NICHOLAS NICKLEBY. (1977) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

nick cover

NICHOLAS NICKLEBY. (1977) BASED ON THE BOOK BY CHARLES DICKENS. DIRECTED BY CHRISTOPHER BARRY.

STARRING NIGEL HAVERS, PETER BOURKE, DEREK GODFREY, ROBERT JAMES, KATE NICHOLLS, HILARY MASON, DEREK FRANCIS, PATRICIA ROUTLEDGE, PATRICIA BRAKE, DAVID GRIFFIN, PATSY SMART AND LIZ SMITH.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

Charles Dickens does good misery. GREAT EXPECTATIONS is rife with it. OLIVER TWIST positively overflows with it. DAVID COPPERFIELD has a goodly amount also. NICHOLAS NICKLEBY is no exception to the rule. The misery oozes out the sides if you are unwise enough to squeeze it.

The titular Nicholas Nickleby is barely out of his teens when his papa has the bad taste to pop his clogs without leaving his small family provided for. In Victorian society, this almost amounts to a death sentence.

Certainly, it is a sentence of shame, penury and humiliation in the eyes of your betters as you are forced to seek a situation almost certain to be beneath you socially, or worse, seek the charity of others or the state. (‘Are there no prisons? Are there no workhouses?’)

Nicholas, his pretty younger sister Kate and their silly flutterbudget of a mother are obliged to throw themselves on the mercy of their late father’s/husband’s brother Ralph Nickleby, a wealthy but heartless businessman in whose person the milk of human kindness appears to have dried up somewhat.

Think Ebenezer Scrooge, but without the benefit of that gentleman’s three ghostly visitations. Ralph dislikes Nicholas on sight, thinking him uppity and too opinionated, but our Nicky just says straight out what he thinks. He calls it like he sees it, and has a strong sense of justice and fair play which is to be commended.

Uncle Ralph is instrumental in Kate’s getting a situation as an apprentice milliner and dressmaker at Madame Mantalini’s, of which more later, and in Nicholas’s acquiring a position as assistant schoolmaster at Dotheboys (pronounced, my dear readers, pho-net-ic-ally!) Hall. This is a school in rural England (Yorkshire, in fact) so horrible it makes Old Creakles’ Salem House in DAVID COPPERFIELD look like a luxury spa by comparison.

The revolting gammy-eyed and snaggle-toothed Mr. Wackford Squeers, a rum cove indeed, charges twenty guineas a year to board boys unwanted by their families at his dreadful so-called ‘school,’ in which food is scarce, holidays scarcer and physical abuse plentiful.

Mr. Squeers has a fat objectionable son, a game-eyed objectionable daughter and a thin objectionable wife. Altogether they are a most objectionable family, and allowing them to run a school is a bit like putting a cat in charge of a small platoon of mice.

Still, anyone who wanted to run a school was allowed to run a school back then, no questions asked. Fred and Rose West and Jimmy Savile could have gone into the boarding school business together and no-one would have said ‘boo!’ to ’em. I’n’t that a shockin’ thought?

The fiercely principled young Nicholas falls afoul of the dastardly Squeers when he rescues a pathetic young orphaned slave called Smike, who has worked and lived in the school since he was a lad, from Squeers’ clutches. Nicholas gives Squeers a goodly dose of his own medicine while he’s at it, and Squeers is not one iota thankful for it.

