Cinema: What The Dickens!

Three films based on the master's novels crowd into theaters

Fagin, Scrooge, Uriah Heep, Mr. Micawber and Mrs. Jellaby -- so many of Charles Dickens' great grotesques lurk in memory with the clarity of caricatures. They seem made not just for the page but for the stage and screen. As the great popular novelist of his or any age, Dickens has always been filched by other media. And as a social reformer who, as George Orwell wrote, "succeeded in attacking everybody and antagonizing nobody," Dickens ^ invented outsize villains and situations applicable to almost any taste or decade. The endless Broadway and movie adaptations of Dickens stories testify to the vitality...