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A true work of art...excellent songs, amazing performances...
Doylenf28 May 2001
"Oliver!" is a vast improvement over the marvelous Broadway stage version, opening up the scenes with the ability to expand the range of the material and still remain faithful to the Dickens story. Brimming with unforgettable songs and dances (that choreography by Onna White is timeless), it is so well cast--down to the smallest roles--and so faithful to the spirit of Dickens' work that you can no longer imagine that classic without the songs.

Fagin is played to perfection by Ron Moody. His "You Gotta Pick A Pocket Or Two" is just one of the highlights incorporating clever lyrics and great choreography. The boys who kidnap Oliver are a rowdy lot, looking every bit the ruffians they're supposed to be. The best of the lot is Jack Wild's Artful Dodger, leading the gang in "Consider Yourself".

But not all is light and cheery. The darker aspects of the story are sometimes a little too graphic for my taste, although all of the performances are extremely well played, including Oliver Reed as Bill Sykes. The scenes involving his demise are so melodramatic they seem to belong to another film.

Whatever the faults may be, including a rather extended running time, there is scarcely a dull moment. With songs like "Who Will Buy?" and "Where Is Love?" -- not to mention "Food, Glorious Food" -- you will find yourself falling under the spell of this great musical. Highly recommended and fully deserving of its Best Picture Oscar.
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This is proof that British film studios of the 1960's could provide high quality productions
DennisJOBrien11 June 2005
I was lucky to see "Oliver!" in 1968 on a big cinema screen in Boston when I was a young teenager. Later, during the summer of 1969, I was pleased to see this film was still playing at a prominent cinema in Leicester Square, London, after it had won the Academy Award for Best Picture of the previous year.

Th success of "Oliver!" on both the stage and screen reminded me that not all talent begins on Broadway and ends in Hollywood. This legendary story by Charles Dickens, which is part of the literary heritage of all English-speaking people, was admirably brought to the London stage by Lionel Bart of Great Britain. His charming musical then became a hit in New York and throughout the world. The film adaptation was made in England during the summer of 1967 and then released in 1968. The sets and musical numbers are mind boggling. The song "Who Will Buy?" required hundreds of actors and the British film director truly deserved his Oscar for putting it all together in a seamless manner. Some Canadian and American talent is also part of this wonderful production, but mostly it is a tribute to the fine craftsmanship of the British film studios, such as Shepperton. Good show! Other film studios at Elstree, Boreham Wood, Bray, Denham, and Ealing have also given the world many films to treasure over the years.
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First in a long line
didi-511 May 1999
This film introduced me to musicals at the age of 5 or 6, starting a trend which has lasted for over two decades since - it remains my favourite for a lot of reasons - the great treatment of Dickens' admittedly complicated book; memorable characters who do not sing, alongside those who do (stellar performances from everyone); fun and frolics, and a few heartbreaking moments; and Lionel Bart's tremendous score. The 'Who Will Buy' sequence is one of the best ever. One to watch and cherish and remember just how good musical films used to be.
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BunnyPhobic2 January 2005
I took part in a little mini production of this when I was a bout 8 at school and my mum bought the video for me. I've loved it ever since!! When I was younger, it was the songs and spectacular dance sequences that I enjoyed but since I've watched it when I got older, I appreciate more the fantastic acting and character portrayal. Oliver Reed and Ron Moody were brilliant. I can't imagine anyone else playing Bill Sykes or Fagin. Shani Wallis' Nancy if the best character for me. She put up with so much for those boys, I think she's such a strong character and her final scene when... Well, you know... Always makes me cry! Best musical in my opinion of all time. It's lasted all this time, it will live on for many more years to come! 11/10!!
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Pure movie magic!
dtucker8628 November 2003
Its strange that the film that won the best picture Oscar at the 1968 Academy Awards was a film made in England, but if ever a movie deserved that honor, I think it is Oliver. This movie is a true classic that should be on every best picture list and given a place of honor at The American Film Institute. Movie musicals died out a long time ago and it is a shame because this is the best movie musical I have ever seen. Usually movie musicals are slipshod with some great numbers mixed in with some poor ones. Oliver does the impossible, because every number and every dance in this film hits the bullseye! From "Food Glorious Food" to "Consider Yourself" to "Who Will Buy This Wonderful Morning". Ron Moody, Shani Wallace (as Nancy) and Mark Lester as Oliver all give outstanding performances. Mark Lester was at one time the most famous child actor in the entire world. He was the Ricky Schroder of his day or the MacAuley Culkin of his day (I'll bet he wishes he could have made the kind of money they did!). Mark Lester is now a doctor in England and I wrote him a couple e-mails and he talked about Oliver and what a fine experience it was making the film. Shani Wallace was a fine English actress who never got the credit she deserved. She was so good as the sweet, loving Nancy who took a shine to little Oliver and gave her life saving him (her murder scene still makes me shiver, even Charles Dickens said that bothered him when he wrote it!). Doctor Lester wrote me that Shani Wallace was like a big sister to him and it shows on the screen. Ron Moody is delightfully hammy as Fagin. He sort of reminds me of Charles Laughton the way he carries the part to its ludicrous extreme but you savor it along with him. Charles Dickens was so good at portraying the poverty and horrible living conditions of his time and this film shows that especially in the workhouse. Children really lived under those conditions and it is horrifying. The scene that got me is where they are being served horrible gruel and are walking by the dining room where Mister Bumble and his henchmen are dining like kings! That really made me angry. Anyhow, Oliver is a wonderful film that would stand up to any film today and is a good viewing experience for the whole family. It will leave you with a happy heart and a lump in your throat and what more could you ask for?
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An Excellent Interpretation of Dickens.
screenman23 December 2007
Warning: Spoilers
As a lifelong fan of Dickens, I have invariably been disappointed by adaptations of his novels.

