Oliver! (1968)

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I have a distinct memory of my eighth grade English class joking about that famous line of Oliver’s “Please sir; can I have some more?” repeating it to each other ad naseum and laughing hysterically every time.  This leads me to believe that we read the book, at least in part, and watched this film, at least in part.  However, I could not have told you a single plot point if my life depended on it.  That’s either a reflection of my education or of my long-term literary memory.


Thanks to IMDB trivia, I’ve learned that Oliver Twist was initially published in the pre-Victorian times – specifically, in 1837 (in serial form), while William IV still reigned.  All the same, if there’s any writer I associate with the Industrial Revolution and the Victorian era, it’s certainly Charles Dickens.


The plot is this:  Oliver Twist is stuck in an orphanage until he dares to ask for more gruel.  Then he gets dumped into a undertaker’s family, but they don’t like having him around, so he escapes to London.  There, he joins up with a creepy old man who lives with a bunch of homeless boys and teaches them to pick pockets, obviously by encouraging them to reach into his pants.


Recently, I’ve been playing this old computer game called Thief.  It’s an awesome game, where the main purpose is to sneak around stealing stuff.  I was reminded of it by this one scene with Bill Sikes, the scary house burglar who was once creepy old man Fagin’s protégé and still uses him to fence his goods.  Bill Sikes has a big sack and keeps taking out plates and silverware and pewter trays and all this crazy, loud stuff, using the same sort of video game logic that allows a character who’s supposed to be really quiet and sneaky carrying around a big clanging bag of junk.


As I’ve found in most of the musicals I’ve watched, I can often get kind of interested in the story, only to find myself stymied by the songs.  “Get to the point already!” I usually think.  There were a few interesting bits of song here, where different members of the town come and go, creating a sort of layered effect that worked well in establishing atmosphere.  In general, though, I did find myself anxiously awaiting the next scene to start.  I guess I’m just not a big musical person.


It’s quite clear that, regardless of genre or time period, women on film rarely get a fair shake.  Poor Nancy is stuck with a deadbeat boyfriend in Bill Sikes, and doesn’t come out great for it.  She wasn’t the greatest friend to Oliver, but at least she did try to help him out in the end.


I don’t know if it’s a skill or a cheesy gimmick, but the story manages to be conveniently wrapped up by the appearance of an unexpected distant relative.  So if you are an orphan, all you need to do is make sure that your dearly departed mother was kin to a rich uncle who can save you from your poverty once he learns about your existence.



Theme:  Victorian

First Time Watching:  Possibly not, but I don’t remember it

Final Verdict:  Shut up and drink your gin!



One response

  1. I’ve seen parts of this musical version of the story, but never the entire thing. The best part for me is Oliver Reed, who is a really magnetic actor. You may want to check out the David Lean movie version, which is fantastic. Alec Guinness (Fagin), Robert Newton (Bill Sykes), and Anthony Newley (Artful Dodger) are all spot-on.

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