LONDON (Reuters) - The average American viewer will probably balk at the images of swastikas on their flag or in Times Square, but what may shock them most in the new streamed video drama “The Man in the High Castle” will be the depiction of a United States crushed.
The 10-episode series is an adaptation of sci-fi writer Philip K. Dick’s 1962 novel which posits an alternate history in which the Axis powers win World War Two and divide up the United States into an Imperial Japan-run West and Nazi-run East.
Made by the U.S. company Amazon, all the episodes will be available from Nov. 20 on the Amazon Prime streaming service.
“I saw my buddy’s brains blown out on Virginia Beach” — spoken by a defeated American veteran — is one of the lines from the show that critics have cited from previews.
“You know, it’s chilling. I think they’re (viewers) going to have a hard time accepting it but at the same time I think they’re going to be intrigued by it,” Luke Kleintank, who plays Joe Blake, a main character, said.
French-born American actress Alexa Davalos, who plays a reluctant recruit to the nascent resistance to Axis rule, said she was impressed with Amazon’s commitment to the show.
“They’re beginning and they’re hungry and they’re experimental and they’re fearless and they’re taking a risk with all of their material so it’s very exciting to be part of that,” she said.
Coming hard on the heels of Amazon’s gender-bending hit “Transparent”, the Philip K. Dick adaptation is perhaps the most expensive gambit by Amazon to compete with Netflix — something Amazon is proud to trumpet though it is keeping actual cost figures private.
“That’s not stuff that we put in the public domain,” Russell Morris, marketing and merchandising director for Amazon in Britain, said when asked at a preview about the budget for the show.
But people associated with the production, which was filmed on a tight schedule mostly in Vancouver, say Amazon went all out.
“I think this story really goes into unbelievably dark places that will shock everyone,” said Stewart Mackinnon, an executive producer on the series.
Another executive producer is Ridley Scott, maker of the pioneering Philip K. Dick film adaptation “Bladerunner”.
“America defeated, the consequences of a defeated America, and for an American company ... it’s like jaw-dropping,” Mackinnon said.
Frank Spotnitz, an executive producer and writer, said the series — as well as Dick’s novel — throws a spotlight on the knife edge of history.
“I think for me the show just reminds you how fortunate we are that this generation fought World War Two, and the sacrifices they made so we don’t live in a world like you see in ‘The Man in the High Castle’,” he said.
Additional reporting by Holly Rubenstein; Writing by Michael Roddy; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky