ESCAPE . . .
to the totally new Renault 21

    In the late part of 1989, a commercial was run on national television in the UK for a family saloon car. Nothing unusual about that, except the entire ad was based around "The Prisoner" concepts. Written and edited like an episode of the show, it was fast paced and exciting and captured the spirit exactly.
    The car was the then "totally new" Renault 21. Conceived by London advertising company, Publicis, the ad was filmed in North Wales by Challenge Films.
    The commercial ran for about three months and it's interesting to note that more people saw the commercial than ever saw "The Prisoner" itself.
    The basic concept behind the advertising for the car was that, while most people were driving family saloons by Ford and Vauxhall (the Sierra and Cavalier were the top selling models at that time), the Renault 21 was just that little bit different and would theoretically appeal to someone who didn't want to be just one of the crowd. An individual ...
As the commercial starts, a set of metal double doors is seen which hiss open on approach. We sweep into a circular room dominated by a large semi-circular control desk and a white globe chair. As the chair revolves, a sinister-looking Number Two activates a view screen and orders surveillance to begin. The scene shifts to a picture-postcard village, the Village, where a human chess match is in progress.
    Watching the proceedings from nearby steps is a line of subdued, conservatively dressed Villagers. Suddenly a black-suited man strides through them purposefully.
    Number Two orders a closer look, and we see that the man is wearing a Pennyfarthing badge with the number "21" on it.


He continues down the steep steps towards a bright red car parked below, into which he straps himself. As the car streaks away, Number Two orders, "Number 21 shows ambition. Follow him!" and with a grimace, pushes a red button. Immediately a Rover balloon is launched, shooting upwards through green-lit liquid.

The car by this time has emerged into a rocky area and is clearly not going back to the Village. Rover is seen approaching the edge of a steep incline and swoops down as the car passes below. It misses by inches and plunges over the clifftop into the sea below.

Another Rover is launched. It closes on the rear of the car and looks set to overtake it. With Rover just inches behind, the car plunges desperately on through a narrowing crevasse and finds a small tunnel cut into the rockface.
It hurtles through the entrance with little room to spare on either side. Rover isn't so lucky. It's just too wide to fit, and crashes against the rock throwing up an explosive dust cloud. Number Two looks in in helpless fury as the Renault emerges from the far end of the tunnel and speeds to freedom down an open road while a Patrick McGoohan sound-alike intones the message, "Escape - to the totally new Renault 21."


     There were three locations used in the filming. Firstly a replica of the original "Number Two" office, which is partly a miniature and partly a full-size desk unit complete with globe chair, one-piece telephones and a large viewscreen, was built at Shepperton Studios. Anthony Brown played Number Two and provided the voice-overs.

    The initial outside scenes were filmed in Portmeirion with the entire chase sequnce being staged at the Minffordd slate quarry just a short distance away. The actor playing Number 21 was Neil Duncan (right), while Enn Reitel provided the closing slogan. Publicis reportedly tried to interest Patrick McGoohan in doing the commercial but they were "not successful".

    Ron Grainer's original theme music recording was used during the chase, as were the original Rover bubble-and-hiss sound effects. Most of the "Villagers" were extras drawn from Portmeirion staff. Rover was made from fibreglass rather than using a fragile weather balloon.
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