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The BBC productions of the 70s and 80s seem to be either loved or hated by viewers. If you are a modern viewer who can only watch one-dimensional, trendy shows with simple plots and fast editing, then any BBC movie from the 70s and 80s will bore you to death. If, however, you enjoy watching fine acting and more intricate plotting that is more in line with watching a stage play, then the old BBC movies are just for you.
This production of Charles Dickens' classic is a fine production that sticks to the classic very well. As usual with the old BBC, there is a lot of dialogue and very long scenes (again, more like watching a show in the theater than on the television screen). But the investment of time is always worth the effort, as you are able to absorb yourself fully in the adventures of Nell and her grandfather, as they try to escape the grasp of the vicious and villainous Quilp.
Trevor Peacock (in spite of his obvious wig) is deliciously wicked as Quilp. Anyone who believes these characters to be overacted should re-read Dickens; you will find that the characters in his classics are just as extreme, written in that unmistakably moralistic style that has become one of the hallmarks of Dickens' work.
Natalie Ogle portrays the sweetness and innocence of Nell in a way similar to Mark Lester's performance in 1968's Oliver, embodying a kind of angelic innocence surrounded by evil. The rest of the cast is colorful and amusing to watch, including Granville Saxton's humorous but eventually sympathetic portrayal of Mr. Swiveller, Colin Jeavons' very amusing Mr. Brass, and a terrific youthful performance from Annabelle Lanyon as the Marchioness.
A terrific production for those who enjoy these older BBC movies, which do not have the "snap, crackle, and pop" of (often less interesting) modern movies, but they do have something that many productions today are sorely lacking- great acting and scripting that you can really sink your teeth into.
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