Oliver Twist DVD

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If Charles Dickens were alive to see Roman Polanski's faithful adaptation of Oliver Twist, he'd probably give it his stamp of approval. David Lean's celebrated 1948 version of the Dickens classic and Carol Reed's Oscar-winning 1968 musical are more entertaining in some ways, but Polanski's rendition is both painstakingly authentic (with superb cinematography and production design) and deeply rooted in the emotional context of the story.

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Another costume drama, another classic literary adaptation, and another stellar cast. You can’t help thinking that it all becomes a matter of routine for commissioning editors at the BBC. But panic not: Oliver Twist is, yet again, a strong piece of work, and well worth adding to the corporation’s impressive collection. Based, as you’d expect, on the Dickens text, and adapted with real skill by Sarah Phelps, Oliver Twist is a strong three hours of drama.

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An astonishingly good David Lean double-bill featuring his two Dickensian adaptations, Great Expectations (1946) and Oliver Twist (1948), this is a reminder that cinema does not necessarily have to debase its literary sources, sometimes it can enhance them. Lean's painterly eye for evocative locations--be they windswept marshes or bustling London streets--provides the backdrop, but his focus on smaller details--the ominous tree in the graveyard with its almost human face, the reaction of Bill Sikes' dog to Nancy's murder--adds the vital ingredient that brings both place and character to life.

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