‘Martin Chuzzlewit’ (1994) (TV)

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Please feel free to comment on my review.

Old Martin Chuzzlewit and Mr. Pecksniff

This is the 1994 TV adaptation of ‘Martin Chuzzlewit’ by Charles Dickens. I recall watching this TV drama at a young age and had vague memories of it. Having re-watched ‘Martin Chuzzlewit’, I’ve been able to enjoy the story and characters and also gain a clearer understanding of what it is about.

This drama serial is divided into six episodes. The first episode is 85 minutes long whilst the last five episodes are 60 minutes long. ‘Martin Chuzzlewit’ was adapted by David Lodge; produced by Chris Parr and directed by Pedr James. Each of these six episodes has been immensely gripping to watch.

‘Martin Chuzzlewit’ is again another Charles Dickens classic I knew least about. But from the vague memories I have of watching the TV drama, I recall certain scenes and memorable characters that stayed with me at a young age. The older Martin Chuzzlewit and Mr. Pecksniff I remember very well.

My Dad absolutely enjoyed re-watching ‘Martin Chuzzlewit’ when my parents and I sat down to watch it as a family. Dad enjoyed the characters and the story very much and he tells me he didn’t fall asleep during all the six episodes. 😀 It’s certainly a clever story full of nice twists and revelations.

The story isn’t necessarily about the old Martin Chuzzlewit. It’s actually about the characters that surround him and how they drive the story forward. Old Martin Chuzzlewit is an observer throughout the six-episode drama. He comes into his own when sorting things out at the conclusion.

Old Martin Chuzzlewit is a wealthy man when he’s introduced and he’s hounded by his relatives for his wealth when he writes his will before he dies. This is something that depresses and makes him bitter, as he adopts a young orphan named Mary Graham and he has disowned his grandson Martin.

In the story, old Mr. Chuzzlewit meets Mr. Pecksniff, an architect and a father of two daughters. Pecksniff is a cousin of Chuzzlewit and he sneaks his way into the old man’s company. Pecksniff is dishonest and hypocritical in character as the story progress. Will Old Chuzzlewit be able to see that?

I liked the themes of honesty and selflessness throughout this story as the antonyms for them. Every one of the characters in ‘Martin Chuzzlewit’ goes on interesting journeys as they discover for themselves how they progress in life. Some of them change in their fortunes as some of them don’t.

Paul Schofield stars as old Martin Chuzzlewit in this TV version of the story. Like I said, old Mr. Chuzzlewit quietly observes during the story. He also tests characters like Pecksniff on their true nature. It does seem old Chuzzlewit is cold and uncaring, but he has another interesting side to him.

As well as playing old Martin Chuzzlewit, Paul Schofield also plays Anthony Chuzzlewit, old Martin’s brother. Anthony Chuzzlewit is a complete contrast to his brother as he’s dishevelled and a bit of a miser. He dies rather suddenly at the end of ‘Episode Two’. But there is more to his death as it was.

Tom Wilkinson stars as Mr. Pecksniff in this TV version of ‘Martin Chuzzlewit’. I like Tom Wilkinson’s performance as he plays Pecksniff as this rather silly man who thinks so highly of himself. Pecksniff is also cruel in his ways as he’s devious and hypocritical and he dismisses people without any thought.

Ben Walden stars as young Martin Chuzzlewit, the grandson of old Martin Chuzzlewit. Young Martin is clearly an honest, young man who argued bitterly with his grandfather because he fell in love with his companion Mary Graham. He’s employed and dismissed by Pecksniff before he goes for America.

Pauline Turner stars as Mary Graham, the young orphan and companion of old Martin Chuzzlewit in the story. Mary loves young Martin Chuzzlewit, but is committed and loyal to his grandfather when she looks after him and him in return. He receives letters from young Martin when he is in America.

Phillip Franks stars as Tom Pinch, the kind-hearted servant of Mr. Pecksniff. Pinch is clearly unaware of Pecksniff’s dishonesty and hypocrisy. He’s well-liked by everyone and has a secret crush for Mary Graham. He’s dismissed abruptly by Pecksniff, but finds good fortune when reunited with his sister.

Julia Sawalha stars as Mercy Pecksniff, one of Mr. Pecksniff’s daughters in the story. I was delighted to see Julia Sawalha in this production of ‘Martin Chuzzlewit’, having seen her before in other period dramas like the 1995 TV version of ‘Pride & Prejudice’ and she also appeared in ‘Lark Rise to Candleford’.

I think Mercy Pecksniff’s character is the one that changes the most in the story. Mercy is the prettier of the two daughters of Pecksniff’s and she starts off as being very giggly and cheerful. Later on, when she’s married to Jonas Chuzzlewit, she’s broken in spirit and she regrets marrying the man.

There’s also Emma Chambers who stars as Charity Pecksniff, the second of Mr. Pecksniff’s daughters. It was nice to see Emma in this, having seen her as Alice in ‘The Vicar of Dibley’. I felt sorry for Charity when she’d been deceived by Jonas on marrying Mercy and both girls argue in her bedroom.

Keith Allen stars as Jonas Chuzzlewit, the son of Anthony Chuzzlewit. Jonas is a nasty piece of work, as he takes of advantage of his father’s fortune after he dies. He also forces Mercy Pecksniff to marry him and has some dodgy dealings with Mr. Montague. He also seems so murderous in his intentions.

John Mills stars as Mr Chuffey, an old man who resides with Anthony Chuzzlewit and his son Jonas. Chuffey seems rather woolly-minded and is very loyal to his master. He’s very upset when Anthony Chuzzlewit dies suddenly in ‘Episode Two’ and he seems to know more about how he actually died.

Elizabeth Spriggs stars as Mrs. Gamp, an alcoholic who works as a mid-wife and nurse during the story. She makes her first appearance in ‘Episode Three’ of the TV serial. I’ve seen Elizabeth Springs in many TV period drama productions and she has been in the ‘Doctor Who’ story ‘Paradise Towers’.

Pete Postlethwaite stars as Tigg Montague/Montague Tigg in the story. I was astonished when Pete Postlethwaite played a bearded red-faced person in the first half of the story and later played a clean, respectable businessman in the second half and I didn’t realise both were the same character.

Joan Sims stars as Betsy Prig, another alcoholic day-nurse in the same vein as Mrs. Gamp. Joan Sims is known for appearing in the ‘Carry On’ films and she appeared in the ‘Doctor Who’ story ‘The Trial of a Time Lord’. It was interesting to see how Joan Sims and Elizabeth Spriggs sparred off each other.

The cast also includes Maggie Steed as Mrs. Todgers; Steve Nicholson as Mark Tapley; Lynda Bellingham as Mrs. Lupin; Cornelia Hayes O’Herlihy as Ruth Pinch, Mr. Pinch’s sister; Julian Fellowes as Dr. Jobling; Paul Francis as Bailey; Graham Stark as Mr. Nadget and David Bradley (who played William Hartnell in the ‘Doctor Who’ docu-drama, ‘An Adventure In Space and Time’) as Mr. Crimple.

I like how the story ends with ‘Episode Six’ when old Martin Chuzzlewit has everyone gathered together in one room and he kicks Mr. Pecksniff in the backside. He then reveals his role in everything that has gone on in the story, resulting in young Martin and Mary Graham to be engaged.

This TV version of ‘Martin Chuzzlewit’ has been very enjoyable and interesting to watch. I liked the performances of the cast in this and the characters and story were very well-written and adapted for TV. There’s a lot going on in this and I’m very impressed with the production standards in this drama.

‘Martin Chuzzlewit’ (1994) rating – 9/10

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