TV Cream

Films: N is for...

Nineteen Eighty-Four

Can we take this for granted, with your eyes over us? In this place, this wintry home, John Hurt knows there’s always someone in, while Suzanna ‘Brimstone and Treacle’ Hamilton faces the wall, turns her back against it all. They’ll pull the bricks down one by one, leave a big hole in the wall, just where Richard Burton is looking in. Scenes all filmed, though we’re not entirely sure why, on the exact days of the year they were meant to have taken place in Orwell’s book. Also with (dooo-dooo-do-do-do-do-dooo!) Gregor Fisher, (dooo-dooo-do-do-do-do-dooo!) David ‘Mr Bentley’ Cann and (dooo-dooo-do-do-do-do-dooo!) Roger ‘Trigger’ Lloyd-Pack. The comedy zeitgeist deems The Eurythmics infra dig once more, it seems, reminding us of director Michael Radford pulling a massive BAFTA hissy fit when Smiling Dickie Branson slotted their music into his sombre Orwellathon. Well, fair enough, Sexcrime *is* bloody terrible, but that sort of precious over-seriousness is exactly what made this film such a brittle, airless chunk of O-level textbook ho- hum in the first place. Happily, Radford seems to’ve lightened up since, rumoured as he is to be working with the Jim Henson Company. The Muppets’ Two Minutes Hate, anyone? (Stadler: “They say you should imagine a boot stamping on a human face forever!” Waldorf: “They’ve saved us the bother, the bear’s on next!”)



  1. Glenn Aylett

    September 6, 2020 at 12:56 pm

    Richard Burton’s last role and for all he is dying, he plays a chillingly effective O Brien and the scene with the rat is one of his best moments. Actually Rich’s twilight years did see him get some of his old magic back, as Wagner, the narration of The War of the Worlds and The Nedusa Touch were all excellent.

    • THX 1139

      September 6, 2020 at 1:17 pm

      The fact that Burton was at last, drinking himself to his grave is oddly fitting for such a depressing film (the director had to hold up Burton’s hand for the “how many fingers?” bit, because Burton was too weak to do it himself). I think it’s pretty great, although if you look online, most of the discussion seems to be about Suzanna Hamilton’s pubic hair.

      • Glenn Aylett

        September 8, 2020 at 8:37 pm

        Burton could say a film version of 1984 was a better way to go than some of the films he made in the seventies. Also for all it’s heavy going and very long, Wagner from 1982 was another sign the ailing Burton wanted to sign off with something intellectual that suited his talents. Mind you, I still think his narration on War of the Worlds is worth listening to.

  2. Sidney Balmoral James

    September 6, 2020 at 2:00 pm

    We were shown this in my third year at secondary school. Also Polanski’s Macbeth, with a nude Lady M. Don’t suppose they would do that nowadays (this was after they stopped us playing with mercury, dissecting cow’s eyes etc.) It’s political correctness gone mad! Pretty depressing film by anyone’s standards, but Burton makes up for years of lousy films with his final role. He was just 58 when he died, which is no age at all, although Clark Gable and Humphrey Bogart didn’t see 60 (and Gary Cooper was just a one week past 60 when he died).

  3. Droogie

    September 6, 2020 at 11:50 pm

    Such an inspired use use of the wonderful 30’s Modernist UCL building Senate House in Bloomsbury as a stand-in for The Ministry Of Truth in this movie.

  4. Richardpd

    June 5, 2022 at 11:00 pm

    Another one my “get round to watch one day” list.

    It seems to be the rule not to let Dave Stewart anywhere near a film, as the Eurythmics theme song is one of their worst, though they had the excuse that it was a last minute addition. He blotted his copybook even more with the 3/4 of the weird All Saints vehicle Honest, Shaznay wisely sat it out.

  5. Glenn Aylett

    June 7, 2022 at 10:41 am

    Nineteen Eighty Four is quite good if you like Orwell and a dying Richard Burton makes it worthwhile as his O Brien is especially chilling when he is torturing Winston Smith. However, equally good considering the limited budget and primitive technology is the BBC version from 1954 starring Peter Cushing and Donald Pleasence.

  6. Richardpd

    June 7, 2022 at 10:32 pm

    I watched the 1954 version a few years ago when it was on BBC4. Very good, especially as Nigel “Quatermass” Kneale adapted it.

    Supposedly the first performance was better, but the telerecording equipment failed.

    Peter Cushing was disappointed no to use cast in the film version made a year or two later.

    Kneale’s script was reused in the mid 1960s for an version early BBC2, which was believed lost for years before a copy was found in an American university archive, or something like that.

  7. Glenn Aylett

    June 8, 2022 at 6:53 pm

    @ Richardpd, Nineteen Eighty Four and Quatermass were outstanding productions for their time, considering the primitive technology, small studios and limited budget the BBC Television Service had at the time. Those lucky enough to have a television set in 1953/54 were very impressed and these two dramas were remembered for decades afterwards by those who saw them. Also it established Cushing as the good guy in a long career that is best known for his horror roles.

    • Richardpd

      June 8, 2022 at 10:29 pm

      Yes that’s very true, I have the Quatermass box set which is a very good watch.

      My Dad remembered that the Quatermass serials would be the a major talking point the day after they were screened.

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