The Mill on the Floss (TV Mini-Series 1978– ) Poster

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1978 version vs 1997 version
wedraughon19 April 2006
The 1978 miniseries is over 3 hours long. The 1997 movie is 1 hour and 45 minutes long. Yet, every event in the 3 hour version is in the shorter version. The reverse, however, is not true. Five crucial events of the story are visible in the 1997 (shorter) version but are missing from the 3 hour version: (1) the first conflict between Mr. Tulliver and Mr. Wakem, in which Tulliver wins, then insults Wakem. This shows why Tulliver thinks he'll win again and is strung along by a lawyer until he has mortgaged everything. It also provides motivation for Wakem's vengeful act of buying the mill, which in the longer version is left unmotivated. We are merely told that he is fed up with Tulliver.

(2) The selling of the mill to Wakem. In the 1978 version, we are told that it happened. In the 1997 version, we see it happen.

(3) The selling of the furniture of the Tullivers. This makes their homelessness visible and visceral.

(4) The scene in which Tom pays his father's debts. In the 1978 three-hour version, we are told that it is going to happen; then we see Tulliver on the way back from the meeting. We need to see this climatic event. In the 1997 version, we do.

(5) The restoration of the deed to the mill to the Tullivers.

The picture quality is acceptable in both versions, as is the music, but are better in the 1997 version. The casting is acceptable in both versions. The acting is acceptable in both. So, why do I give 3 stars to the 1978 version and four and a half stars to the 1997 version? The screenplay. Since both screenplays tell the same story with almost the same events, this comparison provides an excellent study for those interested in screen writing.

The 1978 version appears to have been written by a stage playwright (and not a good one at that). Each scene is set. People chat for a few moments. A character enters. Whatever is going to happen in that scene happens. Characters exit. Next scene.

The 1997 version is written like a movie. We are thrust into a scene just as something is about to happen. It happens. We cut to the next scene, where we are again thrust into the moment when something is about to happen. This makes for far more effective storytelling.

Also, the nitty-gritty of the scenes is better done in the 1997 version. It isn't the acting. It is the fact that the actors have a script that will let them make the emotions effective, and they do.

If you compare either version (or any movie version) with the book, then of course you can call it Cliff Notes. That tells you nothing.

The ending is better in the 1978 version and is also faithful to the book. The beginning of the 1997 version, like the ending, is a mistake.

The other problem is that the 1997 version is only available on VHS and hard to get at that. So, get the 1978 version if you can't get the videotape or don't want to; otherwise, wait and hope that someone will have the sense to put the 1997 version on DVD.
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Good adaptation of a difficult novel
Red-1256 October 2017
"The Mill on the Floss" (TV mini-series 1978) is a BBC production, directed by Ronald Wilson. This is one of George Eliot's lesser-known novels, and not considered her best work.

However, the movie is worth seeing for the fine performances of the actors in the major roles. Pippa Guard does an excellent job as Maggie Tulliver, the protagonist. Christopher Blake is equally good as Tom Tulliver, her brother.

However, to me, acting honors go to Ray Smith as their father, Mr. Tulliver. Mr. Tulliver, who owns the mill on the Floss River, is a fascinating character. He's headstrong and makes serious errors in judgment. However, he loves his wife and children, and is trying to do his best for them.

One of the most important "characters" in the novel is society. The society of the day was intolerant of women who tried to step outside the role prescribed for them. Society certainly was unforgiving about any hint of scandal. Social mores are in evidence in almost every scene in this film. At a different time and place, the story could have ended very differently.

This made-for-TV production was shown in half-hour episodes. That's annoying, because about 20% of the viewing time is dedicated to running the credits. I believe in watching the credits, but seeing them eight times was tedious.

This isn't a great film, but it's definitely worth seeing if you are a George Eliot fan, or if you plan to see Middlemarch or Daniel Deronda, which are in the same series. ( If I have a box of five George Eliot DVD's, I want to see them all.) Because it was meant for TV, Mill on the Floss works well on the small screen.
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One of the weaker adaptations of the George Eliot Collection but still above decent
TheLittleSongbird5 January 2014
As with all George Eliot's writing Mill on the Floss is well worth the read. It is not quite complex or layered as Middlemarch and Daniel Deronda but the characterisation is still rich, the conflicts and social commentary sharply observed and the emotions high. Although it is the book from Eliot that is adapted the most(I admit that I've yet to see the other versions, have heard a lot of good things about the 1997 version), Mill on the Floss is still very difficult to adapt. This adaptation is one of the weaker ones in the collection, the weakest being Adam Bede(still quite good) and the best being Middlemarch(which is outstanding) but does a respectable job, it is long(necessary) and wisely takes its time telling the story. In that regard it doesn't always work, it can lack momentum and does drag, at the same time though because there are omissions the storytelling also can feel rushed and not always flowing as it ought to in a jumpy sense. You do miss the scene where Lucy visits Maggie after Maggie's aborted elopement, one of the book's most poignant moments. And John Moulder Brown is very annoying as Stephen, the character is a very shallow one in the first place but that and Stephen's conceit are taken to extremities here and generally you don't just get what anyone sees in him. Him aside, this adaptation is very well-acted if perhaps somewhat stagy for some.

