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1984 (1956)

1984 (1956)

Edmond O'BrienMichael RedgraveJan SterlingDavid Kossoff
Michael Anderson


1984 (1956) is a English movie. Michael Anderson has directed this movie. Edmond O'Brien,Michael Redgrave,Jan Sterling,David Kossoff are the starring of this movie. It was released in 1956. 1984 (1956) is considered one of the best Drama,Sci-Fi movie in India and around the world.

In a futuristic, state-run society controlled by "Big Brother" in which love is outlawed, employee of the state Winston Smith falls for Julia, and is tortured and brainwashed for his crime.

1984 (1956) Reviews

  • A dystopian nightmare that effectively captures the essence of Orwell's novel


    In a recent review of Terry Gilliam's 'Brazil,' I confidently referred to the film as a "weird, twisted, fantastical tale of the sheer absurdity of an Orwellian society." In all honesty, at that time, I wasn't even certain of what constituted an "Orwellian" society, since I had never read the novel, and was only repeating fragments which I had extracted from other sources. Not more than three weeks ago, I decided to finally get my hands on George Orwell's famous dystopian story to see what it was all about, and was somewhat surprised to discover that it was one of the most engaging pieces of literature I had ever read. Eager to find out how the film adaptations treated Orwell's themes, I immediately tracked down copies of Michael Radford's timely version (released in 1984), as well as Michael Anderson's harder-to-find '1984,' released in 1956. Michael Anderson's '1984' was not, in fact, the first adaptation of George Orwell's novel, following a 1954 BBC television Sunday Night Theatre broadcast, which I've heard is phenomenal. I had expected that a 1950s adaptation would sugarcoat some of the novel's darker and more pessimistic themes, and yet I was pleasantly surprised to find that screenwriters Ralph Gilbert Bettison and William Templeton have followed Orwell's story quite closely. Edmond O'Brien plays Winston Smith, a lowly member of the Outer Party at the Ministry of Truth, where he works every day at "revising" history to correspond with Big Brother's most recent declarations. Winston secretly harbours a resentment towards Big Brother and his totalitarian government, a crime that is punishable by death should he be observed by the all-powerful Thought Police. However, Winston is not alone, and he soon discovers that the beautiful young Julia (Jan Sterling) also shares his reservations, and the two strike up a romantic relationship, meeting in locations without surveillance and always toying with the risk of capture. Inevitably, both are arrested by the dictatorial government, and Winston falls into the hands of Gen. O'Connor (changed from O'Brien in the novel, possibly to avoid the name clash with the film's main star), played by Michael Redgrave. Slowly but surely, O'Connor sets about destroying Winston's will, persisting with his torturous punishment, not only until Winston obeys Big Brother, but until he loves him. An alternative ending reportedly had Winston and Julia screaming "Down with Big Brother" as they fell before the firing squad, a conclusion that I suspect would have infuriated George Orwell. Fortunately, the version I saw stayed much truer to the spirit of the novel, ending with a "rehabilitated" Winston proclaiming his genuine love for the almighty leader. There is also a brief, ten-second epilogue in which the narrator practically spells out the film's moral – as if it wasn't clear enough already – but this minor slip-up is easily forgiven. The performances in the film are very well done. Edmond O'Brien does not look how I had originally pictured Winston Smith – perhaps a bit plumper than expected – but he did an excellent job, most impressive in the scenes of his torture. There is one brilliant long-take in which we see O'Connor pacing back and forth across the screen, periodically holding up four fingers and trying to convince Winston that there are five. Winston, pictured on a television monitor behind O'Connor, vigilantly maintains that "two and two equals four," before the latter's persistent torture finally breaks him. The acting here from both parties is sublime, and we can really feel the agony that poor Winston is enduring. Also notable is actor Donald Pleasence, who plays R. Parsons, an average workman who is hopelessly devoted to the Party and its leader, even after he is arrested for alleged thought-crimes. Perhaps one of the few complaints that I can make about the film is how Room 101 was dealt with. Though I was most impressed with O'Brien's acting during this sequence, it was all over much too quickly to be effective, and we don't even see a thing, treated only to the frantic squeaks of a mass of hungry rodents. Whilst it is often true that the less the audience sees the better, here didn't seem to be one of those moments, and the whole scene would have worked much better, in my view, had we been subjected to what Winston could see; to be face-to-face with "the worst thing in the world." Other than this, I can certainly recommend '1984' for its fine treatment of a challenging piece of dystopian literature. This one is well worth tracking down.

