David Lean will always be best remembered for his Technicolor epics, but this black-and-white adaptation of the Charles Dickens novel is one of his early masterpieces. It’s a carefully pruned version of the book that excises entire characters but retains the magical Dickens spirit as it tells the tale of orphaned Pip (played as a boy by Anthony Wager and as an adult by John Mills), who comes into an unexpected fortune. From the opening sequence on the Kentish marshes, when the young Pip encounters Finlay Currie’s terrifying escaped convict, through to his love for Estella (played by Jean Simmons as a child and Valerie Hobson as an adult), this is superlative film-making from one of Britain’s greatest directors. It looks magnificent and earned Oscars for cinematographer Guy Green and designers John Bryan and Wilfrid Shingleton.
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