Although his works presented an extremely accurate re-telling of human life at every level in Victorian Britain, throughout them all was a pervasive thread of humour that could be both playful or sarcastic as the narrative dictated. In a way, he was a literary caricaturist and cartoonist. He could be serious and hilarious in the same sentence. He pricked pride, lampooned arrogance, celebrated modesty, and empathised with loneliness and poverty. It may be a cliché, but he was a people's writer.

And it is the comedy that is so often missing from his interpretations. At the time of writing, Oliver Twist is being dramatised in serial form on BBC television. All of the misery and cruelty is their, but non of the humour, irony, and savage lampoonery. The result is just a dark, dismal experience: the story penned by a journalist rather than a novelist. It's not really Dickens at all.

'Oliver!', on the other hand, is much closer to the mark. The mockery of officialdom is perfectly interpreted, from the blustering beadle to the drunken magistrate. The classic stand-off between the beadle and Mr Brownlow, in which the law is described as 'a ass, a idiot' couldn't have been better done. Harry Secombe is an ideal choice.

But the blinding cruelty is also there, the callous indifference of the state, the cold, hunger, poverty and loneliness are all presented just as surely as The Master would have wished.

And then there is crime. Ron Moody is a treasure as the sleazy Jewish fence, whilst Oliver Reid has Bill Sykes to perfection.

Perhaps not surprisingly, Lionel Bart - himself a Jew from London's east-end - takes a liberty with Fagin by re-interpreting him as a much more benign fellow than was Dicken's original. In the novel, he was utterly ruthless, sending some of his own boys to the gallows in order to protect himself (though he was also caught and hanged). Whereas in the movie, he is presented as something of a wayward father-figure, a sort of charitable thief rather than a corrupter of children, the latter being a long-standing anti-semitic sentiment. Otherwise, very few liberties are taken with Dickens's original. All of the most memorable elements are included. Just enough menace and violence is retained to ensure narrative fidelity whilst at the same time allowing for children' sensibilities. Nancy is still beaten to death, Bullseye narrowly escapes drowning, and Bill Sykes gets a faithfully graphic come-uppance.

Every song is excellent, though they do incline towards schmaltz. Mark Lester mimes his wonderfully. Both his and my favourite scene is the one in which the world comes alive to 'who will buy'. It's schmaltzy, but it's Dickens through and through.

I could go on. I could commend the wonderful set-pieces, the contrast of the rich and poor. There is top-quality acting from more British regulars than you could shake a stick at.

I ought to give it 10 points, but I'm feeling more like Scrooge today. Soak it up with your Christmas dinner. No original has been better realised.
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A truly wonderful musical for the whole family.
Mr White Keys25 October 1998
"Oliver!" brings to the screen a worthy adaption of Lionel Bart's Broadway musical of the sixties. The combination of a superb cast, wonderful music and breathtaking choreography mean that the film loses nothing in its translation from the stage. To this day it remains one of the stand-out musical adaptions in a dwindling field.

Although the conservative Dickens fanatics may thumb their noses at various liberties taken on the original plot of "Oliver Twist", they should observe that "Oliver!" has recreated most of the spirit intended by Dickens. While primarily a musical comedy, "Oliver!" certainly has a dark undercurrent, thanks to the skillful direction of Carol Reed and the sinister acting of Oliver Reed (playing Bill Sikes). Dickens was essentially a talented satirist, who constructed his characters to convey a moralistic view on Victorian society. "Oliver!" conveys much of the sadness and desperation of the original novel.

For anyone not acquainted with the famous storyline, the film treats of a young orphan, Oliver Twist, and follows his journey from a paupers' workhouse to the rough-and-tumble city life of London. He is spotted and introduced into a gang of thieves, led by the crafty and cunning Fagin. What follows for Oliver is an introduction to the art of picking pockets; the methods of justice dispened by Mr Fang the magistrate; the cruelty of Bill Sikes the notorious thief, and the compassion of Nancy, Bill's mate; the kindness of Mr and Mrs Brownlow. Such an adventure for such a small boy!

