Directed By: Timothy Forder
Written By: Charles Dickens (Novel) and Timothy Forder (Adaptation)
Starring: Robert Powell, Gareth Arnold, Gemma Craven & Michelle Evans.
Production Company: First Standard Media
Famed as Dickens’ unfinished novel, the acclaimed author died in 1870 leaving the ending of the book a mystery forever. Although both story and film are named for Edwin Drood, the narrative focuses on Drood’s uncle, choirmaster John Jasper, who is in love with his pupil Rosa Bud. Miss Bud is Edwin Drood’s fiancé, but she has also caught the eye of the hot tempered Neville Landless who arrives with his sister Helena. Landless and Drood take an instant dislike to one another just before Drood disappears under mysterious circumstances.
The Mystery of Edwin Drood was scheduled to be published in twelve monthly instalments, each costing one shilling. However Dickens’ died after the publication of the sixth instalment, leaving the story approximately half complete.
Much of the film is set in the fictional city of “Cloisterham”. Dickens was inspired by Rochester when writing many of his novels, including The Mystery of Edwin Drood, so it was only fitting for Director Timothy Forder to shoot the film in the great city itself.
Familiar Rochester sites will include Rochester Cathedral which doubled as Cloisterham Cathedral as well as Rochester Castle, which can be seen in the background of many shots. A row of Edwardian houses near the Cathedral called Minor Canon Row also appears in the film as Cloisterham streets. Famous actress Dame Sybil Thorndike lived at number 2 Minor Canon Row after growing up in Rochester City. Her final TV appearance was 6 years before her death in The Great Inimitable Mr Dickens, a story of the life of the author starring Anthony Hopkins.
Rochester Cathedral is of special significance regarding Charles Dickens. The author expressed a wish to be buried opposite the west front in the Castle moat which then formed part of the graveyard of St Nicholas Church. The spot is marked with a commemorative plaque and Dickens’s ghost is said to haunt the area. Inside the Cathedral, to the right of the Presbytery, by the magnificent Chapter room door, is another brass plaque memorial to Dickens. At 3pm on the last Sunday of the Summer during the Dickens festival held in early June each year, a garland of scarlet geraniums (his favourite flowers) are laid here during a service commemorating his life.
The city of Rochester is the home to many locations that feature in the classic Dickens novels. Chertsey’s Gate on Rochester High Street was the inspiration for Mr Jasper’s home in The Mystery of Edwin Drood and Topes Restaurant for the house of Mr Tope, the verger in The Mystery of Edwin Drood, where the character of Mr Datchery also stayed when visiting “Cloisterham”.
The Mystery of Edwin Drood also features in the Kent Film Office Dickens Trail which lauched in 2012: https://kentfilmoffice.co.uk/kent-movie-map/dickens-movie-trail/
The film was released in cinemas in 1993 and is now available to buy on DVD.
For more information about Kent’s Filming History please visit our Movie Map.