Why We're Watching the 1983 Movie Version of 'Betrayal'

Rob Walker
Tech Columnist
February 7, 2014

Every Friday on Yahoo Tech, The New Old Thing brings you recommendations of distinctly untimely — but still amazing! — cultural expression. Lots of sources (including us) will tell you what’s new and worthwhile. But only The New Old Thing tells you what’s not-new, but great, and available to you right now thanks to the magic of technology. (Your tips are welcome; send to rwalkeryn@yahoo.com.)

This week: The multitalented Debbie Millman — president of the design division at Sterling Brands, chair of the Masters in Branding program at the School of Visual Arts, host of Design Matters, and author most recently of the visual-essay book Self-Portrait As Your Traitorhighlights the 1983 movie Betrayal. 

Millman recently caught the latest and much-ballyhooed production of Harold Pinter’s Betrayal on Broadway — with Daniel Craig (lately aka James Bond) and his wife, the Academy Award-nominated actress Rachel Weisz. It is, of course, a classic and highly influential play, one that played with time in ways that influenced everything from Memento to Pulp Fiction. (Its unusual reverse-chronology structure also inspired an episode of Seinfeld, believe it or not.)

“I saw the movie version of Betrayal when it first came out in the early ’80s and LOVED it,” Millman says. “In fact, it is one of my favorite movies of all time. So when I saw that the play was being revived, I bought tickets and counted down the days until I saw it. I brought along my girlfriend Maria and gushed and gushed about what an incredible experience it was going to be.

“What a disappointment!” she continues. “The actors seemed like they were trying to act like the actors in the movie, not like the written characters in the play. I was astounded, and kind of devastated.

“So I went home and took Maria to YouTube to see some of the great, great scenes from the movie that were botched in the play. Jeremy Irons and Ben Kingsley star in the movie and they are AMAZING. A revelation. Magical.”

To wit: this seduction scene and this post-betrayal lunch scene.

Long story short: The 1983 movie blows away the overhyped and super-pricey recent Broadway version. It is surprisingly hard to come by — even a used DVD on Amazon is priced closer to Broadway tickets than a night at the movies. If that’s out of your budget, then at least you can enjoy those choice scenes on YouTube until someone organizes the online petition to make this digitally available in full.

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