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Great Expectations

7.81 h 53 min1947PG
A humble orphan boy in 1810s Kent is given the opportunity to go to London and become a gentleman, with the help of an unknown benefactor.
David Lean
John MillsTony WagerValerie Hobson
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4.8 out of 5 stars

851 global ratings

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Amazon CustomerReviewed in the United Kingdom on 17 February 2016
5.0 out of 5 stars
GREAT EXPECTATIONS [1946 / 2008] [Blu-ray]
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GREAT EXPECTATIONS [1946 / 2008] [Blu-ray] Great Adventure! Great Romance! Great Thrills!

Sir David Lean’s spellbinding screen translation effectively captures the spirit of Charles Dickens’ literary masterpiece. It tells the story of your Pip [Sir John Mills] who experiences two distinctly different encounters with the escaped convict Abel Magwitch [Finlay Currie] and the eccentric Miss Havisham [Martita Hunt]. With life of hard grind in a blacksmith’s looking the most likely prospect, Pip’s fortunes change dramatically when the generosity of a mysterious benefactor propels him to London to begin his journey towards becoming a gentleman with “great expectations.”

With a superb cast that includes Valerie Hobson as the icy Estella and Sir Alec Guinness as Herbert Pocket, director Sir David Lean recreates beautifully the essence of Charles Dickens’ timeless tale of a young man trying to establish himself in the world.

FILM FACT: Awards and Nominations: Academy Awards®: Win: Best Art Direction and Set Decoration in Black-and-White for John Bryan and Wilfred Shingleton. Win: Cinematography in Black-and-White for Guy Green and Robert Krasker. Nominated: Best Director for Sir David Lean. Nominated: Best Picture. Nominated: Best Screenplay.

Cast: Sir John Mills, Anthony Wager (Young Pip), Valerie Hobson, Jean Simmons, Bernard Miles, Francis L. Sullivan, Finlay Currie, Martita Hunt, Sir Alec Guinness, Ivor Barnard, Freda Jackson, Eileen Erskine, George Hayes, Hay Petrie, John Forrest, Torin Thatcher, O.B. Clarence, John Burch, Richard George, Grace Denbigh-Russell, Everley Gregg, Anne Holland, Frank Atkinson, Gordon Begg, Edie Martin, Walford Hyden, Roy Arthur, Howard Lang (uncredited), Dido Plumb (uncredited) and Ernie Pratt (uncredited)

Director: David lean

Producers: Anthony Havelock-Allan and Ronald Neame

Screenplay: Anthony Havelock-Allan, David Lean, Cecil McGivern, Kay Walsh, Ronald Neame and Charles Dickens (novel)

Composer: Walter Goehr

Cinematography: Guy Green and Robert Krasker (shot opening sequence)

Video Resolution: 1080p [Black-and-White]

Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1

Audio: English: 2.0 Dolby Digital Mono Audio

Subtitles: English SDH

Running Time: 113 minutes

Region: All Regions

Number of discs: 1

Studio: ITV Studios Home Entertainment

Andrew’s Blu-ray Review: Sir David Lean's adaptation of the Charles Dickens classic is one of the most beloved British films of all time. Sir David Lean's journey began with ‘GREAT EXPECTATIONS’ in 1939, when Sir David Lean attended a stage production of the novel adapted and directed by Sir Alec Guinness, who served as narrator and played the supporting role of Herbert Pocket. In 1945, Sir David Lean and his partners in the Cine Guilds of Great Britain, which was the independent filmmaking unit they had formed, with cinematographer Ronald Neame and production manager Anthony Havelock-Allan, within the Rank Organization, pondered their third production, Sir David Lean suggested the Charles Dickens novel and his partners concurred it would be just the kind of prestige project that could break into the American market and J. Arthur Rank put up the money for the production. Playwright Clemence Dane was hired to adapt the sprawling novel, but Sir David Lean felt it was a total disaster and the partners decided to screenplay themselves, as they had their adaptation of Noel Coward's ‘Blithe Spirit’ [1945].

Sir David Lean went for a harder, sharper look and opened the film with a dark, nightmarish scene. Skinny, wide-eyed Pip (played by newcomer Anthony Wager) runs through the marshes to visit his mother's grave on a stormy night, when he is startled by an escaped convict Abel Magwitch [Finlay Currie]. Pip is overwhelmed by the imagery and terrified by the desperate convict, who demands food and the boy's silence, and Sir David Lean shoots the scene is if from the perspective of this small boy, terrified and at the mercy of this dangerous world. It's a piece of pure cinematic creation, accomplished with forced perspective sets, especially the creaky church looming in the background, and glass mattes to create the stormy sky, the kind of ingenuity they would need to create a visually rich world on their budget.

