Great British adaptation of this wonderful story based on the Charles Dickens novel of the same name.
Dirk Bogarde stars as the wonderful (and ever so dashing!) Sidney Carton who despite his drunkenness and apparent 'worthless' existence becomes one of the most charming and heroic characters in English novels! (Bogarde was excellent at playing heroes) The words Sydney Carton utters to the distressed girl by his side who is about to go to the guillotine: 'keep your eyes on me - and mind nothing else' are some of the most beautiful to hear at such a time, and live long in the mind after the film has ended...
One of the most outstanding performances in this movie is that of Rosalie Crutchley as 'Madame DeFarge' - a great actress. Her character's only weakness being the encounter she had with 'Miss Pross' (Athene Seyler) I had the privilege of expressing my opinion on her part in this film, and she was so extremely modest and grateful, and was rather surprised that her acting had such impact. Viewers will be aware that Ms. Crutchley would leave lasting impressions on various roles she would play - more notably a few years later in 'The Haunting' (1963) where she played the eerie 'Mrs. Dudley'.
A great movie!
on 4 February 2008
Nicely done version high on atmosphere set in an authentic looking period location. We see the terrible poverty endured by the masses, the sumptuous luxury enjoyed by the elite classes, and the feeling of righteous revolution is palpable. Bogarde's well cast as the slightly decadent English lawyer determined to do something really noble in his life before he goes, and the film nicely portrays the seething class hatred on both sides, but especially highlights the vindictiveness and lust for revenge from the main agitators of the revolution. A decent enough version which could have done with being a little more engaging in its narrative, but generally a satisfying tale retold.
on 4 March 2012
I am not going to come back to what a lot of people have already said here. This film is a true epic masterpiece with drama, mystery, passion and a fantastic and rarely tackled historical background (the fate of the French émigrés in England during the French Revolution). The production is beautiful, the time well-rendered and the cast is to die for: Bogarde, Tuttin, Cecil Parker, but also Donald Pleasence, Leo McKern, Christopher Lee and my compatriot Paul Guers give stunning performances. As a Frenchman though, I thought I could give a French opinion on what the filmakers (and of course Dickens) made of this tumultuous period. First, it is worth noting that as a book (or a film for that matter!), "A Tale of two cities" is one of the least popular novels of Dickens in France. Is it because the book confront us with a past we are uneasy with? I would rather say that it is the contrast with England that probably did make the French ill at ease with the work. Indeed, it is as if the book was a thinly-veiled warning to the English aristocracy to make sure that the French events would NEVER happen on English soil. Therefore that the aristocracy had to keep evolving. In France, the aristocracy never evolved and nurtured a hatred against its attitude throughout the centuries that climaxed during the Revolution, and this unquenched frustration (so well portrayed in the film) led to the extremism of the popuation that led to a literal blue-blood genocide during the Revolution and the Terror in particular. Don't get me wrong, as a French I am profoundly Republican and without the Revolution I wouldn't be where I am today but the contrasting viewpoints offered by the film (and I guess the book - which I haven't read) are extremely interesting, valid, and make for a great story. On top of it, the locations are very close to where I come from: Valençay, Bourges, Orléans, in the Berry-Indre region in France. Add to this a very informative documentary and you have a memorable DVD, to watch over and over again.
on 10 December 2001
An accurate adaptation of Charles Dickens' novel. Set in London and Paris, Dickens' classic tells the tale of a man who gives the ultimate sacrifice so as to ensure the happiness of the woman he loves. With the tragic French Revolution as its background, the film does not only cover historic and cultural issues but also moving moral issues and of course, love. An extremely well-made British production and with Bogarde playing an exquisite Sydney Carton, who can possibly resist?
on 17 October 2013
A cynical and dissolute English solicitor (Dirk Bogarde) finds himself involved in the lives of a doctor (Stephen Murray) recently released from the Bastille after 18 years, his daughter (Dorothy Tutin) and a French aristocrat (Paul Guers) who has disowned his title and his family. But the long, bloody and vengeful arms of the French Revolution will impact their lives. The celebrated Charles Dickens novel had been adapted to film at least three times prior to this incarnation, most notably the 1935 MGM film with Ronald Colman. This is a solid and strong adaptation and, in several ways, superior to the 1935 version. I'm not normally a fan of Dirk Bogarde's ennui as an acting style but his weariness is perfect here. His Sidney Carton is much better than Colman's. Bogarde lets you see the dissolution in his face. This is a man for whom life holds no joy and no reason for his existence. Generally, the acting (except for Guers) is better including Rosalie Crutchley who makes for a sensational Madame DeFarge. Curiously, the director Ralph Thomas insisted in shooting it in B&W when color would have added some vibrancy to the proceedings. The large cast includes Christopher Lee, Donald Pleasence, Ian Bannen, Athene Seyler, Leo McKern and Marie Versini.
The ITV DVD is a decent B&W full frame transfer with a nice half hour documentary that includes interviews with director Ralph Thomas and actors Dorothy Tutin and Christopher Lee.
on 30 July 2014
A very enjoyable film, benefiting from scenes shot in Bourges - including [briefly] the west front of the cathedral.
Everyone is very clean, even when they have been in prison for weeks.
