A true work of art...excellent songs, amazing performances...
"Oliver!" is a vast improvement over the marvelous Broadway stage version, opening up the scenes with the ability to expand the range of the material and still remain faithful to the Dickens story. Brimming with unforgettable songs and dances (that choreography by Onna White is timeless), it is so well cast--down to the smallest roles--and so faithful to the spirit of Dickens' work that you can no longer imagine that classic without the songs.
Fagin is played to perfection by Ron Moody. His "You Gotta Pick A Pocket Or Two" is just one of the highlights incorporating clever lyrics and great choreography. The boys who kidnap Oliver are a rowdy lot, looking every bit the ruffians they're supposed to be. The best of the lot is Jack Wild's Artful Dodger, leading the gang in "Consider Yourself".
But not all is light and cheery. The darker aspects of the story are sometimes a little too graphic for my taste, although all of the performances are extremely well played, including Oliver Reed as Bill Sykes. The scenes involving his demise are so melodramatic they seem to belong to another film.
Whatever the faults may be, including a rather extended running time, there is scarcely a dull moment. With songs like "Who Will Buy?" and "Where Is Love?" -- not to mention "Food, Glorious Food" -- you will find yourself falling under the spell of this great musical. Highly recommended and fully deserving of its Best Picture Oscar.
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