There have been two earlier BBC adaptations and one later movie version of the classic story by Philippa Pearce but this version is the one to watch. The first BBC version was shot in Black & White and seems dated to the modern viewer. The second BBC version was "updated" and set in the (then) present, as this was the 1970s it seems even more dated than the original adaptation. The 1999 movie version suffered from serious miscasting, poor dialogue and indifferent acting and is best avoided, particularly by anyone who has read the book.
Now to this version, a six episode mini-series first shown in 1989. The BBC continually drones on about producing "Quality drama" in an attempt to justify the licence fee but that, in a nutshell, is what this is, top notch quality drama. If only the rest of the BBCs output was to this standard they'd have less complaints about the licence fee.
The story is set in both the 1950s and in the Victorian era and this adaptation manages to convince in both times. The settings and costumes are accurate and the "feel" is just right. Initially the casting of Jeremy Rampling as Tom jars. Other reviewers have criticised him for being "too young" and his build for being "too sturdy" but he soon grows on you. Jeremy's age is correct for the character of Tom, as described in the book. Casting an older boy as Tom, such as Anthony Way in the 1999 movie version doesn't work at all. The gangling, adult sized, Anthony looked faintly ridiculous playing with the much younger Hattie and positively embarrassing wandering around a garden in his pyjamas. Jeremy Rampling in this adaptation is much closer in age to the young Hattie and their developing friendships is much more believable. Jeremy is quite a sturdy lad but why shouldn't he be? In some respects the fact that Jeremy is an "ordinary" boy and not an over groomed child star helps to make his performance all the more convincing. The casting of Hattie, in each of her incarnations, is excellent and the rest of the cast is believably cast. Considering it's age and the small budget even the "special effects" don't suffer too badly when compared with those in the newer movie.
In short "Tom's Midnight Garden" is a true classic book that can be read and appreciated by both children and adults and if you want to watch a visual adaptation of the book then this version stands head and shoulders above the rest. The only real problem is finding a copy of the video. When you do locate one it's likely to be fairly expensive but it's better value to spend £30+ on an excellent adaptation than to spend £5.00 on the much inferior movie.
4 of 5 people found this review helpful.
Was this review helpful to you?