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Great Expectations (The Criterion Collection)

4.7 out of 5 stars 140 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Product Description


David Lean's handsome adaptation of Charles Dickens's classic novel captures the warm humor and richness of character that so many filmmakers miss in their reverent recreations of Victorian England. From the nightmarish opening sequence on the windswept graveyard where young orphan Pip (Anthony Wager) meets the desperate escaped criminal Magwitch (Finlay Currie) to the shadowy, musty mansion of the widow Miss Haversham (Martita Hunt) where he first meets the impertinent young beauty Estella (Jean Simmons), Lean captures a childlike exaggeration of reality with his elegant expressionism. When Pip's sudden change in fortune sends him to London as a burgeoning gentleman in high society, Lean sketches a beautiful, bustling city. John Mills's performance as the adult Pip charts his change from the wide-eyed wonder and generous spirit of the child he was to the class snob transformed by money and social standing, an ugly flaw that Pip confronts when his mysterious benefactor is finally revealed. The outstanding cast also features Valerie Hobson as the grown-up Estella, now a beguiling enchantress, a bright young Alec Guinness in his film debut as Pip's jovial London roommate Herbert Pocket, and the imposing Francis L. Sullivan as the decidedly humorless lawyer Jaggers. Exquisitely photographed by Guy Green (who won an Oscar for his work). Lean and his collaborators effectively maintain the heart of Dickens's epic drama while cutting it to its essentials in this vivid, compelling film. --Sean Axmaker

Special Features


Product Details

  • Actors: John Mills, Valerie Hobson, Tony Wager, Jean Simmons, Bernard Miles
  • Directors: David Lean
  • Writers: David Lean, Anthony Havelock-Allan, Cecil McGivern, Charles Dickens, Kay Walsh
  • Producers: Anthony Havelock-Allan
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Black & White, Color, Dolby, NTSC
  • Language: English (Dolby Digital 1.0)
  • Subtitles: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated:
    Not Rated
  • Studio: Criterion
  • DVD Release Date: January 12, 1999
  • Run Time: 118 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (140 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B00000F17E
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #45,134 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Great Expectations (The Criterion Collection)" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Linda Linguvic HALL OF FAMEVINE VOICE on September 6, 2002
Format: VHS Tape
An Academy Award winner for Best Art and Set Direction and Best Cinematography in a black and white film, this 1947 version of the classic Dickens novel was adapted for the screen by British director David Lean. I can understand why it won those awards. Without the availability of modern technical effects, he was able to create a perfect atmosphere and sense of foreboding, keeping the mood and dark macabre feeling of the novel throughout. He also kept some key scenes intact, the young Pip's meeting with the convict, the mad Miss Havisham, and the ghoulish atmosphere in the law offices of Mr. Jaggers, whose walls are decorated with the death masks of clients he had lost to the gallows.
In most respects, this film stayed true to the novel. But it is impossible to condense Dickens into a spare two-hour film. Perhaps it was because I had just finished the novel the day before, but I couldn't help but notice how some characters were missing, many scenes were eliminated, the ending was changed and the plot seemed an oversimplification of the one I had just lived with in the book for the past month.
Without exception, all of the actors were excellent, but I wondered a bit at the casting. John Mills played the young pip who was supposed to be 20. In reality, he was 38 years old at the time and, in those days before plastic surgery, even had some crows feet around his eyes. Alex Guinness, who was cast as Herbert Pocket who befriends the adult Pip, was actually 32 and both of these gentlemen just didn't have the freshness of youth that was so apparent in the Dickens novel.
Age didn't seem to matter though in the casting of the convict. Finlay Currie, with his craggy face and threatening bearing was 68, but he played the role as if it was created just for him.
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Format: VHS Tape
It has never been easy to tranfer Dickens from the printed page to the moving screen. His plots are all too often multi-layered, containing what today's readers might think of as an excessive number of characters. Nevertheless, the very best filmed adaptations still retain enough of the flavor of the original to keep the movie's actions on line. Director David Lean in GREAT EXPECTATIONS has created a moody, black and white period piece that perfectly captures the essence of how a young and fearful boy sees his bleak surroundings. This element of bleakness, so evident in most of Dickens, is especially prominent here, both externally in the grim, forbidding exteriors of the graveyard that introduces the film and internally in the myriad of blows that buffet young Pip (Anthony Wager) for nearly the entire film. As was common for most of his child heroes, Dickens gave them a juvenile view of a universe that was inhospitable for them. Adults were often unpredicatable and cruel in a manner than resonates even today. Young Pip sees terror nearly everywhere. The escaped criminal, Magwitch (Finlay Currie), his elder sister Mrs. Gargery (Freda Jackson), and the weirdly dressed Miss Havisham (Martita Hunt) all combine to make Pip's existence full of doubt and fear. There are only a few adults whom Pip trusts, one of whom is his decent and honorable brother-in-law Joe Gargery (Bernard Miles).
As Pip matures,(now played by John Mills) he now realizes that his initial perception of the universe as intrinsically unstable was essentially a correct one. What he does learn, at great cost to his pride and self-respect, is that he can alter the equations of this universe slightly by a corresponding alteration in his perception of that universe.
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Format: Blu-ray
I hired this hoping that the BLU RAY format would do this acclaimed masterpiece the justice it has always deserved - but no such luck.

