2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Considerably better than its modern reputation,
This review is from: Oliver! [DVD]  (DVD)
Carol Reed's screen version of Lionel Bart's musical version of Oliver Twist seems to fall into the love it or hate it category. Many find stodgy and drawn-out and even its admirers have to admit it is not without its faults. Some of the frenetic moments are not best timed and at times the performances are pitched more for the theatre than for the screen. Nonetheless, it is one of the very few successful British musicals and as such has much to recommend it.
Among a colourful cast, Harry Secombe's Mr Bumble is right out of Dickens' pages while Ron Moody's Fagin and Jack Wild's Artful Dodger are an engaging pair. As Bill Sykes, Oliver Reed makes a (by his standards) restrained and effective villain - his first appearance is a marvellously handled moment. If his uncle's direction is sometimes uncertain, the production values are sumptuous, with John Box's intricately haphazard sets and Phyllis Dalton's intelligently designed costumes coming over particularly well.
Bart's score is unusually strong and Onna White's choreography, while not without its tired and contrived moments, is considerably more energetic and enjoyable than is the norm for these shores. Indeed, Consider Yourself, which seems to call upon the entire city of London, is an outstandingly staged number by any standards. With the exception of some ill-advised string work on As Long As He Needs Me that sounds more South Seas than South London, Johnny Green's orchestrations are for the most part fine.
With Reed and cinematographer Oswald Morris both show a good eye for the Scope frame, although the colour somewhat muted - it's a feature of Morris' work that the original colours were deliberately graded to reflect colour prints from the Victorian era.
The original DVD release included the original trailer and a vintage maing of featurette, both of which were dropped from the 'special edition' release in favour of singalongs and interactive games, although that does include two new interviews with Ron Moody (who cites Tommy Cooper as an influence on his Fagin) and Mark Lester.