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Blu-ray Review Nineteen Eighty-Four Blu-ray Review (1 Viewer)

Matt Hough

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Nineteen Eighty-Four Blu-ray Review

A mood of futility and despondency is, as it should be, quite overpowering in Michael Radford’s Nineteen Eighty-Four, the second and better film version of the famous political satire penned by George Orwell in 1949. Though deliberately drab of look and quite talky, the movie is nonetheless favorably faithful to the book in all of the most important ways, and it delivers the chilling message of its author quite hauntingly even if this is one of those films that many wouldn’t feel like revisiting on regular occasions.



Studio: MGM

Distributed By: Twilight Time

Video Resolution and Encode: 1080P/AVC

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1

Audio: English 1.0 DTS-HDMA (Mono)

Subtitles: English SDH

Rating: R

Run Time: 1 Hr. 51 Min.

Package Includes: Blu-ray

clear keep case

Disc Type: BD50 (dual layer)

Region: All

Release Date: 12/08/2015

MSRP: $29.95




The Production Rating: 4/5

With Big Brother (the all-seeing governmental watchdog agency) controlling every thought and action of Oceania’s zombie-like populace, worker Winston Smith (John Hurt) makes it a point to quietly retain tiny portions of his individuality with a few remaining memories of a more individualistic era: having sex with a prostitute though BB frowns on sexual dalliances, keeping a diary of his daily thoughts and feelings, visiting an old junk shop which contains a few relics of the freer age of the past. During the course of his daily enterprises, Winston meets Julia (Suzanna Hamilton), a headstrong and rebellious girl who also prizes freedoms of an earlier era, and after she takes him to the forest away from Big Brother’s prying telescreens and shows him a gorgeous rolling hillside with grassy meadows and trees far, far removed from the drab, bleak existence in the city, Winston begins to long for a life with Julia, something the government would never allow but which he tries to arrange by renting a tastefully furnished room from the kindly junk shop owner Mr. Charrington (Cyril Cusack). His professional situation looks even more promising when he’s summoned to meet party official Mr. O’Brien (Richard Burton) who seems to take a shine to him. But things are not what they seem as Winston will soon painfully learn.

 

Director Michael Radford’s screenplay stays very close to the Orwell novel, and those not familiar with its worldview (with terms like telescreen, newspeak, thought police, and the like) may feel as if they’re playing a bit of catch up in the early going until one settles into the wonderfully realized totalitarian society being portrayed here. The mood of bleak depression suffuses almost every frame of the movie (apart from those idyllic moments in that grassy glen or when Winston revisits it in his mind), and the portrayal of a society brainwashed into Pavlov dog-like responses to video images or the constant repetition of facts and figures from the telescreens (and conveniently altered by Winston and his ilk when governmental projections aren’t met thus rewriting history to make the government appear to be clairvoyant) gives the satirical slant to the film a firm foundation from which to operate. Things we take for granted like sugar, milk, white bread, coffee and tea, and jam make their faces spark with wonder, and the contrast between the passionless, automatic sex with the prostitute and the genuine lovemaking between two eager partners couldn’t be more telling. The novel and film also take on topics like thought control, governmental conspiracies, prisoner torture, and mass hysteria: all hotbeds of discussion and debate today as they have been for many decades. Orwell’s book truly is one of the literary marvels of the 20th century, and the film does the book proud.

 

The film proved to be the final one for Richard Burton (he’s given a dedication card in the end credits), and his performance as O’Brien is wonderfully controlled and far removed from the extreme ham which dotted much of the work in some of his last films. John Hurt makes a splendid everyman, an inconspicuous little drone who imagines his small anarchies won’t be of much concern to Big Brother but who learns too late how wrong he is. Suzanna Hamilton’s Julia is quite good, too, offering full frontal nudity without a shred of self-consciousness and playing the role with earnestness and skill. Cyril Cusack is delightful as the soft-spoken Charrington with more beneath the surface than one at first suspects, and Gregor Fisher as Winston’s co-worker and faithful party member Parsons has some excellent moments late in the movie as it comes down to him or Winston set up for torture.



Video Rating: 4.5/5  3D Rating: NA

Desaturated through most of the movie to offer the bleak mood for this futuristic society, the transfer retains the movie’s original aspect ratio of 1.85:1 (1080p resolution using the AVC codec). Sharpness is excellent, and those bright, colorful shots of the grassy hillside with its lovely blue skies and green trees prove color can look realistic and appealing under those few special circumstances. Black levels are more than acceptable, and contrast, a little heavier than usual, is thoughtfully sustained. There are, as with many of MGM’s high definition transfers, some dust specks to be seen but not as constant as in some of their transfers. The movie has been divided into 24 chapters.



Audio Rating: 4/5

The disc offers two versions of the soundtrack, both in DTS-HD Master Audio 1.0: the director’s cut features the orchestral score by Dominic Muldowney; the releasing studio’s choice of a pop score by Eurythmics is also offered (I much preferred the Muldowney score). Though occasional softly-spoken dialogue occasionally gets lost with the Eurythmics’ score, generally dialogue, music, and sound effects blend together naturally. Age-related problems with hiss and crackle have been held to a minimum.



Special Features Rating: 2.5/5

Isolated Score Track: the Eurythmics’ score is offered in DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0.

 

Theatrical Trailer (2:21, SD)

 

MGM 90th Anniversary Trailer (2:06, HD)

 

Six-Page Booklet: contains some compelling stills from the film, original poster art on the back cover, and film historian Julie Kirgo’s salient essay on the movie.



