JWR Articles: Film/DVD - Oliver! (Director: Carol Reed) - April 20, 2022


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153 min.

The worst best in decades

There must have been something in the water. In the same year that Oliver! was nominated, while Stanley Kubrick’s masterpiece, 2001: A Space Odyssey didn’t even come into contention, this trite musical took home Oscar’s Best Picture gold.

The cheesy music (largely from Lionel Bart) with its too-obvious lyrics, see-them-a-mile-away modulations and spotty pitching from the leads, Charles Dickens’ magical tale of living life young as a boy being pushed around by reprehensible elders, (notably Oliver Reed as Bill Sykes and Ron Moody—the most consistent actor/singer of the lot—as Fagin), just seems all wrong with a 2022 relook. Conductor John Green does his best, but the orchestral ensemble is far from razor sharp, notably the strings.

The big production numbers (e.g., “Who Will Buy”) designed by choreographer Onna White (and her abundant assistants) can’t hold a smouldering candle to the likes of the Stratford Festival’s Donna Feore. The best of the bunch being “Consider Yourself.” Unexpectedly, given the scope of the production, in the big numbers there is precious little ambient sound even though we can “see” activities surrounding the action, but never hear them.

For me, “I’d Do Anything” should get a recount, perhaps a precursor to the alleged voter fraud in 2020! JWR

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Director - Carol Reed
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