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    Oliver! Blu-ray review

    Blu-ray Sony Pictures Twilight Time

    Nov 12 2013 08:58 PM | Richard Gallagher in DVD & Blu-ray Reviews
    The roadshow version of Oliver!, winner of the Academy Award for Best Picture of 1968, is now available in a sumptuous Blu-ray disc courtesy of Twilight Time and Sony. This exuberant musical adaptation of Charles Dickens’ “Oliver Twist” has everything going for it: an outstanding cast, superb direction by Carol Reed, memorable songs by Lionel Bart, and breathtaking choreography. Admirers of the film, as well as those who have never before had the opportunity to see it, can now enjoy it with nearly flawless video and audio, complete with its roadshow overture, intermission/antr’acte, and exit music.

    Title Info:

    • Studio: Sony
    • Distributed By: Twilight Time
    • Video Resolution: 1080P/AVC
    • Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
    • Audio: English 5.1 DTS-HDMA
    • Subtitles: English SDH
    • Rating: G
    • Run Time: 2 Hr. 33 Min.
    • Package Includes: Blu-ray
    • Case Type: Standard Blu-ray Keep Case
    • Disc Type: BD50 (dual layer)
    • Region: A
    • Release Date: 11/12/2013
    • MSRP: $29.95

    The Production Rating: 5/5


    Oliver! opens somewhere in 19th century England at a home for paupers and orphans called a workhouse. Unfortunately for the boys who live there, it is more workhouse than orphanage and more prison than home. They labor all day under the watchful eye of Mr. Bumble (Harry Secombe), pausing only for sleep and monotonous, tasteless meals of gruel. One day young Oliver Twist (Mark Lester), a boy whose mother died shortly after his birth, audaciously walks up to Mr. Bumble and asks for a second helping of gruel. This so offends Mr. Bumble that Oliver is unceremoniously marched out of the orphanage and put up for sale. He is taken in by the local undertaker and after getting into a scuffle the young lad is banished to the basement. As he gazes out of the barred window he presses against the bars and they fall into the street. Oliver climbs out and makes his way through snow and rain to London, where he hopes to make his fortune.

    Oliver is awe-struck by the big city, but he has no money and no prospects. By sheer chance he meets another young boy, the streetwise and cocky Artful Dodger (Jack Wild). They hit it off and the Dodger invites Oliver to come with him to be introduced to man named Fagin (Ron Moody) who will give him food and shelter. The Artful Dodger leads Oliver through the streets of London, always taking care of avoid the gaze of city policemen. At the end of their journey Oliver discovers a houseful of boys who live with Fagin, who usually is kind to them. The lads have clothing, shelter and plenty of food thanks to the fact that Fagin has taught them “to pick a pocket or two.” Fagin also fences stolen property for a burglar, the rather unseemly Bill Sikes (Oliver Reed). Bill lives with Nancy (Shani Wallis), the proprietor of a tavern across the street from where Fagin and the boys live. Although things seem to be going well for Oliver, his fortunes take a turn for the worse when he is arrested and accused of stealing a man’s wallet. Fagin and Bill Sikes immediately begin to worry that Oliver may give away the secrets of their felonious operation.

    In between the dramatic scenes there is one catchy tune after another, many of them accompanied by elaborate and spectacular dancing. Even people who have never seen Oliver! are likely to have heard songs such as “As Long As He Needs Me,” “Consider Yourself,” “Where is Love?” and “I’d Do Anything.”

    Choreographer Onna White was given an honorary Academy Award for her outstanding work. Carol Reed took home the gold statue for his direction, and Oliver! also won Academy Awards for Best Art Direction and Set Direction, Best Sound, and Best Music Score. Ron Moody was deservedly nominated for Best Actor, Jack Wild (who steals many scenes with his cheeky performance) was nominated for Best Supporting Actor, Oswald Morris was nominated for Best Cinematography, and the film also received nominations for costume design, screenplay, and editing. Oliver Reed is suitably menacing as the nasty and abusive Bill Sikes, and Shani Wallis became indelibly associated with “As Long As He Needs Me” thanks to her wonderful rendition of the song which Julie Kirgo insightfully describes as a “wrenching masterpiece of female masochism.”

