You are probably familiar with this story of a Yorkshire couple forced by poverty to sell their son's beloved collie to a Duke. You've probably seen one or more of several screen adaptations, including the MGM classic featuring Elizabeth Taylor. But you probably haven't seen the one most faithful to Eric Knight's 1940 novel, and the best of them all. This Lassie was unceremoniously released at a limited number of theatres at the beginning of the current school year, in early September. It didn't do very well at the box office. I don't know whether to blame the timing of the release, the lack of advertising, or 21st century cynicism. Perhaps all of the above. Certainly can't blame the critics, who fell over backwards trying to get folks to see it.

Lassie was written and directed by Charles Sturridge (Where Angels Fear To Thread, A Foreign Field). Every single element of production is top notch. Every single frame evidences loving care and expert craftmanship. Unlike the 1943 MGM version, Lassie was shot on location in Scotland and the north of England. The vistas are stunning. The whole ensemble, human and animal, is excellent. You'll recognize John Lynch and Samantha Morton as the boy's parents and Sir Peter O'Toole as the Duke. But it's the dogs and the kids that'll win your heart, and not in a cloying, manipulative way.

Lassie is now available on dvd, and loaded with extras.