Not the best adaptation, but wonderfully entertaining nonetheless
This 1933 version of the Charles Dickens masterpiece is a true oddity.
Featuring performances ranging from very good to hysterically bad, and
camera work ranging from amateurish, with glimpses of visual artistry
and beauty. Dickie Moore is a very young Oliver Twist, with the face of
an angel, but zero acting ability. This fact didn't bother me as some
of the faces this kid makes are just so hilarious and inappropriate for
the scene he is playing, that you just gotta love him! It is actually
an endearing performance. Sonny Ray, the actor who played the Artful
Dodger had to be pushing 40, which also brought about some
unintentional laughter. He also was utterly devoid of any acting talent
whatsoever, which makes me wonder just why he was cast at all. However
others fare much better here. William Boyd was quite effective and
fearful as the sinister Bill Sykes, and Irving Pichel certainly looked
the part of Fagin. Also worth mentioning is an actress named Barbara
Kent, who played the part of 'Rose'. Again, no acting talent
whatsoever, but she possessed that certain porcelain beauty that is
associated with silent film stars, and she is delightful to look at
here. It must not be forgotten that this is a 1933 production, and one
of the first 'talkies'. This was a transitional time for cinema, as
actors were still employing the techniques that were used during the
silent film days, where body movements and facial expressions were
greatly exaggerated in order to get the point across without spoken
dialog. This kind of acting is sometimes present here, and i do not
think it hinders the production. The best performance has to be that of
Nancy Sikes, played wonderfully here by actress Doris Lloyd. She played
that difficult part with the right measure of hardness, with a heart
and a good nature kept well hidden from scoundrels Fagin and Bill. The
fact that this has such a low budget lends this old film a spooky,
sometimes surreal quality. There is some effective use of shadows and
light. The dark, murky quality here makes Fagin and the others appear
as sickly degenerates. And best of all it follows the Dickens story
quite faithfully, omitting certain things for budget reasons, most
likely. I love the story so much, and those who love to see these
immortal characters come to life should get great enjoyment out of this
film. This is the third film adaptation of Oliver that I have obtained.
I enjoyed the Polanski version, and the David Lean version even more.
So by the time I got around to this version it was just a pleasure to
see all these characters that I know so well come to life in yet
another production of this timeless story. Also the fact that this film
is so old lends it another level of mystery and strange beauty somehow.
Sometimes a low budget adds to the grittiness of the material. And this
is one of the few versions that includes the final scene of Fagin in
prison, where he is visited by Oliver, an important scene that is sadly
missing from the David Lean version. For fans of the book and the other
films, I recommend hunting down this lesser-known film version of a
literary masterpiece. This should be a treat especially, for fans of
the earlier days of cinema..
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No need the the book, this wraps it up in a nice snapshot.
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I watched twilight recently which is an excellent movie. The idea is very different and the cast is good!.
Best recommended only to vintage film aficionados
***** Mild Spoilers Ahead *****
A mother dies and her infant son is cared for by by an unscrupulous man who
sends him to a workhouse. Oliver Twist, now a young lad, escapes and runs
away to London, where a band of thieves led by the crafty and incorrigible
Fagin, whose specialty is taking young children and making pickpockets out
of them, gets Oliver in his grip. A kindly and wealthy gentlemen ends up
taking Oliver home with him, but once again the band of thieves gets Oliver
in their clutches. The drama revolves around Oliver Twist and whether he
will end up with the scoundrels or whether he can be saved by the kindly old
gentleman. In case you don't already know the ending to this classic tale,
I'll stop here and let you watch for yourself.
There are apparently numerous versions of Oliver Twist, which I have not
seen. This one seems to be panned by critics as sub par.
Personally, I found the movie interesting and watchable, although it is
nowhere near a classic. I liked the young actor who played Oliver. In
fact, the movie was inhabited by interesting characters including Irving
Pichel as Fagin, a memorable woman named Nancy, the young thief called The
Artful Dodger, the old man who became Oliver's benefactor and his niece who
lived with him as well as others.
Some comments have been that the acting in the movie was poor, but I humbly
disagree on that point. I credit the vast majority of the movie's actors
with doing a nice job of bringing their character's to life. The problem, I
fear, lies with the director who obviously was into cheesy shots of the
child smiling and inserting hammy silently movie style scenes that were
overly dramatic and detracted from a movie which was unfolding rather nicely
Oliver Twist gets a 70/100 on my scale, a C . It is an interesting
vintage movie of the classic book, but it's nowhere near a classic. This
version is probably best recommended only to vintage film aficionados.