Going to Manderley again was always likely to be a challenge. Any director and screenwriter taking on Daphne du Maurier’s great Gothic novel were bound to be haunted by Hichcock’s classic 1940 version.
I don’t think remakes of classic works should always be avoided – it’s interesting to see a great work reinterpreted for another generation, and also a mini-series can include a lot which had to be missed out of a film. Plus there’s the interest of seeing another angle, someone else’s take. However, for me the 1997 ITV version of Rebecca directed by Jim O’Brien and scripted by Arthur Hopcraft doesn’t quite work. I love the first hour or so, but feel as if after that it starts to go wrong and the romance ebbs away.
Emilia Fox, in her first major role, seems just right as the second Mrs de Winter – shy and quiet but ready to stand up for herself at key moments. She’s different from Joan Fontaine but has the same kind of spirit. However, the age gap between Fox and Charles Dance as Maxim is massive – he was 50 to her 22 – and I think that is a problem at times in this production. He does get the mercurial nature of this character, charming at one moment and turning on his wife with violent sarcasm the next – but must say I found it much harder to warm to him than I do to Olivier as a tortured handsome hero.
Spoilers beneath cut