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4.6 out of 5 stars59
4.6 out of 5 stars
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on 12 September 2006
Alan Bleasdale's excellent adaptatation of Charles Dickens' classic story of a young boy who's life in Victorian England is far from perfect. His mother died in child birth, so he is brought up in an orphanage, then moved to a work house. Under nourished, he has the nerve to ask for more. From that moment on, the boy begins a journey that sees him fall in to the company of a gang of thieves led by Fagin, superbly played by Robert Lyndsay. He later meets a gentleman, Mr. Brownlow (Micheal Kitchen)who unknowingly holds the key to the boy's future as well as answers from his past. Sam Smith plays Oliver with a depth of character not seen before or since in any other dramatisation. With a stunning supporing cast including Julie Walters, Roger Lloyd Pack, Alun Armstrong, Sophia Myles and Lindsay Duncan. Andy Serkis is chilling as Bill Sykes and Marc Warren is just brilliant as Monks. Very high production values make this look stunning and in some ways better than the recent cinema release. Bleasdale expands a back story, only briefly touched on in the original work, to add intense complexity to the story. It is a brave move, as it makes the drama run to nearly six and a half hours! It pays off though, as so many loose ends get tied up to make the story make sense as it never has before. Originally made for and shown on ITV in 1999, it is proof that when they try, they can make superb dramas. I hope and believe this to be the unabridged version, as subsequent repeats on TV had major cuts made, so as to appeal to a younger audience. In my opinion, this is the best screen version of Dickens' Classic tale.
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on 2 May 2009
Having watched this version of the Dickens tale serialised on television I knew I had to own it. When great works of literature such as this are dramatised on television it is usual for serious liberties to be taken which very often render the original story almost unrecognisable. Not so in this case. Alan Bleasdale has adhered faithfully to the Dickens story and though long, not a minute is wasted in bringing the story vividly to life - and I mean LIFE. The casting alone is a stroke of genius, each actor being hand-picked for the part. Robert Lindsay, whom I have only ever seen playing comedy roles plays the part of Fagin to perfection. The prison scene in which he has finally lost his mind is a truly powerful performance worthy of an actor of the very highest calibre. Andy Serkis too delivers an extremely impressive characterisation, portraying the truly evil side of Bill Sykes - "chilling" as one reviewer has said. It would take too long to mention each actor's role individually. Michael Kitchen, David Ross, Julie Walters, Marc Warren, the list of first-class British actors is endless. Each one perfectly cast. There have been other dramatisations of this timeless story, but for my money this is the one to have.
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on 2 March 2013
In order to enjoy this six-hour adaptation, you need to be aware that it was 'inspired by' the original text of Oliver Twist. The first hour and a half (one quarter of the adaptation) is not in the book at all and is an 'explanation' of what 'might' have led up to events described late in the book. There are lots of other differences from the book, eg Oliver's father is murdered, there is a relative with a large growth on his neck, and the evil murderess Mrs Leeford is a central character in this adaptation, but barely mentioned in the book. The Artful Dodger is a youth of 16-17, rather than a boy. Fagin, for some reason, does conjuring tricks! Monks has an epileptic fit every time he's persuaded to do something that conflicts with his better nature. If you can accept all this, you will probably feel, as I did, that all performances are outstanding, as is the direction and period detail - altogether a high-quality production. However, I do worry that I will now confuse my memory of the actual book with the events in this production, as they are so very different. So do be aware that this isn't Oliver Twist as Dickens wrote it!
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on 29 June 2008
This is by far and away the best screen version of the Oliver tale, and captures the dark mood and atmosphere of the story to great effect. There are elements of humour also with some excellent acting, but Andy Serkis interpretation of Bill Sykes captures the true menace of the character brilliantly like no other. A frightning spectre with his demons becoming all to real. The balance with the other characters is also just right, neither to over played or over animated. A very grown up and powerful telling of the story, excellent.
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on 12 May 2008
When this was first shown on TV I missed the first episode and only came across it half way through the second. This is truly a first rate remake, whilst the 1948 version still holds a special place in my heart right next to it is this.

If you enjoy a good story with excellent props and scenery not to mention the cream of British actors in some surprising casting; but they all come together brilliantly!

At the price that Amazon has it at I would say this is an absolute must for DVD collector or any Dickens fans! The only thing i don't understand is why it hasn't been re-shown or more haven't heard of this, the is great shame.
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on 7 March 2014
Let's be clear; if you want to put Dickens on film or stage, you're going to *have* to adapt the text, there is just no way that his rambling, grandiloquent and episodic stories are going to fit either medium without trimming; he was writing weekly episodes, not screenplays. One reason his works are so well-known is that they are eminently adaptable to acting - because they aren't the easiest to read.

And adaption can be a good thing. Did you know, for instance, that in the book, Noah Claypole re-enters the story 3/4 of the way in, and joins Fagin, and it is he that follows Nancy, not Dodger, who by then has been transported? I don't think I've seen any version where that storyline has been preserved.

No surprise than that Alan Bleasdale has altered Oliver Twist, but possibly rather more than most; this version begins not with Oliver's birth, but with his conception, and the first part (of four) tells the Bleasdale version of this backstory, and with some creative aplomb. The whole sad account of Edward Leaford's doomed love for Agnes Fleming, destroyed by his horrible, scheming, estranged wife (Lindsay Duncan on fine, furniture-chewing form) told over the first ninety minutes, setting philanthropic Brownlow and weird, stalkerish Monks very firmly in place.

It's a unique move, and all credit to those that it works as well as it does. Much of it is extrapolated from what the novel tells us; Oliver's parents were not married, his father made a curious will, there was a child of the previous marriage named Edwin Leaford, Oliver's mother was Agnes and she died, in childbirth, in the workhouse.

