'The Prisoner: Special Edition'
(Alec Guinness, Jack Hawkins, Wilfrid Lawson, et al / Blu-ray / NR / (1955) 2019 / Arrow Films UK)
Overview: In an unnamed Eastern European capital, an iron-willed Cardinal (Academy AwardŽ-winner Alec Guinness, The Ladykillers) is arrested by state police on charges of treason.
Tasked with securing a confession from him by any means necessary is a former comrade-in-arms from the anti-Nazi resistance (Jack Hawkins, The Bridge on the River Kwai).
Knowing the Cardinal will never fold under physical torture, the Interrogator instead sets out to destroy him mentally, breaking his spirit rather than his body.
Blu-ray Verdict: 'The Prisoner' is a rather lovely black and white gem of a film and is taken from the play by the same name. Widely based on the life of Cardinal Mindszenty of Hungary it addresses the topic of religious freedom and therefore, also authentic human rights.
Alec Guinness in the role of a Catholic cardinal and Jack Hawkins as his interrogator who represents an atheist, totalitarian state (i.e. a state under communism) are brilliant are simply divine in their portrays; as are, in truth, the supporting actors too.
While these two lead actors were obviously in the same film, seldom have they shared scenes acting off each other like in this one, of that you have my word.
As for those supporting actors, Wilfred Lawson plays the somewhat likeable jailer, Kenneth Griffith is Hawkins ambitious secretary, Jeanette Stark and Ronald Lewis play a young couple trying to make sense of it all, and Raymond Huntley is the General.
The film is tense. It addresses man's inhumanity to man (Jack Hawkins) and the frailty of the human spirit when it is subjected to physical, emotional and mental torture (Alec Guinness).
It is the story of one man's battle to preserve his interior freedom and every man's battle with himself and it shows how a good man's courage and even his frailty unwittingly change the lives of his interrogator, his jailer and a guard.
The film's one weakness was that the cardinal's appearance did not adequately reflect the horrific torture to which he was subjected: though tortured for months on end, he is always clean-shaven and there is no gradual deterioration to give credence to his utter physical and mental exhaustion.
That said, I loved the film and found it very moving, particularly the scene close to the end when the cardinal looks into the guard's eyes and humbly says, "Try not to judge the Priesthood by the Priest." This is a Full Screen Presentation (1.78:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the Special Features of:
High Definition Blu-rayTM (1080p) presentation
Original lossless mono audio
Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
Interrogating Guinness, a new video appreciation of the film by author and academic Neil Sinyard
Select scene commentary by author and critic Philip Kemp
Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Peter Strain
+ FIRST PRESSING ONLY: Illustrated collector's booklet featuring new writing on the film by Mark Cunliffe