Smike gladly returns to London with young Nickleby, but the pair must flee again when dear kindly old Uncle Ralph threatens to cut off his financial assistance to Kate and Mrs. Nickleby if Nicholas lives with them. The two lads go as far as Portsmouth, where they stay for a brief spell as part of Mr. Crummles’ theatre company. But then a mysterious note arrives for Nicholas, telling him that his sister Kate is in grave danger…

Nicholas arrives in London just in time to save his much-desired sister Kate from deflowerment and dishonour at the hands of two boorish swells, namely Sir Mulberry Hawk, by far the more offensive of the two and a proper Bentley Drummle to boot, and the aptly named Lord Verisopht, snigger, who represents about as much danger to the Nicklebys as a two-day-old trifle. Hawk, now, he’s one to watch, all right…

The timely entry into Nicholas’s life of the two identical twin brothers, the aptly-named Charles and Edwin Cheeryble, provides Nicholas with both a well-paid situation and also a cottage for himself, his mum and his sister Kate to live in. Now that Nicholas is earning a good wage, there is no need for Kate to work any longer for the Mantalini’s, who in any case have gone bankrupt, thanks to the poor spending habits of Mr. Mantalini.

The Mantalinis are a funny couple. Mr. Mantalini is a dandy, a gigolo, a popinjay, a fop with an eye for the ladies, whom I bet talks with a pure Cockney accent under his posh flowery foreign affectations. He’s a bit like Mr. Micawber in DAVID COPPERFIELD, always in pecuniary difficulties, always threatening suicide in scenes of high drama when he gets in too deep but never going through with it. Mainly because he’s, like, one hundred percent putting it on. Like Wilkins Micawber, he too has a devoted spouse of whom he’s not worthy.

The long-suffering and much older Mrs. Mantalini is played by Patricia Routledge (Hyacinth from KEEPING UP APPEARANCES). She keeps her dressmaking and millinery business going with the help of Mrs. Knag (Gretchen Franklin, or Ethel from EastEnders), while her husband eyes up her female workforce and runs up so many bills that she actually has to go to Ralph Nickleby’s place of business to ask him to put her spendthrift hubby on a fixed allowance. Much to Mr. Mantalini’s horror, I might add. He’s determined to put an end to it all, but if Wifey will only reconsider about the fixed allowance thing, well, he might just consider putting off suicide for a day or two. Just for a day or two, mind! He’s still going to do it, my life, my sweet, my love, just you watch him and see!

Anyway, Nicholas is happy and settled working for the two lovely Cheeryble brothers, but who’s that coming down the chimney at the cottage, of all places? Had Santa Claus been invented by that stage? You know, I don’t actually know. But what I can tell ya is, it ain’t him…!

And why is Nicholas so determined to prevent the marriage of the hideous old codger-slash-miser Arthur Gride to the beautiful, good-natured young Miss Madeline Bray? Could he have a vested interest, perhaps? A romantic vested interest, maybe?

(Gride’s frowsy old gin-sodden maid has the marvellous name of Peg Sliderskew; Dickens is great for making up hilarious names. Don’t tell me he didn’t have a giggle when he connected Kate to the household of a Mrs. Wititterly, or when he decided to call his wimpiest fop Lord Verisopht…!)

And to whom is Emmett from KEEPING UP APPEARANCES (‘She’ll sing at me, Liz, she will!) hoping to pay court, the old romantic? Just wait till Hyacinth finds out about this, there’ll be noses out of joint all over the shop. Yoo-hoo, coffee in ten minutes, Elizabeth…!

Newman Noggs, assistant to Ralph Nickleby, is a great character. He’s a true friend to Nicholas, as is Mr. Jagger’s clerk Wemmick to Pip in GREAT EXPECTATIONS, and is very helpful to the young Nickleby in the matter of the poor, miserable runaway Smike.

Can the deplorably ill-treated Smike, perpetually sickly and simple-minded, by the way, be kept out of the clutches of the abominable Wackford Squeers, and what is the mystery surrounding Smike’s birth? Where or what is that little attic room with the trapdoor in it he seems to remember? And what does the disreputable blackmailer Brooker have to do with it all?

(I’m afraid I don’t like Smike at all, even though he’s been ill-used and Charles Dickens is clearly presenting him as the victim here. I don’t like his soft, whispery way of talking and the way his mouth goes all over to one side when he speaks. To think he has the audacity to admire Miss Kate, and he a drooling simpleton! He must be out of his mind to even give the thought house room. Humph. Miss Kate, indeed! She may as well marry a chimney sweep who’s come down with the chilblains…!)

