Hard Times is a novel I had not previously known and I bought the 2-DVD set primarily because of its low price. I liked it and then read the book, which I liked even more--not the ideal way to approach a piece of literature, but that's how it worked out in my case. It contains all the essential elements of the book, and is a superb dramatization of Dickens's grimy tale of industrialization, class struggle, labor unions, arranged marriage, educational philosophy, and other aspects of life in mid-nineteenth-century England (and elsewhere, even today!). The actors are all superb and entirely convincing in every aspect of their roles, and I cannot recommend it too highly. I was so absorbed by the strength and conviction of the principals and had such a visceral reaction to their characters' views that I ended up watching the entire film (really four well-defined episodes) in one sitting. Some of the scenes, especially the more intimate ones, resemble stage work more than a feature film, but this actually appealed to me. Other reviewers have pointed out the excellent work of the principals; I would add only that I found Harry Markham's portrayal of Sleary, the circus manager, one of the most moving and profound and that the understated score by composer Malcolm Arnold (adapted from a movement of his Little Suite No. 2 for Brass) added immensely to the mood. Absolutely first-rate.