The book sticks in my mind both for its simple plot - simple compared to most of Dickens work - and for its great flights of description. There are a few spots in the film that capture the words of the book especially the scene of Paris and the guillotine. The part of Miss Pross is almost cut completely. She is there in the guise of the wonderful Athene Seyler, but says very little.
Dirk Bogarde makes a workmanlike job of Sidney Carton.. He was a gifted actor, but his Carton lacks the despair that Dickens gave the character. This is perhaps a sign of its era, since no one in the fifties wanted to see despair. The tone of the film is optimistic not heavy, and Bogarde's wistful decadence goes well with its general ethos. He is more like a character from Wilde than from Dickens. but powerful nevertheless.
I found the disparity between Carton and Darnay somewhat odd - why didn't they give Bogarde the chance to play both?
it is in black and white but it suits the piece. I shall watch it with that ennui that Bogarde brings to the role.
Wonderful to see Christopher Lee at his prime playing seriously and with such skill.
The palm for acting goes to Rosalie Crutchley, beautiful here, and giving as always, a committed and potent performance as Madame Defarge.
Why Dickens wrote this, his only historical novel, is hard to say. Perhaps he needed to say that triumph and happiness could be snatched, even out of despair. That out of death and bloodshed new life can flourish. it is certainly his most romantic book, which perhaps explains its popularity with film-makers!
Although not quite in the same league as the lavish MGM 1936 version starring Ronald Colman, Rank achieved a notable success with this despite critics misgivings upon its initial release. Dirk Bogarde plays an alcoholic lawyer who sacrifices his life on the guillotine to save the husband of a woman he loves (the beautiful Dorothy Tutin). Overall, it was a fine effort, many of the actors being household names. Even Alfie Bass has a part in this!! The video version is quite watchable, a fine print and decent sound. Not sure what the DVD version is like though, but it deserves the full treatment. If you like the good old British movies of the 1950s, you will love this.
on 8 February 2012
From the picture on the dvd case it looks as if the film is in colour.
I was so surprised that it is black and white and I think that the dvd case is misleading.
I really enjoyed the film though but I personally think it would have been better in colour.A Tale of Two Cities (Special Edition) [DVD]
on 16 June 2002
I bought the Special Edition in the hope it would be a Widescreen presentation but,regrettably,it is in conventional 4.3 ratio. A big disappointment. However, and frustratingly, one of the extras included is the Theatrical trailer which IS in Widescreen! The other "extras" are Biographies (of Dirk Bogarde & Dorothy Tutin, the leading players plus Ralph Thomas who directed), a stills gallery plus a 29 minute documentary. Most critics rate the earlier film version starring Ronald Coleman as the best but I am more than content with Dirk Bogarde's portrayal of Sidney Carton. To my eye, he captures the essence of the clever but world-weary, cynical & self-destructive lawyer to perfection. In many scenes his mere expression speaks volumes. All the supporting players, in a cast which includes Christopher Lee, are top-notch & I am pleased to have it on DVD which, of course, delivers the best picture quality. I just wish Carlton had seen fit to release it in Widescreen. Could it be that no copy now exists in the vaults?
I have found over the years that pretty much any film with Dirk Bogarde in is worth watching and this (otherwise fairly middling) 1958 adaptation of Dickens’ famous 'French revolution novel’ – directed, oddly enough, by Ralph Thomas, otherwise best known for the Doctor series of comedy films – provides a good example of Bogarde’s ability to significantly enhance a film by his presence. Dickens has always been a difficult novelist to adapt for the screen (given the unique idiosyncrasies of his writing) and here the noted screenwriter T E B Clark (in a milieu well outside his usual Ealing territory of the likes of The Lavender Hill Mob, Passport To Pimlico, Hue And Cry, etc) does a reasonable (if, at times, strained) job, giving us a mix of flowery 'aristocratic’ language and 'chirpy cockney’. Thomas’ film also looks good, mixing shots of the evocative Pinewood sets (recreating the revolutionary streets of Paris) with spectacular French (Loire valley) scenery – courtesy of Ernest Steward’s cinematography.
Acting-wise, we have a rather mixed bag. At the top end, Bogarde reigns supreme as Sydney Carton, by turns either a young, but world-weary, suave, self-pitying aristocrat and lawyer (full of ironic quips) or a tragic, unrequited romantic, lost in love for Dorothy Tutin’s Lucie Manette. There is also a plethora of great (British) acting cameos peppering the film – Alfie Bass delivering some great lines as the chirpy (typically Dickensian) Jerry Cruncher, Ernest Clark as the officious lawyer, Stryver, Athene Seyler as Lucie’s 'keeper’ the fusty Miss Pross, Cecil Parker as the nervy banker Jarvis Lorry and Donald Pleasance as the duplicitous plotter, Barsad. On the other hand, Tutin is (at times) a little too melodramatic for my liking, whilst Paul Guer’s cringing turn (voiced over – poorly – by another actor) as Lucie’s true love (god knows why, quite frankly), Charles Darnay, is to Roger Moore as Moore is to Olivier! There are also one or two one-dimensional characters – notably Christopher Lee’s clichéd, baddie aristocrat, the Marquis St. Evremonde.
Thomas’ film does, however, do a pretty good job (via flashback) in delineating Dickens’ convoluted plot and the tale’s powerful 'guillotine denouement’ is suitably impressive and macabre.