Also, can the animosity between the fair-minded Nicholas and his Scrooge-like Uncle Ralph ever be resolved? (Ralph Nickleby has a secret but he doesn’t even know it; can Nicholas ferret it out sometime soon, before it’s too late?) And if never the twain shall meet, how will it all come out? You’ll have to watch this six-part serial to find out, dear readers. Or you could read the book, whatever. It’s all good…!

(I believe that this story is still available in, erm, whatchamaycallem, books, in book form, anyone with eyes can, erm, whatsit called now, erm, gottit, readit…!)

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.

Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, poet, short story writer and film and book blogger. She has studied Creative Writing and Film-Making. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, women’s fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra’s books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:

http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B015GDE5RO

You can contact Sandra at:

sandrasandraharris@gmail.com

https://www.facebook.com/SandraHarrisPureFilthPoetry

https://sandrafirstruleoffilmclubharris.wordpress.com

http://sexysandieblog.wordpress.com

http://serenaharker.wordpress.com

https://twitter.com/SandraAuthor

A CHRISTMAS CAROL: THE PATRICK STEWART ONE! (1999) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

scrooge patrick stewart scared

A CHRISTMAS CAROL: THE PATRICK STEWART ONE! (1999) BASED ON THE NOVEL BY CHARLES DICKENS. WRITTEN FOR TELEVISION BY PETER BARNES. DIRECTED BY DAVID JONES. STARRING PATRICK STEWART, RICHARD E. GRANT, SASKIA REEVES, DOMINIC WEST AND JOEL GREY.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

Patrick Stewart does a terrific job as Ebenezer Scrooge in this made-for-TV version of the timeless Christmas tale. No matter how many versions I see, and there are quite a few knocking around, I never get tired of watching this story of festive cheer and redemption unfolding on the screen before me.

Patrick Stewart makes for a very fit and trim-looking Scrooge, a Scrooge whose bearing is noble rather than stooped and bent-over and who looks as if he might just be able to run after you- and catch you!- if you endeavoured to pull an Artful Dodger on him and pinch his wallet or pocket handkerchief right out from under his very nose. This is no decrepit or dilapidated Scrooge. This is a Scrooge in top physical form, a Scrooge to be reckoned with. He’s still a miserable git, though.

Anyway, it’s Christmas-time once more, Christmas Eve in fact, and a full seven years ago tonight since the demise of one Jacob Marley, Scrooge’s business partner and the only person he could really call his friend.

Scrooge, the renowned miser and whizz-kid down at the Stock Exchange, is in his office as usual, grumping and bitching at his humble clerk Bob Cratchit about how much coal he’s putting on the fire. Scabby or what?

Richard E. Grant plays the servile but good-natured family man Bob Cratchit. I was surprised by this bit of casting because I was fully expecting him to be playing Scrooge’s posh nephew Fred but no, he’s playing Bob and they’ve even blacked up his gnashers to make him look like a proper povvo from Dickensian times. Realistic, I have no doubt, but somewhat off-putting, if I may say so.

Bob and his equally black-toothed Missus have six hungry chilluns atween ’em. Which only goes to prove the long-held opinion that there wasn’t much to do of an evening before the invention of the telly. Scrooge only pays Bob a measly fifteen bob a week, which is nowhere near enough to keep his six scraggy urchins in Playstation games and iPhones and whatnot. Better call CHILDLINE…!

Still and all, though, the Cratchits are determined to celebrate Christmas together no matter how poor they might be. Unlike mean old Mr. Scrooge, who’s busy screaming abuse at the child carol singers and telling the gentleman charity collectors looking ‘to make some slight provision for the poor at this time of year’ to bugger off. Bah humbug indeed.