It is difficult to pinpoint the exact reason why this Oscar-winning film is such a success. On one hand there is the incredible performances of a gifted cast - Ron Moody being nominated for an Academy Award for his portrayal of Fagin, and young Jack Wild's mature performance as the Artful Dodger. Mark Lester plays Oliver, and depicts all the elements of innocence and vulnerability as could be imagined in the young boy. Harry Secombe backs up the cast as the beadle, Mr Bumble.

Perhaps the best aspect of the film though is the music itself. Lionel Bart has done a masterful job in writing the original score, and you may expect to find yourself singing the songs for weeks after watching "Oliver!". Here are the evergreens, "Reviewing the Situation", "You've Got to Pick a Pocket Or Two", "Who Will Buy", and the beautiful and touching "Where is Love?". The list of classic tunes goes on and on, and if nothing else, young people today should watch the film purely for its educational value - to be introduced to the sweet music of yesteryear, and to see that a film's qualities extend beyond the realms of special effects.

"Oliver!" will rightfully go down as a classic film of its time, and with any luck will keep its place as a family favourite, for years to come. Its warmth and familiar music make it a must-see.
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I consider Oliver! the movie to be my mate.
Spikeopath5 November 2009
Charles Dickens famous novel of an orphan boy, Oliver Twist, who escapes from his poor life to seek his fame and fortune in London, is adapted as a glossy musical.

Who would have thought that a story from the brilliant Dickens could be so sweet and endearing? So it be with Carol Reed's {Best Director Winner} unforgettable 1968 Best Picture Winner. Yes it's some way away from the essence of the source, those in need of that should be seeking out David Lean's fabulous 1948 version, but with an array of wonderful tunes and choreography, this Oliver is a treat for all the family. The cast are uniformly strong, notably Ron Moody {Fagin}, Oliver Reed {who as Bill Sykes is probably playing himself!}, Mark Lester {Oliver} and the fabulous Jack Wild {The Artful Dodger}. While Lionel Bart's songs are as timeless as they are engaging.

The 60s was a tough decade for cinematic musicals, with many of them turning out to be bloated exercises in tedium. But Oliver! is one of the shining lights in the genre, a true uplifter guaranteed to have the feet a tapping and the smile firmly implanted on ones face. So if you have yet to see and be charmed by it? Come on in, join our number and consider yourself one of us. 8/10
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First the novel, then the straight dramatic film, then the musical - and the best picture "Oscar"
theowinthrop15 January 2006
Warning: Spoilers
OLIVER TWIST was to have controversy as well as success following it after Dickens published it in 1837. His picture of life in the urban ghettos was something shocking and new, and his making the central figures of the novel include criminals was another innovation.

One day he was walking in London and passed a young woman he had been friendly with. He said hello, but she was rather stiff with him. He could not understand this. A few days later they met again, and he asked what he had done to upset her. "Well, if you must know, I did not like your last novel.", she said. "Really, everyone else thinks highly of it." He was puzzled: "What's wrong with it?" "Oh, Charles," she said, "I'm Jewish. How could you make up such a character like Fagin?!" He had not expected this: "Well...you know that trial last year of Ikey Solomon, the thief trainer. He's a model for Fagin and he was Jewish."

Dickens found that did not settle things. "Yes," she replied, "He got what he deserved. But Charles, they did not call him "Solomon the Jew" like you call Fagin "the Jew"! Moreover, Solomon did not plan a murder. Fagin does." Dickens had to admit that he might have gotten carried away. He left thinking about what she said.

Oliver Twist was published in several editions. Dickens tried to improve on Fagin a bit. Then he got an idea. He reworked the chapter called "Fagin's Last Night Alive", showing the fears in the man as he faced hanging. He also added some additional details.

He let his female friend know about his resolve to change Fagin. A day or so later he met her at a friend's house. She looked at him as though he was crazy. "Didn't you like the changes?", he asked. "Charles, what changes - he's still a vile villain called "the Jew"!", she replied. "Yes, I did keep those in, but didn't you see how frightened he was in the death cell in prison." The young woman had noticed this, but felt that he was so vile he deserved to be suffering such fears. "Ah...then I was right about that...and did you see the little details I added?", he asked. "What details?", she replied. "When you first see Fagin now he is cooking himself dinner...you read that?", Dickens looked at her expecting a sign of recognition. Instead the lady looked confused. "I read he was at the fireplace, but I must have skimmed the passage." Dickens smiled as though he was brilliant, "He is cooking a pork sausage for his dinner." "A what!"she exclaimed. "He's eating pork, my dear...see - he's not a good Jew!" His friend looked at him, shook her head, and to his dismay left their friend's house. She didn't speak to him for years.

Dickens never totally shook off his own bigotries, but the situation did lead to a partial attempt at amends in his last completed novel. In OUR MUTUAL FRIEND (1865) he has a minor character, Mr. Riah, who is used by an unscrupulous landlord to collect high rents from poor tenants. The landlord figures that Mr. Riah will be blamed because he is Jewish.

