Oliver! (1968)

Lionel Bart’s lively stage musical version of Oliver Twist is given scope and atmosphere in Carol Reed’s multi-Oscar-winning film adaptation.

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“It’s as if the movie set out to be a tribute to Dickens and his melodramatic art as well as to tell the story of Oliver Twist.”
Pauline Kael, Going Steady, 1969

With the jubilant songs (including ‘Consider Yourself’ and ‘I’d Do Anything’) inevitably lightening the story of a victimised and exploited orphan, Oliver! cannot help but stint on the harrowing hardships of its source material. But director Carol Reed balances light and dark skilfully. Aided by John Box’s intricate sets and Oswald Morris’s rich cinematography, he renders Victorian London as a shadowy labyrinth in the tradition of cities from his earlier work (Vienna in The Third Man, Belfast in Odd Man Out).

Ron Moody (reprising his stage role as Fagin) and the director’s nephew Oliver Reed (as Bill Sikes) give magnetic performances, while Mark Lester – who had his singing voice dubbed – twinkles like a Correggio cherub in the title role.

Oliver Twist is one of the most-filmed novels of all time. Versions by David Lean (1948) and Roman Polanski (2005) are particularly notable.

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