The print is uniformly awful all the way through - with scratches, blocking, lines, blurring of the image - it's clear that little or no restoration has gone into this. An old DVD version would be just as good.

When you view other fully restored titles on Blu Ray like "Zulu", "2001: A Space Odyssey", "Cool Hand Luke" and "Black Narcissus" (see reviews for the last two) and the wonderful job done on all of the Bond movies (especially the earlier ones) - you realise what a horrible let down for fans this version is. Unfortunately, too many companies are jumping on the BR bandwagon now with oldies, because of course there's a fresh new marketplace for them. Note how clean the image on the box is - when there isn't a single frame on the disc that looks so beautifully cleaned up.

Amazon reviews are there to inform customers - help them make an informed choice; well, one day the British Film Institute will finally get its act together and frame-by-frame restore David Lean's extraordinary works - thereby preserving them properly as the artistic National Treasures they are... But for now, unless you absolutely have to have this, avoid this shoddy reissue.
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Format: DVD
If a movie ever captured better the look in your head of a book you've read than David Lean's Great Expectations, I don't know what it would be. From the moment young Pip is seen running along the marsh road to the deserted cemetery and his encounter with the escaped convict, Magwitch (scaring Pip as well as us half to death) to Pip the young man ripping down the dust-laden, moldering drapes in Miss Havisham's decaying mansion and letting the daylight in, we see what we imagined, and it's just about perfect.

Great Expectations is one of Charles Dickens' greatest novels, and the movie, in my opinion, is David Lean's greatest accomplishment as a director. You'd have to be a cynic not to be captured by this story of a young, poor boy, an orphan raised in a blacksmith's home by his sister and her husband, who unexpectedly becomes a young gentleman of great expectations.

Lean chose actors who bring the characters vividly to life. Pip (John Mills) is a young man who has become self-satisfied with the mysterious funds he receives that have enabled him to become a gentleman. In time, however, he realizes "that in becoming a gentleman, I had only succeeded in becoming a snob." But Pip's innate honesty and humanity come through as he accepts the debt he owes to his benefactor and faces the love he has for Estella. Jean Simmons as young Estella and Valerie Hobson as Estella the woman are beautiful and cruel, as Estella was raised to be by Miss Havisham. Francis L. Sullivan is perfect as the large, shrewd lawyer, Mr. Jaggers, who knows all the secrets. Miss Havisham is played by Martita Hunt. Miss Havisham was abandoned on her wedding day years before.
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