But Mr. Riah is a good man. He is a very good man. He is a very, very, very, very good man - so good as to be unbelievable. If Fagin saw Mr. Riah in action he'd probably chase him away with a stick.

The anti-Semitic image of Fagin lingers to this day. It is a measure of Dickens' genius as a writer that the novel overcomes it. However, in presenting the story on film it still causes problems for screenplay writers and directors: how, after the Holocaust, can one do a film treatment of a worthy novel without inflaming bigotry? David Lean showed how by having Alec Guiness appear in one or two scenes showing a human side and in confronting a mob at the end with true dignity. Sir Carol Reed, in his musical version of the novel did it better yet, due to a rewrite in the original musical's script.

OLIVER had been made into a West End musical hit in the middle 1960s, and then taken to Broadway where it was again a hit. With a wonderful score by Lionel Bart, including "Food Glorious Food", "I Am Reviewing the Situation", "Consider Yourself", "Boy For Sale", "Who Will Buy", "As Long As He Needs Me", it deserved it's success. Reed did well in his casting the roles, including his nephew Oliver Reed as Sykes, Ron Moody as Fagin, Mark Lester as Oliver, Jack Wild as the Dodger, Shani Wallis as Nancy, and Harry Secombe as Mr. Bumble. There had been no big musical successes in Hollywood for a decade - the last musical to win the Best Picture Oscar had been GIGI in 1958. OLIVER won it in 1968.

And Fagin - how to handle the eternal problem of the caricature? Well in the musical Fagin is not captured, tried and executed for the murder that is committed. After all, even Lean showed Fagin tried to control his confederate in his actions. But here Fagin realizes that he is getting too old to depend on this kind of chancy life. Although he loses his treasures (those stolen items he kept because he knew their value, and admired their beauty), he decides he can reform. He is allowed to do so, accompanied by his faithful acolyte, the Artful Dodger. I don't think Dickens would have appreciated the change (his female friend might have), but a modern audience certainly accepts it as fitting.
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Broadway to Hollywood transition...SUCCESS!!!
moviemanMA1 July 2005
Oliver! the musical is a favorite of mine. The music, the characters, the story. It all just seems perfect. In this rendition of the timeless classic novel turned stage musical, director Carol Reed brings the Broadway hit to life on the movie screen.

The transition from musical to movie musical is not an easy one. You have to have the right voices, the right set, the right script, and the right play. All signs point to yes for this play. It almost appears that it was written for the screen!

Our story takes place in jolly old England where a boy named Oliver manages to work his way out of the orphanage. He winds his way through the country to London where he meets up with a group of juvenile delinquents, headed by Dodger, the smart talking, quick handed pick-pocket. The leader of this gang is named Fagin, an older fellow who sells all the stolen goods.

But all is not well in London town when Bill Sykes played by Oliver Reed and his loving girlfriend Nancy get tangled up with Oliver, Fagin and his young troops, and the law. What ensues is a marvelous tale of love, affection, and great musical numbers.

Whether or not you like musicals or not, one listen to these tunes and you will be humming them all day long. Oliver! is a triumph on and off the stage and is a timeless work of art.
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One of the best musicals ever!
velartjim25 February 2001
Before watching the movie I read the original novel, and I was not disappointed at all about the adaptation. The movie is really faithful to the spirit of Dickens narrative, but adds a new dimension to it by means of great music and songs.
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My brief review of the film
sol-19 February 2005
A high-spirited, lively version of the well-known story, the film manages to fit in songs and dances without subtracting from the deeper issues in Dickens' novel. The times are depicted vividly well, with excellent sets and costumes, and the film works as both surface entertainment for the young generation, and as a drama with deeper ideas behind it for the more adult viewer. As a musical, the story is not as potent as otherwise - if you compare it to David Lean's version for example - but yet the film explains parts of the story better than Lean's version did. It is not a perfect film as such, with some dances routines seeming pointless and a length that does become a tad annoying, but it is such a brilliant realisation of Dickens, and it is so well done, that it is hard not to think highly of the film. Ron Moody especially is very good: perfect as Fagin in an Oscar nominated role.
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The BEST musical ever!
free_712 March 2012
Unable to give an unbiased view as I think this is one of the Greatest films ever made! Every single aspect of the film is perfect, from the sets and costumes to the choreography and music! Every characterization is spot on. Ron Moody IS Fagin just as Jack Wilde makes an ideal Artful Dodger and seriously is it possible to imagine a more darker, more brooding more down-right nasty evil Bill Sykes than Oliver Reed? Mark Lester is a wonderfully sweetly naive & innocent lead character (OK so he doesn't sing any of the songs!) Shani Wallis is great as Nancy. To this wonderful cast of leads add some fantastic performances by the likes of Harry Secombe, Peggy Mount, Leonard Rossiter, Hylda Baker, Kenneth Cranham and I loved Hugh Griffith's cameo as the Magistrate! Lionel Bart's masterpiece score hits every right note! Every song is memorable, from the big production numbers to the heartfelt ballads. Hard to pick a favourite but I love "Consider Yourself". At no point does the 2 hours 30 minutes lag or become boring. If you have seen the film I hope you agree with me (even partially) if you have NOT seen the film I thoroughly recommend it, sit down with the whole family and allow yourself to be entertained from start to finish. I saw the film in 1968 when it was first released, I purchased the VHS tape as soon as it became available (and wore several of them out!) and now have the DVD. I have lost count of the times I have watched the film but genuinely it must be into the dozens! ALL my kids love the film. and regularly watch it as well. Oliver! is the MVP of musicals, a rollicking adventure through early 19th century London. Forget the real world and the stresses and strife, put your feet up and lose yourself in 150 minutes of pure escapism!
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There's really nothing like it.
MartinHafer22 March 2009
Warning: Spoilers
This is a musical adaptation of Dicken's "Oliver Twist". For the most part, the original story has been maintained, though for the flow of the film certain subplots (such as the summer he spent recuperating and the half-brother) are omitted. The biggest difference in the film and the story is that by the end of the book, Fagin is hanged--an ending very different from this musical film.

