Combustible Celluloid
 
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With: Robert Newton, Alec Guinness, Kay Walsh, Francis L. Sullivan, John Howard Davies, Henry Stephenson, Mary Clare, Anthony Newley, Josephine Stuart, Ralph Truman, Kathleen Harrison, Gibb McLaughlin, Amy Veness, Diana Dors, Frederick Lloyd
Written by: Stanley Haynes, David Lean, based on a novel by Charles Dickens
Directed by: David Lean
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
Running Time: 116
Date: 06/28/1948
IMDB

Oliver Twist (1948)

4 Stars (out of 4)

May I Have Some More?

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

David Lean's Oliver Twist is not held in as high esteem as his Great Expectations, perhaps because of the bitter controversy surrounding the Fagin character that caused the film to be censored and delayed by three years. But in many ways, it's even better, more visually intense and more fearless. (It even has a "kino-fist" shot, with a grown man punching Oliver -- and us -- in the face as he tries to escape the scene of a crime.) Shadows are everywhere, even in the sunny, more hopeful portions; they seem to creep in from all corners. John Howard Davies stars as a handsome little Oliver, who endures wretched hardships, asks for another portion of food and finds himself a disciple of Fagin (Alec Guinness), learning the noble trade of pickpocket on the streets of London. Fagin is one of the villains of the piece, to be sure, but he's far from the most horrible character; the pious, white characters in positions of power are far more selfish and mean. And certainly Bill Sikes (top-billed Robert Newton) is far more terrifying. At least Fagin takes in the boy and gives him food and a place to sleep. Guinness proves himself a versatile actor, capable of playing virtually anything with the right makeup; in his mid-30s here, he seems much, much older, with enough life experience to make him twisted and fearful. Most of the rest of the cast is worthy as well, but it's Lean's direction that makes the production really pop. It's relentless, but fluid and deft, keeping us on our toes rather than wallowing in misery. Little Davies rarely acted again, and became a producer/director of television, notably on "Monty Python" and "Fawlty Towers."

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