Oliver! (1968) Review

Spread the love

Come for the songs. Stay for the domestic violence.

Oliver! (1969): 5 out of 10: is a musical film adaptation of Charles Dickens’ classic novel “Oliver Twist.” Set in 19th century England, the story follows the adventures of a young orphan named Oliver as he navigates through the harsh realities of poverty, crime, and ultimately, redemption.

At a workhouse in Dunstable, young orphans, including Oliver, suffer under the cruel care of Mr. Bumble and the Widow Corney. Oliver’s innocent request for more food leads to his sale as an apprentice to the undertaker, Mr. Sowerberry. There, he faces further mistreatment from the likes of Noah Claypole, until he finally escapes to London.

Artful Dodger

In the bustling city, Oliver encounters the charismatic Artful Dodger, who introduces him to Fagin, a cunning but lovable rogue who leads a gang of youthful pickpockets. Oliver is swiftly drawn into their world of thievery and learns the ropes of the trade.

Meanwhile, Mr. Brownlow, a kind-hearted gentleman, takes Oliver into his home after a misunderstanding involving a stolen wallet. As Oliver begins to experience a life of comfort and kindness, Fagin and the villainous Bill Sikes conspire to reclaim him, using Nancy, Sikes’s troubled girlfriend, as a pawn.

Dead Prostitutes

Nancy, torn between her loyalty to Sikes and her growing affection for Oliver, ultimately decides to help the boy return to Mr. Brownlow. In a heart-wrenching climax at London Bridge, Sikes’s violent rage leads to tragedy as he beats Nancy to death while she is attempting to flee with Oliver.

The film reaches its climax as a vengeful mob pursues Sikes, leading to his accidental demise. Fagin, witnessing the consequences of his criminal lifestyle, resolves to turn over a new leaf, while Oliver finds solace and belonging in the care of Mr. Brownlow.

The Music.

A musical is often only as good as its music. And on that front Oliver Twist, in particular, the first half is a winner. With large musical numbers seeming starring every single person in England, Oliver! delivers. Such catchy tunes as Food Glorious Food and Consider Yourself will stick in one’s head for days.

In addition, Oliver! boasts both a top-notch cast (with one exception) and incredible set design that invokes both the theater roots and the ability of film in one piece.

The Problem

The only problem with Oliver! Musical is the source material. The original play is pretty awful. You have large dance numbers one minute and prostitutes being beaten to death by a shillelagh the next. Talk about your tone changes. The cast does well with these problems, but the second half of the film simply seems like a completely different movie. And it is not an improvement. (They fortunately cut out murderous Bill Sikes musical number but Prostitutes Nancy’s ode to wife beating is still in there.)

In addition, while the cast is almost uniformly excellent, the lead of Oliver (Mark Lester) is simply too angelic to be believed. He seems to be watching everyone around him with a worried bemusement as if he was in the audience with us.

The Moral

Of course the moral of Oliver! is that everyone belongs in their own station. Oliver is discovered to be a nephew of a rich family and so is reunited with his station, the Artful Dodger, having poor parentage, stays a thief, and the prostitute ends up dead.

One last note, many concerned parent groups today would demand an R rating for Oliver! Between the copious tobacco smoking and snorting by young children (Not to mention stealing) to the on camera prostitute killing parents with fuzzy memories may be shocked how adult this version really is G rating or not.

0 0 votes
Article Rating
Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments