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The Mystery of Charles Dickens

4.6 out of 5 stars 10 customer reviews


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Editorial Reviews

This remarkable one-man play brilliantly interweaves Dickens' turbulent life story with some of his most memorable characters. Starring Simon Callow.

Special Features

None.

Product Details

  • Actors: Simon Callow
  • Directors: Patrick Garland
  • Writers: Charles Dickens, Peter Ackroyd
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Classical, Color, NTSC
  • Language: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated:
    NR
    Not Rated
  • Studio: Kultur Video
  • DVD Release Date: November 18, 2003
  • Run Time: 90 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B0000DI86Y
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #105,540 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "The Mystery of Charles Dickens" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Eileen Cunningham VINE VOICE on September 12, 2007
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
As an English teacher, whenever I have looked for material on Dickens, I have always checked to see what it says about Dickens' boyhood, which was the source of his art, his activism, and his "ghosts." Moreover, I have more than once wished that I could have seen Dickens live on stage acting out scenes from his novels, pouring heart and soul into the performances as his biographers have so often detailed. So you can imagine my delight to find this gem by Simon Callow, who appears as Dickens in a one-man show similar to those Dickens himself would have done in London, Edinburgh, and elsewhere. Callow has made Dickens come alive more than any written biography could do. He narrates the life of Dickens from boyhood to death, moving flawlessly between biographical material and excerpts from the novels to show the biographical elements of many of Dickens' works. His depiction of the personality, accent, facial expression, and body language of the panoply of Dickens' creations, not to mention Dickens himself, is amazing. No student could come away from this video and say they had not seen or did not understand Dickens. I also appreciate the way Callow handles Dickens' troubled marriage, his idealization of his dying 17-year-old sister-in-law, and his infatuation with the young Ellen Ternan. We come away viewing Dickens not as some roving-eyed dandy, as post-modern critics often do, but as a deeply scarred man looking for the lost ideal. I will definitely show this to students everytime I teach Dickens in the future. Its intermission between Acts I and II makes it possible to split the viewing into two class periods. If less time were available, a teacher would find Act I very satisfactory as a one-period, stand-alone piece.
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For a Dickens fan - this is a must. Dickens himself understood the magnitude of his characters and that they must be performed. He spent the latter years of his life doing live readings, performances that Simon Callow shows us in excellence. Simon is Charles Dickens for the time you invest in this performance - and what a wonderful time you will have!
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Format: DVD
It's a measure of Dickens' greatness that so many of our best writers and actors remain fascinated as much by the man as by his writing. The flamboyant showman side of his nature is a gift for dramatic presentations of his life. And Simon Callow's exuberant and flamboyant style is a perfect match for Dickens' own.

Written as a vehicle for Callow by Peter Ackroyd, Callow describes this one-man performance as a 'living biography'. Ackroyd, of course, has written a huge 'proper' biography of Dickens. Unfortunately, it is so tedious - oops! sorry - detailed that I gave up on it when Dickens had only reached about the age of 10 by page 180 or so - and that was the abridged version! However, it does mean he knows his stuff about The Great Man's life, and having to meet the requirements of a running time of roughly an hour and a half seems to have concentrated his mind wonderfully.

For Dickens' geeks like myself, there are no great revelations in this. It's a fairly standard run-through of Dickens' life - the blacking factory, the marriage, the death of the sister-in-law, the writing success, his separation from his wife, Ellen Ternan, his reading tours. If it were only a biography it would be worthwhile and interesting. What brings it to life is Callow's performance of excerpts from the various books in the first half and, in the second, the flavour he gives of what it might have been like to have attended one of Dickens' own performances.
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Peter Ackroyd's magnificent and masterly biography of Charles Dickens is the basis of a live performance by the extraordinary British actor Simon Callow. Partly a re-creation of Dicken's public readings and partly a biographical lecture, Callow's huge compass of voice and gesture turn a potentially overly wordy script into a tour-de-force. The short introductory sequence is a bit twee, but the show proper is a marvel. Camera work is good, the sound is clear, and this disc played well on my very cheap DVD player.
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Callow is the master of presenting Dickens. I saw him live in the London West End doing 'Christmas Carol' and this recording of him is equally impressive. No one interested in Dickens will be disappointed here.
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