Monday, November 1, 2010

The Pickwick Papers (1985)

While visiting my friend Karis I was able to watch three miniseries from the Charles Dickens collection. I chose The Pickwick Papers because I didn't know anything about the story.

Synopsis: Mr. Samuel Pickwick, a retired businessman is determined that after a quiet life of enterprise the time has come to set off on an unforgettable excursion accompanied by his three friends - Nathaniel Winkle, who fancies himself as a sportsman, Augustus Snodgrass a passionately natured poet and Tracy Tupman, a plump bachelor who is quite fond of the ladies. The four ramblers travel through the English countryside seeking all forms of adventure and getting into trouble wherever possible.

This 12 episode miniseries is filled with many adventures and misunderstandings. The music is not extraordinary. Costumes are lovely period pieces that suit the character's personalities and their stations in life. Sets are varied, most done in what looks like sound stages, but some are done out of doors and the sound quality is sometimes poor, not unlike other BBC dramas filmed around the same time.

There are so many interesting characters portrayed my excellent period drama actors. Here is a short list of easily recognizable faces and some of my favorite characters from The Pickwick Papers:
  • Clive Swift as Mr. Tupman - a very gallant character who is fond of the ladies. Actor Clive Swift was poor Richard Bucket in the 1990's TV show Keeping Up Appearances. He can also be seen in period dramas The Barchester Chronicles and Aristocrats.
  • Shirley Cain as Miss Witherfield - a lady of great propriety who Mr. Pickwick meets when he accidentally mistakes her room for his. Actress Shirley Cain's other period roles include Miss Tox in Dombey and Son as well as Mrs. Phillips in Pride & Prejudice 1980.
  • Patrick Malahide as Mr. Jingle - a notorious scoundrel who has several run-ins with the Pickwick Society and usually ends up causing trouble for them. I haven't seen Patick Malahide in very many films but I enjoy his acting very much. In The Pickwick Papers his character talks in a kind of shouting brief phrases rather than complete sentences. His other period roles include: The Abduction Club, Victoria & Albert, Kidnapped 1995, Middlemarch 1994, In Search of the Brontes (as Patrick Bronte) and Poirot: Five Little Pigs. I guess I've seen him in more than I thought!
  • Phil Daniels as Sam Weller - Mr. Pickwick's faithful servant who follows his master everywhere and even helps him out of scrapes on occasion. Sam Weller is one of Charles Dickens' truly goodhearted characters. I haven't seen actor Phil Daniels in more than two brief appearances but his very skillfully portrayal in this drama makes me wonder why he wasn't in more period films! Other things I've seen him in: Poirot: The Clocks and as the voice of Fetcher in Chicken Run (I know, animated film but a great family favorite!).

The long and short of it: The Pickwick Papers is a fun romp through Dickens' England, a lighthearted film with some lessons to be learned along the way. It is a very long miniseries but worth watching for those who love British drama, Charles Dickens, and witty characters. Highly recommended.

I've created a YouTube video with music from the miniseries that catches the spirit of the film. Watch below:

Hope you're having a lovely day!

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