At nearly four hours, this version of 'Hard Times', made by Granada TV, scores highly, moving along at a much slower pace than, say, the 1980s version made for children's television.
The novel by Charles Dickens is not one of his best known; however, in the tale of the mills of Coketown, the pompous self-made mill-owner Bounderby, and the miserable Gradgrind children, worn down by their father's insistence that facts are the only things one needs in life, he portrays an interesting set of characters that lend themselves well to film adaptation.
As Gradgrind and Bounderby, Patrick Allen and Timothy West are both excellent. Jacqueline Tong is a feisty Louisa, who handles most of her scenes well, while Edward Fox is an oily Harthouse. Alan Dobie completes the main players as mill-hand Stephen Blackpool, a man confined and crushed by fate.
Long unavailable on home video, this adaptation deserves to be seen by a new generation and it is a pity that Dickens' collections on DVD have generally included the later version which is much shorter and has much less depth.
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