Saturday, June 11, 2011

Oliver Twist

David Lean, 1948, bw (8.6*)
Before epic director David Lean turned out massive adventures like Lawrence of Arabia, Doctor Zhivago, and The Bridge On the River Kwai, he made his mark by filming two excellent adaptations of Charles Dickens novels in classic black-and-white (like the books), albeit slightly abbreviated to fit the two-hour format. (Great Expectations is the other).

Using autobiographical information, Dickens made his third novel one of serious tragedy for an orphan boy, named Oliver Twist (John Howard Davies), who goes from an orphanage to being sold, to running away and joining a gang of street thieves. In the liveliest part of his story, the street urchins who pick pockets work for a man named Fagin, made famous here by Alec Guinness. The Artful Dodger (Anthony Newley) becomes his mentor. They actually treat young Oliver more like an equal, something he'd never had. He is befriended by Nancy (Kay Walsh), who has a domineering and vicious boyfriend in Billy Sykes (Robert Newton). That's the basic story, but there's obviously a lot more, especially in the Dickens novel, one of his best.

This was also successfully remade as a musical in 1967, as Oliver!, which won the best picture Oscar® and 4 others. If you want Hollywood entertainment, check out that version; if you want a faithful adaptation of Dickens, stick with David Lean.


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These are the individual film reviews of what I'm considering the best 1000 dvds available, whether they are films, miniseries, or live concerts. Rather than rush out all 1000 at once, I'm doing them over time to allow inclusion of new releases - in fact, 2008 has the most of any year so far, 30 titles in all; that was a very good year for films, one of the best ever.

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