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1984 (BBC 1954 edition)

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message 1: by Manuel (last edited Feb 14, 2011 02:22AM) (new)

Manuel | 144 comments I recently stumbled on a rare piece of Sci-fi history.

I had read there was a 1950's motion picture of George Orwell's 1984, but I had never seen it. It occurred to me to look in YOU-TUBE to see if it might show up. Yes I did manage to find clips of the 1956 movie version starring Edmund O'Brien as Winston; however I also discovered the BBC TV production from 1954.

Apparently the TV version was very controversial at the time; due to its allegedly subversive nature and horrific content. It was produced by Nigel Kneale (Creator of the Quartermass Sci-fi serials)
Television in Britain was still a novelty in 1954, many people had just purchased their first television a few months earlier to watch Queen Elizabeth's coronation.

Despite the early limitations of TV, I was very surprised at the quality of this production and at how closely they managed to follow the novel. What is most surprising is the high caliber acting from all the players in an era when the entire production was performed LIVE. Apparently the broadcast was originally performed on a Sunday evening and got really high ratings (Supposedly also watched and enjoyed by Queen Elizabeth and Prince Phillip. The BBC got permission to broadcast the production again (LIVE)the following Thursday evening. The second broadcast is the version that was recorded and available for viewing on YOUTUBE.

Peter Cushing did an outstanding job as Winston, one of the countless lower level party functionaries working in the nightmare world of London in 1984. Donald Pleasence is unforgettable as the eager Syme.

How ironic that Orwell's nightmare world is presented through a media (Television) that is a tool of the government in his novel. I was surprised and amused how the characters in the production are talking about food shortages in the future(1984); when Britain had barely managed to stop the WWII era rationing in 1950, only 4 years before this TV. production.

I was also surprised at the frank nature of the dialog in such an early era of television. This level of dialog would not be seen in American TV until the late 1960s.

I only intended to view a few minutes of this broadcast, but I was engaged enough to sit through the entire 1 hour, 47 minute production. Orwell's nightmare world was still blood chilling despite the obvious limited production values; yes the sets might not be spectacular, but the acting and spirit of the broadcast was excellent.

I highly recommend viewing this sci-fi icon.

Ironically, the movie clips for my original quest (the 1956 motion picture) are very disappointing. The motion picture has more elaborate sets, but the nature, spirit and desperate quality of the novel has been lost or gutted. Edmund O'Brien is awfully miscast as Winston. Edmund O'Brien's American accent sounds ridiculous opposite Sir Michael Redgrave and the rest of the British cast. Accent aside; Edmund O'Brien's physical presence reminds me of Jackie Gleason, Broderick Crawford and Raymond Burr; he looks too well fed in an era where people are barely getting enough to eat. As a lover of science fiction I was trying to give this production a chance, but Julia's Marylyn Monroe haircut was the last straw. Sadly the 1956 motion picture is a classic Turkey; one can only imagine what the producers said when they were presented with a bleak novel about the nightmare future of Britain as an insignificant province of a massive police state. ..........."lets try for a happy ending, and how about glamming up the dame?"


message 2: by Mawgojzeta (new)

Mawgojzeta Excellent review. I have marked 1984's 1954 (haha) recording for future watching on YouTube. I did not know they could post something that long; that is wonderful to not have to watch it in 10 minute increments.


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