April 11, 2022 (published)
Most of us will be familiar with the 1984 film version (appropriately released that year) starring John Hurt as Winston Smith; so it’s all the more interesting that we can watch this newly restored 1954 game show on Blu-ray or DVD and even on digital platforms like iTunes and Amazon Prime. Of course, it should be kept in mind that compared to the later version; the 1954 offering looks perhaps a little sketchy with its financial limitations (aside from a few exterior scenes shot around Muswell Hill, it was recorded in the studio) and grainy in black and white. But that’s not the point. The thing is, Nigel Kneale’s classic output remains as powerful and relevant as it was then, after all, author George Orwell, a democratic socialist, felt inspired to write his cautionary tale. controversial in 1949 following the atomic bombs in Hiroshima and Nagasaki as well as the totalitarian regime of Nazi Germany and Stalinist Russia. But never has Orwell’s vision of a totalitarian surveillance state come closer to today than now thanks to President Putin proving the masses are once again oppressed and controlled with state television justifying the invasion of Ukraine and twisting the facts – in the case of the film, it’s a mysterious leader called “Big Brother”. Of course, Orwell’s novel isn’t about Russia, but – after civilization has been ravaged by war – three new power blocs named Oceania, Eurasia and East Asia now rule the world so to speak. perch. ‘Airstrip One’ (formerly the United Kingdom and now ruled by ‘The Party’) is a province in Oceania, one of these three totalitarian superstates. It is in Airstrip One that the central character Winston Smith (Peter Cushing) lives and works for the “Ministry of Truth” in London, however, this seemingly indescribable “Everyman” secretly opposes the totalitarian system and keeps a diary hidden in which he scribbles his feelings. Yes, Winston has to hide his diary because the display of emotions is also forbidden: Big Brother (which can only be seen via a screen) and the “thought police” are watching everything. Claiming to be a pillar of the totalitarian society, Winston constantly harbors rebellious thoughts but feels isolated in his predicament.
The situation changes unexpectedly when Julia (Yvone Mitchell), a member of the party,
One day slips him a note with the words “I love you” while having lunch in the canteen. After a hesitant start (until now Winston had assumed that Julia was working as a spy), the two strike up a secret romance despite the danger of being hounded by the “thought police” – yes, feelings and emotions are also prohibited in this controlling society. The rule for party members states that sex is strictly for procreation and not for pleasure. In order to pursue their love, Winston and Julia enjoy secret trysts in the nearby countryside before renting a room above Mr. Charrington’s (Leonard Sachs) ramshackle antique shop – a secret hideout of course. Their happiness is cut short, however, when Winston makes a fatal mistake upon seeing an ally in the odd O’Brien (André Morell) – an Inner Party official who appears to be part of an underground resistance movement called the ” Brotherhood” formed by the policies of Big Brother. rival (and therefore “traitor”) Emmanuel Goldstein (Arnold Diamond). The fact that author George Orwell decided to make the character of Emmanuel Goldstein a Jewish character upon seeing how Jews were persecuted by Hitler’s totalitarian Nazi regime during World War II was a smart move. Unfortunately for Winston, his earlier suspicions that Julia might be a spy couldn’t have been further from the truth because it’s O’Brien who actually works for the state, as does the owner of a grocery store. antiques, Mr. Charrington! When Julia and Winston are arrested, it is primarily the latter who is subjected to months of torture and brainwashing by O’Brien in the infamous Room 101 in which Winston finds himself subjected to a brutal “re-education” program. (learn, understand and accept). Moreover, a more personal hell awaits every rebellious person in said room as individual phobias are part of this re-education program and in Winston’s case they are… rats!
When the BBC broadcast NINETEEN EIGHTY-FOUR shortly before Christmas 1954, it caused an almighty outcry as many viewers considered the whole thing too disturbing and shocking, especially as it was the Christmas season when British viewers were perhaps more accustomed to seasonal rates. like the 1952 film “The Holly and The Ivy” or “Scrooge” (1951) with Alastair Sim! The tabloids also had a field day, however, when the game show was repeated the following week, the general response was somewhat more positive. With its slogans “War is Peace” and “Freedom is Slavery,” viewers had a truly uplifting experience watching “Nineteen Eighty-Four.” Nigel Kneale was of course perfectly suited to adapt the novel for television, given how his Jewish wife had fled Nazi Germany. Austrian Rudolph Cartier deftly steered Cushing, Morell and Mitchell through a paranoid, claustrophobic chasm that brought out the best and most intense performances from all three tracks.
Bonus material includes audio commentary, the 20-minute BBC archive clip “Late Night Line-Up” from 1965 in which the actors recall the controversy caused by the film, “The Ministry of Truth” – a conversation between BFI’s Dick Fiddy and television historian Oliver Wake, a portrait of Nigel Kneale, archival photography, an original screenplay in PDF format and an illustrated booklet (exclusive to first pressing only).