This is a one of a kind musical--one whose style and scope really hasn't been matched before or since. Not only are the songs often quite singable and memorable, but the choreography of the film is a sight to behold. Whereas in most musicals a few people or perhaps even a small group are choreographed dancing, here the numbers often run into the hundreds or perhaps more. It's truly a sight to see and I was fortunate enough to have seen it in the theater when it debuted and is one of my earliest childhood memories. Having just seen it again a few moments ago, I would have to say that the film only got better over time. Great sets, wonderful acting and singing--this is a special treat that is hard not to love.

By the way, when I saw the film again tonight, I was surprised by just how high and feminine Mark Lester's singing was for the film. Well, according to IMDb, his singing was dubbed by a girl and this would definitely account for his voice.
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Magnificent! Charles Dickens would be proud
corporalko21 September 2016
Warning: Spoilers
British film studios have not been known for turning out large numbers of first-rate musicals. But "Oliver" is a HUGE exception.

The 1968 version of Charles Dickens' "Oliver Twist," based generally although not slavishly on his original story, absolutely sparkles with great music, very fine acting, and some lessons about life, and people, that many of us may not notice the first or second time we see the film. Which is a good reason to watch it several times -- as I have, over the years.

Oliver Twist is a little boy in a British orphanage, where the unfortunate youths are forced to perform hard manual labor all day, and are fed almost solely on thin gruel by the miserly managers of the place. Emboldened by his mates to tell the head whip-cracker, "Please, sir, I want some more!", poor Oliver is expelled from the orphanage and sold ("Payment upon liking," says his new "owner," a skinflint undertaker)as a virtual slave.

Events enable Oliver to escape the undertaker's cellar, where he has been cast down for "misbehavior," and he winds up in London, where a vagrant boy about his age, The Artful Dodger, introduces him to the "orphanage," so to speak, run by a criminal named Fagin, who teaches "his" boys to pickpocket, and fences goods stolen by a burglar named Bill Sikes.

It is worth noting that, while Fagin exercises strict control over the young boys living with him, he appears to feed them better, and to treat them with more respect, than the establishment orphanage bosses.

Oscar becomes the favorite boy of Sikes' beautiful live-in girlfriend, Nancy, and that eventually leads him into trouble. Sikes' first appearance in the film comes at a crowded pub, late at night, after he has pulled a very profitable burglary. Preceded by his large, ominous-looking shadow as he walks in, he is a tall, unsmiling thug -- someone who "you wouldn't want to mess with," as we would say in the U.S.

Sikes is good at bullying and intimidating elderly men (Fagin), women (Nancy) and boys (Fagin's wards at his evil orphanage). But in the disturbing climactic scene, as he attempts to escape the London bobbies and outraged citizens after killing Nancy, while holding Oliver as hostage, a policeman's gun proves to him that all bullies and thugs, eventually come to a bad end.

The music, and the dancing, in "Oliver," are absolutely superb. One extended music and dancing scene, which takes place in a circular plaza in an upper-class neighborhood, was so good that it caused me goosebumps.