Sir David Lean started the film with Robert Krasker, but was unhappy with his soft look and replaced him with Guy Green, who brought a starker look and a more dynamic contrast to the imagery. To enhance the perspective of the young Pip, Guy Green shot his scenes as a boy with a wide lens to exaggerate the size and space of the sets. The most visually evocative scenes in the film, however, take place in Miss Havisham's shadowy mansion. The true mastery of Sir David Lean’s adaptation lies in the natural accentuation of human drama despite the pervading influence of social satire in Charles Dickens' work. The sudden social trajectory of the young pauper lends an often cutting observation of the class divide and a distinctly well-observed social commentary on the time.

Summoned by the mysterious matron to Miss Havisham's shuttered manor, Pip enters a gothic haunted house that time forgot and finds an eccentric, possibly mad dowager in a rotting wedding dress, holding court in a musty throne room dominated by a decomposing wedding cake, a reminder of the day she was jilted at the altar. Miss Havisham has sent for Pip to become a playmate for her ward Estella [Jean Simmons], an impertinent young beauty with whom Pip immediately falls in love. Apparently, young Anthony Wager also fell in love with teenage Jean Simmons, and how could not a thirteen-year-old boy with stars in his eyes not and even played the hero in real life. According to jean Simmons, her dress caught on fire from a candle she was carrying through a scene up a flight of dark stairs. "Everybody stood aghast, but young Anthony Wager came and tore it off me and put it out and Anthony Wager was the one who saved me."

Miss Havisham has developed an antipathy for mankind and though one feels that on one level she likes Pip she is also quite prepared to play games with him. She uses him in her quest to mould her ward Estella in her image and to gain revenge on men. Jean Simmons’s Estella, here we find she is witty, intelligent and beautiful and she treats Pip pretty abominably but I was convinced as a child that she was good at heart and liked him underneath, I’m not quite sure what this says about me! I was a lonely and romantic child but those scenes still enchant me, so much so that I feel Valerie Hobson as the bland older Estella simply doesn’t have the same magical appeal of Ms. Jean Simmons.

Valerie Hobson (who just happened to be married to producer Anthony Havelock-Allan) plays the grown Estella, trained by Miss Havisham to be a heartless social mercenary, and the major supporting roles were filled out by some of the most striking character actors in Britain, like Finlay Currie as the convict Abel Magwitch, Bernard Miles as Pip's guardian Joe Gargery and the imposing Francis L. Sullivan as the decidedly humourless lawyer Mr. Jaggers, a role he played in the 1934 Hollywood version of the novel. Martita Hunt reprised her role as Miss Havisham from Sir Alec Guinness's stage production, and they say her imperious portrayal was magnificent.

Rather than try to condense the whole novel into a rushed journey through the plot, they focused on the integrity of Pip's story and his defining scenes and pared away plot elements and supporting characters that didn't serve his dramatic journey. Much of the dialogue was taken directly from the novel. Cecil McGivern and Kay Walsh were brought in when Lean left to work on ‘Brief Encounter’ [1945], with Kay Walsh credited for coming up with the ending of the film, because Charles Dickens had written two endings for the novel, neither of which Cecil McGivern and Kay Walsh found particularly effective for a cinematic treatment.

The adaptation by Sir David Lean and his collaborators is a model of intelligent adaptation, rich with character and atmosphere yet focused firmly on the journey of Pip, from young orphan on the Kent marshes to a young man in London society. Sir David Lean fills ‘GREAT EXPECTATIONS’ with a wealth of visual detail and vivid characters and personalities without allowing them to swamp his hero, and he directs with a warmth and humour often missed in such costume dramas and reverent literary adaptations. Though greatly pared down, this third screen version of Charles Dickens' novel remains to this day the quintessential cinematic incarnation. In terms of the sheer scope and grandeur of Sir David Lean’s work his adaptation of ‘GREAT EXPECTATIONS’ is a consistent and undeniable hit. With a cast of such prolific talent, the film succeeds in becoming an enduring classic whose influence in further big-screen adaptations of the writer's work are there for all to see.

