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 »
It was all Mrs. Bumble's fault! She would do it, she would!
No excuse, man. In fact, you were the more guilty of the two in the eye of the law, for the law supposes that your wife acts under your direction.
Well, if the law supposes that, than the law is an ass!
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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 »
In some ways, it's good to see some of the subplots that have to be snipped for time in shorter renditions. Unfortunately, what remains is twisted Dickens. Dickens wrote for serial, and sometimes wrote himself into corners. He didn't plan Oliver Twist out from the start, so characters like "Monks" wormed into later installments to help iron out a conclusion. OLIVER TWIST the book is therefore not to be read or judged like a modern novel, but rather a sprawling (though not so sprawling as the nearly contemporary, episodic, and wonderful PICKWICK PAPERS) epic view of Oliver's world, where many extraneous activities take place. Unfortunately, the writers of this "Oliver Twist" have manipulated Dickens to try to tie together all the extraneous material. They've also done unforgivable things to the characters. The way the "Artful Dodger" picked Mr. Brownlow's pockets and the aftermath was shocking. Fagin, a wonderful character in all his many incarnations, has been transformed from a man who teaches boys to pick pockets to a magician of sorts, so he comes off more like a thwarted music hall prestidigitator than a corrupter of morals. And the end of Bill Sykes, as written here, is perverted. Some margin of liberty should be granted movie adaptations. Because of time constraints, and the fact that Dickens' wonderful language cannot be easily transferred to the screen. But this version takes too many liberties and warps too many characters. It's a shame, because it has a nice look to it, and Robert Lindsay, a fine actor, might've been a great Fagin. The worst part of the movie is the backstory. Dickens shoves all of the tale of Oliver's parentage into the final pages of his tale, and much that was inexplicable is there explained. These people have expanded upon that to make a full two-hour stand-alone episode! This not only gives a fraudulent view of how OLIVER TWIST the story is constructed, it undercuts what mystery the book possesses. If you want a solid (if truncated) version of the book, David Lean's 1948 adaptation is still powerful; for an even easier to digest version, the Oscar-winning musical has a true Dickensian look and the characters are all true (Ron Moody, Oliver Reed, and Harry Secombe being standouts) and several tuneful songs. If you want a version where Fagin comes out a figure of persecution, try the one where Fagin is portrayed by George C. Scott. If you're a Dickens purist, give this version a miss; if you never intend to read Dickens, or have tried and don't like Dickens, you might like this version after all.
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