Anton Lesser really stood out, he does wonderfully with the role and is both grotesque and affecting making it easy for us to be repulsed by him as well as pitying him. Ray Smith is nobly powerful, Lucy is appropriately vivacious and Judy Cornwell is every bit as sympathetic. Christopher Blake portrays Tom's arrogance very well and Maggie is played with spirit and delicacy. The children do competently match their adult counterparts. The characters and their relationships and conflicts(Maggie and Tom's especially, and Maggie, Mill on the Floss' central character is still very complex) are well realised, these are characters that are not black and white but ones with strengths and flaws(always a strong point with Eliot). The story does have great emotional impact, especially the ending, the romance between Maggie and Tom very touching, the rivalry between the Wakams and Tullivers having some intensity and Mr Tulliver shows genuine love for his family. While the spirit of the book is still there, if not as well-paced or as cohesive as it could have been. The script respects Eliot's style and while it takes its time to tell the story there is a certain tautness as well meaning that it doesn't feel overly padded. The music is unobtrusive, sensitive and haunting as well as sympathetic to the drama and the adaptation is well-made. It's darker and more soft-grained than the other four adaptations in the collection but just as atmospheric and evocative. The attention to detail is done in a way that is not too rich-looking or bleak and the scenery is beautiful. All in all, decent as an adaptation and on its own but falls short at the same time. 7/10 Bethany Cox
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A notable version.
Kara Dahl Russell20 July 2006
When I finished reading this book, I felt it is one of the most perfect things I have ever read, and also the most deeply depressing book I have ever read. The bleakness and struggle of this world is relentless. The more recent version of this story with Tara Fitzgerald is glossier than this version, and much shorter. Because this is a miniseries, this length makes it more like the book. Like the strong, steady, slow plodding of the mill wheel, the river runs through this story and makes everything musty and dank. (Ranked a 9 because, like many of these 70s miniseries, it does drag at times.) I think this version suffers from the casting of young Maggie Tulliver and the horrible wig that she wears. This child is more willfully dis-likable than the girl of the story who is always caught in the wrong by trying to do what is right; and when she transitions to a young lady the change is unbelievable, because the basic character changes so much with the change of the actress. This leaden little girl becomes a sprightly, delicate young woman. (Ironically, Tara Fitzgerald's Maggie would be a very good match for this girl – her portrayal of Maggie was very bull-headed.) But this type of casting match - child to adult of the same role - is always difficult and can be forgiven. Taken individually, each actress does a wonderful job, and Pippa Guard is nice to end up with; her lightness gives the character a new dimension.

George Eliot presents us with characters who have great internal dissonance with their exterior (appropriate for a woman writing under a man's name). ANTON LESSOR, who plays the "hunchback" friend is creepily odd in the early scenes (because he is simply too old to be playing that age) – but that weirdness is just the right way to introduce this character. He has a wonderful extreme contrast about his person and his presentation that create a real discrepancy, and this is precisely what this character needs to have, and it is marvelous casting. We need to feel sorry for him, like who he is, but feel revolted by him as well, and between his performance and the Direction, this is achieved….no easy task! Christopher Blake, as the infuriatingly arrogant brother also hits all the right notes, and in this case the young actor playing the younger version of him matches him tone for tone.

The book has a very problematic section of an elopement (of sorts), problematic, because in the book we spend that time in Maggie's internal emotions and thoughts, and the turmoil of her inner conflict is impossible to flesh out in film. Thankfully, this version does a very good job of establishing her conflicting motivations, without becoming too talky or expository.

Dark and murky, this is an interesting story of complex lives in difficult times, beautifully directed by Ronald Wilson.
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The best film version of Eliot's early novel
SimonJack19 October 2012
Warning: Spoilers
For some reason that isn't readily apparent, "The Mill on the Floss" is the George Eliot novel most often put on film. The first time was a silent movie, with a lesser known cast, by one of the early Hollywood studios that became defunct. The second effort was a 77-minute movie in 1937 by a short-lived British company. It was made in England but not shown in America until 1939. The third effort was a 1965 mini-series by the BBC – done in four 45-minute episodes. I think that was the first effort by the BBC to film Eliot novels.