While Bob runs gleefully home to his family at close of business on Christmas Eve, Scrooge returns home to his gloomy chambers alone. Here he is visited by the ghost of his former business partner Jacob Marley. Jacob, wrapped in ‘the chains he forged in life,’ the lock-boxes and money-bags that were his stock-in-trade while he lived, has a terrible message of hope and despair for his old mucker.

Change your money-grubbing, miserly ways, you greedy old bastard, is the message in a nutshell. If you don’t start loosening the purse-strings and making the welfare of mankind your business tout de suite, you’ll end up like me, Jacob Marley, doomed to walk abroad for all eternity without the power to intervene where you see misery, hunger and poverty!

It’s a pretty clear and chilling message, but Jacob can’t be sure that it’s penetrated Scrooge’s thick skull. Three ghosts will be coming, he warns Scrooge before he takes his leave of the frightened old miser, to make sure that the message to ‘change’ really gets through. Expect the first ghost when the bell tolls one…

As we all know by know, the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Christmas Present and Christmas Future do come to see Scrooge and, through little vignettes from his own past, present and future, show him the error of his ways.

Joel Grey, who positively sparkled as the wickedly bitchy and lecherous MC in CABARET some two-and-a-half decades earlier in CABARET, is lacklustre and as flat as a pancake here as the Ghost Of Christmas Past. I hate slagging him off when he was so mesmerisingly good in CABARET, but his heart’s clearly not in this role here.

Scrooge, of course, ends up changing his miserly ways and becomes ‘a man who knows how to keep Christmas well.’ He befriends Bob, raises his salary and vows to help Bob and his hungry family in the future. Bob thinks his master’s gone mad, of course, but he’ll go along with the madness as long as it means a few more shillings in the family coffers.

Scrooge also eats large helpings of humble pie round at his nephew Fred’s place, where Fred is entertaining his guests at Christmas dinner. Fred is the child of Scrooge’s dead sister Fanny (tee-hee, fanny is a rude word!), the one person in the world who truly loved Scrooge and thought there was some good in him.

Why Scrooge wasn’t kinder to poor good-natured, warm-hearted Fred for this reason from the start is a mystery, unless it was the case that Fanny (snigger!) died giving birth to Fred and that’s why he’s hated Fred all this time.

In some versions, we hear that this is the exact same reason for Scrooge’s father disliking his son and forcing him to live at school all year round. In other words, Scrooge’s mother died birthing him and Scrooge’s father wanted nothing to do with the boy.

Having been treated like this himself by his own father, it’s surprising that Scrooge would have behaved the same way towards his nephew. It’s a very harsh and unfair way of going on, isn’t it?

The child can’t be blamed for the demise of the mother, heart-breakingly sad and unfortunate as that is. In any case, Scrooge now determines to be the best uncle to Fred he can possibly be, so all’s well that ends well.

Except that Scrooge now owes Dominic West’s Fred about thirty years worth of back-payments in Christmas and birthday book-tokens, lol. I can’t imagine that Scrooge would have gifted any young’un with the cash to heedlessly fritter away on penny candy and saucy French postcards, can you? Not while they could have been doing something useful with the money.

You’ll see one or two recognisable faces in the cast. Ian McNeice (NATIVITY 2: DANGER IN THE MANGER!) plays Scrooge’s first employer, dear old Mr. Fezziwig, he of the fat wife and equally plump daughters.

It will be very hard to marry off all three of these hefty lassies unless old Fezziwig can give each of ’em an equally hefty dowry to sweeten any potential marital deal. I’m just saying. I’m genuinely concerned for the romantic futures of these three comely heifers, lol.

Liz Smith (THE ROYLE FAMILY) is perfectly, beautifully cast as the cackling old Mrs. Dilber, Scrooge’s ancient charwoman-housekeeper, and Celia Imrie, from every English film ever made, or so it would seem, is suitably ringleted and corseted as one of Fred’s rather frivolous Christmas dinner guests. They do love their silly games, Gawd bless ’em every one.

