Oliver! (1968)

If you create a user account, you can add your own review of this DVD

Released 5-Feb-2002

Cover Art

This review is sponsored by
BUY IT

Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Musical Booklet-Bill Collins
Dolby Digital Trailer-City
Theatrical Trailer
Featurette-1968 Featurette
Gallery-18 captioned photos
Rating Rated G
Year Of Production 1968
Running Time 147:18 (Case: 140)
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (83:13) Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Carol Reed
Studio
Distributor

Sony Pictures Home Entertain
Starring Mark Lester
Ron Moody
Shani Wallis
Oliver Reed
Jack Wild
Harry Secombe
Leonard Rossiter
Hugh Griffith
Case Soft Brackley-Transp
RPI $36.95 Music Lionel Bart


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
German Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
Italian Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.35:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English
German
Italian
Spanish
Dutch
Portuguese
Arabic
Bulgarian
Czech
Danish
Finnish
Greek
Hebrew
Hindi
Hungarian
Icelandic
Norwegian
Polish
Swedish
Turkish
Smoking Yes, urchins with pipes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    Oliver is a musical. It is loosely based on (the credits use the term "freely adapted from") the novel Oliver Twist, written by Charles Dickens - a rich source for movie plots. It is the story of an orphan boy, and how he finds his place in life, told with a lot of songs and dancing. It's unsurprising that this movie won six Oscars, and quite relevant ones for a musical, too: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Score, Best Sound, and even an honorary award for best choreography; oh, and Best Art Direction (you had to know what the sixth one was, didn't you?).

    Oliver (Mark Lester)  is an orphan in a workhouse in a medium-size town when the movie opens. He is sold off because he has the temerity to ask for more food. He is sold to an undertaker (Leonard Rossiter), but escapes, and makes his way to London to make his fortune. Unfortunately, the first person he meets in the city is Jack Dawkins, alias The Artful Dodger (Jack Wild). Dodger introduces Oliver to Fagin (Ron Moody), an older man who gets boys to steal for him. Fagin also fences for Bill Sikes (Oliver Reed - the role he seemed born to play), a ruffian and burglar. Bill's girl, Nancy (Shani Wallis) meets Oliver when she comes to collect Bill's payment from Fagin. On Oliver's first excursion to pick pockets, he is caught and sent before a magistrate (Hugh Griffith in a delightful cameo). Oliver doesn't get transported to Australia (unlucky in everything, poor lad). You see the rest of the story when you watch the movie.   

    There are some marvellous songs in this musical, and some magnificent performances. In fact, there is only one weakness in this film, and it is the lead role: Oliver. Oliver is played by Mark Lester, who looks the part perfectly (I'm certain he was chosen on looks), but the voice is simply not strong enough. They have no excuse - his singing voice was dubbed (by the musical director's daughter, according to the cover) - so they could have used a more capable voice. Fortunately, there are few songs Oliver sings alone - the performance of Where Is Love is very weak. The rest of the singing cast have voices which range from rather good to excellent. Some of the best songs are sung by Ron Moody (you can't imagine a better Fagin, can you?), and Shani Wallis has a lot of fun with her songs as Nancy. Harry Secombe's Mr Bumble is unforgettable - he manages to get several notes out of "More?", and his rendition of Boy For Sale is definitive - he can hold a note for what seems like forever.

    Some of my friends prefer the smaller numbers (I'd Do Anything, for example), but the large performance numbers must be seen to be believed: Consider Yourself and Who Will Buy? are fabulous. I don't know if these are the largest numbers ever staged (probably not), but they are very impressive - starting with a single singer, and building up to hundreds of performers singing and dancing. Nancy's tavern numbers (It's a Fine Life and Oom Pa Pa) are boisterous and full of verve. Her sad song (As Long As He Needs Me), is far better sung than Oliver's, but it is just a distraction. But it is Fagin who gets the best material: Pick a Pocket or Two, Be Back Soon, and my personal favourite: Reviewing the Situation.

    There are some interesting visual moments illustrating what nineteenth century England was like - basically a lovely place for the privileged few, and a revolting place for the majority (even though they tried hard to make the best of it). There's an interesting interchange between one of the boys and Fagin: "These sausages are mouldy!", "Shut up and drink your gin!"...

    There's no messing around, we get the entire movie: over three minutes of overture, intermission / entr'acte, and even the exit music. That explains the run time being nearly two and a half hours.

    Few musicals have the size of cast of Oliver - you would have great difficulty staging something like this today. We have a pretty fair transfer of this classic movie onto DVD. If you have any interest in musicals, I thoroughly recommend adding this disc to your collection.

Don't wish to see plot synopses in the future? Change your configuration.

Track Listing

1. Food, Glorious Food
2. Oliver!
3. Boy For Sale
4. Where Is Love?
5. Consider Yourself
6. Pick a Pocket or Two
7. It's a Fine Life
8. I'll Do Anything
9. Be Back Soon
10. Who Will Buy?
11. As Long As He Needs Me
12. Reviewing the Situation
13. Oom Pah Pah
14. Reviewing the Situation

Transfer Quality

Video

    This film is presented in an aspect ratio of 2.35:1 and is 16x9 enhanced. As far as I can ascertain, this is the original aspect ratio. This film does not pan and scan well, with its widely staged numbers. I haven't seen this movie properly since I was a young lad. We can be quite grateful for the proper presentation on this disc.