Overall Rating: 4/5

Nineteen Eighty-Four is an outstanding film version of one of the 20th century’s most important literary works of art. The Twilight Time Blu-ray disc of the film is likely as good as we’re ever going to get of this excellent piece of cinema. There are only 3,000 copies of this Blu-ray available. Those interested should go to www.screenarchives.com to see if product is still in stock. Information about the movie can also be found via their website at www.twilighttimemovies.com or via Facebook at www.facebook.com/twilighttimemovies.


Reviewed By: Matt Hough


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cb1

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Nice review thanks! I enjoyed the movie very much, I prefer the Eurthymics score over the symphonic score.
 

noel aguirre

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Cool- after all these years to finally have the Eurythmics score. I remember the music video to Sex Crimes and went to see the film and was highly anticipating more- instead I got less. In fact I don't recall the song ever being in the film. I expected a more modern soundtrack like the Moroder/ Bowie one for Cat People. Too bad the music video is not included as an extra as thei score is. Another example of where a music video was heavily used to sell a movie but not included on the blu-ray as an extra- the other being At Close Range.
 

David_B_K

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Great review. I finally found the time to watch the Blu-ray over the weekend. I watched the director's cut with the Muldowney score. Surprisingly, there was little new music from the original version, mainly just the Oceania hymn. I'll re-watch with the Eurythmic music soon.


I love the visual look of the film, from Radford's recreation of Soviet style propaganda to the dreary look of post-war England. All of the Ingsoc-related scenes looked like an honest-to-goodness documentary. Remarkable film that really captures the mood of the book.
 

Mark-W

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Just ordered over the weekend because of this review thread.


I was a HUGE Eurythmics fan and "Julia" was my favorite song of theirs for quite a while.


While I would have loved a commentary track, the fact that we get both scores really pushed me over to get this.


Thanks for the great review, Matt!
 

Josh Steinberg

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I just ordered the disc and I've never seen the movie before. If I'm potentially only going to watch one version in the immediate future, which should I watch?
 

Camps

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Boy I sure would love to see a proper release of the 1956 original. Coincidentally, Twilight Time also has a deal with Columbia (which released the 1956 version).
 

David Norman

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I was wondering, but looking at a few Google searched it seems Firecake Entertainment is well known for selling bootlegs of British Hitchcock's and from the bits I can find for the Orwell Estate legal issues over the rights to this version of 1984 I can't imagine it's legit.

I though it might be possible this was one of the Public Domain/Not Public Domain battles, but the rep of the company makes me lean toward grey area at best
 

Peter Apruzzese

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Dick

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Matt, I (a professional writer) am absolutely in awe of how you were able to so fully review this film without drawing parallels to what is happening in our contemporary society. Kudos.
 

Robert Crawford

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Matt, I (a professional writer) am absolutely in awe of how you were able to so fully review this film without drawing parallels to what is happening in our contemporary society. Kudos.
The following rule applies and people need to adhere to our guidelines. Pay particular attention to what I have in bold.

4. No politics or religion. We do not permit the discussion of politics or religion at HTF. However, there is a narrow exception to this rule. If the subject matter of a movie or television show includes politics and/or religion, then they may be discussed insofar as they pertain to that specific movie or television show. We stress, however, that such discussions are carefully monitored and will be moderated if it appears that any participant is using this narrow exception to introduce a broader political or religious discussion than is warranted by the movie or television show under discussion. Also, anyone who has not seen a particular movie or television show is disqualified from discussing its political and/or religious content under this rule.
 
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Matt Hough

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Matt, I (a professional writer) am absolutely in awe of how you were able to so fully review this film without drawing parallels to what is happening in our contemporary society. Kudos.
Crawdaddy did a better job explaining my mindset while writing the review than I ever could!
 

Billy Batson

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The 1956 version has two endings, I think America got the bleak ending, as per the book, & we in the UK got a more hopeful - they can't break us - ending, where the brainwashing didn't work & the two lovers are gunned down, defiant to the end. I see youtube has the American original ending, I will have a look at it, I haven't seen it since the early sixties, it's probably from the bootleg DVD, the bootleggers being bootlegged! I hope a good looking official version can be released before too long.
 

David Norman

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The 1956 version has two endings, I think America got the bleak ending, as per the book, & we in the UK got a more hopeful -

That's really not an OK post in a review thread about a totally different version of the film that most haven't had a chance to see -- you could very easily have stopped at the hyphen and everything would have been perfectly OK.
 

Billy Batson

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That's really not an OK post in a review thread about a totally different version of the film that most haven't had a chance to see -- you could very easily have stopped at the hyphen and everything would have been perfectly OK.

Oh the shame! You are right of course, my post wasn't about this release (which I haven't seen since I saw it at the pictures), my apologies, but posts here are like conversations, where you drift on & off the subject sometimes, & there are three versions of this (that I know of), these two films & the fantastic fifties BBC drama with Peter Cushing that went out live, which I think is the best version. Anyway, I'm off to the library with the service revolver to do the decent thing.

George Orwell wrote this in 1948, so it looks like he just flipped the date over for the title. The post war forties & early fifties were beyond drab in England, with food rationing even worse than during the war, so Orwell didn't have to use his imagination too much.
 
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David Norman

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Oh the shame! You are right of course, my post wasn't about this release (which I haven't seen since I saw it at the pictures), my apologies, but posts here are like conversations, where you drift on & off the subject sometimes, & there are three versions of this (that I know of), these two films & the fantastic fifties BBC drama with Peter Cushing that went out live, which I think is the best version. Anyway, I'm off to the library with the service revolver to do the decent thing.

George Orwell wrote this in 1948, so it looks like he just flipped the date over for the title. The post war forties & early fifties were beyond drab in England, with food rationing even worse than during the war, so Orwell didn't have to use his imagination too much.

My problem isn't with discussion of the other versions of 1984. It was what came after the Hyphen without a spoiler tag. I would have been thrilled to know about the alternate ending, but not to be told the details of what that ending was.
 

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