1960s TV Dickens serials – and a petition

Just a short Dickens-related posting tonight! Earlier this year I went to a special day at the BFI in London where there were a number of panel discussions about Dickens on TV and the chance to see a lot of rare clips. One of the most interesting discussions was about various black-and-white adaptations of Dickens’ novels shown in the 1960s – a couple of the people involved in making them were there and shared their memories of the productions. It sounds as if some of them treated the stories much more fully than more recent versions have done. Also, because they were shown live, there were sometimes dashes to ensure that actors got from one side of a scene to another in time for their cue.

Sadly, some of these serials have been partly lost, including a  12-part 1966 version of David Copperfield with Ian McKellen as David – nine episodes out of the 12 no longer exist. It’s such a shame that the BBC didn’t take greater care of these treasures at the time. However, it was mentioned that some of the surviving series might be repeated on TV in the future.

Now I’ve also been contacted by Peter Watson, the organiser of a petition to try to get one of these serials, the 1962 Oliver Twist, released on DVD. This 13-episode series had a great cast, including Peter Vaughan as Bill Sikes, as well as Bruce Prochnik and Willoughby Goddard, who later starred in the original Broadway production of Oliver! as Oliver and Mr Bumble, Melvyn Hayes as the Artful Dodger, Max Adrian as Fagin and Carmel McSharry as Nancy. I would love the chance to see it, so I have signed the petition. Here is a link for anyone who would like to get more information or sign the petition.  I’ll let you know if I have any further news on this!


The Mackintosh Man (1973)

This is a second contribution to the John Huston blogathon currently running at Adam Zanzie’s Icebox Movies site.

From the title of this John Huston movie, The Mackintosh Man, I was half-expecting to see star Paul Newman – oddly cast as a British secret agent – dressed in a Bogart-style raincoat and wandering through grey, damp streets. However, as soon as I saw the film’s glorious Technicolor sunshine, I realised the title had nothing to do with raincoats.

In fact the film’s title is drawn from the name of Newman’s boss in the film, played by Harry Andrews – and the film itself is a lavishly-produced 1970s thriller moving from London to Ireland to Malta. (For a fan of  The Maltese Falcon, it’s nice to know that Huston actually made a film in Malta!) I’ve seen some reviews suggest that this movie is Huston’s homage to Hitchcock, and I can see that there are some similarities, with the puzzling plot and the casting of Dominique Sanda as the enigmatic “ice blonde” heroine, “Mrs Smith” – but for me the tension never really builds up to Hitchcock levels.

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