The Old Curiosity Shop is a screen version of the 1841 Charles Dickens novel. Sally Walsh plays Little Nell, a good-hearted young girl who looks after her grandfather (Sir Peter Ustinov), the owner of a curiosity shop.

Having run up extensive debts because of his gambling addiction, he borrows money from Quilip (Tom Courtenay), a vicious and demented fellow who takes great pleasure in increasing the hardships of others. In order to escape his clutches, Little Nell and her grandfather become pilgrims on the road.

Despite the good will of a kindly schoolteacher, a woman who runs a wax works, and grandfather's long lost brother from America, these two lack the energy to outrun tragedy. The film honors the soulfulness of Little Nell and damns the life-draining evil of addiction.