1984 is Orwell's legendary cerebral work. It's a novel that is bleak, downbeat and philosophical. It seems something of a pity however that much of his other work is overlooked such as his essays. Notes On Nationalism for example is a scathing attack on those people who are " anti-war " but whose bitter condemnation of conflict is only heard when it's waged by the democracies of Britain and America. It was written in the spring of 1945 so fundamentally it's far more prophetic than 1984 but 1984 is considered Orwell's masterwork
Scriptwriter Nigel Kneale is - Like much of Orwell's work - somewhat forgotten today. He was once a household name in Britain due to both this adaptation of 1984 and the Quatermass serials. Regretfully it's forgotten how controversial the teleplay was when it was broadcast away back in December 1954, so controversial that the houses of parliament debated television standards after the BBC was deluged with complaints. Perhaps this collective amnesia works in its favour when viewed today?
You have to be slightly forgiving when viewing 1984. It may seem talky and static compared to even 1970 British television but if you compare it the same production team's THE QUATERMASS EXPERIMENT the year before which had the same production values as a school play you'll see how far things have come in such a short space of time. It's also noticeable how much Rudolph Cartier has been influenced by German Expressionist Cinema. We see nods to it here and see it even more explicitly in QUATERMASS 2
Kneale's script does contain a slight hiccup at the beginning when we're told of atomic wars and shown a vision of a devastated London. It's difficult to believe a nation that has survived such a catastrophe and still have the technology of telescreens but this is soon forgotten and we get on with the story proper. Kneale has a written a great adaptation on a novel that is probably impossible to film. Much of the novel's mechanics has Winston Smith thinking to himself and the subtext involves the idea that both personnel Utopia and societal Utopia are mere delusions that should never be sought. All the bits you remember from the novel are here and they're easily understood. Compare this to the 1984 movie by Michael Radford where the story is confused and you'll see how well Kneale has done in doing the impossible
The cast are good and there's little in the way of over emphatic performances though they are sometimes noticeable when they do appear but they're nowhere as bad as some that plagued television in the 1950s. There is the slight problem of middle class extras giving it " Cor blimey guv " working accents but having heard David Tennant's mockney accent in DOCTOR WHO for several years I've become immune to them. It's also a novelty seeing Cushing and Pleasence both most famous for horror films appearing on screen in a story about the horrors perpetrated by humans on one another. The stand out performance though belongs to Andre Morrell as O'Brien. Morrell was a prolific British actor in film and television and painfully underrated. He is absolutely outstanding in the torture scene with Cushing where he gives a virtual soliloquy on the metaphysical aims and existence of the party. It's this scene you'll remember long after the rats in Room 101 which caused so much controversy .
Review by Theo Robertson from the Internet Movie Database.