    Oliver! is one of the best musicals of the 1960s and has finally been given the loving care and attention which it deserves. It also happens to be a film which the entire family can enjoy (although parts of it may be disturbing for very young children). It should encourage viewers to see David Lean’s exceptional 1948 version of Oliver Twist, which is available on DVD from Criterion.

    Video Rating: 5/5 3D Rating: NA

    The 2.35:1 1080p image is properly framed and has been encoded with the AVC codec. To say that it looks terrific is an understatement. The set design is astonishing – it is so incredibly lifelike that many will be astounded to learn that all of it was shot at Shepperton Studios. However, do not just take my word for it. I highly recommend that you read the comments of our resident expert, Robert A. Harris:

    A Few Words About...™ Oliver! -- in Blu-ray

    Audio Rating: 5/5

    The 5.1 DTS HD-MA audio likewise is outstanding. From the overture to the instrumental medley which accompanies the opening credits to the closing credits the room swells with music. The dialogue is clear, clean and understandable, although English SDH subtitles are available for those who need them. Ambient sounds, such as horses prancing on cobblestone, are very realistic and help to draw the viewer into the action. I found that I had to increase my volume by about 10db over the usual level, but I also found that I could raise it even higher without encountering any distortion.

    Special Features: 4/5

    As usual, Twilight Time has included an isolated score track which is sure to please fans of Lionel Bart’s songs.

    “Behind the Scenes” is a vintage promotional film which is framed at 1.85:1. It has a running time of 7 ½ minutes.

    “Meeting Oliver!” is an interesting interview with Mark Lester. He talks about being cast in the film, working with his fellow actors, the help that he got from Carol Reed, and the fact that everyone was terrified of Oliver Reed. This featurette is shown at 1.85:1 with 2.35:1 clips from the film. Lester concludes the interview by reciting his famous line: “Please, sir, I want some more.” The interview was done in 2007 and has a running time of approximately 15 minutes.
    “Meeting Fagin!” is an interview with Ron Moody and is similar in format to the interview with Mark Lester. He did not expect to get the part and he was pleasantly surprised when he won the role. He was even more surprised later when he was nominated for an Academy Award. This interview also done in 2007 and it has a running time of about 13 minutes.

    There are sing-alongs for eight songs, which are clips of the musical numbers with the lyrics on the screen.

    Next up are three dance instruction videos for the numbers “Food, Glorious Food,” “Be Back Soon,” and “I’d Do Anything,” followed by split screen dance and sing-alongs for the same three songs.

    The original theatrical trailer is shown at 2.35:1 and is in very good shape.

    Finally, we have an eight-page illustrated booklet with an informative essay by the aforementioned Julie Kirgo.

    Overall Rating: 5/5


    Oliver! is a winning musical, one which gives its viewers great pleasure without resorting to excessive sentimentality and without shying away from some the horrible abuses which orphans and runaways were subject to in Dickensian London. This Blu-ray release is a limited edition of 3,000 units and is likely to sell out, so those who are interested in purchasing it should go to the Screen Archives website and check to see that it is still available. It is not currently available at Amazon but it also can be purchased at the TCM Shop.

    Reviewed by: Richard Gallagher
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    13 Comments

    Wow.  Happy to read such a glowing review.

     

    This is not one of my favorite musicals.  I have previously talked about how

    much I don't like the dark tone of this film. Love the first half.  Not the second.

    But I have been reminded that this is based on Dickens and that is what's to be

    expected.

     

    Nonetheless, this is an import film to own.  I am happy that this is finally 

    available to fans.

    I always have a problem with Oliver singing.  Oddly soft voice that's different from everybody else.  "Where is love..." I think it really comes out.  I usually make fun of those moments for the rest of the day after seeing it.  The rest is kind of awesome.  "You got ta pick a pocket or two...!" etc.  Among my most favorite musicals.  Very glad there's a worthy release for it.  Can't wait to see the upgrade. 

     

    Yeah, this is very dark... a little jarring no matter how many time I watch it.  Helps being a huge of Reed (initially becoming one after seeing him in this film). He's believably nasty. 

