Lon Chaney portrays the frightful, despicable Fagin in this richly atmospheric screen adaptation of Charles Dickens' "Oliver Twist" (74 min.). Jackie Coogan (The Kid) stars as the titular irrepressible waif in 19th-century... more » England, whose adventures lead him from undernourished orphan to undertaker's apprentice, from novice pickpocket to pampered youth. Faithful in spirit and letter to Dickens' immortal story, "Oliver Twist" is an exquisitely designed film, recreating with painterly care the firelit chambers, sepulchral basements and sordid slums that confine its menagerie of eccentric and pathetic personages. As an added bonus, this DVD includes the Lon Chaney short film, "The Light of Faith" (30 min.). Typical of the era's moral regeneration dramas, director Clarence Brown's visually stunning "The Light of Faith" features Chaney as a thief who finds himself in possession of the Holy Grail. Chaney's genuine interest in the plight of the lawless endowed his performances in these films with remarkable conviction and vibrancy.« less
"This version of "Oliver Twist" is a scant 74 minutes long, but contains much more of the book (including a portion of the Rose Maylie sequence) and retains a highly Dickensian flavor when viewed alongside other adaptations.If you are new to silent films, this could be a good one to whet your appetite. If you are already a fan, give this one a try. The film is primarily a vehicle for Jackie Coogan, which proves to be just fine, as he is delightful in the title role. His expressive face and tiny stature are dead-right for Oliver, and he has more spunk than most exponents of the role, which helps to allay the saccharine nature of the character.Fans of Lon Chaney may be disappointed with the little screen time he is given, but he makes the most of it. Subtle touches Chaney adds (such as gently laying a hand on Bill Sikes' chest) give a wealth of subtext and nuance to his performance, and adds immeasurably to our understanding of Fagin as petty thief. The rest of the cast is good, with a fine performance from Gladys Brockwell as Nancy. She is another aspect of the film which rings true to Dickens: she is less the "hooker with a heart of gold" than a complex, hardened woman who has grown up among criminals yet retains her conscience.Mention must also be made of the fine production design. Many scenes look as though they were lifted from the original Cruikshank illustrations (especially the meeting at London Bridge) and the men look particularly appropriate for the period. Some of the women retain the '20s look in makeup and hair, which is typical of Hollywood period movies through the 1970's.The title cards also are well-done, either quoting directly from Dickens or retaining his authorial flavor.All told, this is a winning adaptation of a perennial favorite."
Lon Chaney is on the cover but this is Jackie Coogan's film
Lawrance M. Bernabo | The Zenith City, Duluth, Minnesota | 11/16/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"It is certainly interesting to consider that this 1920 version of "Oliver Twist," the classic novel by Charles Dickens, was intended as a vehicle for Jackie Coogan. Of course, today they put Lon Chaney on the box to pique our interest, but while his Fagin is a commanding presence in the film, he does not pop up until halfway through. Coogan later told the story of how he was first introduced to Chaney in full make-up on the set and was immediately terrified. We have heard about the magic Chaney could do with spirit gum and greasepaint, but notice how impressive his FINGERNAILS are in this film. Having worked with Chaplin in "The Kid," Coogan certainly recognized Chaney's star quality. Coogan's performance is certainly stronger than it was in "The Kid," and you have to appreciate the way he underplays the part, something you would associate with neither kid actors nor silent film stars. George Siegmann makes a memorably monstrous Bill Sikes, Gladys Brockwell is Nancy, and Edouard Trebaol plays the Artful Dodger. Scottish born director Frank Lloyd is usually not recognized as one of the greats of the silent era, but he did make over 100 films and won three Oscars ("The Divine Lady," "Cavalcade," and "Mutiny on the Bounty"). More importantly, he had a love for Dickens that comes through in this film. I amazed at the fact this is only a 74 minutes film; clearly a lot is cut out, but it captures the spirit of Dickens. This was the fourth silent version of the Dickens tale and actually was not topped until the 1948 film with John Howard Davies as Oliver and Alec Guiness as Fagin. Of course, in 1968 the musical version won the Oscar for best picture."
