The Fortunes and Misfortunes of Moll Flanders (1996) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)

This is the Masterpiece Theater adaptation of the Daniel Defoe story. This is a terrific presentation, ad I recommend it heartily to those who enjoy period pieces. It has excellent sets and costumes, a solid fast pace, humor, warmth, drama, and top-notch actors. It's a shame that they didn't shoot a widescreen version on film to leave a more lasting record than this shabby video version.
Defoe's writing was seminal in the development of the modern novel, but if you read his works today you'll find his devices, like those of Dickens, to be woefully contrived. If you subscribe to the world-view of those two great writers, London in the 18th and early 19th centuries consisted of about 12 people who kept running into each other, fathering each other's children and forgetting about it, or sleeping with their immediate family unbeknownst. And be sure to do a kindness to a little kid (or if you are a little kid, to a beggar), because that little kid or beggar will later turn out to be a frigging duke or powerful industrialist, or your real father, or even the king in disguise as a pauper.  


frequent topless scenes from Alex Kingston
It turns out that Molly's husband is also her brother, but she has to move with him to America and meet her long-lost mother before she finds this out. Easy enough, America's a small place, so you're bound to run into your mum if she's here. It's still true today. Just stop in anywhere and ask for her. We Americans all know each other, so just ask at the Cincinnati airport. Somebody's bound to have seen her.

DVD info from Amazon.

  • no widescreen

  • no features

  • two sided disk, 3:40

Anyway, after Moll finds out, she gets a little uncomfortable about continuing to horizontal-slam-dance with him, so she gives up the life of luxury on her Virginia plantation, and returns to England so she can lead an honorable life of eating gruel, stealing, begging, and living on the rain-drenched streets in eternal cold and dampness. Personally, I'd have kept on shagging the rich and handsome blighter in the sunny semi-tropics, but what do I know? And I don't know how many times Moll stumbles into her highwayman/lover, etc. Not that it matters. PBS did a great job on the production, which is faithful to Defoe, warts and all. Alex Kingston played our Molly with robust energy, and with breasts often exposed.

One thing I love about Defoe is that he defied the morality of his day. The great point of all of his writing, even Robinson Crusoe, is that we should be slow to judge other people and other cultures because we all do what he have to do, given our circumstances.

The Critics Vote

  • no major reviews

The People Vote ...

  • With their votes ... IMDB summary: IMDb voters score it 7.8 
IMDb guideline: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence, about like three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, about like two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, about like two stars from the critics. Films under five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film, equivalent to about one and a half stars from the critics or less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

My own guideline: A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre. B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. C means it will only appeal to genre addicts, and has no crossover appeal. D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre. F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well.

Based on this description, this film is a B-. Clearly written, well acted. Plotted with enough spirit and fun to appeal beyond the usual Merchant-Ivory audience.

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