Oliver Twist/Great Expectations [DVD] 
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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 WalkerSee all Product Description
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Top Customer Reviews
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.
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.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
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. Read morePublished 1 month ago by Keith M
Simply wonderful! The documentary extra a joyful and fascinating surprise!
This film is in my top 10!
What can David Lean do wrong if you watch carefully, you can see the forthcoming Oliver, BrilliantPublished 5 months ago by Roger L
It was a pleasure looking at this DVD It took me back to my early days when they knew how to make fikmsPublished 6 months ago by Stanley Parry