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Bleak House
     

Bleak House

Director: Ross Devenish

Cast: Charlie Drake, Denholm Elliott, Philip Franks

 

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This 1985 television production faithfully adapts Charles Dickens' Bleak House, an indictment of Victorian England's corrupt legal and class systems that prey on the weak and the innocent. Esther Summerson (Suzanne Burden), a kind and level-headed young woman introduced as an orphan, is the link who knits several storylines together as a witness to injustice.

Overview

This 1985 television production faithfully adapts Charles Dickens' Bleak House, an indictment of Victorian England's corrupt legal and class systems that prey on the weak and the innocent. Esther Summerson (Suzanne Burden), a kind and level-headed young woman introduced as an orphan, is the link who knits several storylines together as a witness to injustice. She and two other young people -- the naïve and vulnerable Richard Carstone (Philip Franks) and Ada Clare (Lucy Hornack) -- are wards in an estate case before the High Court of Chancery. They stay at the home of John Jarndyce (Denholm Elliott), a relative. Like so many other lawsuits, the case drags on indefinitely, depleting the estate while garnishing lawyers' bank accounts. Richard and Ada fall in love and marry in secret, but his health declines as legal fees and delays consume his expected fortune. Eventually, he dies. Meanwhile, in the upper reaches of society, Lady Dedlock (Diana Rigg) harbors a secret that would ruin her and her doting husband if it became known. Years before, while in love with a Captain Rawdon, she gave birth to his child after she received news that Rawdon had been lost at sea. Upon discovering that the report was false, she attempts to track him down with the help of a guttersnipe named Jo, a friendless little boy who later dies, and finds him -- buried in a pauper's field. Lady Dedlock's attorney, the grasping and devious Tulkinghorn (Peter Vaughan), learns of Lady Dedlock's secret and threatens to disclose it, but a mysterious intruder murders him before he can do so. Miss Summerson, who has been a good friend to Richard and Ada, attracts the attentions of her benevolent but much older host John Jarndyce, and he proposes to her. However, she has already fallen in love with Dr. Allan Woodcourt (Brian Deacon), who was with little Jo when he died. As the various storylines merge, Esther Summerson discovers that she is Lady Dedlock's daughter, Lady Dedlock's husband learns his wife's secret, and Lady Dedlock runs off in deep despair. The conclusion reveals the fate of Lady Dedlock, the murderer of Tulkinghorn, and the future of Esther Summerson.

Editorial Reviews

All Movie Guide - Mike Cummings
Heavy fog enshrouds the soot, smoke, and corrupt legal system of London in this atmospheric adaptation of one of Charles Dickens' finest novels, Bleak House. Director Ross Devenish peoples the production with outstanding character actors portraying creeps, ne'er-do-wells, doddering fools, and the worst of the lot, lawyers. While the main plot focuses on a languishing case before the High Court of Chancery, several subplots deal with love, a devastating secret, the mistreatment of an innocent child, and murder. All of these themes form a tapestry illustrating the good and bad of the human condition in 19th century England. Denholm Elliot as John Jarndyce and Diana Rigg as Lady Dedlock perform their leading roles with the excellence expected of them. But equally impressive are the little-known but well-trained actors who step their characters off the printed page and into the lap of viewers. Bernard Hepton bends eccentricity into new and wonderfully Dickensian shapes as Krook, the raspy-voiced proprietor of a rag-and-bottle shop whose dust and murk symbolize the Chancery. Sylvia Coleridge, as Miss Flite, turns insanity into a sanely solid stone wall; if you are a lunatic, you are beyond the grasp of the lawyers. Peter Vaughan, as a pathologically evil attorney, gives lawyers the bad name they deserve. The production is not without fault, however. In particular, no narrative voice or onscreen text helps the audience through the complex plot. Consequently, viewers unfamiliar with the novel or Dickens' themes may get lost somewhere between the egoism of Mr. Skimpole and the altruism of Esther Summerson (Suzanne Burden). However, if they stick with the film, all 391 minutes of it, they should catch on eventually and wonder what will happen in the end to Lady Dedlock and whether Richard Carstone (Philip Franks) gets his due from the Chancery.

