The Mystery of Edwin Drood
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A dusty crypt holding the clues to an ancient story. A wizened old caretaker who knows far more than he lets on. And, of course, murder! What more could we want this Hallow’s Eve?

Charles Dickens’ novel, The Mystery of Edwin Drood, is a dark and brooding tale of human obsession that transforms into a monstrous evil. Dickens died before finishing this, his final work. That has led many authors to speculate on how he might have finished it, and create different endings. This BBC film adaptation was completed by Gwyneth Hughes, who researched extensively on Dickens’ intentions for concluding the story.

John Jasper (Matthew Rhys), the Choirmaster at Cloisterham Cathedral, is miserable. He’s a fiery, passionate man, frustrated with the limitations of his job. He's also obsessed with Rosa Bud (Tamzin Merchant), the fiancé of his nephew and charge Edwin Drood (Freddie Fox). The final injustice, he believes, is that Captain Edwin Drood has named Edwin, his son, sole heir to his entire fortune, and left Jasper without a cent. Jasper has turned to opium to escape, and his drug-addled dreams are filled with the image of strangling Edwin and taking Rosa as his own.

Jasper sees an opportunity to act when an exotic young brother-sister couple arrive from Ceylon to be tutored at the Cathedral. The intense young man, Neville, is also attracted to Rosa and publicly brawls with Edwin. The boys' fight leads Jasper to a wicked idea: what if he does away with his nephew and frames Neville for the murder? But we all know that nefarious plots can sometimes go sideways....

This presentation of The Mystery of Edwin Drood has so many of the elements Dickens lovers hope for: dark, dank alleyways with haggard peasants, prostitutes, and street urchins; an opium den; narcissists, patrons, buffoons, men with huge bellies and bulbous noses, and sweet, sassy, strong women. And, of course, a graveyard.

Most notable, however, are two things: the social commentary for which Dickens is famous, and the exceptional performance by native Welshman Matthew Rhys. He strides into the cathedral, pouring out a terrifying combination of lust and fury as he spits out the lyrics of stately old hymns. His repressed rage seethes out of every wrinkle and pore of his tortured face.

But the film is not all dark. Like most of Dickens’s works, there’s humor as well. Pompous men and a mischievous young street urchin bring the laughter – similar to characters we’ve known and loved in other Dickens novels.

The conclusion, written by Hughes, is startling and worthy of Dickens. The culmination of this story is a brilliant, haunting portrait of a distorted and tortured mind.

If you are a fan of Dickens, intrigued by a good mystery, or appreciate a penetrating study of the criminal mind, you might want to skip the Haunted House this Halloween and watch this dark, fascinating tale instead.

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