Ron Moody as Fagin; Shani Wallis, as Nancy; Oliver Reed, as Bill Sikes; Mark Lester, as Oliver; and Jack Wild as The Artful Dodger, play their parts to absolute perfection. This film won five Academy Awards, and in my opinion, should have received more. If you're a Dickens fan, and you want to see a really great musical with a different accent than the usual Hollywood kind, go see "Oliver."
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Wow! Why can't todays movies be like this? Genius. An inspiration.....
febru301218 April 2014
Going to today's movies feels like attending a barbaric assault on ones senses. There's the foul rotten language, the pervasive sex (heter, bi, trans and homo), the messages that 1) all humans are evil 2) the human condition is one of desperation and 3) the means justify the end. Oliver! transcends all of this with superb acting, script, direction and production. Oliver! is a masterpiece that will never die because its the epitome of quality. I went on line after seeing Oliver! and bought the Blu Ray disc off Amazon. It will now take a prominent position in my DVD collection. Thank you actors, directors, writers and producers for bringing the viewing public a reminder of how good movies can truly be, even when its this rare.
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Can I have more, sir?
Momcat_of_Lomita5 May 2011
I love this movie. Love it love it love it.

But I know that not everyone loves musicals. So: if you find the musical genre contrived or unnatural or kitschy, if it's just not your thing, then don't bother with this movie because it is unabashedly and outstandingly a MUSICAL.

The songs: "Food, Glorious Food," "Consider Yourself," "You've Got to Pick a Pocket or Two," just for starters. These are wonderfully singable, indelibly memorable, and they move the plot and action along the way musical numbers in a film should. This is a lost art now, I'm convinced, although maybe with the TV series "Glee!" now riding a wave of popularity, there will be some talented musicians and lyricists who will revive this art-form. Anyway, suffice it to say: "Oliver!" is the musical at its best.

The actors: Oh my lord. Here we have Ron Moody in the role of Fagin, and he is INDELIBLE. He doesn't just act the role, he doesn't just sing it and dance it, he slips into the character's skin and he IS Fagin, in a way that makes it impossible to imagine anyone else in this role.

Jack Wild as the Artful Dodger. He's just superb, audacious and sassy and swaggering, and you can't help but like him even as you see him cheerfully taking up a life of crime. He makes us accept the character as someone basically good-hearted who is just adapting to the life he has to live. Matter-of-factly and without malice, and leaping to grab joy when the opportunity presents itself.

Shani Wallis as Nancy: tender and tough, tough and tender, she has the virtues of loyalty and honesty even as those values become hindrances to survival. She is who she is and she doesn't apologize for it, she's key to saving young Oliver.

Oliver Reed as Bill Sikes. I love Oliver Reed, always have, and he dominates every scene he has in this movie. You look at him and you see what the Artful Dodger would turn into if he had malice in his soul. Sikes is dangerous; he has no code but survival for himself, and he'll throw anyone else to the wolves without pausing to think about it if it serves him to do so. Oliver Reed really makes the movie work, because he brings genuine menance and sexuality to his role, which serves as a counterpoint for the sweetness of the musical as a whole.

And finally, Mark Lester. He is beyond winsome as the title character, a completely believable innocent who is without guile and imbued with a natural sense of goodness. I just love looking at Mark Lester, he's such a beautiful and dreamy-looking child.

This movie is about as good as a musical gets: it's visually stunning, in the sets and the cinematography and the costumes, and in the staging of the musical numbers. The characters are wonderful, they're classics. The plot is pared down to the basics and conveys the material as Dickens wrote it without being slavish or getting bogged down in detail.

When I saw this movie for the first time, I laughed and I cried and I sat at the edge of my seat, and when it was over I wanted more. Since the first time I saw it, I've seen it more than a dozen times more, and it's a movie I can watch again and again and again.

As a musical, it's tops. But not everyone likes musicals. Maybe because not every musical is as good as "Oliver!" on every level.

Maybe, just maybe, we'll see a renaissance of the genre soon, and more people who "don't like musicals" because they've only seen bad ones will understand that when a musical is good, it's really, really good.
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Can a fellow be a villain all his life?
estebangonzalez102 October 2010
¨I'm reviewing the situation. Can a fellow be a villain all his life? ¨

¨Oliver! ¨ is my favorite Musical of all time, but it could very well be called ¨Fagin! ¨ because Ron Moody's performance as Fagin is truly the highlight of the film. He shines in every scene he's in and his musical pieces ¨You've Got to Pick a Pocket or Two¨ and ¨Reviewing the Situation¨ are the best ones in the movie. Even Oliver's buddy, the Artful Dodger played by Jack Wild, steals each scene he shares with Mark Lester, who plays the main character Oliver. The film which is based on Lionel Bart's musical adaptation of Charles Dickens's novel, Oliver Twist, had been produced for the stage in London before they decided to turn it into a film. The screenplay adaptation for the movie was written by Vernon Harris. The characters are just as I would have imagined them from reading Dickens's novel and I don't have a problem with Fagin and The Artful Dodger stealing the show from the protagonist because that is what happens most of the time with Dickens's main characters in his novels. He is so good at creating remarkable characters and I remember these two were the most memorable in the novel as well. Oliver Twist serves more as a symbol of innocence and purity among an evil world that has turned its back on him, and his goodness proves to be incorruptible even among these villains he lives with. I am a huge fan of Charles Dickens and I really believe this film lived up to it although it was very loosely based on the novel because you just can't fit everything into the movie and some of the characters had to be left out (Monks, Mrs. Maylie, Henry and Rose for example), or they didn't have much screen time as is the case with Mr. Bumble.

