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.
on 27 February 2012
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.
on 4 February 2012
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. Then when arriving in London, Fagin doesn't recognise this moneyed accent either or else he'd have made efforts to get a reward for returning Oliver to his family (before Monks shows up, that is)
But that's scraping the barrel for criticism. The film is real eye candy for anyone with an appreciation of classy productions and the work of a brilliant director at the top of his game. Lean's rep doesn't need any more praise, it's all been said many times before.
London as depicted here is a maelstrom of unwashed humanity where poverty of the sort only seen in third world countries these days was rife, and street life was dangerous in the extreme. As such, London's portrayal is also a masterpiece and probably worthy of an award all to itself.
This is one to watch, and watch again..
on 2 June 2001
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.
David Leans follow up to the highly regarded Great Expectations was this wonderful adaptation of Dicken's most popular novel Oliver Twist. Like my review on Great Expectations I will not bore you with the story you already know but keep my observations to the film itself.
Again shot in glorious black and white and in 4-3 aspect ratio this film, in cinematic terms, probably eclipses Great Expectations. Alec Guinnesses portrayal of the mercurial Fagin set the template for all subsequent actors to follow and most if not all have done so. So imbued in the cinematic psyche is this portrayal of Fagin that most people recognise the character if not the film or even the book. Robert Newton also set the bar high in his portrayal of Bill Sykes. Although Bill and Fagin are important characters it is Oliver himself that the audience have to believe in, if they don't the whole film will fail, John Howard Davis who took on the role is perfectly cast and we accept him as Oliver without a second glance.
As you would expect the direction from Lean is first class, the production is handsomely staged and looks gorgeous, the recreation of a grimey and dangerous Dickensian London is impessive considering the war had only been over for three years and rationing was still in very much in place.
If you a Dickens or a Lean fan then you probably already own this fantasic film, if not however and you fancy a slice of proper filmaking then you could do a lot worse. The 2005 Roman Polanski version for example,
on 28 January 2010
this 1948 version of Oliver Twist is 1 The Best-Looking B&W Movie Ever
a great version of oliver Twist
.staring Robert Newton . Alec Guinness. John Howard Davies.
oliver Twist 1948 .with subtiles. on / off
.extras on this dvd
23min 44 sec Documentary profile of oliver twist
Oliver Twist - Theatrical Trailer 1948
Stills Gallery (Behind the scenes)with music
Biographies of Alec Guinness.John Howard Davies.Kay walsh.Robert Newton.
Sir David Lean.
posters and production Drawings .too view from this DVD
all of this is on the.Oliver Twist -- Special Edition [DVD] 
I recently wrote of review of David Lean’s 1946 film version of Great Expectations and speculated as to whether this represented the finest ever Dickens screen adaptation. Well, Lean’s Oliver Twist, made two years later, is, if anything, even better. Much of the same production team worked on both pictures, as well as there being some overlap in casting (notably Alec Guinness and Francis L Sullivan), but whilst Great Expectations may score more highly in terms of poignancy and tragic romance, Oliver Twist excels in what is a dark, (at times) genuinely disturbing and (particularly for its time) uncompromisingly violent depiction of Dickens’ classic novel. What’s more, Oliver Twist is superb to look at, with the studio sets used to create an evocative, often claustrophobic, gin-soaked, 19th century London mise-en-scène, an impressive backdrop against which any deviations made by Lean from Dickens’ original narrative can be easily forgiven.
Within the film’s first 10 minutes or so, we intuit that Lean has likely achieved something special here. We get the spectacular opening as Oliver’s pregnant mother stumbles into the Parish Workhouse as thunder and lightning rage, a reassuring piece of authentic Dickens idiosyncrasy as we’re introduced to Mrs Thingummy and then (flash forward a few years) the wonderful Francis L Sullivan appears as Oliver’s inconsiderate nemesis, Mr Bumble. The themes of child neglect and cruelty are set up impressively by Lean, as authority figures are parodied, starving children stare at their 'superiors’ stuffing their faces and all-and-sundry call into question whether Oliver (and children in general) are to be trusted. Similarly, the famous, 'Please sir, I want some more’ scene is also brilliantly done (following Oliver losing at drawing straws). As we are transported to London, we are introduced to the acting stars of Lean’s film, namely Alec Guinness’ sly, duplicitous Fagin (slated in some circles for being an anti-Semitic depiction) and Robert Newton’s superbly evil Bill Sykes, the pair seeking to forcibly coerce Oliver into their nefarious practices. The semi-comic, almost satirical portrayal of the 'innocent boy’s lot’ during the film’s first half morphs into a genuinely dark, violent thriller, as the betrayed Sykes takes centre stage, alongside his dog (another star of the film), whose scenes of trembling fear and desperate attempts at escape are particularly memorable. Elsewhere, humanity is present in the form of Henry Stephenson’s kindly mentor to Oliver, Mr Brownlow (revealing the typical Dickensian thread around ‘lost relatives’), a young Anthony Newley impresses as The Artful Dodger and there are brief cameos for Diana Dors, Michael Ripper and (even) Hattie Jacques.
All-in-all, a truly memorable interpretation of a literary classic.
on 7 January 2016
If David Lean ever directed a duff film, I’m not aware of it – and Oliver Twist is one of the finest of his films, in which he contributed to the screenplay.
The actors are wonderful: although John Howard Davies as Oliver has been dragged up in a Parish Workhouse, he speaks as though he were an entrant to Eton but that doesn’t matter; it makes him all the more vulnerable and likeable. Alec Guinness is tremendous as the rascally Fagin although Jewish people criticised him in the role, saying he was too stereotyped, whereas Palestinians complained that he wasn’t Jewish enough.
Henry Stephenson is excellent as the kindly Mr Brownlow and Kay Walsh is terrific as Nancy but best of all is dear old Bobbie Newton as Bill Sykes. It was said that later, Oliver Reed modelled himself on Newton’s performance when he played Sykes but as far as I’m concerned he didn’t come near. And there’s a funny thing; Reed, being a fair boxer should have portrayed a chilling Bill Sykes and yet Newton, who was a drunk with no pugilistic talents beats Reed hands down when it comes to portraying a truly terrifying Bill Sykes.
And for the rest of the cast, there’s not a wrong’un amongst them; Michael Dear plays an odious Noah Claypole, and my goodness, don’t we just love it when Oliver demonstrates to him the inadvisability of criticising his mum?
The credit for the excellent, atmospheric music, goes to Arnold Bax – a wonderful film to watch time and time again.
on 26 February 2015
This Blu-ray is a German import, God only knows why we Brits could not supply on but I couldn't find one. The quality of the print is fine, but, navigating the German settings I found a nightmare. I eventually got there after a struggle
on 1 February 2015
The star rating applies solely to the film restoration and not to the film which is far and away the best version of Oliver Twist. David Lean was certainly a master film-maker. Sadly the blu-ray version although sharp and showing good detail is not the best restoration or blu-ray transfer of it's era. There are numerous white running-scratches throughout the print and a somewhat dusty and popping optical soundtrack. My Super 8mm full-length feature was probably just as good if not better than this blu-ray edition. A wonderful film let-down by a poor HD blu-ray transfer. To see how a blu-ray transfer from a similar period should be done, I recommend Mrs. Miniver. One of David Lean's masterpieces has been short-changed here!