On the cobblestone streets of Dickens’ England, Oliver Twist (Barney Clark) is placed in a workhouse along with most of the city’s orphans. The children are treated as slaves. Those that lord over them live an opulent lifestyle earned by cheating the child laborers out of their meager earnings. Oliver escapes the workhouse and heads to London where he is befriended by the Artful Dodger (Harry Eden). There, Fagin (Ben Kingsley) teaches young boys to steal and uses them to maintain his lifestyle. Mr. Brownlow (Edward Hardwicke) is pick-pocketed by Fagin’s followers and meets Oliver in the courthouse. He sees something special in Oliver and wants to give him the home life of his dreams. Fagin and his gang seek to exploit Oliver’s good fortune and twist the circumstances of his newfound friendship to their benefit.
It has been over thirty years since I read the story of “Olivier Twist”, but reading that book was never as dark as this movie. The actors in this film did a fantastic job portraying their characters. Granted these were darker times and life was different for many by today’s standards but the abuse ran rampant against orphaned children. This movie shows the constant physical and mental abuse they took from all types of people, including people in authority to those in their own social position. I felt after awhile that I wanted to protect Oliver from all those around him. I was so thankful for Mr. Brownlow because of the kindness he showed to Oliver.
By today’s standards this abuse of children would be front page news. I watched as poor Oliver was hit with a walking stick, hit in the mouth with a fist, three people ganged up on him, and he was kicked repeatedly and threatened with a gun. In addition to what Oliver went through a girl was dragged by her hair and beaten to death with a stick.
Even though this is a classic tale and the two bad guys are punished for their crimes, I can not recommend this as wholesome entertainment for the family.