     

    I used to live in Augusta, GA in the 70s and 80s.  There was a theme restaurant in the 80s we went to once (mom dragged us in there) and it was the Oliver Twist story... "I want some more!" written all over the place, on the tables, etc with scenes from the story all over the place.  I thought it was a funny idea, but it didn't last long.  I have no idea why I remembered that because mom didn't. 

    Mark Lester was dubbed by Kathe Greene in the singing of the title character, and I do think her small, piping voice is a bit too twee enveloped by the wonderful character-infused voices of all the surrounding singers (I don't think it's a great match to Lester's speaking voice either). My only other complaint about Oliver! isn't about what's there but what isn't there: several deleted character songs that were in the stage play but not brought into the movie. But, it's a very rare musical like My Fair Lady that uses the entire stage score. Most don't.

    Mark Lester was dubbed by Kathe Greene in the singing of the title character, and I do think her small, piping voice is a bit too twee enveloped by the wonderful character-infused voices of all the surrounding singers (I don't think it's a great match to Lester's speaking voice either). My only other complaint about Oliver! isn't about what's there but what isn't there: several deleted character songs that were in the stage play but not brought into the movie. But, it's a very rare musical like My Fair Lady that uses the entire stage score. Most don't.

     

    Those are good points, although including the entire score from the stage show would have pushed the running time to about three hours.

    Kathe Green is the daughter of the film's musical director, the multi-Academy-Award-winning Johnny Green.  Green once recounted the tale of how Mark Lester simply could not carry a tune and that it became impossible to piece together various takes to get one complete song (this is something Alfred Newman purportedly did for Vanessa Redgrave in "Camelot"). At any rate, he heard his daughter singing one of the songs, and he felt that it was a good match for Lester's own singing voice.

    Funny, I always found that wee little voice they used for Oliver to be engaging and a bit heartbreaking. Necessarily different and more fittingly angelic than Dodger or any of the other boys.
    How does this disc compare to the blu-ray versions in Europe?

    How does this disc compare to the blu-ray versions in Europe?

     

    I haven't seen the Region 2 Blu-rays. I'll see about putting up a few screen captures of the TT Blu-ray.

    Mark Lester was dubbed by Kathe Greene in the singing of the title character, and I do think her small, piping voice is a bit too twee enveloped by the wonderful character-infused voices of all the surrounding singers (I don't think it's a great match to Lester's speaking voice either). My only other complaint about Oliver! isn't about what's there but what isn't there: several deleted character songs that were in the stage play but not brought into the movie. But, it's a very rare musical like My Fair Lady that uses the entire stage score. Most don't.

    Unfortunately,one of the myriad things I dislike about the film version of the great MY FAIR LADY, is they cut the fantastic dance music that garnerd standing ovations for "Get Me to the Church on Time", on stage.  In a medium where they could have pulled out all the stops, they gave us a weak, dull, studio-bound (that looks studio-bound) number that was so small, when compared to the stage version.  They also cut the pearlies dance music from the opening, as I recall.  Although, to be honest, I haven't seen it, other than a snippet here and there, in its entirety, since December 26, 1964.

    Unfortunately,one of the myriad things I dislike about the film version of the great MY FAIR LADY, is they cut the fantastic dance music that garnerd standing ovations for "Get Me to the Church on Time", on stage.  In a medium where they could have pulled out all the stops, they gave us a weak, dull, studio-bound (that looks studio-bound) number that was so small, when compared to the stage version.  They also cut the pearlies dance music from the opening, as I recall.  Although, to be honest, I haven't seen it, other than a snippet here and there, in its entirety, since December 26, 1964.

    I don't suppose you might have a different perspective on the movie seeing it nearly a half-century later?  :)

    Does it looks less staid, dull, plodding without gooey-gowned women in 60s hairdos and makeup?  Does the leading lady no longer come off like a 12 year-old play acting, with oddly-placed phoney smudges, inappropriate grinning and zero comprehension of the character she's playing? Does the film have half the thrill or scope of this?  I'm guessing my memory of it is fairly intact.  Sadly.  I want a remake!

    Posted Image

    This is a thread about Oliver!, right?

    I didn't bring up MY FAIR LADY.