Product Details

Release Date:
09/06/2005
UPC:
0794051233523
Original Release:
1985
Rating:
NR
Source:
Bbc Warner
Region Code:
1
Time:
6:58:00

Special Features

Closed Caption

Cast & Crew

Scene Index

Disc #1, Side A -- Bleak House: Episodes 1-4
1. Apart From the Rest [4:35]
2. Frightening News [4:13]
3. Cousins at Some Distance [4:21]
4. An Eccentric Person [5:37]
5. Lady and Lord [4:51]
6. Best of Friends [6:16]
7. Nothing Bleak to Be Seen [5:22]
8. Engaging Creature [3:19]
9. Safe and Happy [2:12]
10. Wind in the East [5:23]
11. No Questions Asked [4:04]
12. End Credits [1:58]
1. At the Crossing [5:31]
2. Child of the Universe [3:43]
3. Arrested for Debt [5:11]
4. Not a Friend in the World [5:05]
5. Neighbors' Dispute [4:09]
6. Bonds of Joy [5:19]
7. Extinguished Flame [6:12]
8. Custom of the House [3:54]
9. Declaration and Offer [5:57]
10. Ruin and Despair [3:06]
11. Determined to Succeed [1:38]
12. End Credits [1:58]
1. Demand for Justice [5:29]
2. Illiterate Professional [2:52]
3. A Fine Pillow [3:50]
4. Missed by Many [4:49]
5. The Biter Bit [3:56]
6. Locked In Alone [2:24]
7. Over the Water [3:51]
8. Those Places He Went [5:44]
9. Veil of Mystery [2:41]
10. Former Acquaintance [6:47]
11. Looking to the Future [7:34]
12. End Credits [1:58]
1. A Question of Time [3:52]
2. Cruel Terms [3:22]
3. Uncommon Likeness [5:30]
4. In Good Company [4:04]
5. Being Neighborly [3:57]
6. A Boy's Tale [6:18]
7. Matters of Interest [3:19]
8. Nothing to Fear [5:16]
9. Names and Appearances [8:03]
10. Youthful Ignorance [2:26]
11. Last Judgment [4:17]
12. End Credits [1:58]
Disc #1, Side B -- Bleak House: Episodes 5-8
1. Tight Grip [3:42]
2. Time to Do Business [2:51]
3. Spontaneous Combustion [3:32]
4. Fortunate Man [5:54]
5. Exhausted Means [5:49]
6. Devil's Deeds [4:53]
7. Poetic Notion [4:04]
8. Prey to Sickness [4:44]
9. Familiar Visitors [2:46]
10. Leveling the Nation [5:08]
11. Domestic Turmoil [7:11]
12. End Credits [1:55]
1. Hiding Away [4:31]
2. Hopes and Dreams [4:33]
3. Changes on Way [3:14]
4. Only Child [4:10]
5. Veiled Threats [3:53]
6. Honorable Oath [5:06]
7. Keep Moving On [4:15]
8. A Very Bad Kind of Man [3:14]
9. A Promise Kept [4:07]
10. Consequence of Illness [8:03]
11. Final Notice [5:33]
12. End Credits [1:59]
1. Funeral Procession [5:38]
2. Trusting the Truth [3:11]
3. Bearing the Shock [5:46]
4. A Self-Willed Man [5:21]
5. No Escape [4:40]
6. Open Defiance [5:35]
7. So Much Misery [2:51]
8. Witness to Forgiveness [4:05]
9. Mumbled Generosity [3:13]
10. The Trail Is Lost [4:20]
11. Farewell Letter [6:20]
12. End Credits [1:54]
1. Waiting for Judgment [4:57]
2. Symmetry of the Law [3:21]
3. Solicitor and Client [2:53]
4. Sick With Anger [6:00]
5. Matter of Business [3:32]
6. A New Hope [6:47]
7. Refreshing Company [5:57]
8. Dried Up [3:20]
9. Spreading the Wings [4:23]
10. An Honest Proposal [3:23]
11. Begin the World [5:08]
12. End Credits [2:01]

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