In a storm, in a workhouse, to a nameless woman, young Oliver Twist is born into parish care where he's overworked and underfed. As he grows older his adventures take him from the countryside to London, through harsh treatment, kindness, an undertaker, and a thieves' dens, where he makes friends and enemies. But all the time he is pursued by the mysterious Monks, who hires Fagin to turn Oliver into a thief. Oliver is rescued by chance and kind friends. But it's a puzzle of legitimacy, inheritance, and identity that Oliver's friends must attempt to unravel before Monks can destroy Oliver. Written by
From the newspaper date seen in Oliver Twist: Episode #1.5 (1985), and other signs and inscriptions throughout, it is established that the bulk of the story takes place in 1835 and 1836, ending the year before the novel started serialization. This also explains the scattered references to the King rather than the Queen who is more commonly acknowledged in Charles Dickens works. The King is William IV, who died in 1837 and was succeeded by his niece Queen Victoria, who began the Victorian age which lasted for the majority of the 19th century. England would not have a king again until the accession of King Edward VII in 1901. See more »
This version keeps a lot more of the novel than most, but most of this material lacking in other versions covers the Maylie sub-plot, which is mawkish and conventional Victoriana.
Many reviewers have commented that the series does not stint on the squalor of Hanoverian London (the action takes place in pre-Victorian times). I actually disagree and feel that it sanitizes things. Reviewers write of the "cramped" rooms when I thought they were were more spacious than many a million pound flat in today's London.
The direction, camera-work and score were plodding TV quality only, and the actors in some parts unsubtle. Bill Sykes looked the part, and for once you could see why Nancy might have been attracted to him, but his acting skills were one-dimensional. I liked Eric Porter's Fagin. It was based on the Guinness version, but without the anti-semitic element which is embarrassing in the earlier movie.
Too many of the children's roles suggested middle-class kids from drama school.
I give the makers credit for faithfulness and not attempting smart-ass interpolations or anachronistic social comment, and maybe enjoyment would be enhanced by watching in the original 12 half-hour episodes, but viewing it purely as a "movie" it is fairly dull, especially compared to David Lean's masterpiece. Sharper editing would help to speed things along.
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