A cardinal is arrested for treason against the state. As a prince of his church, and a popular hero of this people, for his resistance against the Nazis during the war and afterward his ... See full summary »



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Nominated for 5 BAFTA Film Awards. Another 3 wins & 1 nomination. See more awards »



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Cast overview:
Wilfrid Lawson ...
Kenneth Griffith ...
The Secretary
Jeanette Sterke ...
The Girl
The Guard
Raymond Huntley ...
The General
Mark Dignam ...
The Governor
The Doctor


A cardinal is arrested for treason against the state. As a prince of his church, and a popular hero of this people, for his resistance against the Nazis during the war and afterward his resistance when his country again fell to another totalitarian conqueror. In prison, his interrogator is determined to get a confession of guilt against the state from the strong willed man, and thus destroy his power over his people. The verbal and psychological battles are gripping and powerful - not even the increasing pressures put upon the Cardinal can force him to weaken; not even solitary confinement, continuous blazing light in his cell, sleeplessness, efforts to persuade him he is going mad. And yet, in the deepening conflict, the superb indomitable prisoner, creates a tremendous pity on his tormentor, the interrogator. Written by alfiehitchie

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Two of the Finest Performances of All Time! See more »




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Release Date:

11 December 1955 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Der Gefangene  »

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs

Sound Mix:

(Western Electric Recording)

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
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Did You Know?


Deemed suitably controversial enough to be banned from both the Venice and Cannes Film Festivals. See more »


When the teenager is writing in white chalk on the wall, the position of the words changes from one cut to the next. See more »


The Interrogator: Have you forgiven yourself?
The Cardinal: Oh no. But I believe I shall be forgiven. He who will judge us, is He who made us.
See more »


Version of BBC Sunday-Night Play: The Prisoner (1963) See more »

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User Reviews

"The Result Of Human Weakness"
9 November 2008 | by (Buffalo, New York) – See all my reviews

Alec Guinness got to repeat one of the roles he did on the London stage with the screen adaption of Bridget Boland's The Prisoner which was directed by Peter Glenville who also did the original stage production. It was one of Guinness's personal favorites among his parts because of the Catholicism of the actor.

In fact the role really hit close, maybe too close to home, because like the character he plays in the film, Guinness was a child of a prostitute mother who escaped into acting as a refuge from a really bad childhood. Just as his character the Cardinal of an unnamed Balkan country now ruled by a Marxist dictatorship went into the church as a way of rising above the station he was born in life.

Jack Hawkins plays the state inquisitor, a psychologist by training who probes and finds the weakness in Guinness and uses it to get a confession of treason out of him. Pride and vanity are the trickiest of human sins, we're all guilty of it in one way or another.

In making this film Guinness, Boland, and Glenville were all adamant about keeping the main character Catholic and not some Christian preacher of an unnamed denomination as what the producers originally wanted to do, the better for a broader appeal they reasoned. Catholicism and the special burdens and duties it places on its clergy is precisely what makes the story valid.

According to a recent biography of Alec Guinness though it was never going to be anyone else but him in the role of the Cardinal, Noel Willman had done the inquisitor part on stage. Several people like John Gielgud and Peter Bull were considered for that part before Hawkins was signed for the role.

If the subject matter does seem familiar, the role is obviously modeled on Josef Cardinal Mindszenty of Hungary. And director Peter Glenville would have his greatest screen triumph in Becket, the story of another troublesome priest several centuries earlier.

Guinness does lay bare his soul in this film. For fans of Alec Guinness this film is a must.

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