Victorian Britain On Film

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To celebrate the release of The Adventurer: The Curse of the Midas Box on DVD and digital platforms on the 27th October, we count down the best films set in Victorian Britain. The rich historical backdrop has provided ample inspiration to many, and the countless films that make use of its atmosphere include historical dramas, uplifting musicals, and of course, epic family adventures…  

The Adventurer: The Curse of the Midas Box (2014)

An all-star cast including Martin Sheen, Lena Headey, Sam Neill and Ioan Gruffudd feature in this family fantasy adventure, set in Victorian London as the steam age takes hold. Mariah Mundi (Aneurin Barnard) finds his life is turned upside down when his parents vanish and his younger brother is kidnapped. After an encounter with a charismatic stranger, Mundi follows a trail of clues to the majestic Prince Regent Hotel where he discovers a hidden realm of child-stealing monsters, deadly secrets and a long lost artefact with the potential to grant limitless power at a devastating supernatural cost…

Oliver Twist (1948)

David Lean’s adaptation of Charles Dickens classic tale of orphan Oliver was nominated for a BAFTA for Best British Film, and with good reason. Widely regarded as the best adaptation of the ubiquitous tale, this version features a fantastic performance by Alec Guinness as arch-thug Fagin, as well as star turns from Anthony Newley, Robert Newton and John Howard Davies in the titular role.

The Muppet Christmas Carol (1992)

This retelling of another Dickens classic is thoroughly unique, and heralded by many as the best version, thanks to the addition of Jim Henson’s wonderful array of characters. Set one Christmas time in Victorian London, the film looks at the life and times of Ebenezer Scrooge (Michael Caine), a miserly businessman who is finally held accountable for his unpleasant ways during a visit by the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present, and future.

The Secret Garden (1993)

Based on Frances Hodgson Burnett’s novel, this adaptation stars Kate Maberly, Maggie Smith and John Lynch. When young Mary Lennox (Maberly), raised in India, is orphaned after an earthquake, she is sent back to England to live at her uncle’s house. Neglected once again by the widower, she begins exploring the estate and discovers a garden that has been locked to visitors. Helped by a servant’s brother, she begins restoring the garden to its original beauty, and begins to uncover other secrets of the manor…

David Copperfield (1999)

A young Daniel Radcliffe stars alongside Emilia Fox, Pauline Quirke and Maggie Smith in this adaptation of Charles Dickens semi-autobiographical novel. Sent away to a boarding school operated by the vicious Mr. Creakle (Ian McKellen) a young David is rocked by the sudden death of his mother (Fox) and sent to work for a pittance, until he finds a benefactor in the kind-hearted Mr. Micawber (Bob Hoskins) and his wife (Imelda Staunton). When Micawber ends up in a debtor’s prison, David tracks down his Aunt Betsy (Smith), and as the years pass, the grown-up David (Ciaran McMenamin) struggles to make a better life for himself, as well as navigate various romantic entanglements…

The Ruby in the Smoke (2006)

This BBC TV movie stars Billie Piper, Matt Smith and Julie Walters, and garnered rave reviews on its broadcast. Sally Lockhart (Piper) embarks on an attempt to discover the truth behind her late father’s last letter which contained the phrase “the seven blessings”, which seems to have an extreme affect on various people. Sally is helped by her friends, including photographer Frederick Garland (JJ Feild) and Jim (Smith), a young assistant at the family’s shipping firm. The mystery involves opium dens, assassins and the mysterious Ruby of Agrapur. The priceless ruby is also sought by the cruel Mrs. Holland (Walters), who is willing to go to any lengths to claim it…

Nanny McPhee (2005)

Emma Thompson and Colin Firth star in this adaptation of Christianna Brand’s Nurse Matilda books. It follows the story of Mr. Cedric Brown (Firth) who has just lost his wife and is now left with his seven children who misbehave so much that all the nannies leave. Enlisting the help of Nanny McPhee (Thompson) a magical woman with special powers, the family begin to notice inexplicable and startling consequences. Her influence also begins to affect the family in other ways, including Mr. Brown’s sudden efforts to remarry and the overbearing Aunt Adelaide’s (played with aplomb by Angela Lansbury) attempt to take one of the children away…

Sherlock Holmes (2009)

The masterstroke casting of Robert Downey Jr and Jude Law as the hyper intelligent detective and his best friend introduced a whole new legion of fans to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s tales. After finally catching serial killer Lord Blackwood (Mark Strong), the legendary sleuth and his assistant Dr. Watson (Law) celebrate another successful case. But when Blackwood returns from the dead and seemingly resumes his killing spree, Holmes is forced to return to the drawing board, battling murderous black magic while dealing with Scotland Yard and the evasive, dangerous Irene Adler (Rachel McAdams).

The Young Victoria (2009)

Emily Blunt shines in this brilliantly crafted, hopelessly romantic account of Queen Victoria’s early years on the throne, directed by Jean-Marc Vallée. Tackling the tempestuous relationship with her mother and the constitutional crises she faced as a young monarch, Blunt is ably supported by Rupert Friend as Prince Albert, the suitor who charmed her, and eventually won her heart while helping her navigate a country in the midst of huge upheaval.

Great Expectations (2012)

Another Charles Dickens adaptation that focuses on the fate of a young orphan- however, the resemblance to Oliver Twist ends there. This story of the humble Pip, who suddenly becomes a gentleman with the help of a mysterious anonymous benefactor is widely considered Dicken’s greatest novel. This particular adaptation stars Ralph Fiennes as Magwitch, as well as featuring a brilliantly nuanced performance from Jeremy Irvine as the conflicted Pip, and Holliday Grainger as the cold, inscrutable Estella.

The Adventurer: Curse of the Midas Box is out on DVD and digital platforms on October 27th, courtesy of Signature Entertainment.

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Alton loves film. He is founder and Editor In Chief of BRWC.  Some of the films he loves are Rear Window, Superman 2, The Man With The Two Brains, Clockwise, Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind, Trading Places, Stir Crazy and Punch-Drunk Love.


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