Based on Charles Dickens' novel, this adaptation traces the childhood of an orphan whose mother dies giving birth to him in an English work-house in the 1820s. Little Oliver Twist, already abused, starved and overworked, is apprenticed to an undertaker and runs away to London after being bullied by an older apprentice. There, he is taken in by Fagin, a fence and thief-trainer, and his gang of pickpockets. He is befriended by Nancy, a good-hearted prostitute, and meets her lover, the brutal housebreaker Bill Sikes. But attempts by the gang to discredit him result in his being taken in by Mr. Brownlow, a wealthy and charitable man, who proves the catalyst for Oliver's discovery of his background and identity. Here Alan Bleasdale's dramatisation differs from Dickens' novel, in that Oliver does not fall into Brownlow's hands by coincidence, and we already know his back story: he's the child of a young woman named Agnes Fleming and her married lover, Edwin Leeford, who dies while on a trip...Written by
The very flowery wording in the episode titles is based on the language which Charles Dickens used for the chapter titles in his original novel "Oliver Twist". See more »
There's no point in biting my hand - I like it. Ow!
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The version which ran on ITV in England and CBC in Canada in late 1999 consisted of four two-hour episodes with commercials; the video for sale in the UK runs 386 minutes. When PBS ran the series on Masterpiece Theater in October 2000, it consisted of three two-hour episodes without commercials; the video available in North America runs 360 minutes. See more »
Oliver Twist is a journalist's novel. The principal character has only one real purpose- as a foil for a range of villainous or inadequate or officious or bungling adults. He barely utters a thousand words in the novel, in the film he is never silent. In this version, the novel has not merely been arranged - it has been totally re-written by someone who has completely missed Dicken's intention: to show us the effects of utilitarian government in late Georgian society. Instead of using the huge range of ideas and the profound commentary- a story which contains enough for several films, the writer rifles the ideas and tries to modernise the language, at once destroying the authority of Dickens' voice and destroying some of his most memorable effects. Dickens is not so far away from us that his language needs translation and most people are literate enough to follow his ideas and arguments. The issues of the novel are as relevant today as they were then - the abuses of authority, attitudes to the destitute, exploitation of the young. Instead, Brownlow shares his sitting room with his housekeeper and asks for 'a large brandy' as though in a saloon rather than his home - this is just sheer ignorance. Fagin is politically corrected - a circus conjurer rather than Dickens' child exploiter and murderer by proxy. Fagin is based on a real person. A real moderniser might have wanted to develop those aspects of Ikey Solomons that Dickens couldn't put in print in 1836. Meanwhile, the novel is trimmed so that characters who are dead before the novel opens are brought incompetently to life and occupy large chunks of time. There is soap-opera violence instead of the real thuggery of public hangings and casual murder. Unlike David Lean, this team seem to be unable to capture Dickens' burning indignation, his contempt for self-serving officialdom. The glaring parallel between the effects of the 'respectable gentlemen' of 'the board' and of the 'merry old gentleman', Fagin on unprotected and unwanted children is missed.
This film has no more relevance to Dickens work than the Lionel Bart musical - an excellent cast and a lot of money completely wasted!
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