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Two rarely seen Dickens adaptations on DVD in May

31 March 2012

Studiocanal continue their fascination with British cinema of years past in May with the release of two acclaimed but rarely screened film adaptations of novels by Charles Dickens – the 1934 The Old Curiosity Shop and the 1947 The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby – presumably (although the press release makes no mention of this) to mark the 200th anniversary of Dickens' birth, which is being widely celebrated this year.

The Old Curiosity Shop (1934)

Hay Petrie ingests the scenery as the demonic, hunchbacked Mr. Quilp in this 1934 British adaptation of Dickens' novel of the same name. Quilp is the wicked landlord who dominates and later ruins the lives of shopkeeper Trent (Ben Webster) and his resourceful granddaughter Little Nell (Elaine Benson). The death of the heroine, which created quite a brouhaha when the book was first published, is here handled with discretion and taste. Scenarists Margaret Kennedy and Ralph Neale successfully tackle the challenge of whittling Dickens' massive novel into a playable 90 minutes. The Old Curiosity Shop would be remade three times, once as a musical with Anthony Newley as Quilp.

Special features will include:

  • Interview with BFI Dickens Season Curators Adrian Wootton & Michael Eaton;
  • Interview with Dickens biographer Michael Slater;
  • Wonderful Dickens: Dickens' London, a 1924 silent film directed by Frank Miller;
  • Stills gallery.

The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby (1947)

Derek Bond plays the title character, a resourceful young Britisher forced to protect his family against the demonic machinations of his wicked Uncle Ralph (Cedric Hardwicke). Cast out into the cold cruel world, Nicholas Nickleby deals adroitly with friend and foe alike, eventually coming full circle to mete out just desserts to his unspeakable uncle.

With a cast that includes Sally Ann Howes, Bernard Miles, Sybil Thorndike, Aubrey Woods, Patricia Hayes, Cyril Fletcher, Fay Compton, Cathleen Nesbitt and Stanley Holloway, the film was adapted for the screen by John Dighton (My Learned Friend, Kind Hearts and Coronets, The Man in the White Suit, Roman Holiday) and directed by Alberto Cavalcanti, the brilliant Brazilian-born director of Went the Day Well?, which was also written by John Dighton.

Extra features will include:

  • New Interview with BFI Dickens Season Curators Adrian Wootton & Michael Eaton;
  • New Interview with Dickens biographer Michael Slater;
  • Nicholas Nickleby, a silent film from 1912 directed by George O. Nichols;
  • Behind the scenes stills gallery.

Both films will be released individually on 14th May 2012 by Studiocanal at the RRP of £15.99 each.