    The picture is a little soft, but everything is clear enough. There a brief loss of focus at 22:40. Shadow detail is adequate. There is a little bit of low-level noise and mosquito noise, but it's not too troubling.

    Colour is often hard to judge. They have reproduced the dismal appearance of 19th century London with its coal-burning fires leaving soot everywhere. Most of the clothes and scenery are quite dull, but there are moments of bright colour, especially during Who Will Buy?, proving that this is not a washed-out transfer - the colours have been rendered rather well. There are some moments where white is rather too hot - the snow in Boy For Sale, for example - the white is over-bright, and blurs its edges.

    There are some few film artefacts, but not too many, considering the film was shot in 1968 - they are mostly small flecks (see 25:39 and 63:27, for example), but there's one hair (28:35). There's quite a lot of aliasing, but it is not too annoying - the most amusing is toward the end of I'd Do Anything where we get some aliasing on the wrinkles on Fagin's forehead. There's some minor telecine wobble in the credits, and a single small jump at 117:24. There are no visible MPEG errors. This is not a clean transfer, but it is in rather good shape for its age.

    There are subtitles in English and nineteen other languages. They are white with a black border, in a nice clear font and easy to read. Single lines are presented in the black bar under the picture. Multiple lines intrude on the picture, but not badly. They only subtitle the dialogue, not the songs (shame, I'd have liked that). I spotted some errors in the content, such as at 63:44, where the subtitle reads: "That bit's for me, Emmett Fagin", when it should be "That bit's for me, isn't it Fagin?". There's another example, at 107:52, where the subtitle reads. "You take care, I don't know, but do it, Fagin...", but the dialogue is: "You take care I don't overdo it, Fagin". I wonder if they used some kind of voice recognition software that was confused by the lower-class accents?

    The disc is single-sided and dual-layered, formatted RSDL. The layer change is at 83:13. There's a card for Intermission, which fades to black in silence before the card for Entr'acte comes up and the music starts. The layer change is in the black - absolutely perfect placement.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    There are four soundtracks, in English, French, German, and Dutch. I only listened to the English, not being a polyglot. The English soundtrack sounds a bit compressed, particularly at the start in the workhouse. I'd suggest turning up the volume 3dB or so for this movie, to make the songs loud enough.

    The dialogue is fine, and is clear and comprehensible. They've paid a lot of attention to accent and diction - clarity of enunciation seems directly proportional to class. The only audio sync I spotted was a tiny lag in the song As Long As He Needs Me. It is very small, and probably invisible unless you're a reviewer looking for the slightest trace...

    Lionel Bart is responsible for both lyrics and music. He has every right to be proud of this (and he has an Oscar for it, too).

    I don't know if the original soundtrack was mono or stereo. It has been rendered in Dolby Digital 5.1, but to no avail - the sound is definitely quite frontal. The surrounds provide a pale echo of the fronts, but it's not a richly enveloping sound. That's not a problem, because this feels like a stage presentation, and the frontal sound is appropriate. My subwoofer got bored and switched itself off - nothing to do - but it wasn't missed.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

Menu

    The main menu is static and silent.

Theatrical Trailer (4:00)

    A longer trailer, the kind that was common in the late 60s. Not in as good shape as the film - there's a band of noise across the lower part of the picture for part of it.

Featurette - 1968 (7:17)

    This looks like a short piece made for television. It is in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1, not 16x9 enhanced. Colour is quite muted - I suspect that this is deliberate. The quality of the behind-the-scenes footage is quite variable, but limited.

Photo Gallery

    18 high quality images, including shots of some of the posters. Every one of the images is captioned, explaining its content - these captions increase the value of the images.

Collectible Booklet

    This is nothing more than a piece of advertising for the "Academy Award Winner" series of DVDs.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    The Region 1 version of this disc sounds quite similar, with the same limited soundtrack. Even the cover art is almost the same, but it was released in 1998 in R1. I'm guessing, but the quoted duration makes me suspect that the R1 doesn't include the overture and entr'acte.

     The big difference between the two versions is quite simple: our version is single-sided, RSDL, while the R1 is a flipper - at intermission you must turn the disc over. That makes it easy: I recommend the R4.

Summary

    Oliver! is a marvellous musical, presented well on DVD.

    The video is rather good.

    The audio is very good indeed.

    The extras are nice to have - it's understandable that they are limited, given the length of the movie.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Tony Rogers (bio-degrading: making a fool of oneself in a bio...)
Saturday, February 02, 2002
Review Equipment
DVDArcam DV88, using Component output
DisplaySony VPH-G70 CRT Projector, QuadScan Elite scaler (Tripler), ScreenTechnics 110. Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationDenon AVC-A1SE
SpeakersFront Left and Right: Krix Euphonix, Centre: Krix KDX-C Rears: Krix KDX-M, Subwoofer: Krix Seismix 5

Other Reviews
DVD Net - Martin F (read my bio)

Comments (Add)
There ARE subtitles for the songs - Metaphor REPLY POSTED
The Third Man (Universal) - anyone seen? - garumph (read my bio)
The Third Man -