  • Powerful and Shattering


    I finally was able to see this film, having seen the 1984 version with John Hurt when I was in college. I recall the 1984 version having some good production values, but I remember being disappointed also. This version was well-cast, and the art direction was also competent. Edmund O'Brien turned in a great performance as Winston Smith. I think that he brought a great quality of desperation to the role; which seemed to run contrary to John Hurt's performance. I'm sure there was a lot left out of the book. But I get tired of hearing people moan and groan about the argument of literature vs. cinema. Come on people, film is time-based, and can't digress like novels can. The screenwriter/director mainly extracts plot points, and can't be bothered with too much exposition (unless of course they have a whopping budget!). I've read many criticisms where more skeptical viewers complain that we don't get to know Big Brother's motives, strategy, etc... What?!! It's Big Brother - an enigmatic and probably non-existent despot....you're not supposed to know his whole story! The love affair, although brief, is very empathetic. In lieu of all the paranoia, Big Brother-cheerleading, etc. - the love between Winston and Julia is a good emotional oasis. Even though I watched a poor copy of this version, it really did make an impression. One of the few criticisms I have is Room 101. I thought the rat shot/scene was truncated, and could've been dramatized more. That's where the John Hurt version trumps this one.

  • Double good version of the Orwell classic


    Dingy, atmospheric version of George Orwells tale concerning two citizens of the New World Order involved in illicit, illegal love. Nothing is pretty in this story, and perhaps O'Brian and Sterling are a bit long in the tooth for the characters the author had in mind, however the superb dramatizations overcome any casting mishaps. The story of life in a totalitarian society rings chillingly familiar today. And, in the conclusion, to quote the poet laureate of our times, Todd Rundgren "Winston Smith Takes it on the Jaw Again!"

  • A strangely bowdlerized version of a great book


    After wanting to see this movie for about three decades and after teaching the book for almost two, I finally found a copy recently and was surprised by two things: 1) how surprisingly faithful this movie is at times, even more so in certain parts than the definitive 1984 version; and 2) just how painful it is to watch something that bowdlerizes a story you're intimately familiar with. On the one hand, the 1956 version gets the larger picture of Orwell's dystopia completely wrong. Much like the BBC version of two years previously, the movie ignores Orwell's descriptions of Airstrip One as a ruined and war-torn version of London for the most part, and such places as the Ministry of Truth and the canteen look like every other 50s sci-fi movie's version of the 1980s. (They even change Goldstein's name to something futuristic-sounding and unmemorable, though they may have been to avoid any hint of anti-Semitism.) No wonder Orwell's widow hated it so. It's also no surprise that both Julia and O'Brien (oops, sorry, it's O'Connor here, probably because of the lead actor's name being too close to O'Brien) are able to spot Winston as different: Edmund O'Brien plays Winston not as an intellectual stuck in a society antithetical to intellectual thought but as a bit of a gormless idiot, a man who has to be told repeatedly "That photo does not exist. Yes, that one in your hand. Yes, THAT one. It doesn't exist. What, are you deaf?" It's hard to imagine THIS Winston Smith lasting for very long in the actual novel, let alone the 1984 version of the movie. This Winston is also enough of an idiot to believe that the steely, vaudeville villain-eqsue O'Connor could ever be sympathetic - though, to be fair, that's more to do with Michael Redgrave deciding to play the part without an ounce of subtlety, and neither movie does a decent job of explaining why Winston trusts O'Brien in the first place. Of the three actors to play this part, it's definitely Burton first, then André Morell, then Redgrave far in the rear. And don't even get me started about trying to do a movie in the 50s about a society trying to abolish the orgasm... And yet the movie gets some bits absolutely right. Winston's visit to O'Brien's quarters, unlike the similar visit in the later version, includes Julia and includes her objection to O'Connor's suggestion that they may someday have to separate. (All these years, I thought that scene occurred in the later version, too, but rewatching it the other night revealed that it doesn't.) It also gets some of the broader strokes right, too: I hadn't expected the Two Minute Hate to work so well in this futuristic setting, nor to have the torture scenes make any sense. Still, give me the later version anyday over this one. This is definitely your grandfather's 1984, not Orwell's.

  • Loved the movie, want a copy


    I saw the movie once back in 1968 or so and thought it was great. Don't know how I'd view it now but I have never had any desire to see the remake. The fact that the movie is in black and white still leaves a very visual impression of the stark, bare lives people like Winston Smith led. No color in their lives and certainly no color in their thoughts was the order of their day. I think the film captured that along with the idea that their technology available was also unenlightening. It served only one purpose and that was to control. I don't think I would be as impressed if the movie were made today. Our technology is too sophisticated. In the original version, less is more.


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