This rendition is the 1978-79 mini-series that aired in eight segments. I don't know that any of the earlier films are on DVD, but this has to be the best version of "Mill on the Floss." In 1997, the BBC made a 90- minute movie for TV airing. Unfortunately, such shorter films just can't develop the plot and characters to do justice to the great Victorian novels of Eliot (Mary Anne Evans) and others. Perhaps the short movies of some classics are being made today because of the short attention span and interest of the generations of today.

I began these comments by wondering why this of all of Eliot's novels should be the most filmed. It is not the best of her works, but it is the darkest. It is a story of tragedy and the evils that befall people from the pride, ego, hatred and lack of forgiveness by some. In this case, the most innocent suffer the most.

Mr. Tulliver loves his family, and wants the best for his son and daughter, Tom and Maggie. But his extreme stubbornness and hatred of Mr. Wakam over a small matter in the past, leads to the demise of his family. Son Tom develops the father's same hatred, while daughter Maggie falls in love with Wakam's son, Phillip. In the end, Phillip and Mrs. Wakam (Bessy) suffer the most by their loss of those they loved.

The cast are all superb. Ray Smith as Mr. Tulliver gives a powerful performance of a father who loves his kids and wife, and then launches into tirades against his avowed enemy, Wakam. Judy Cornwell excels as Bessy, Tulliver's devoted wife and mother of Tom and Maggie. In her innocence and decency (perhaps naiveté as well), she goes to meet Wakam to try to smooth things over, and ask that he not attempt to take over her husband's mill. Wakam did not intend to do so in the first place, but her visit gives him the idea to do just that. So, this hard-hearted attorney adds fuel to the feud, as his way of responding to Bessy's earnest pleas.

I'll leave the story there, for those who haven't yet seen the movie or read the book. Besides the acting, script and direction, all other aspects of this film are excellent. The cinematography, the locations, the props in the carriages, carts and costumes – all are excellent.
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Flows, Floods
tedg3 June 2007
Every once in a while, a reader will write to me complaining about some of my comments focusing too much on narrative structure, and ignoring the direct emotional connection with the story. This is largely the intent of my comments, to remark on how stories are told. I'm convinced that a new vocabulary for storytelling is evolving now, and its highly introspective, referencing the storytelling in the story.

Lots of commentors will talk about whether the story has juice, connection, power. I want to delve into why, and what might be part of a toolbox if you want to make powerful stories.

Hardly anything could be more fun than to do this with films of old books, especially novels that themselves were at the edge of emergence in a massive advance in storyforms. This is.

Eliot is interesting. She's after Austen, who introduced introspective irony and conflated the humor of surrounding society (in her case class structure) with human emotions. The Bronte sisters in different ways inserted raw passion into this vessel. Eliot was interested in both but was more of a technician, worrying about the design of the vessel, the conveyor of emotional impact. If she were alive today, she'd be thinking about quantum logic and rivers of time. She might be among the most powerful souls weaving the world.

But she's not; she's frozen in her time, but still a bit magical. And in this book we have all sorts of contrived devices that seem not so: legal and sibling contests, inevitability of love and river, honesty in milling selves.

So. Along comes TeeVee, that great grinder of imagination and they do what they think is merely dramatizing, a sort of adding pictures to text. As with most BBC efforts, it is massively incompetent because it misunderstands the material. Somehow it assumes that if you retain events and dialog you convey the soul of the thing. But in this case, the soul is as much in the container; the skin, the shape, the face.

There isn't the slightest nod to structure, excepting the necessity to chunk it into half hour pieces with each piece having a logical pause. One or two actors actually have some competence, and the encounters among the four sisters has good timing. But unless you simply want to tread water in the sea of imagination, stay away.

Ted's Evaluation -- 1 of 3: You can find something better to do with this part of your life.
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Camera crew "the Mill on the Floss" BBC TV 1978
hamilton122 July 2008
The film crew for the BBC production of "The Mill on the Floss", 1978 was-

Director of Photography, Fred Hamilton. Sound Recordist, Les Collins. Camera operator, Roger Twyman. First Assistant Focus. Graham Banks. Camera Grip. Stan Swetman.

Location for the filming directed by Ron Wilson was the mill at Woolerton, near Wellsborne, Warwickshire. ( Five miles east of Stratford-upon Avon ). Everyone on the crew couldn't help but fall in love with the beautiful and charming young 12 years old Gorgia Slowe, who played Maggie Tulliver in the early episodes.
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