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    Adapting from and to 1984

    Posted by Mike Finnegan on

    George Orwell’s book Nineteen Eighty-Four was published on June 6, 1949. In a Cold War world, its themes of dehumanization, repressive conformity, adulation of authoritarian leaders and eternal warfare were (and still are) profound and prophetic. Its words and imagery make it ripe for adaptation to other media. Indeed, on August 27 that year, NBC University Theater broadcast a radio production casting David Niven as Winston Smith. Listen to it here: Orwell died the following year, so he couldn’t hear the April 26, 1953 Theatre Guild on the Air follow-up radio production starring Richard Widmark, Alan Hewitt and Marian Seldes. You can here: A month later came a U.S. TV adaptation with Eddie Albert and Lorne Greene and the following year a BBC production with Peter Cushing and Andre Morell. Watch the latter here: Its cinematic breakout occurred in 1956 with the first film version, starring Edmond O’Brien, Michael Redgrave, Jan Sterling and Donald Pleasence. Directed by Michael Anderson, who would also helm that year’s Academy Award®-winning Best Picture Around the World in 80 Days as well as another futuristic favorite, Logan’s Run (1976), it met with a mixed critical and audience reception, but those who impressionably fell under its spell at the time or via subsequent TV airings feel its chills to this day. The links to sample various iterations, including this one to director Ridley Scott’s legendary Apple Macintosh ad broadcast on January 22, 1984 – -- speak to the endless fascination with Orwell’s dystopian vision across generations, and will in no way dilute the fascination of the spectacular 1984 film version of Nineteen Eighty-Four, written and directed by Michael Radford, and arriving on a Twilight Time hi-def Blu-ray for year-end 2015. John Hurt as Winston Smith, film-debuting Suzanna Hamilton as Julia, Cyril Cusack at Charrington and – elegiacally haunting in his final film – Richard Burton as O’Brien give superb performances and Allen Cameron’s production design and Roger Deakins’s cinematography depict a fearful future from which you cannot avert your eyes. Big Brother is watching, but you can return the compliment by watching him on the new Blu of the definitive screen version (to date at least) of Nineteen Eighty-Four debuting December 8; pre-orders open November 20.