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Listen up, you primitive Proles before the Thought Police start looking for me for telling you that two and two ARE four.
Ron Howard and his producing partner, Brain Grazier have slated to film a remake of George Orwell's classic book, 1984. Why? Has Opie gone berserk? Will it be a period piece? Did people not learn with the abysmal, Prisoner TV series remake filmed a few years ago that certain TV and movies are products of their time? Who will star as Winston Smith? Johnny Depp, Leonardo DiCaprio, Brad Pitt or Maaaaattt Daaamonnnn? And O'Brien? Who would fit that role?
The first adaptation of 1984 for TV was in 1956 for the BBC starring the late, great actors Peter Cushing, Andre Morell and Donald Pleasance. The two-hour film was shot on a sound stage on a limited budget and without the razzle-dazzle of today's special effects. Disturbing and claustrophobic, it fit the mood for Orwell's dystopian future quite nicely.
In 1956, a feature film was made in the UK again starring Edmund O'Brien, Jan Sterling, Michael Redgrave, Hammer favorite; Michael Ripper, Donald Pleasance again in another role, Kenneth Griffith and John Vernon as the voice of Big Brother.
The Canadian born Mr. Vernon was a versatile voice over actor starting out. You probably recognize him from the 1960s Marvel animated series where he voiced Tony Stark, Prince Namor and General Ross. His most recognized role was from the 1979 comedy, Animal House as Dean Wormer. Knowing that he was the voice of Big Brother, it adds new dimension to his famous line, "who dropped a truckload of Fizzies into the varsity swim meet?"
Yet again, director Michael Anderson delivers the goods in this film. Dark, moody and atmospheric he emphasizes Big Brother's constant surveillance that may or not be watching you through his visa-screen in your home (a futuristic home entertainment center) it offers a glint of hope, but ends in defeat.
Two endings were filmed in this version. In the UK version, Winston and Julia defy Big Brother and system as they are shot at the end. It offered hope in their deaths that maybe others who defied Big Brother's tyranny that love would conquer all in the end.
In the US version, they are brainwashed and tricked into betraying each other where they go their separate ways devoting the rest of their lives to Big Brother.
I had seen this film when I was eight years old only once, but it left a definite impression on my young mind along with the 1962 version of Lord of the Flies during the summer break from school on television.
Gone were the cowboys, secret agents and astronauts that saved the day. The hero did not win in the end in the depressed future of 1984. Disturbing for a child to watch, yet eye opening to the world at the same time.
The film was rarely broadcast and disappeared from sight for almost forty years for reasons unknown. Recently, it has become available on DVD.
The last version was released in 1984 with John Hurt, Sir Richard Burton and Suzanne Hamilton adapted and directed by Michael Radford with music by Annie Lennox.
Dirty, gritty and sinister it captured the essence of the novel. Technology had become stagnate along with the mind of the people who had literarily become the living dead masking their fates through alcohol. John Hurt was perfect as Winston Smith and Sir Richard in top form as O'Brien.
Each person will have their own favorite version, yet they all convey the same story and all are quite well told. My question is, why bother making yet another version of 1984?
Be seeing you.
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