CineSavant Column

Saturday July 16, 2022



What’s Wrong With This Picture?

Correspondent “B” got busy in honor of Bastille Day, and located the entire Classics Illustrated Comic Book version of Charles Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities. He found out that the Gilberton Company was dissatisfied with the first comic adaptation they’d done, from 1942. It didn’t replicate much of Dickens’ dialogue, and it invented scenes and deleted others. The 1956 re-write is much better, far more accurate.

“B” sent along this final panel    from the flawed 1942 edition. It’s easier to read when zoomed, or opened in a new window. Author Willam B. Jones, of Classics Illustrated: A Cultural History noted how the comic book script deprives poor Sidney Carton of his immortal last words — he’s interrupted and upstaged by the executioner. Not content with that butchery, the adaptors then give Lucie and her family a superfluous exit scene!  Jones called that post-execution panel ‘an invented moment of bathos.’ He also doubted the likelihood of a priest being in attendance by the guillotine during post-revolutionary France’s Reign of Terror. Personally, I’m impressed by the big drops of blood that somebody has added to the guillotine blade, as a crude afterthought. . .

Below is part of a comic panel from a Mad Magazine musical parody that turns a A Tale of Two Cities into a Rat Pack romp with Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin. The bright & happy improved title is Lose Your Head. Written by Frank Jacobs and illustrated by Jack Rickard, it appeared in January of 1966. An earlier panel has Sinatra singing ‘Take Me Out to the Ball Game’ but with the lyrics,

“Come on out to the Court-yard, Come on out with the crowd!
We’ll have the best rev-o-lution yet! We’ll kill the King and Marie Antoinette!”

“B” adds that A Tale of Two Cities actually did become a Broadway musical, in 2008. Happy ‘off with their heads’ day!

Thanks for reading! — Glenn Erickson