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.
Distributed By: Twilight Time
Video Resolution and Encode: 1080P/AVC
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
Audio: English 5.1 DTS-HDMA
Subtitles: English SDH
Run Time: 2 Hr. 33 Min.
Package Includes: Blu-rayStandard Blu-ray Keep Case
Disc Type: BD50 (dual layer)
Release Date: 11/12/2013
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.
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:
Video Rating: 5/5 3D Rating: NA
A Few Words About...™ Oliver! -- in Blu-ray
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.
Audio Rating: 5/5
As usual, Twilight Time has included an isolated score track which is sure to please fans of Lionel Bart’s songs.
Special Features Rating: 4/5
“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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