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This review originally appeared in issue 13 of THE CINEMA LASER.



David Lean's GREAT EXPECTATIONS ($50) is without question, one of the finest adaptations of any Charles Dickens' novel to film. GREAT EXPECTATIONS is also one of the greatest British films ever made.

John Mills stars as Pip, a young working class man who is suddenly elevated to the status of "gentleman" by an unknown benefactor. Pip suspects the reclusive Miss Havisham (Martita Hunt), since it was she who employed Pip as a child to play at her home and undertake errands. While working in Miss Havisham's home, Pip falls in love with her ward Estella (Jean Simmons). As a gentleman in London, Pip re­encounters Estella (Valerie Hobson) who has grown into a beautiful, but emotionally empty young woman. While living the carefree life of a monied gentleman in London, Pip's benefactor makes his identity known, which changes the lives of all concerned.

With GREAT EXPECTATIONS, director David Lean has fashioned one of the most enduring film classics of all time. Every detail and nuance is sheer perfection. Cinematographer Guy Green brings to life the gothic horror contained in Dickens' novel, and perfectly sets the stage for the dark underbelly of GREAT EXPECTATIONS. Every member of the cast also makes a lasting impression. GREAT EXPECTATIONS made stars of both John Mills and Alec Guinness; Guinness went on to work with Lean time and again in films like BRIDGE ON THE RIVER KWAI, LAWRENCE OF ARABIA and DOCTOR ZHIVAGO. In GREAT EXPECTATIONS Martita Hunt has become one of the silver screen's most utterly unforgettable characters as the bitter and decaying Miss Havisham. Both Valerie Hobson and Jean Simmons bring life to the beautiful but tragic Estella, who becomes Miss Havisham's tool for revenge against men. Finally, there is Finlay Currie as Magwitch. Currie manages to imbue Magwitch with a sense of silent nobility that transcends his character's criminal nature.

The Voyager company has given GREAT EXPECTATIONS an excellent black and white transfer. The image is nicely detailed, with good contrast. The film element used for this transfer does have some minor blemishes and one lengthy scratch, but they are easily forgotten when one loses themself in this film masterpiece. The digitally encoded monaural soundtrack does have some age related anomalies, but the dialogue always remains clear and intelligible. The Japanese pressing had few inclusions.

GREAT EXPECTATIONS is one of the greatest achievements in the cinema, and a film you will certainly want to add to your Laserdisc library.


Laserdisc reviews are Copyright © 1996 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.
THE CINEMA LASER is written, edited and published by Derek M. Germano.



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