The young hero, Oliver, starts life in the Workhouse, where the children dream of food and the luxury of experiencing indigestion. The over-nourished adults who run the place feed the poor little mites on short rations of some grey bilge they call gruel. After committing the unforgivable sin of requesting some more of this revolting slop, the old devil in charge tries to sell Oliver. A funeral director takes the boy on as a mourner for children's funerals because of his solemn expression. Oliver escapes from the undertaker's establishment after a disagreement over the virtue of his mother and makes his way to London, where he falls in with young Jack Dawkins (the artful dodger) who introduces him to a den of thieves run by an old villain called Fagin. Here he meets the lovely Nancy, who tries to help him and the sinister Bill Sikes who tries to ruin him. Charles Dickens' wonderfully clever, intricate and grim novel is a real tear-jerker but the musical version is more likely to make you sing than cry. The sets are amazing - from the disgusting pest-hole of Fagin's den to the beautiful terrace where Oliver's great uncle lives. The songs and dances are brilliant. The acting is masterly, especially the menacing Bill Sikes (Oliver Reed), the corrupt but kindly Fagin (Ron Moody), the terrible Mr Bumble (Harry Secombe), the drunken undertaker, Mr Sowerberry (Leonard Rossiter) and, of course, Oliver (Mark Lester) and the artful dodger (Jack Wild). I did notice that however filthy and raggedy the kids looked, their hair was always clean and tidy. Ah well, I guess even the youngest actors can only tolerate so much muck and perhaps filthy hair is just taking authenticity a little too far.
A thoroughly enjoyable film and highly recommended.