I said, "you are not going to get that look again, that's all there is to it. I think I am going to try a little experiment. I'm going to optically reprint it backwards and forwards."
He said: "Are you mad? That's just going to be a waste of money - the clouds, the smoke, it's all going to look repetitive. It wiIl be unusable. I order you not to do it!" (laughter)
Of course I went off and ordered it immediately! It wasn't such a quick job. Optical wasn't an overnight job. I think it took ten days or something.
They went ahead with the shoot. Malcolm was delighted because he was getting some more money. He was being called in for an extra two days for that one shot. At Twickenham Studios they re-built the set. Then they screened the rushes, all the stuff they shot, and they shot masses! It was all useless -rubbish. I demanded he stay and watch the optical. I had this long shot and of course you couldn't tell. You couldn't tell the smoke, the repeating of the gun - and that's what's in the film!
Dave Barrie You've worked on a lot of significant films over the years. You worked on Stephen Frears' THE BURNING (1968), Nick Roeg, John Boorman's DELIVERANCE (1972) - things that had some sort of weighty input.
Ian Rakoff In the seventies I didn't feel that moral surge. Very interesting stuff but it didn't have that - I hate that word - zeitgeist. It didn't have that spirit of the sixties. I'm doing a book on the seventies now.
Dave Barrie What's it called?
Ian Rakoff It's now "Escape From The Sex
Dave Barrie It's got to be a winner!
Audience IF... is an unusual film
in that the film stock changes
from black and white to colour
apparently randomly. Why?
Ian Rakoff There was one sequence in King's College, Cambridge and they couldn't afford to light it. It was a very small budget film. A film like this getting made was a miracle That one scene had to be black and white. Lindsay thought "That's not a bad idea, I'll film this scene and that scene (in monochrome)."
Audience It wasn't simply a case of running
out of money?
Ian Rakoff No, in the early days it was figured out. It was budgeted. A strange coincidence in my life was that CBS, the company that banned "Living In Harmony", was the company that was going to make IF... and ten days before starting production somebody obviously read the script and they pulled out!
Audience You strike me as a very moral person, but I have a problem with the violence that has been included - the use of guns in "Living In Harmony", at the end of "Fall Out" and in IF.... now. Any comments.
Ian Rakoff Well, I wanted more realistic gun effects for the end of that (IF....). Violence is part of life.
Dave Barrie But you were appalled by the sadism in "Living In Harmony"?
Ian Rakoff There was one particular thing. I was actually in a bar with Patrick McGoohan and David Tomblin and I said "I don't want this sort of thing." That was stubbing the cigar out. When I saw the first print up at MGM - David Tomblin actually allowed me to come there but I wasn't allowed to see McGoohan. The violence there, the strangulation - I was freaked! It was no nasty, so sadistic, so unpleasant. I'm against that sort of thing.
'YOU'VE GOT PEOPLE BEING KILLED IN IT,
THEY SAID. 'THERE IS NO WAY
McGOOHAN IS GOING TO DO THIS.'
I can't stand a brilliant film KNIFE IN THE WATER (Roman Polanski, 1962) because there is such unpleasant sadism in it. But something like IF.... I want the realism to go to the maximum and I had no qualms about that. I actually wanted more realistic effects and in the beating scene there were much stronger sound effects that I wanted but Lindsay wouldn't.
Dave Barrie You said that you wrote a letter to Patrick McGoohan, was that recently?
Ian Rakoff No, it was some years ago when the project of the book was first mooted. I can't remember what I wrote and I don't know if he received it. I think he just wasn't interested. If he did remember me - Alexis Kanner said he didn't - it should have been very painful because I represented that side of him which was his dream in a way. A young kid, with a political history, moral concerns, not on the make - I think that that is why Pat took to me and said I could work on what followed. If he remembered something like that it would be particularly unpleasant. This would relate to how Pat's life had turned.
Dave Barrie As "Living In Harmony" finally came out was the whole basic framework of the story as you scripted it? David Tomblin has a full credit on it.
Ian Rakoff He wrote it, he directed it but what has he done since creatively?
Dave Barrie Assistant director on Indiana
Ian Rakoff Assistant director.
Dave Barrie Was the story outline that you did for "Living In Harmony", when you finally saw it on screen, as we see it, was it the same as you wrote it with embellishments from David Tomblin?
Ian Rakoff I thought that he put a lot in. I couldn't tell the difference between what he did and what I did and I felt he did a hell of a good job. Even though he dumped me I really was quite impressed. I certainly wouldn't have had that Mexican character, that gave me a bad taste. I thought that he'd done very well but I disapproved of the sadism in it. It was what I would call 'Pinewood' film making. I worked in the studios very seldom, I was much more involved with the maverick independent film-makers.
Audience I was interested that
you have used the phrase 'magic
realism'. What did you mean by
Ian Rakoff It is the South American phrase for literature which has now become more common place. It's the integration of you could say the mystical into the ordinary. Very interestingly, they had on the radio very recently Salman Rushdie's "The Ground
IAN L. RAKOFF (MITTE) IN LONDON ZUSAMMEN MIT DEUTSCHEN PRISONER-FANS
NACH DER CONVENTION 2014
Beneath Their Feet" which incorporates the gods as living identities and I just thought that it is not so effective as when the South Americans write about it because the gods in India I feel are separate entities - the gods and people - he is a fantastic writer, Salman Rushdie but there was a lack of homogeneity in it so it wasn't somehow integrated sufficiently well enough and I was saying that he is just not a product of "magic realism".
Dave Barrie So, it's finding the magic in everyday life?
Ian Rakoff Yes, the going off into flights of fantasy which are so integrated it is seamless.
EPISODENWÜRDIGUNG: HARMONY (D)
APPRECIATIVE EXAMINATON: LIVING IN HARMONY (E)
EPISODENWÜRDIGUNG: FALL OUT (D)
APPRECIATIVE EXAMINATON: FALL OUT (E)
DAVE BARRIE: THE MAJESTY OF FALL OUT
Dave Barrie gründete 1977 die PRISONER Appreciation Society SIX OF ONE. Das seminar fand am 23.10.1999 statt. Dieser artikel erschien im mitgliedermagazin "In The Village" 27 & 28/2000.