If you haven’t seen or experienced ‘GREAT EXPECTATIONS’ yet, I thoroughly recommend it. Again, simply consider the opening scenes, as the young Pip [Anthony Wager] is rushing home through a marshy landscape, entering a churchyard in which he is menaced by escaped convict Abel Magwitch who accosts him for food from Pip’s home, telling him with delicious relish that if Pip were to tell his guardians of Abel Magwitch’s existence that a “certain young man” of his acquaintance and one with a taste for eating livers no less and will creep into the house and wreak revenge. Pip being a polite boy treats Abel Magwitch with respect despite being scared out of his wits and it is from this startling beginning that the plot of the film unfolds. It isn’t just the wonderful performances or the spectacular landscape, with gibbets limned against the horizon, or the fantastic dialogue or the magnificent cinematography and editing that makes it work, it’s all of those and more. There’s a beauty in this film that never fails to move and it’s funny and scary and wrenching too.

Blu-ray Video Quality – The ITV Studios Home Entertainment UK Release of ‘GREAT EXPECTATIONS’ is faithfully presented in its original 1.33:1 aspect ratio with a competent, technically proficient 1080p encoded image transfer. First and foremost, blacks are decent, whites don’t wash out the image, and midrange greys imbue the image with fairly impressive depth. Detail is the highlight of the transfer with fine textures, crisp edges, and plenty of minute surprises that are muddled and blurred on The Criterion Collection inferior DVD. Contrast wavers slightly, but is generally a good solid and bright, especially considering the age of the film. If I have any major complaints, it’s that black levels are never fully resolved, quite a bit of detail is lost in the heaviest shadows, still, the fact that ITV didn’t employ edge enhancement, especially with DNR [Digital Noise Reduction], or any other meddling post-processing technique is a definite plus. The image is largely free of annoying artefacts and source noise, allowing the transfer to deliver a clean and attractive presentation of the film, but sadly now and again fine white lines running on the left hand side of the screen that appearing now and again, but despite this, it does not spoil your viewing enjoyment. Sir David Lean’s ‘GREAT EXPECTATIONS’ still thoroughly outshines the 1999 The Criterion Collection inferior DVD release and offers fans the best looking version of the film available to date.

Blu-ray Audio Quality – The ITV Studios Home Entertainment UK Release of ‘GREAT EXPECTATIONS’ is presented with a 2.0 Dolby Digital Mono Audio track, that is a faithful representation of the original audio source. Low-end sounds are flat, dynamics are dull, and treble tones don’t have the strength to stand out in the limited mix. Dialogue is crisp and well prioritised, but there's really no reason it shouldn’t be. Still, I’d rather hear this authentic mono presentation, than sit through a horrible updated poor 5.1 remix and again it is paramount to purchase this UK Release from ITV Studios Home Entertainment Blu-ray release, as there is unlikely not going to get an upgraded release for the USA market. Again this ITV Studios Home Entertainment Blu-ray release offers a totally rich and rewarding mono audio track, as I am very happy and very pleased with this UK Release’s audio presentation. So anyone purchasing this particular Blu-ray UK Release will be very well rewarded.

Blu-ray Special Features and Extras: Unfortunately, this ITV Studios Home Entertainment UK Release Blu-ray does not offer any supplemental materials.

Finally, The ITV Studios Home Entertainment UK Release of ‘GREAT EXPECTATIONS’ is true to the faithfulness of the period the novel was set in. The film ‘GREAT EXPECTATIONS’ itself is a wonderful adaptation of Charles Dickens classic novel, the video transfer delivers an impressive rich Black-and-White rendering of its source, and the mono audio track sounds as good as when the 1946 film was originally released. Sure, the disc doesn’t have any supplements and you do have to have an appreciation of older cinema to enjoy the film, but this is a classic in every sense of the word. For those in the North American region, it is well worth purchasing this well-produced Blu-ray, especially as it is an All Region release that probably will not receive a USA domestic release anytime in the near future. Highly Recommended!

