Please Sir, I want some More
Brad Baker | Atherton, Ca United States | 07/05/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Charles Dickens' "Oliver Twist" first appeared in a magazine in 1838. Since then, 13 motion picture versions have graced the silver screen. Perhaps the uncontested classic was released in England in 1948. David Lean stands within a tiny circle of 20th Century film directors who could literally paint with a camera. And paint he did. Dark and moody, his "Oliver Twist" opens in an English countryside storm, as a pregnant young girl seeks shelter from the squall. She is about to give birth to Oliver Twist. Intentionally mute, there is no dialogue until seven minutes into the story. The stage is set for gothic evil and tragic foreboding. Lean auditioned 1500 boys for the lead role, but complained that, in each case, "there was nothing in the eyes". He eventually settled on 8 year-old John Howard Davies. Hard-drinking Robert Newton plays Bill Sikes. Alec Guinness appeared in 6 David Lean productions. His second was here as Fagin. Future movie beauty Diana Dors has a small part. Peter Bull and Francis L. Sullivan are outstanding in supporting roles. Filmed in the shadows of St. Paul's Cathedral, "Oliver Twist" reveals the circuitous, seamy London backwaters of the 19th Century. I have to say it. The extras for this Criterion DVD are rather "lean". However, it does contain a trailer, and 12 minutes of film censored from the original 1951 U.S. release. These scenes show Fagin giving a pick-pocket lesson, and counting his jewels. Charles Dickens and David Lean were just at the beginning of their long and prodigious careers when each released their own versions of "Oliver Twist". Amazingly for both, the best was yet to come."
Wonderful Movie, Great adaptation.
John Paganas | 02/21/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"In an age where effects and overpaid actors seem to be the only draw to a movie as opposed to just great storytelling, this is a great example of what a move could be and should be. Maybe some of our contemporary directors should take note here. The cast carefully selected with Great performaces by John Howard Davies as Oliver and Alec Guiness as Fagan. This is a movie that can be watched over and over and still evoke feeling. I applaud Criteron for a wonderful job of preservation. A must have for any dvd collector."
The best version of Dickens' immortal story on film.
Craig Matteson | Ann Arbor, MI | 07/11/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This film of Dickens' "Oliver Twist" from 1948 is still the best that has ever been done. The choices made to tell the story in two hours are quite amazing in the detail and sub plots and choice dialogue from the book that they still keep in. David Lean can do all this because of his masterful work with the camera. The scenes are so evocative of London Dickens paints in the novel. There is faceless barren despair in the workhouse, smoke and decay in London slum near St. Paul's Cathedral, and the light and beauty of Clerkenwell (that was back then) where the wealthy Mr. Brownlow lives.
The black and white filming actually adds to the light and shadow of the story and helps evoke the right moods as much as any musical score. I think it is actually a plus for this film even though it is a bit of a chore getting young people to cue in on the contributions of black and white over color pictures. Still, my youngest son could clearly see why this was a great telling of the story.
Here we have a thirty-three year old Alec Guinness made up in a way that probably would not work nowadays and emphasizes Fagin's Jewishness, but doesn't make Fagin out to be anything more than he is as a person. Guinness does NOT make Fagin out to be bad because he is a Jew, but rather that he is a miserly criminal who happens to be Jewish. It is a fine portrayal of Fagin and masterfully acted.
Robert Newton is very threatening as the monster Bill Sikes. He pulls the job off quite well and we get a very complex picture of his attitudes towards Fagin, Nancy, and the world. As an aside, Newton was a very popular actor who harmed his career and shortened his life with drink, as did Oliver Reed who portrayed Sikes so well in "Oliver!". Just a strange coincidence.
Kay Walsh does a fine job with Nancy, who is portrayed more as she is in the book rather than the heroine she is made to be in the musical and in some sloppy versions on film or for TV. She was married to Lean at the time although they divorced in 1949. John Howard Davies really does look the part of the small and slight Oliver Twist and acts out the role quite well. He had a fine career but mostly as a director and producer including Monty Python's Flying Circus in 1969.
We also get to see the young Anthony Newly (all of sixteen) as the Artful Dodger and many other wonderful character actors as well as a huge cast of extras. Remember, this was only a couple of years after World War II and there were a lot of people grateful for any kind of work for any length of time.
This is an immortal story that millions still love to read, hear, and see. This is a telling of the story that is awfully good. While I still recommend the book most of all, if you are going to watch a film version, this is the one I would start with and recommend most highly."