Loving Mysteries: Between the Martin Mansion and Bleak House

Well, I am still hoping other internet tourists will join me in rediscovering I Love a Mystery beginning this Halloween (see previous post for details). I know, it might seem sacrilegious to ignore the anniversary of that most famous of all Halloween pranks, “The War of the Worlds,” in favor of Carlton E. Morse’s serial thriller. Actually, “The War” was waged on the night before Halloween (30 October 1938), which means that I can listen forward without remorse to reviewing the first installment of “The Thing That Cries in the Night,” a neo-gothic mystery starring Mercedes McCambridge (as the tortured Charity Martin) and Tony Randall (as Reggie Yorke, one of the three intrepid investigators, pictured above, who are called upon to examine the Martin’s rotten family tree). So, consider tuning in and coming along for the ride.

In the meantime, I am also looking forward to the new adaptation of Bleak House starring Charles Dance (as Mr. Tulkinghorn) and Gillian Anderson (as Lady Dedlock). It has been nearly ten years since last I read the novel, my favorite among Dickens’s works; so perhaps I won’t notice the liberties taken with the original. Beginning this Thursday on BBC One, the complex melodrama will be played out in fifteen parts, just like Morse’s “Thing.”

Not that the comparisons end there. There are deadly secrets, the proverbial skeletons in the closet, and a curse on both of those decidedly bleak houses, the Martin mansion and Dickens’s eponymous edifice. The overused label “soap opera” has been attached to the BBC production, along with other disclaimers, such as the introduction of new characters; whatever the terminology, serialization and bowdlerization are quite in keeping with Victorian practices.

I might put aside my copy of Don Quixote for the duration and reread Bleak House, now that the days are getting shorter and the winds are a-wuthering, if only to re-encounter the carefree Harold Skimpole and the careworn Richard Carstone, two characters of whom I once fancied myself some kind of composite.

Perhaps I’m someone else among the dramatis personae now; that’s one of the pleasures of rereading. As long as I won’t turn into Mr. Turveydrop. . . . Say, what kind of Dickensian character are you?

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