Sunday, September 29, 2013

1954 live TV version of Orwell's 1984

I never read Nineteen Eighty-Four. Turns out I had a pretty clear picture of the characters, storyline and most of the details of the book.

I watched a 1954 British TV version. This was broadcast live on the BBC. It was controversial at the time---the book was a bit morbid. It starred Peter Cushing and Donald Pleasance, with Wilfrid Brambell who went on to play Paul McCartney's grandfather in A Hard Day's Night.

I watched it on Roku, but it's available here on YouTube.

There was one moment when we see a big mic shadow, and at one point a door closes and the wall wobbles. But it was great. It was clear that it was a live TV show which has certain limitations, but it shows what you can do with little more than skill and talent.

The question for a lot of us is, what can you do without much skill and indeterminate talent?

I argued on this blog some time ago---I noted the admiration that the French New Wave had for American B movies and suggested that TV shows might be a better source of inspiration for low budget filmmakers today. They were about the same, genre material filmed on very tight schedules and low budgets. But B movies are just hard to sit through and there were stylistic changes in TV over the decades.

Frankenheimer noted that all the directors who worked in live television had terrible back problems caused by the incredible stress of, essentially, filming a ninety-minute movie in ninety minutes in front of ten million people.

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