And Gawd bless Mr. Scrooge too who, from this day forward, will be ‘the founder of the feast’ in a properly meaningful way. This will be my last Scrooge review for Christmas 2018 (I’ve finally run out of Scrooges to review, can you believe it!), so I’m glad to be going out on a high note with this one.

Patrick Stewart makes a top-notch Scrooge. And Tiny Tim, lightly roasted, makes a more than acceptable turkey substitute in a pinch. I’m only surprised that none of his hungry relatives ever thought of it before, to be honest. Tuck in while it’s hot, folks…

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.

Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, film blogger, poet and book-and-movie reviewer. She has studied Creative Writing and Film-Making. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, womens’ fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra’s books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:

http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B015GDE5RO

You can contact Sandra at:

https://www.facebook.com/SandraHarrisPureFilthPoetry

https://sandrafirstruleoffilmclubharris.wordpress.com

http://sexysandieblog.wordpress.com

http://serenaharker.wordpress.com

sandrasandraharris@gmail.com

https://twitter.com/SandraAuthor

SCROOGE THE MUSICAL. (1970) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

scrooge musical

SCROOGE THE MUSICAL. (1970) BASED ON THE BOOK BY CHARLES DICKENS. DIRECTED BY RONALD NEAME. STARRING ALBERT FINNEY, DAME EDITH EVANS, KENNETH MORE, DEREK FRANCIS, ROY KINNEAR, GORDON JACKSON, JAMES COSSINS AND SIR ALEC GUINNESS.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

Awwwww, I never get tired of seeing film adaptations of this timeless story. Albert Finney, as far as I know the only Scrooge young enough to himself play Young Scrooge in these movies, plays, you guessed it, Ebenezer Scrooge, the miser who makes all other misers ashamed of their woeful under-performances.

Albert Finney of course had played the swoonsome Tom Jones (positively not the Welsh crooner!) only a few short years before (1963) in the film adaptation of Henry Fielding’s massive tome of the same name. The book, in fact, was one of the first English-language novels, along with Samuel Richardson’s PAMELA.

I’m always threatening to read both of these huge big books but I haven’t gotten around to it quite yet. The film of TOM JONES was terrific too, made by Woodfall Film Productions and containing such gems of dialogue as ‘Where is she? Where’s Tom’s pussy?’ and ‘Tom, thou art as hearty a cock as any in the kingdom.’ Snigger.

He’s brilliant as Scrooge too, Albert Finney, though it’s a shame to have his handsome face all twisted up into the famous miser’s crotchety countenance. He works away in his freezing cold (cold is good; cold is free, like the dark) moneylenders’ office until 7pm on Christmas Eve, and his poorly-paid clerk Bob Cratchit practically has to boot him out the door, telling him it’s Christmas Eve and time to jack it all in till December the 26th.

Scrooge goes home to his dark, cheerless chambers, where he is met by Alec Guinness as the ghost of his deceased partner in the moneylenders’ business, Jacob Marley. Jacob Marley now dwells in Hell, doomed to carry around with him for all eternity ‘the chains he forged in life,’ the giant cash-boxes and heavy old ledgers that came with his old business.

Not to mention the guilt of knowing that he never did a hand’s turn for his fellow man while he was alive. That dreadful knowledge has manifested itself physically in the form of huge chains that wrap and wind themselves around his body. You can’t miss ’em, lol.

Jacob Marley has a grim message of hope for Scrooge. Change your miserly ways and start being more generous and compassionate towards your fellow man or else. Or else what? Well, or else he’ll end up like Jacob Marley, carting those awful clinking-clanking chains around with him till the cows come home. Which, apparently, they never do.

