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Great Expectations

1 h 53 min194616+
Adapted from Charles Dickens' legendary novel, it tells the story of a humble orphan who suddenly becomes a gentleman with the help of an unknown benefactor.
David Lean
John MillsValerie HobsonTony Wager
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Supporting actors
Jean SimmonsBernard MilesFrancis L. Sullivan
SPI International
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4.8 out of 5 stars

851 global ratings

  1. 87% of reviews have 5 stars
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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
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.
LokiiReviewed in the United Kingdom on 16 March 2018
5.0 out of 5 stars
Great Expectations for a Great Movie
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This is probably one of the greatest adaptations in history and one of the greatest stories written for its time. Great Expectations takes you on a beautiful ride through the life of the main character with some dastardly and happy twists you wouldn't expect from a novel or movie of this ilk.
This was a lovely movie, gritty, happy, twisty, funny but the picture and sound was always questionable. Now on Blu-ray with exceptional picture and sound makes this movie almost a perfect work of art.
9 people found this helpful
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
ElleppiReviewed in the United Kingdom on 28 August 2015
5.0 out of 5 stars
A fantastic blu ray edition of one of Lean's best film. Much better than his following "blockbusters"
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Maybe my favourite David Lean's film, before he turned to spectacular hollywood blockbuster, and still made some great gotic or intimate film like Oliver Twist and Brief Encounter. This is both: a fantastic version of the book, all shot in a deep black and white full of mystery and almost unreal situations, where you think you've entered someone's mind or memory instead of a realistic situation. Lean manages to make a powerful dramatic adaptation where cold and mean events and people clash with the main character innocence and create a mix of tragedy, revenge, destined lives and affliction, and yet the will to walk on and face people's selfishness and life's injustice. Moviemaking and photography, along with sound and editing create a suspended atmosphere where you can almost feel and breathe the cold, nordic nature and the old antiques of the house and the female character's fake, sterile, mean and frozen life.
6 people found this helpful
The CinemaScope CatReviewed in the United Kingdom on 27 July 2011
5.0 out of 5 stars
Simply superb!
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A young boy (Anthony Wager) provides a kindness to an escaped convict (Finlay Currie) who is soon recaptured. Later, an eccentric woman (Martita Hunt) invites him to her estate so she can watch him play with her ward (Jean Simmons). The consequences of these events determine the boy's future as a young man (John Mills). This not quite faithful rendering of the Charles Dickens novel is one of David Lean's best films. Unlike so many films based on classic literary works, there's a vitality and texture that keeps the spirit of the novel so that one can overlook the handful of incidents that have been eliminated or changed from the novel's transition to the screen. The only major nuisance is the foisted happy ending which seems terribly at odds with all that preceded it. While Mills and Valerie Hobson (who plays the adult Simmons) don't make any false steps, they lack the perfection of their cast mates who seem to have walked right out of the pages of the novel. Most notably Hunt, Currie, Wager who's such a natural that he puts Hollywood's child actors of the era to shame and a young Alec Guinness as Mills' compatriot. Guy Green (who would later become a director himself) won an Oscar for the fleecy B&W cinematography and there's a beauty of a score by Walter Goehr. With Francis L. Sullivan, Bernard Miles, Torin Thatcher and Freda Jackson.

The ITV DVD from Great Britain boasts a handsome B&W transfer.
10 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
Vittorio De AlfaroReviewed in the United Kingdom on 07 November 2011
5.0 out of 5 stars
a DVD: Great Expectations with John Mills, Valerie Hobson
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This is an interesting movie. It tells a long story, starting with a boy who hides a convict, and goes on with the boy visiting week after week (until he is 14) miss Haversham's place and meeting there a very snobbish very young lady (Jean Simmons). We will find again the ex boy, now grown up as John Mills at 20, who understands he is to be raised as a gentleman (he thinks: by whom? of course, lady Haversham) in London. There he meets the young lady (now Valerie Hobson) who tells him she is fickle and wishes to marry (love has no place) a very rich person. An important part of the story is the reappearance of the convict in London. After John Mills tells miss Haversham, she dies in flames. In turn the convict dies in jail while waiting to be hanged. (This last scene between John Mills and the convict is particularly bleak.) When John Mills goes once more to miss Haversham's place he finds there Valerie, whose birth by the convict had been discovered, and rescues her from the dark room where she, as miss Haversham before, had voluntarily locked herself.

In spite of its age (it appeared in 1948) the movie is very worth being visioned and I have appreciated it with great pleasure. Guy Green is the photograph who got an Oscar for this performance, with David Lean as the more than famous director of this and many other movies.
3 people found this helpful
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