Rather than postponing the inevitable comparison, it can be said right now that the new Dickens movie, "Nicholas Nickleby," is not nearly so good as its exciting predecessor, "Great Expectations." That is not to say that it isn't worth going to see; it will be rewarding to Dickens devotees and to those who are willing to sit through ninety minutes of almost incessant gloom and confusion, through which only glimpses of the fine acting and the story can be dimly seen.
While it was meritorious from the standpoint of authenticity for Mr. Rank to have much of the film photographed in proper pre-Mazdaian darkness, it becomes, after a while, a tiresome puzzle even to identify the various members of the large and distinguished cast, many of whom possess faces of singular peculiarity. The scenario is not easy to follow, either. This is because the numerous sub-plots have not been integrated and are told in quick episodic fashion which is further aggravated by the slashing of whole scenes from the American version. Film continuity, while not always a prescribed virtue, would have been helpful here because no single character, not even Nicholas, is given enough footage to sustain the interest in the plot. There are many wonderful minor characterizations, as might be expected, but that is not enough.
The dilemma caused by the complexity of the sub-plots becomes almost amusing towards the end, when the central character is forced to rush from one death-bed to another in order to tidy up the loose ends of the plot and conclude the tale. Of course, much of this is as Dickens wrote it, and there might be no justice in complaint were it not for that masterpiece of last year as an example of what can be done with Dickens.
Instead of rushing from the darkness that fills the Exeter while "Nickleby" is on, wait around and see the other feature. "Quiet Weekend" was filmed over two years ago from the successful London play by Ester McCracken and has a east that is probably unknown in this country, even in Boston. The acting and the direction are so smooth and appropriate to the setting and story that they can go unnoticed as such. However, the superb comedy antics of Frank Cellier as the befuddled lover-fisherman, and that of Edward Rigby as the village tosspot, deserve singling out for special praise. There is also a spirited young miss named Barbara White, whose freshness and beauty remind us of an old ideal we once had, oh, many years ago. After the Dickens movie, "Quiet Weekend," with its rather ordinary people, should be as welcome as the flowers that bloom in the spring, and just as worthy of notice--not for relief, but for acquaintance.