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12 Years A Slave—The Second Time Around

12 Years A Slave—The Second Time Around

12 Years A Slave
is a remake. What’s more, the original television film was directed by the
celebrated Gordon Parks. Why no one seems to remember this is a mystery to me,
yet all too typical of what I’ll call media amnesia. It first aired on PBS in
1984 as Solomon Northup’s Odyssey, reached
a wider audience the following year when it was repeated as an installment of American Playhouse, and made its video
debut under the title Half Slave, Half
. It’s readily available from Monterey Media or for instant viewing at I write this not to cast aspersions on Steve McQueen’s excellent
new film, but to do justice to a production that doesn’t deserve to be
forgotten or ignored.

The imposing Avery Brooks stars in the 1984 television film
as the free man who is sold into slavery, with John Saxon, Mason Adams, Rhetta
Greene, Joe Seneca, and Michael Tolan in key supporting roles. (Saxon plays the
venomous slave owner Epps portrayed in the new movie by Michael Fassbender.)
The screenplay was written by Lou Potter and the noted playwright-actor
Samm-Art Williams, inspired by Northrup’s groundbreaking 1853 book Twelve
Years a Slave

Following a stellar career as a photojournalist for Life magazine, Parks made his mark as a
feature-film director with The Learning
and especially Shaft (and its sequel, Shaft’s Big Score). His frustrations
with Leadbelly in 1976 made him wary
of working on another Hollywood movie, but the independently-produced Solomon Northup’s Odyssey intrigued him,
along with the challenges of shooting in the Deep South. The multitalented
Parks also composed the score. He later expressed regrets that the film didn’t
go far enough (an accusation no one can make about McQueen’s new adaptation of
the Northup story), yet it was precisely that restraint that earned Odyssey some of its strongest reviews in

This was the second in a proposed series of films about
slavery following A House Divided:
Denmark Vesey’s Rebellion
, in 1982, which starred Yaphet Kotto, Bernie
Casey, Ned Beatty, and Brock Peters, under Stan Lathan’s direction. These
provocative films were produced by Shep Morgan and partially funded by the
National Endowment for the Humanities. They were created with input from an
advisory board of scholars to ensure their accuracy. Indeed, Solomon Northup’s Odyssey earned the
Erik Barnouw Award from the Organization of American Historians.

There is a certain irony in the fact that we have ready
access to thousands of movies and television shows, yet so many titles languish
in obscurity. I hope the notoriety surrounding 12 Years a Slave will call attention to at least one vintage TV
movie that’s worth a second look.

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DANGER!!! do not want to click on the link above, yesterday I already click the link above and my computer a virus,
ust want to watch the film but they actually gave me a false invormasi, may god forgive their sins,
but after I searched on google I finally found a link that right to watch this film,
please click here >>

may be useful

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Your first sentence is false. It isn't a remake, it's based on the source material of a factual event. How many films have been made about any historical event of significance? Are these remakes of each other? No.

Miles Maker

12 YEARS A SLAVE is no more a remake than PASSION OF THE CHRIST or NOAH or stories by Shakespeare. You credit the source material–each new production is an interpretation of it. If Solomon Northup was a fictional character 12 YEARS A SLAVE would be a remake.

I also find it interesting that as we age and become aware of previous works we question whether stories should be told again, but like SON OF GOD this past weekend or once again Shakespeare, we must understand great stories are told again and again by different storytellers over time so they're not forgotten. Few remember Gordon Parks' work so today's young people have been gifted with an award-winning contemporary rendition by Steve McQueen–now available in public schools, so we must support these new stories being retold the same way the holocaust is told from various perspectives.


As a teacher, I have taught my VA middle school students about Solomon Northup…..and the lessons about slavery always include the original movie – 12 Years A Slave." I saw an interview with Anne Curry and the "new" director and cast of the movie. They acted as if this tragic story was new to the world. I guess Ellen was correct when she hosted the 2014 Oscars and made the comment about how little time Hollywood has spent attending college.

Lee Richardson

When the McQueen's film debuted last year I knew there was something familiar about the title. I kept going over it in my head " 12 years a Slave….12 years a Slave". Until finally it dawned on me that I had in fact seen the original story filmed by Parks and starring my friend and colleague, Avery Brooks. I can only hope the new film will spark interest in looking back at the original and the fine work done by all involved.


I've seen the 1984 movie numerous times. In fact, I own a copy of it. I liked it very much. Probably a little more than this latest version directed by Steve McQueen.


When i started to watching the movie 12 Years A Slave,thought i have seemed this before. So i looked it up ,and sure enough i had .Once i see a movie i almost never forget it it.Slavery is a part of our history that we should never forget.I am a black man,and i believe that all Americans should know this history to understand the plight of black people in America.

Robert A Johnson

Hey everyone I've heard Mr Steve Mc queen speak several time on his not so new movie 12 years a slave the Solomon Northup's story. I just want to know one thing why is has thier been no mentioning of the PBS made for TV movie my him or the cast. Gordon Parks one the greats of films' who put alot of work into this film along with Avery Brooks, we should not forget this. This was ground breaking in the the 80s. I have read the book and I've seen the movie. I feel some should call Mr Mc Queen on this. for the record am a Black American. I will see the movie but I hate the slight on Mc Queen part we are not Stupid on this side of the water.

Steve Sailer

Somewhat similarly, Django Unchained owes a lot to the 1971 movie "The Skin Game," James Garner and Lou Gossett Jr. in the pre-Civil War southwest as wandering conmen who practice a dangerous hustle of selling Gossett as a slave only to have him escape and rejoin Garner and on to the next victims.

Ironically, the slavedealer who was put on trial for buying Solomon Northup formally accused Northup of conspiring with the two circus conmen to defraud him of $625 by pulling the old skin game on him. That seems implausible, but it would make for a more interesting opening to Twelve Years a Slave than the improbable story we're presented.

Ella Bailey

I'm watching a show called Made in Hollywood and the actors are saying why this movie was never made before. As they talked about the movie the more it sound familiar and my memory came back to me and I said this movie has been made before I remember it playing on Starz back in the day during black history month. I just could not think of the name of the movie until I put it in the google search engine and this came up and let me tell I could not remember the name but I damn sure remember the faces. But that how blacks do in Hollywood shucking, jiving and lying right beside this white people. I mean whats next… They going to remake Alex Hailey Roots and say it never was made. White people always making money off of black people history. And I just want to know why.

G Ewing

Thank you, Leonard. When I heard about the movie, I thought "isn't it the same movie with Avery Brooks and Gordon Park? None of the reviews that I had read mentioned that the movie is a remake or that, making room for creativity, that someone had made an earlier movie based on the book.

G Ewing

Thank you , Leonard. When I

J Marie

I thought the same thing myself, Leonard when I heard that this new version was being produced, my question is what does this imply? That Gordon Park's version was not good enough, or does Steve McQueen think he can produce a better version, it the same story retold but only with new actors? A waste, I will not see this version.


Slavery can be many things LM, slaves to poverty, medications, out of control government…I would like to see more documentaries about everyday people who get crushed by an unfair Democratic/Republic who put their welfare above the everyday Joe, then maybe films wouldn't cost $15.00 a ticket…

James Knuttel

Thanks for the review, Leonard. I've added the original 1984 version to my Netflix rental list.

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