Alec Guinness, Robert Newton, John Howard Davies.
time: 116 mins..
widely regarded as the best Oliver Twist movie and likely
the best film adaptation of a Charles Dickens' novel, this
British-made classic has been beautifully restored by The
Twist was the second big success for famed director David
Lean - the first was Great Expectations in 1946 - and he would
go on to make Bridge On The River Kwai, Lawrence of Arabia,
Dr. Zhivago and other landmark films.
imaginative hand is evident right from the start: a storm
blows up over a lonely English moor as a pregnant woman, barely
able to walk, arrives exhausted at the Workhouse gates. Before
she dies, the woman gives birth to a boy - named Oliver Twist
by a pompous workhouse officer.
story is a savage indictment of the cruel treatment afforded
orphans in Victorian England, following Oliver's wretched
childhood, his miserable apprenticeship with a funeral director
and his subsequent escape to the foul streets of London. After
briefly finding kindness with the wealthy Mr. Brownlow (Henry
Stephenson), Oliver falls prey to a gang of child thieves
led by the crafty Fagin. (Alec Guinness's vivid, layered portrayal
of Fagin is one of the film's highlights, but it was labeled
anti-semitic by some at the time).
Howard Davies was just nine years old when cast as Oliver,
his haunted, melancholy face perfect for the role. A great
child actor, Howard Davies later found his true calling as
a TV producer and director of such comedy classics as Mr.
Bean, Monty Python's Flying Circus and Fawlty Towers.
Newton is wonderful as the wild and violent thief Bill Sykes
and Kay Walsh brings tenderness and vulnerability to her role
as Sykes' girlfriend Nancy.
recreates the seedy, sooty London of the late 1830s with great
skill, which looks totally authentic in this black and white
film. Victorian London was so dirty it really was either black
Dickens' book, this is a story that has the power to move
audiences to tears, anger, and amusement.