Oliver Twist – 1948 – English
Film directed in 1948 by David Lean, and starring Alec Guinness, Robert Newton, Francis L. Sullivan, John Howard Davies, Kay Walsh, Anthony Newley, Henry Stephenson…
Synopsis: The immortal characters of Charles Dickens’ classic novel, Oliver Twist…A penniless orphan in 17th century London – Poor but honest Oliver is fleeing the cruelty of the workhouse when he’s forced in a band of young thieves headed by the notorious Fagin and the evil Bill Sikes. But when the greedy cutthroats threaten Oliver’s only chance for happiness, the gentle-hearted boy must summon the courage to fight for his freedom and future.
Review: This is simply the best-looking black-and-white film I’ve ever seen.
On the Criterion DVD, scene after scene is just jaw-dropping. I have never seen so many incredible shots with wonderful contrasts of light and dark. Much of this is filmed dark rooms or nighttime in the cobblestone streets. Those scenes, combined with many facial closeups, great buildings, and interesting camera angles, all make this an incredible viewing experience.
All of this helps make up for watching a depressing story. It was just unappealing, at least to me, because all the people except for the little boy are unlikable. Some of them mistreat the little kid and that’s difficult to watch. I’m a sucker for nice people, especially an innocent child, and to see suffer is not fun to me.
One of those bad guys, however, is memorable: Fagin, played by Alec Guiness. In this film, he has to be one of the ugliest people I’ve ever seen, sporting the biggest nose ever put on screen. A teenage Anthony Newley as “the artful Dodger” also stands out.
But, as someone who is into art, David Lean’s direction and Guy Green’s camera-work draw me back to this DVD every couple of years…and at least I always know there is a happy ending for the one nice kid in the film.