Steven Hellerstedt | 02/04/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"They sure get some adorable kids to play Oliver Twist. "Despised by all and pitied by none." Hooey. In 1922 Jackie Coogan owned Hollywood, and the hearts of Americans all over the world. Well, the Kid could act, and don't let the cover art or p.r. department fool you. This is Coogan's movie, and Lon Chaney is definitely a secondary character. This 1922 silent movie is well done, and doesn't feel much more dated than the story it tells. Lon Chaney, who must have been wearing some (probably terribly uncomfortable) contraption plays Fagin as a bent, wizened, sharp-nosed wheedler. I enjoyed LIGHT OF FAITH, the 32-minute add-on movie, more than OLIVER TWIST. Chaney stars in this one, sans cumbersome make-up, playing a street tough who falls for a young woman who moves into his tenement building. The woman, as they were wont to do back then, is failing from a broken heart. The distant object of her affection found the Grail Tennyson wrote of in his Arthurian tales. The Grail, she tells the impressionable Chaney, glows with an inner light and has remarkable curative powers. So, the girl's dangerously declining, her old beau has the Grail, and Chaney has a larcenous inspiration. Director Clarence Brown delicately handles the material, and Chaney gives a subtle and nuanced performance. "
An interesting double-feature
Anyechka | Rensselaer, NY United States | 01/05/2007
(4 out of 5 stars)
"The main feature on this disc, 'Oliver Twist' (1922), is a pretty decent adaptation of the well-known Charles Dickens novel, though, as just about all movies based on books are wont to do, it naturally can't cover everything from the book. The sets bring Victorian England to life pretty well, particularly the settings in the orphanage and in Fagin's house. Life was no picnic for the poor in Victorian England, with no system of social welfare as yet set up, and many poor people were forced to either go to an almshouse, or, if they were desperate enough, to turn to a life of crime like Fagin and his cohorts. However, since it is based on a novel, it doesn't always work very well as a silent. While there are some great silents adapted from works of literature, this one seems really chatty and like it could have been even better as a talkie. There also isn't enough character development, particularly of Fagin (Lon Chaney), who, though he's great in all of his scenes, just doesn't have a lot to do. This was a starring vehicle for the adorable Jackie Coogan (in spite of Lon's picture being on the DVD cover), so it seems natural that the producers would have wanted to emphasise his title character in the storyline, even though at times it seems more like a showcase for Jackie instead of a showcase of the Dickens novel. There could have been more meat on the plot and greater character development if they hadn't done this; as cute and talented as Jackie was, he wasn't the only important character. The print also is a bit worn, though since it was considered lost until 1972, one can't expect too much in terms of print quality. However, I wish there had been a more elaborate score beyond an organ.
The bonus film, 'The Light of Faith' (1922), is a 33-minute excerpt from 'The Light in the Dark,' a six-reel feature that was considered lost in its entirety until the George Eastman House found it and did a restoration of in 2003. The film kind of starts in media res, but that becomes more understandable when one knows that this is only about half of a longer film, not the entire film itself or the only surviving part of it. A young woman has run away from home and her boyfriend back in England, and finds a room to rent in New York. (She's identified as Elaine in this film, though in the full-length version her name is Bessie.) Tony Pantelli (Lon Chaney) notices how pretty she is and that she's not the type of woman he's used to in his life as a street rogue. When she falls down the stairs one day, Tony thinks it's because she's hungry, but the landlady believes it to be a failing heart. Tony devotedly helps her back to health, showing himself to be a criminal with a heart of gold underneath. One day there's a story in the paper about her boyfriend, who is now in New York with what may be the Holy Grail, and Tony is so inspired by the story Elaine tells him about this ancient artifact and its healing powers that he resolves to break into her old boyfriend's house to steal it, desperately hoping that if she touches it, she will be fully cured. This looks like a pretty interesting film, and probably is even better and more developed in the longer version. As always, Lon plays this social outcast, this person whom one might ordinarily shun or run away from in fear because he's a criminal, with such heart and soul, making him into a sympathetic character whom one quickly comes to feel empathy for. He's also looking like his normal self in this role, without any of the elaborate makeup or disguises he's famous for. Though he wasn't what most people would consider one of the world's most beautiful people, he did clean up really nicely and even seems kind of handsome, in a nonconventional way.
Overall, these are two solid features, even though I wouldn't consider either one to be top-notch silent classics. They're still far from being little more than curios. However, 'Oliver Twist' is very recommendable for seeing Jackie Coogan (who seemed to be terrific in just about everything he did as a child star) and for seeing Chaney's unforgettable Fagin. Still, neither film would be one I'd recommend to someone just getting into Lon's films or just silents in general."
larryj1 | AZ, USA | 06/04/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Great silent adaptation of Oliver Twist. The DVD from Image is the best available and also includes The Light of Faith. Oliver Twist has been restored as best as possible and is a joy to watch. The intertitles and main title were reset when this film was restored in the 1970's."