Andrew C. Miller – Your Ultimate No.1 Film Aficionado
Le Cinema Paradiso
United Kingdom
26 people found this helpful
CandyReviewed in the United Kingdom on 06 August 2022
5.0 out of 5 stars
Brilliant film
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This is a classic. I watched this as a child and was mesmerised. I had to purchase the dvd to watch over and keep. I loved the book and the film stays closely to the book. Not much more to say great acting from all characters. Just brilliant
Antonio RobertReviewed in the United Kingdom on 21 June 2022
4.0 out of 5 stars
Still one of the best Dickens film adaptations
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This little treasure, shot by the great David Lean, offers a visually stunning, very atmospheric rendition of one of Charles Dickens most beloved and best novels. The life story of Pip Pirrip, his strict older sister and her husband, and especially the characters of young Estella and old Miss Havisham show a bitter contrast between societal classes and, as is usual with Dickens, a rather clear line is drawn between positive and negative characters. The realism of the story well complements some gothic elements, it really is a textbook adaptation. The young Jean Simmons is notable as Estella.
Amazon CustomerReviewed in the United Kingdom on 12 May 2022
5.0 out of 5 stars
Fantastic film
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It was worth every penny I spent on it
JimmyReviewed in the United Kingdom on 04 March 2022
5.0 out of 5 stars
Great expectations.
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A very good classic film, an asset to anyone's collection.
BarryReviewed in the United Kingdom on 14 October 2019
4.0 out of 5 stars
Classic Adaptation
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I remember being scared by this black and white classic as a young boy. The bleakness is further exaggerated by the monochrome nature of this 1946 classic adaptation of the Charles Dickens novel. Aside form the visuals the short sharp delivery of quaint old English colloquialisms delivered by the actors playing the kind-hearted young Pip and the attractively disagreeable young Estelle really set the springboard for the introduction of (Sir) John Mills as the older Pip. Characterisation is rich and three dimensional and there are some real moments of audience discomfort when latterly snobbish Pip receives a visit from his former role model and guardian, Joe the Blacksmith. (Sir)Alec Guinness puts in a great performance as Pip's irrepressible yet tactful roommate Herbert Pocket.
Spoiler alert: A life-changing chance encounter with the ever threatening escaped convict Magwitch ( Finlay Currie) and later secret benefactor hangs over the main storyline in which Pip fights for the affections of the ever prickly Estelle.
This film is a very satisfying watch and highly recommended
3 people found this helpful
Alex da SilvaReviewed in the United Kingdom on 11 September 2010
5.0 out of 5 stars
Larks with Mr Pip
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This story is told in 2 parts. We have the story of young Pip (Anthony Wager) for the first 45 minutes in which he brings food to Magwitch (Finlay Currie) the escaped convict and he becomes acquainted with Mrs Haversham (Martita Hunt) and the young Estella (Jean Simmons). We then skip to the adult Pip (John Mills) and follow his good fortune - a secret benefactor has left him a considerable income to live off. Who is his benefactor? Can he find love with the adult Estella (Valerie Hobson)? There are plenty of twists.....

This is an enjoyable film, if a little long. Joe Gargery (Bernard Miles)and Herbert Pocket (Alec Guiness) provide the humour along with the boy that plays the young Herbert Pocket. His encounter with the young Pip in the grounds of Mrs Haversham's estate is one of the memorable scenes, of which there are many, eg, the opening sequence, what happens to the adult Pip one stormy night, etc.

The characters all display a humility that we can share and each character's behaviour is motivated by a humbleness which provokes honour and nobility in their actions. All except the women. Mrs Haversham, Estella and Mrs Joe Gargery (Freda Jackson) are all on another planet. Perhaps Dickens just couldn't figure out the female mind.......or else he nailed it to perfection!

The cast are good. A special mention to Finlay Currie as "Magwitch" and Francis L Sullivan who plays the lawyer, "Mr Jaggers". I preferred the young Pip and the young Estella - I found that Valerie Hobson wasn't as convincing as a cold-hearted woman as Jean Simmons was, and John Mills was a bit old for the role. However, these are minor points in an entertaining film in which even the tragic parts evoke a certain satisfaction.
2 people found this helpful
Andrew McCannReviewed in the United Kingdom on 30 March 2013
5.0 out of 5 stars
A David Lean Classic Which Creates The Dickensian World Admirably
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Having first viewed this film in the cinema as a child in the 1950s, David Lean's 'Great Expectations' left a lasting impression on me that persists to this day.

Seen in the context of its time, it represented British film-making at its best and with its atmospheric Dickensian settings was the trigger that inspired me to start reading and appreciating the works of Dickens.

There is something about the black and white film stock that seems to add to the overall atmospherics from my personal viewpoint. Maybe that is because my only recollections of that era were from old black and white family photographs, which seemed to paint a grey, austere picture of life in those days devoid of the colours of my own world.

David Lean had evolved his film-making skills as an editor and had been a much sought after master of his trade. This is evident in the way that he dealt with film direction, too, as there is a strong feeling that he was editing in camera when shooting: constantly weighing up the visual possibilities of a scene, but also being economical and not straying too far off the track.

Many other versions of 'Great Expectations' have been made since then. Each has represented the film-making art of its day, just as this did in its own time.

However David Lean's version remains a classic both in terms of its important place in the history of British film-making and in its atmospheric portrayal of the Dickensian World.
2 people found this helpful
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