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Oliver! Movie Review

Oliver! Movie Review

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We move a few years forward to 1968 now, for our second heart-breaking musical, and it’s ‘Oliver!’, based on the 1960 stage musical of the same name, of course derived from Charles Dickens classic novel “Oliver Twist”, written all the way back in 1838. Our young hero, residing in a wicked orphanage, angers the beadle, Mr Bumble, in a simple show of assertiveness. Oliver is sold to a mortician in Victorian London town as punishment. But he runs away, meeting a group of boys trained to be pickpockets by an elderly mentor.

Oliver! features a raft of famous performances. Harry Secombe is in fine vocal form as the bellowing Mr Bumble, and there’s a powerful breakout role by Shani Wallis as Nancy. We have the infamous Artful Dodger, played here by child actor Jack Wild. And Ron Moody gives a charming, charismatic turn as the grinning, mischievous father-figure Fagin. And he actually received an Oscar nomination, for this performance.

But perhaps most famously of all, we have a searing, intimidating turn from the infamous Oliver Reed, yes that same actor who famously died of a “heart attack”, no less, during the filming of Ridley Scott’s movie ‘Gladiator‘ here in Malta, back in 1999.

But in his role as Bill Sykes, Oliver Reed is nothing less than fearsome, in a brutal, wide-eyed and wicked role.

Well this classic film won SIX academy awards, including Best Picture and Best Director. And though in essence, it’s a sweet childhood story of self-discovery and newfound parentage, it’s amazing what a dark, grim fairytale this really is.

The sets are dank and moody, and several of the non-musical scenes are very brutal and sad, in particular those involving our antagonist, Bill Sykes. Themes include how the pure-of-heart ultimately rub off on the world around them. This is a cruel film, in many ways, but all the more powerful for it. Do take a look, if you haven’t yet discovered this diamond in the rough of Hollywood’s musical filmography.

Movie Rating: 4 / 5

This Oliver Movie Review was part of our More Than A Movie podcast.

Show Notes for this episode:

In this episode of More Than A Movie, we start by interviewing our guest, actress Steffi Thake. We next review ‘Popeye‘, Robert Altman’s (in)famous musical fantasy film from 1980, that was shot here in Malta. [jump to 10:28 above].

We then review our three main Classic Musicals to Break your Heart, for this week’s episode:

West Side Story (1961) – [jump to 14:12 above]

Oliver! Movie Review (1968) – [jump to 18:28 above]

Annie (1982) – [jump to 21:31 above]

More Than A Movie is written and presented by Andrew Bonello. It was originally recorded and aired on Campus FM Radio, at the University of Malta.

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