David Copperfield (1974– )
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Mr. Dickens' novel is not easily truncated for television, even in six installments, but the scenarists here have done such an admirable job of distilling the essential story points and characterizations, that viewers are afforded a well rounded treatment.
At first, David Yelland seems an odd choice for the title role, given that his physiognomy does not especially match with the youngster who plays the child David in the early chapters. Mr. Yelland is further hampered by a peculiar (and anachronistic) fringed bang hairdo, that looks like nothing so much as a Beatle wig. Despite these handicaps, however, he more than justifies his selection by his excellent performance.
Not only does he manage the emotional depth required in the stories later chapters, upon the betrayal of Steerforth etc,. but manages a comedy scene (a disastrous dinner party with wife Dora) with expert understated finesse.
Indeed, space precludes individual acting citations, since the players are down to the smallest bit, all outstanding in characterization, appearance and deportment. This is truly outstanding ensemble acting.
Particular mention must be accorded Patricia Routledge, in her hilarious turn as Mrs. Micawber, Arthur Lowe as Mr. Micawber, Patience Collier as Betsy Trotwood, Anthony Andrews, (both chilling and attractive)as Steerforth, and perhaps most memorably, Jacqueline Pearce, (of Hammer horror fame) as Rosa Dartle and Sheila Keith as Mrs. Steerforth.
Indeed, the scenes between Misses Pearce and Keith, rife with bitter and hidden anguish, are shot with a tension and blood freezing quality, you'll not soon forget! (all the better to offset the sentimentality elsewhere).
Production design in both settings and costumes is apt, and the production team are to be commended on the way they cleverly fused outdoor footage with studio sets in seamless fashion.
Unfortunately I suspect the 1966 TV version (which was in B&W) has long since been lost. The IMDB entry for it is very skimpy.
In response to the previous review, I'm pretty sure it was Jacqueline Pearce (Servalan in 'Blake's 7') who was Rosa Steerforth, and wasn't Anthony Andrews, Steerforth?...
In a dream world I'd have this on DVD, in the meantime, did anyone ever record it???
(If you click on 'more' under the cast overview, you will see the whole cast and crew list!)
Up to that point, I am ashamed to say that I had never been a Dickens fan. Various adaptations of his work had been shown on television when I was a child and I had found them dark, dismal, unexciting. I was probably too young to understand.
After this serial was screened, I signed-up for The Master's complete works on a book-a-month deal from Heron Publishers. To this day, I still believe it was the best investment I ever made. And this serial was the inspiration.
Reading the book afterwards, I was amazed at the fidelity of characterisation. Very few names struck me on the credits at the time, though Arthur Lowe immediately stood out on account of his success in 'Dad's Army'. Yet every one of them seemed to have been lifted clean off the pages I was reading.
One of the saddest things about dramatisations of Dickens's work is that his tremendous sense of humour and irony tend to get air-brushed out. The depravation, the scheming, the wickedness, the cruelty and squalor; all these things are invariably retained. But for some reason, the humour is lost. And that is half of Dicken's charm. There were times when I found myself doubled-up with laughter at some of the sly, cutting narrative and observations he made. Lionel Bart's musical 'Oliver' comes closer to catching the authentic comedy and tragedy than many more pretentious offerings.
There is less of The Master's humour in this particular story. I think that is because it draws upon too many threads of his personal experience. In Copperfield, he let's the characters do the talking. But what characters! Most academics (and snobs) insist that Shakespeare was Britain's greatest writer. I insist it was Charles Dickens.
The 9-stars I have awarded are based upon a 30-odd year old memory and may not withstand a rescreening. Even so, I will not recant. This drama introduced me to a phenomenon that everyone should experience.
So here's a question; what the deuce is a British production of a British novel, about British characters set in Britain doing on a region 1 DVD?