Barnaby Rudge - Charles Dickens (1960) (DVD)
A rare BBC adaptation of Dickens' historical tale of fathers and sons, public violence and private terror
Many a gentleman lives well upon a soft head, who would find a heart of the same quality a very great drawback.?
Michael Voysey's 1960 BBC adaptation, released for the first time on DVD, remains the only TV portrayal of Dickens' caustic redemptive drama.
On a stormy night in 1775 a ragged stranger (Nigel Arkwright) wanders into the Maypole Inn at Chigwell on the borders of Epping Forest. Young gentleman Edward Chester (Bernard Brown), whose horse is lame, leaves the inn on foot to greet his beloved Emma Haredale (Eira Heath) at a masked ball. The stranger is fascinated to hear the story of a notorious double murder at the nearby estate where Emma now lives with her uncle Geoffrey (Peter Williams).
Joe Willet (Alan Hayward), son of the Maypole's landlord John (Arthur Brough), quarrels with his father and joins the army, pausing only to say goodbye to Dolly (Jennifer Daniel), the pretty daughter of London locksmith Gabriel Varden (Newton Blick). At Gabriel's home and workshop we encounter the formidable Mrs Varden (Joan Hickson), dithering maid Miss Miggs (Barbara Hicks) and sly apprentice Simon Tappertit (Timothy Bateson).
Edward's father John Chester (Raymond Huntley) and Geoffrey Haredale, sworn enemies, both oppose a union between Edward and Emma. Simple-minded Barnaby Rudge (John Wood) wanders in and out of the story, running errands and chattering with his pet raven Grip. Meanwhile Barnaby's mother Mary (Isabel Dean) is visited by the stranger, and feels compelled to protect him.
As the stories interweave, Barnaby is caught up in the Gordon Riots, a violent demonstration against Catholics. Rounded up and jailed with the ringleaders, will he hang for their actions?
A tantalising cocktail of social commentary and Gothic melodrama.