A Tale of Two Cities

| June 12, 2011

Masterpiece Theater has always been a highly reliable source for faithful adaptations of classic literature. And Charles Dickens’ classic is no exception. Broadcast in 1989, the DVD release of this particular version is overdue, it seems. But here it finally is.
The quality of the picture and sound is very good, and for a more than twenty-year old production, the values are actually fairly impressive. No cent was spared on authentic clothing, though the wig department might have spend a few minutes more on Mr. Carton and Miss Manette.
For anyone unfamiliar with (or perhaps familiar and yet still blase) this stunning story, the plot is fairly simple. Dr. Alexandre Manette, an 18 year prisoner in the Bastille in Paris, is finally released into the custody of his estranged daughter- whom he has never met- and the faithful family banker. On their journey back to London, they are thrown into the company of Mr. Charles Darnay, a young, handsome man with a mysterious past. He and Lucie Manette fall deeply in love, much to the dismay of Sydney Carton, a lawyer who also is thrown into the company of the doctor and friends through a strange court case Mr. Darnay is implicated in (and later cleared of all charges thanks to Mr. Carton). Carton is an infamous drunkard and irresponsible bachelor, with no friends or great claims to his name. His transformation into a brave, noble man due to his unrequited love for Lucie is by no means pathetic. In fact, it’s a fairly remarkable story of a man turning his life into something worthwhile in spite of not having the love of his life.
It is revealed that Charles Darnay is actually Charles St. Evremonde, the nephew of the nefarious Marquis de St. Evremonde, a truly evil man responsible for the death and misery of much of the poor servants and miserable people of Paris. Charles ran away from his noble past to pursue a life of dignity, but is forced to return to save the life of a loyal servant from his past. He is taken prisoner in Paris and found a traitor to the republic by the Paris tribunal, and sentenced to death. Sydney Carton gives up his life to save Charles’, and as they escape to Paris, Sydney comforts another young girl who is to be put to death, and faces his own death with the immortal line ‘Tis a far, far better thing I do now than I’ve ever done before’.
If this story doesn’t necessarily have the dramatic impact in a synopsis that it should, the movie brings it to life very well. All the characters are given their due, and the story is well-adapted. Little can be complained about, fine performances and a relatively quick running time considering how much time is covered in the story (more than ten years pass in the novel’s immediate plot). It’s definitely worth a watch, especially if you aren’t already familiar with the story.

About the Author:

Heather Trow is a nursing assistant and part-time writer. When she is not writing, she is listening to the popular podcast "NEVER NOT FUNNY". Actually, at any given time, most likely, she is listening to the podcast. It's pretty much all she does besides work. It is her favorite thing.
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