Outré Intro: The Prisoner (1967 - 1968)
In the Valhalla of genre television there is nothing even remotely like The Prisoner, the late-1960s British allegory that focuses explicitly on the idea that "no man is just a number."
With steadfast zeal and a radical sense of dedication and single-mindedness The Prisoner devotes itself to the ideals of individual freedom and liberty, and finds that contemporary Western society -- here represented by a hermetically-sealed Village -- doesn't measure up.
The Prisoner intro montage begins with a storm in the sky.
Images of dark clouds form and roil before our eyes as a thunderclap blares on the soundtrack and Ron Granier's theme song commences.
We see the shot of his speeding car at an ominous over-head or extreme high-angle, suggesting menace and entrapment. The sense of unfettered freedom is now gone.
The pose, while defiant, also resembles Christ on the Cross. This means that the man could be a.) a savior, and b.) about to get crucified.
On the envelope are marked words which suggest privacy and individuality ("private" and "personal.")
Also written on the envelope are the words "by hand," which again suggest humanity, and we thus contrast this approach with a more computerized, less-personal one.
Secondly, the only sound we do hear is another series of menacing thunderclaps.
Here, The Prisoner's opening montage trenchantly inter-cuts between a free man who has rightfully asserted his will, and the automatic mechanisms of a vast, overreaching, impersonal bureaucracy.
Contrast the letter envelope seen above -- hand-written and personal -- with these images of technological bureaucracy at mindless, computerized work.
The Prisoner looks outside, and finds himself in a different locale, a strange little burg, "The Village;" a place that's a bizarre melange of Old World architectural-styles and modern conveniences. It's an odd combination of idyllic past (where almost everyone wears a hat and carries an umbrella) with the impersonal technological present (public telephones, information kiosks, etc.).
By hook or by crook, they will get it.
The Prisoner asks who is in charge, and told that he is Number Six. The man argues that he is not a number, but a free man.
His captor, Number #2...laughs at him.
Finally, we see a barrage of images showcasing the fact that there is no escape from the Village.
We see the Prisoner running across a variety of landscapes, blocked by the balloon-like sentry, Rover, and finally, falling under the all-seeing eye of Village electronic surveillance.
The last image of this intro is the Prisoner raging at the Heavens for his captivity, for his loss of freedom.
In just a few short minutes, then, and with powerful imagery, The Prisoner describes the back-story of its lead character, his philosophy about freedom (and society's role in his freedom), and establishes his captivity...and rage.
Quite simply, this is a masterful TV series introduction, which captures every aspect of The Prisoner's thematic material, from the overwhelming nature of the modern technological state, to the specter of state-sponsored torture. The sequence reveals how freedom is taken away by the State's desire to know...everything.
Below, the intro in living motion: