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Oliver Twist (The Criterion Collection)

81 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

Expressionistic noir photography suffuses David Lean's Oliver Twist with a nightmarish quality, fitting its bleak, industrial setting. In Dickens' classic tale, an orphan wends his way from cruel apprenticeship to den of thieves in search of a true home. Here Alec Guinness is the quintessential Fagin, his controversial performance fully restored in Criterion's new digital transfer.

David Lean's 1948 version of Charles Dickens' classic novel begins with a bang: the young hero's pregnant mother fighting her way through a storm, a perfect metaphor for Oliver's difficult road ahead. Set in a world of slums in the shadow of Victorian England, the story traces the boy's life in a workhouse and then with a gang of little pickpockets. A stark but good-looking film shot around some impressive sets, Lean's immortal adaptation is perhaps best known for Alec Guinness's remarkable (and slightly controversial) performance as Fagin, the old mentor to the gang of boy thieves. --Tom Keogh

Special Features


Product Details

  • Actors: Robert Newton, Alec Guinness, Kay Walsh, John Howard Davies, Francis L. Sullivan
  • Directors: David Lean
  • Writers: Kay Walsh, David Lean, Charles Dickens, Eric Ambler, Stanley Haynes
  • Producers: Ronald Neame
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Black & White, Dolby, NTSC
  • Language: English (Dolby Digital 1.0)
  • Subtitles: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: Unrated
  • Studio: Criterion
  • DVD Release Date: January 12, 1999
  • Run Time: 116 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (81 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B00000F17A
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #50,682 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Oliver Twist (The Criterion Collection)" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

92 of 94 people found the following review helpful By David on February 28, 2002
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
It's hard to know where to start in explaining what makes David Lean's "Oliver Twist" one of the most nearly perfect films ever made. It is a work of art and inspires awe in its every aspect. The black and white photography is brilliant, and the story is told as much visually as in dialog. The music is lively and triumphant one minute, eerie and chilling the next, perfectly augmenting the visual mood. The acting is superb, the characterizations unforgettable. Alec Guinness IS Fagin, Robert Newton IS Bill Sykes, the incredible Francis L. Sullivan IS Mr. Bumble. No other actors have ever come close to delineating those characters as well, nor could they after these hallmark performances. This movie is seeping with art, yet the art is non-intrusive. Rather, the film is an awe-inspiring delight from beginning to end.
As for the Criterion DVD, it's a very good transfer from what was probably the best print available -- a pretty good print considering its age. Regarding brightness and contrast, all the beauty of the black & white photography seems to have been preserved, and the sound, although only as good as 1948 standards, is not distorted and does not unduly draw attention to itself.
If you like movies, this DVD should be in your collection if only for its fascinating contrast with some of the modern color epics you undoubtedly own. If you have never seen it before, be forewarned that there are scenes in this masterwork that will permanently brand themselves into your brain, to be recalled later by association many times in your life when similar images are seen, and when similar music is heard.
This is not just a great movie -- it's an essential and unforgettable experience.
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66 of 66 people found the following review helpful By Brad Baker VINE VOICE on July 5, 2002
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
Charles Dickens' "Oliver Twist" first appeared in a magazine in 1838. Since then, 13 motion picture versions have graced the silver screen. Perhaps the uncontested classic was released in England in 1948. David Lean stands within a tiny circle of 20th Century film directors who could literally paint with a camera. And paint he did. Dark and moody, his "Oliver Twist" opens in an English countryside storm, as a pregnant young girl seeks shelter from the squall. She is about to give birth to Oliver Twist. Intentionally mute, there is no dialogue until seven minutes into the story. The stage is set for gothic evil and tragic foreboding. Lean auditioned 1500 boys for the lead role, but complained that, in each case, "there was nothing in the eyes". He eventually settled on 8 year-old John Howard Davies. Hard-drinking Robert Newton plays Bill Sikes. Alec Guinness appeared in 6 David Lean productions. His second was here as Fagin. Future movie beauty Diana Dors has a small part. Peter Bull and Francis L. Sullivan are outstanding in supporting roles. Filmed in the shadows of St. Paul's Cathedral, "Oliver Twist" reveals the circuitous, seamy London backwaters of the 19th Century. I have to say it. The extras for this Criterion DVD are rather "lean". However, it does contain a trailer, and 12 minutes of film censored from the original 1951 U.S. release. These scenes show Fagin giving a pick-pocket lesson, and counting his jewels. Charles Dickens and David Lean were just at the beginning of their long and prodigious careers when each released their own versions of "Oliver Twist". Amazingly for both, the best was yet to come.
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23 of 23 people found the following review helpful By John Paganas on February 21, 2005
Format: DVD
In an age where effects and overpaid actors seem to be the only draw to a movie as opposed to just great storytelling, this is a great example of what a move could be and should be. Maybe some of our contemporary directors should take note here. The cast carefully selected with Great performaces by John Howard Davies as Oliver and Alec Guiness as Fagan. This is a movie that can be watched over and over and still evoke feeling. I applaud Criteron for a wonderful job of preservation. A must have for any dvd collector.
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17 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Hazen B Markoe on April 26, 2004
Format: DVD
There have been many versions of Charles Dickens classic, OLIVER TWIST. Indeed, ever since movies began, there have been numerous attempts to bring this classic tale of a young boy's battle against thieves, neglect and abuse to the screen. However, it is this version, directed by the great David Lean, that has come to be regarded as the definitive version. By now, the story of a young abused orphan who escapes the workhouse, only fall into a den of thieves, is a familiar one. It is also blessed with some of Dickens' most memorable characters: the brutal Bill Sikes and his girlfriend Nancy, the pompous Mr. Bumble, the noble Mr. Brownlow, the envious Monks, and last but not least, the sly and nasty Fagin and his rag-tag gang of boy thieves, including the sneaky Artful Dodger.
Lean captures the atmosphere of the tale perfectly with stark black and images that will haunt your mind's eye, while Bernard Herrmann presents a wonderfully classic score. One musical highlight is when Fagin teaches Oliver the finer points of pickpocketing with a wonderfully amusing demonstration. Lean's direction also keeps the moving as a good clip, while not sacrificing the finer points of his narrative.
As for the casting, they do a wonderful job to the point of seeming to come bounding out of the page itself. Francis Sullivan is perfect as the blustery beadle of the workhouse, Mr. Bumble. Robert Newton (years before he would ham it up as Long John Silver for Disney's TREASURE ISLAND) turns in a dark and violent turn as the thuggish Bill Sikes. Kay Walsh is equal parts steel and heartache as the ill-fated Nancy. John Howard Davies (who would eventually become a famed British television producer) is touching as the title character, without becoming too saccharine.
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