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  • Oliver Twist/Great Expectations [DVD] [1948]
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Oliver Twist/Great Expectations [DVD] [1948]

Price: £17.99
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Product details

  • Actors: Robert Newton, John Howard Davies, Alec Guinness, Kay Walsh, Francis L. Sullivan
  • Directors: David Lean
  • Writers: Kay Walsh, David Lean, Charles Dickens, Eric Ambler, Stanley Haynes
  • Producers: Ronald Neame
  • Format: PAL
  • Language: English
  • Region: Region 2 (This DVD may not be viewable outside Europe. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Number of discs: 2
  • Classification: PG
  • Studio: ITV Studios Home Entertainment
  • DVD Release Date: 17 Mar. 2008
  • Run Time: 224 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (68 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B00008DI5A
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 24,925 in DVD & Blu-ray (See Top 100 in DVD & Blu-ray)


Product Description

A David Lean/Charles Dickens double bill. 'Oliver Twist' is Lean's classic adaptation of Charles Dickens' novel. Oliver (John Howard Davis) is a young orphan boy who is expelled from the workhouse run by Mr Bumbel (Francis L. Sullivan). After becoming an apprentice to an undertaker Oliver decides to run away to London, only to meet the Artful Dodger (Anthony Newley) and fall amongst his gang of thieves, led by the scheming Fagin (Alec Guinness). Remade many times including a musical in 1968. In 'Great Expectations' orphan Pip (Anthony Wager) befriends an escaped convict before being elevated to higher circles as the companion of mad Miss Havisham and her niece Estella (Jean Simmons), with whom the boy quickly falls in love. When the adult Pip (John Mills) discovers a mysterious benefactor has paved the way for him to become a gentleman, he assumes Miss Havisham is responsible.


An astonishingly good David Lean double-bill featuring his two Dickensian adaptations, Great Expectations (1946) and Oliver Twist (1948), this is a reminder that cinema does not necessarily have to debase its literary sources, sometimes it can enhance them. Lean's painterly eye for evocative locations--be they windswept marshes or bustling London streets--provides the backdrop, but his focus on smaller details--the ominous tree in the graveyard with its almost human face, the reaction of Bill Sikes' dog to Nancy's murder--adds the vital ingredient that brings both place and character to life.

Starring a youthful John Mills as Pip, Lean's Great Expectations is an unadulterated delight, a serendipitous gelling of screenplay, direction, cinematography and acting that produces an almost perfect film. The cast is exemplary, with Alec Guinness in his first (official) role as Pip's loyal pal Herbert Pocket; Martita Hunt is a cadaverous Miss Havisham; Finlay Currie transforms himself from truly threatening to entirely sympathetic as Magwitch; while the young Jean Simmons makes more of an impact as the girl Estella than Valerie Hobson does as the older incarnation. Perhaps best of all, though, is Francis Sullivan as the pragmatic but kindly attorney Jaggers.

The cinematography alone (courtesy of Guy Green) would qualify Oliver Twist as a classic: the opening sequence of a lone woman struggling through the storm is an indelible cinematic image. Fortunately, Lean's film has many more aces up its sleeve thereafter, notably Alec Guinness' grotesque Fagin--a caricature certainly, but a three-dimensional one--and Robert Newton's utterly pitiless Bill Sikes. The skewed angles and unsettling chiaroscuro lighting transform London itself into another threatening character. --Mark Walker