The movie begins in a workhouse several miles from London where several young orphans are forced to work and live under harsh conditions. One of the orphans, Oliver Twist (Mark Lester) is chosen by the rest of the kids to ask for more food because it is hardly enough. Oliver is a shy good looking kid, but when he asks Mr. Bumble (Harry Secombe) for more food he is instantly put in discipline for misconduct. He decides to sell the boy because he has become an inconvenience. Oliver eventually escapes and is able to arrive at London where he meets another young boy about his age who introduces himself as The Artful Dodger (Jack Wild). The Dodger offers Oliver a place to sleep and introduces him to Fagin (Ron Moody) and the rest of the boys. Fagin happens to be a thief who trains the children how to pick a pocket and steal valuable goods like wallets and handkerchiefs from distracted men in the streets. Oliver is innocent and doesn't really understand what is going on until the day he goes on his very first mission with the Dodger and he is mistakenly accused of stealing a man's wallet. Oliver is finally declared innocent after an eyewitness claims it was another boy who was trying to steal the wallet and Mr. Brownlow (Joseph O'Conner) apologizes to him and adopts him at his home. In the meantime Fagin is worried the boy will give up his hideout along with his partner in crime, Bill Sikes (Oliver Reed). Bill forces his girlfriend Nancy (Shani Wallis) to kidnap Oliver and bring him back and the plot develops from that point on.

Oliver! won six Oscars in 1968, including best picture, and was the last musical to win an Oscar until Chicago won it in 2005. Carol Reed also won for best direction and he really raised the bar for musicals ever since. It was probably the last of the great musicals. Perhaps the hardest character to portray in this film from the novel was Nancy because she is torn between her love for Bill and doing the right thing for Oliver. Shani Wallis does a good job of portraying this inner struggle which eventually leads her to her fate. Oliver Reed had to portray the darkest and most evil character of the novel, Bill Sikes, and he does a good job as well. Some of the other musical numbers I enjoyed were ¨Who Will Buy? ¨ and ¨Oom-Pah-Pah.¨ The art directions and scenery were also really well done for the time period. I don't know if I would of enjoyed the movie as much as I did if it weren't for Moody's performance. He was great and I think he should have won the Oscar for Best Secondary Actor. Robin Williams's performance in August Rush was probably influenced by Moody's character in this film. He was just a pleasure to watch on screen and is the main reason why I like this Musical so much. I am not a big fan of musicals, but this is definitely my favorite one and I recommend it.

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musical,yes,great film yes,,what more is there
pop_pop224 February 2008
i'm really getting old,,am in the midst of watching this 40 year old flick,and wonder what my grandchildren will be watching 40 years from now,,its an old saying,,but they don't make em like that anymore..it's not only the story,its the music,the acting both by young and old..the cast ,it would seem,were born to play their roles,,young oliver,,old Fagin..too many to mention them all,the role played by the judge oliver stands before,i've seen in other roles over the years..the artful dodger,,Ron moody as Fagin,,Mr and Mrs bumble,,the movie not only won 5 Oscars,,but took a few golden globe awards too..if you decide to see this film..do yourself a favor,,take a few if not all the children,to see this masterpiece
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Well written, perfect casting, and very charming.
ItsMyBigSecret28 August 2005
This was my favourite film as a child, and I have been in the stage production a few times so it will always remain my favourite muscical and I doubt anybody could ever re-make the story of Oliver Twist on screen, any better than this one did.

My all-time favourite ''bad guy'' has to be Oliver Reed as Bill Sikes. Not only did he scare the life out of my when I watched it as a 6 year old, but now as a woman I can empathize more with Nancys character, the bar maid/prostitute who helps Oliver get the life he deserves.

Jack Wilde as the artful dodger, was fantastic, and I don't think anybody could ever out-do him, as the street-pocket picker, and best friend of Fagin. The music is fantastic, especially Fagin's numbers, I'm also quite thankful they didn't give Bill Sikes a musical number, it wouldn't of worked with him being such a sinister character.

I think Carol Reed did an excellent job of Nancy's sticky ending, keeping it a G rated movie by disguising her beating, but giving enough away to show the violence of Bill towards her.

This movie is both charming, and charismatic as a musical sing-along, as well as being a moving drama that follows a young boy as he tries to find where he belongs in life.
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G means "general" not "completely devoid of conflict"
Michael-23810 July 2006
I just saw this recently, after an interval of nearly forty years. It holds up well, especially Lionel Bart's outstanding songs. ("Who Will Buy" with it's magical counterpoint, just one of many standouts.)

I disagree with the other post that decried its G rating. The ratings system, brand new at the time, never intended the G (General) rating to mean "completely devoid of conflict".