Horrible Mrs Leaford is the most egregious of Bleasdale's additions, but Dickens never said that Edwin (ie Monks) wasn't the son of such a dragon, and - if you consider his character - there's plenty to suggest that he was. It makes sense.

The second adjustment is that to Fagin and his gang; Fagin in this is a Prague Jew and former travelling magician - 'The Great Lovinski' - and the leading lights of the gang were all part of the show. Add to this that Nancy is Fagin's daughter, and that Dodger is not an 11 year old scamp, rather he's a 16 year old violent proto-Bill Sikes and a very nasty piece of work. If the Great Lovinski is a touch fantastical, and I'm not entirely convinced that Fagin the father would be quite so willing to allow Sikes to punish Nancy the daughter, I'm at least re-assured by Robert Lindsay's performance as the magical Jew, which really is a work of art; the dessembling and manipulation of the master criminal, presented as showmanship.

Andy Serkis produces a horrible, hulking, brutish Sikes (and he doesn't look like Andy Serkis, which is something of an acheivement), a very damaged East End villian, and meanwhile Emily Woof as Nancy is very much a prostitute (as is Bet), and quite obviously a DV survivor - until he kills her.

One gang member seen less often in productions than others is 'Flash' Toby Crakitt (Andrew Schofield), supposedly the plausible charmer who can infiltrate respectable society, but if he is the best they've got, and they think he's *good* that just shows how ignorant Fagin and co. are of the world of Brownlow and the Maylies - Crackitt really is stretching himself when he tries to charm Brownlow's dumpy maid - he is obviously dodgy, and really doesn't fit in.

Michael Kitchen plays a quixotic, hgihly failable Brownlow, whose high-minded goodness turns rapidly to disgust when Crackitt blackens Oliver's character. After Grimwig (a manipulative John Grillo) wins his argument, Brownlow has nothing more to do with him, and wants nothing more to do with Oliver; it's quite a tantrum.

And it says much of this Twist that Brownlow's goodness is not beyond suspicion - Oliver is not the first boy he has tried to befriend and take home - and this serial philanthropy does not go unquestioned (even if the question is not quite spoken) - after all, this was made in 1999, so how could it?

Other delightful performances - Annette Crosbie as Mrs Bedwin, Julie Walters as Mrs Mann, David Ross as an incredibly stupid Bumble, Roger Lloyd Pack as Sowerberry, and Liz Smith as a suitably corrupt and scabrous Old Sally. *And!* Michael Bertenshaw as Doctor Butchard, the man that brings Oliver into the world. He really should be Dr Who.

And there is a flash of completely unexpected comedy with Sam Kelly (Giles) and Morgan Jones (Brittles) chasing burglars (not very fast) at Chertsey - and it's not the darkly sardonic wit of the rest of the production - if it wasn't funny it'd be wrong.

Oh, not forgetting Alan Pentony, playing the Irish dwarf with his patent stain remover - I can't see why Bleasdale wrote him in, unless it was to give a mate a job - but I'm glad he did; Dickens should have thought of him.
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on 12 November 2012
Got this DVD for our two children to watch prior to taking them to the Theatre to see the Cameron MackIntosh version of Oliver. Hadn't realised that it was in 2 DVD's with a total of about 6 hours (it was the version for TV) but that being said, we all thoroughly enjoyed it. Robert Lindsey was fantastic as Fagan and it was fun to look out for other well known actors. Would recommend this DVD.
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on 10 January 2004
Alan Bleasdale, God bless him, has courageously and marvelously reprised this wonderful tale. I feel that Mr. Charles Dickens himself might well have re-ordered the telling of Oliver's adventures in like manner, had the opportunity not been pre-empted by his serializing the original. As an adept of melodrama, the Great Man might certainly approve of this adaptation.
The screen production is almost perfect. It has period charm, good music, humour, excitement, terror and pathos all in proportion - and excellent casting from top to bottom. Not one of the salient characters seems out of place, or too shallow.
I find this version of Oliver exhilarating. It is a much treasured addition, to my film library, that I'm sure will not grow tiresome with the passing years.
The voice-track on the VHS version is a little distorted. A DVD version would be VERY WELCOME - and the sooner the better.
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on 28 April 2000
Top marks to Alan Bleasdale for the brilliant back story giving so much more poignancy to little Oliver's story. It made so much more sense as the film progressed. You ache for him when he finally hears who his parents were and how much they loved one another. He was perfect, as was all of the casting. Sam Smith was a wonderful Oliver; Marc Warren managed to be hideous and sympathetic at the same time; Lindsay Duncan was the most wonderful monster, and Sophia Myles broke my heart as Agnes, Oliver's tragic mother. She is stunning. She's going to be a big star. This really is a definitive version of Oliver Twist. I can't imagine anyone daring or needing to re-make this for a century. See it!
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on 31 December 2014
This production is not the best but it is still an enjoyable retelling of Dickens' much loved tale of the trials and tribulations of young Oliver Twist.
Alan Bleasdale has made some dramatic changes to the original book and this does not always feel right. He does expand and explain the background to the story better than some of the other countless adaptations that have been produced, but to me they are a little too over dramatic and feel a little too different from the feel and tenor of the Dickens original.
The cast is, overall, excellent but Robert Lindsay as Fagin is a disappointment. He fails to convey the wickedness of the character and he plays it with too light a touch. This is in contrast to an excellent malevolence of Andy Serkis as Bill Sykes.
If you enjoy adaptations that have freely reinterpreted the original then you will greatly enjoy this, though to my conservative tastes it was all a bit too much. It is still worth watching and a great way to spend a few hours on a wet and dreary weekend.
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