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"Great Expectations"

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Great Expectations (Sunday and Monday, May 9 and 10; 9 to 10:30 p.m.; Channel 13) is determined to give David Lean a Masterpiece Theatre run for his Oscar-winning money -- with Ioan Gruffudd at least as good as John Mills was as Pip in 1946, Charlotte Rampling distinctly better than Martita Hunt as Miss Havisham, Gemma Gregory a lot creepier than Jean Simmons as the young Estella, and the coldly beautiful Justine Waddell more likely to capture an older version of that creepiness than Valerie Hobson was, although no one will ever surpass Alec Guinness as Herbert. What's more, as in last year's Our Mutual Friend, the BBC seems on a crusade to darken Dickens, as if Newgate prison cast a shadow over the entire novel, as if there were bugs and worms in every bowl of gruel, as if Abel Magwitch himself (Bernard Hill) were the secret hero, a sort of New South Wales Oedipus to Pip's Peter Pan. For Rampling alone, in the great house purchased with the ill-gotten gains of a bygone brewery, this production is must watching: "Who am I, for God's sake, that I should be kind?" And she certainly isn't.


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