Characterizing it as unsuitable for kids reminds me of the description I once saw of The Wizard of Oz: A girl arrives in a strange land and kills the first person she encounters. She then goes on a road trip with three male companions and kills again.
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great production with iconic songs
SnoopyStyle16 November 2014
Olive Twist (Mark Lester) is one of the many orphans working in the Dickensian workhouse. He asks for more gruel angering Bumble who sells him into servitude to Mr. Sowerberry the undertaker. Facing more punishment, he escapes to London where he meets the Artful Dodger. He's brought to old criminal Fagin, the leader of the gang of pickpocketing kids.

It's a grand production with some great songs. The translation to the big screen worked out for this movie. It's a bit dark for a kids movie unlike 'Annie' or 'Wizard of Oz'. There is a darker moodiness in the story and music. It's still one of the great movie musicals and needs to be seen by lovers of the genre.
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The finest representation of Charles Dickens Oliver Twist
Keiran-604-5105010 February 2013
I would be as bold to say that this representation of Oliver Twist is by far the finest of all Dickens transitions from literature to screen.

This Masterpiece was so representational of its time that it even inspired the manufacture of products deemed to be iconic of the time such as London Distilled Gin known as Oliver Twist London Distilled Gin (See it here http://www.olivertwistgin.com . The film and literary work alike portray the real hardships and massive cultural divide that formed Dickensian London. Although the film is a softer interpretation of the book it is a fantastic tool for educating people about these times.

Ensure you watch this classic and if you have not done so yet read the classic novel.
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kenjha7 August 2011
The Dickens novel becomes an Oscar-winning musical. The 1960s was the decade of big musicals, many of them bloated and boring. This one is surprisingly enjoyable, thanks to wonderful songs and dances, causing the two and half hours to fly by. Moody has the role of his career as the leader of a gang of pickpockets, and he is terrific. Reed makes a dastardly villain. With her boundless energy and contagious enthusiasm, Wallis is a delight as Reed's girlfriend; sadly, her movie career went nowhere. Lester and Wild are fine as the young pickpockets. This is Carol Reed's only musical, but he pushes all the right buttons. Musical highlights include "Would You Buy?" and "Oom-Pah-Pah."
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Brilliant musical – perhaps the last great entry from the “Golden Era” of the genre.
barnabyrudge21 July 2007
Warning: Spoilers
The great cinematic musicals were made between 1950 and 1970. This twenty year spell can be rightly labelled the “Golden Era” of the genre. There were musicals prior to that, and there have been musicals since… but the true classics seem invariably to have been made during that period. Singin’ In The Rain, An American In Paris, The Band Wagon, Seven Brides For Seven Brothers, Oklahoma, South Pacific, The King And I, and many more, stand tall as much cherished products of the age. Perhaps the last great musical of the “Golden Era” is Carol Reed’s 1968 “Oliver”. Freely adapted from Dickens’ novel, this vibrant musical is a film version of a successful stage production. It is a magnificent film, winner of six Oscars, including the Best Picture award.

Orphan Oliver Twist (Mark Lester) lives a miserable existence in a workhouse, his mother having died moments after giving birth to him. Following an incident one meal-time, he is booted out of the workhouse and ends up employed at a funeral parlour. But Oliver doesn’t settle particularly well into his new job, and escapes after a few troubled days. He makes the long journey to London where he hopes to seek his fortune. Oliver is taken under the wing of a child pickpocket called the Artful Dodger (Jack Wild) who in turn works for Fagin (Ron Moody), an elderly crook in charge of a gang of child-thieves. Despite the unlawful nature of the job, Oliver finds good friends among his new “family”. He also makes the acquaintance of Nancy (Shani Wallis), girlfriend of the cruellest and most feared thief of them all, the menacing Bill Sikes (Oliver Reed). After many adventures, Oliver discovers his true ancestry and finds that he is actually from a rich and well-to-do background. But his chances of being reunited with his real family are jeopardised when Bill Sikes forcibly exploits Oliver, making him an accomplice in some particularly risky and ambitious robberies.

“Oliver” is a brilliantly assembled film, consistently pleasing to the eye and excellently acted by its talented cast. Moody recreates his stage role with considerable verve, stealing the film from the youngsters with his energetic performance as Fagin. Lester and Wild do well too as the young pickpockets, while Wallis enthusiastically fleshes out the Nancy role and Reed generates genuine despicableness as Sikes. The musical numbers are staged with incredible precision and sense of spectacle – Onna White’s Oscar-winning choreography helps make the song-and-dance set pieces so memorable, but the lively performers and the skillful direction of Carol Reed also play their part. The unforgettable tunes include “Food Glorious Food”, “Consider Yourself”, “You’ve Got To Pick A Pocket Or Two”, “I’d Do Anything” and “Oom-Pah-Pah” – all immensely catchy songs, conveyed via very well put together sequences. The film is a thoroughly entertaining experience and never really loses momentum over its entire 153 minute duration. Sit back and enjoy!
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