To reinforce this terrible message, Scrooge will be visited this very night by three ghosts, one at a time, and he’d bloody well better learn the lessons they’ve got to teach him. Dame Edith Evans, as the Ghost Of Christmas Past, shows Scrooge visions of himself as a young boy in school, lonely, motherless, neglected by his harsh father and obliged to spend Christmas at school, catching up on his studies.

Scrooge isn’t at all happy to be reminded by this Lady Ghost of how he loved and lost his devoted girlfriend Isabelle when he was a young man working at Old Mister Fezziwig’s rubber chicken factory. Sorry, I mix up all these versions with The Muppets’ one! They both had such high hopes of marriage and a family, Scrooge and Isabelle, but then she dumps him when she realises that he loves another more than her. His true mistress? Money…

The Ghost Of Christmas Present forces Scrooge to look into the lives of his clerk Bob Cratchit and Bob’s little family. Making merry for Christmas over a scrawny goose and a drop of watered-down punch, they’re as poor as church mice thanks to Scrooge’s scabby wages. Subsequently, they can’t afford a good doctor for Tiny Tim, the youngest member of the family, who will die if he’s not properly treated.

Scrooge has the wind up good and proper by now. He’s already repenting of his terrible stinginess, and by the time the frightening Ghost Of Christmas Future gets to wag a bony finger at him in silent reproach, he’s on his knees begging for a second chance.

The Ghost Of Crimbo-Still-To- Come isn’t taking any chances, though. He gets Alec Guinness’s Jacob Marley to take Scrooge on a terrifying tour of Hell, just in case Scrooge has any ideas about not bothering to change his godless ways.

Everyone loves the ending of all the versions, of course.

Scrooge: You there, boy, what’s today?

Ragged Urchin: Today, Sir, why, it’s Christmas Day!

Scrooge: Christmas Day? Why, then, I haven’t missed it! The spirits must have done it all in one night! Of course they did, they can do anything they like, you know!

Then he raids the butcher’s shop, the toyshop, the confectionery shop and so on and brings the largesse round to the gobsmacked Cratchits (Miss Piggy is the best Mrs. Cratchit, and Robin the Frog is the bestest Tiny Tim!) and to Fred, his sorely neglected nephew.

Fred is the son of Scrooge’s dear deceased sister Frannie, who had asked Scrooge before she died to look after her boy. Up to now, he hasn’t made such a great fist of it, but that was before the Three Spirits came…

This is a musical version, so of course there’s a song at every turn. I especially love Scrooge’s devastatingly honest version of ‘I HATE PEOPLE!’ It’s probably the most honest the old miser has ever been, in fact, in any of the film versions and, some days, I know just how he feels, lol.

It feels a bit like the film is trying to be the new OLIVER! (1968), with the Charles Dickens/Victorian England/Christmas card background, all the big group numbers and everyone singing and dancing in the street but, fun as SCROOGE THE MUSICAL is, it doesn’t even come close to snatching OLIVER!‘s golden crown.

All the old favourite lines of dialogue are in there too:

‘If I had my way, every man who goes around with Merry Christmas on his lips would be boiled with his own pudding and buried with a stake of holly through his heart…!’

‘If they are going to die, then they had better do it, and decrease the surplus population…!’

‘Falling in love? Bah! That’s the only thing sillier than a Merry Christmas!’

‘Are there no prisons? Are there no workhouses?’

‘Bah humbug!’

Bah humbug to you too, Scrooge, you old coot. Don’t get too pissed now on that Milk Of Human Kindness there. That’s some pretty powerful stuff, you know.

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.

Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, film blogger, poet and book-and-movie reviewer. She has studied Creative Writing and Film-Making. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, womens’ fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra’s books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:

http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B015GDE5RO

You can contact Sandra at:

https://www.facebook.com/SandraHarrisPureFilthPoetry

https://sandrafirstruleoffilmclubharris.wordpress.com

http://sexysandieblog.wordpress.com

http://serenaharker.wordpress.com

sandrasandraharris@gmail.com

https://twitter.com/SandraAuthor