Customer Reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Room for a View VINE VOICE on 16 Jun. 2008
Format: DVD
Dickens' tale of workhouse dehumanisation, middle-class arrogance, urban poverty, street crime and domestic violence balanced against moments of extreme tenderness and altruistic warmth is superbly conveyed in Lean's monumental cinema adaptation. Although significant parts of the novel are missing, such as the events occurring during Oliver's walk to London and his involvement in a botched house robbery in Chertsey, the overall impression is one of an enormous sensitivity to Dickens's work, particularly the characterisation - the fragile, victimised Oliver, the monstrous but likeable Fagin, the harrowing Bill Sykes and his wonderful dog Bulls eye. I recommend a look at Cruikshank's drawings which accompanied the novel - the likenesses to the actors in the film is remarkable. Cinematic moments of genius include the opening sequence with Oliver's mother, the snuffed out street lamp after Nancy's murder and Bulls eye's betrayal of his master. The foreshortened sets depicting the squalor and claustrophobia of early nineteenth-century working-class London are incredibly realistic. And to think this was all filmed in a studio lot at Pinewood! For me this is the best Oliver Twist on celluloid - I only wish David Lean had the time and money to make a much longer film and include all the bits of the novel that are missing.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Norman Cheeseworthy on 27 Feb. 2012
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
I was stunned by just how powerful this film is - from the opening scene of Oliver's mother on the moor, to the final struggle on the roof, I was amazed at what an impact it had on me. Like most people, I suspect, I was already familiar with the plot and events, having read the book several times as well as watching various other adaptations, but even so, the way they were presented here was if I was seeing them for the very first time.

Nancy's death was shown in a way that really made me grimace, despite not actually seeing any of the violence - and therein lies the genius of David Lean. It's not what you see, but what you don't.

The restored version of the film is simply stunning too - so clean and sharp, and the extras are a real eye opener too.

Highly recommended.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Kilrymont on 4 Feb. 2012
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
Rather hard to award less than five stars for this wonderful adaptation. These notes are NOT for the double disc edition with Great Expectations bundled into a two film set, it's for the Special Edition of O.Twist.

As usual Amazon's delivery time was examplary. A side issue perhaps but it does contribute to the buying experience.

I read the book many years ago and have the musical version, which runs the story a little simplified compared to this one, which incorporates the Monks/Fagin sub plot. From memory this is a pretty faithful rendering of Dickens' novel, although the screenplay's slightly skinny here and there when one remembers the genius of Dickens' dialogue.

The cast was pretty good overall, with only occasional bursts of overacting from Kay Walsh and Robert Newton who it seems was rather pickled for much of the production and sometimes had to be sent home after lunchtime's imbibings. I felt a little disappointed in the depth given to Sykes by Newton and didn't feel he warranted his top billing. For me, that honour should have been Alec Guiness's. The man's a genius. His Fagin set the standard that for me was approached but not surpassed by Ron Moody's from the musical. This Fagin is far darker and more thoroughly evil that was Moody's.

Oliver was played by an unknown waif who was the son of a pair of screenwriters, and did a pretty decent job, although his posh accent is desperately hard to credit when the film tells us he's been raised in a workhouse beside the detritus of society of the period. The film doesn't say where the workhouse was, only that it's seven days on the road for Oliver when walking to London to escape his earlier life.
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26 of 29 people found the following review helpful By on 2 Jun. 2001
Format: VHS Tape
Most definately the best adaptation of Dickens' novel. The opening sequence builds up a great sense of horror and drama which keeps you on the edge of your seat. Frances Sullivan is wonderful at playing the cruel but comical beadle. He and Mrs Mann are a great contrast to each other and make a great double act on screen. Perhaps the best and most memorable actor from this film is the wonderful Sir Alec Guiness who is so convincing as the roguish but kind Fagin - and who would guess that Sir Alec was only 22 at the time of playing the character! Robert Newton is also convincing as the horribly cruel Bill Sykes - he livens up the screen with his cruel ways and bad manners and scares the life out of the viewer with the horrifying murder of Nancy. Right up until he dies he holds the screen in the palm of his hands and never fails to frighten or shock the viewer. Of course I must credit John Howard Davies who played the orphan Oliver brilliantly and held you, the viewer in the palm of his hands. One thing that has made the film so successful is the ammount of research the director has put into the film, the sets are magnificent and very believable for its day. Even down to the coffin snuff box of Mr Sowerberry - every prop is true to the story and makes the film all the more believable.
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