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Delbert Mann's TV movie of David Copperfield is unique among film adaptations in that it tells the entire story from a series of flashbacks rather than an ongoing narrative. It works extremely well, adds to the emotional punch of the entire story, further illuminates Dickens' wonderful characters and is aided by a haunting musical score by composer Malcolm Arnold.
It also boasts a pretty fabulous cast including Dame Edith Evans, Susan Hampshire, Richard Attenborough, Ron Moody, Wendy Hiller, Lawrence Olivier and Sir Ralph Richardson; a veritable who's who of the finest British actors of the 20th century! Some have commented that Robin Phillips is bland as the title character. I couldn't disagree more. He is certainly the most cerebral, tortured David in any of the adaptations and also cuts a handsome figure in the movie. In short, he's splendid.
Now to the currently available DVD quality. I certainly agree that it is not good. The colors are a bit washed out, there is some clipped editing and a few moments of nasty film print. That being said, it is far from being unwatchable as some others have suggested. The musical soundtrack comes through fine and the dialogue is clear. And as much as I would welcome a digital restoration of the film, it's TV origins suggest that this would be unlikely.
Frankly, having the movie on DVD at a bargain price is blessing enough. I highly recommend it to those interested in an outstanding version of the story and willing to put up with technical imperfections.
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