Synopsis by Hal Erickson
Though it pales in comparison to the Royal Shakespeare Company's epic staging of the original novel in the early 1980s, this compact adaptation of Dickens' Nicholas Nickleby is most entertaining on its own terms. Derek Bond plays the title character, a resourceful young Britisher forced to protect his family against the demonic machinations of his wicked Uncle Ralph (Cedric Hardwicke at his most odious). Cast out into the cold cruel world, Nicholas Nickleby deals adroitly with friend and foe alike, eventually coming full circle to mete out just desserts to his unspeakable uncle. With only 108 minutes' running time at his disposal, screenwriter John Dighton (later a mainstay of the Ealing Comedies) was forced to eliminate several of the novel's 52 highly distinctive characters and intricate subplots. There is evidence that there was even more cutting after the film was completed; for example, the tatty touring theatrical troupe managed by the delightfully pompous Vincent Crummles (Stanley Holloway) appears only in a series of abrupt vignettes, while Crummles himself is confined to a mere handful of lines and gestures. Still, many of Dickens' colorful characters are vividly realized, especially the unfortunate, mentally challenged Smike (Aubrey Woods). When released in America, Nicholas Nickleby was pared down to 95 minutes, with surprisingly little damage to the continuity.
acting troupe, boys'-school, revenge, uncle