Sold to an undertaker after asking for some more, young orphan Oliver Twist (Mark Lester) runs away and walks to London where street urchin The Artful Dodger (Jack Wild) takes him under his wing and introducers him to Fagin (Ron Moody) who looks after homeless children who bring back treasures they have pick pocketed. But after being falsely accused of stealing a gentleman's wallet Oliver finds himself whisked out of the poverty of the streets and living with Mr. Brownlow (Joseph O'Conor). Trouble is that Oliver knows too much about Fagin and also the nasty robber Bill Sikes (Oliver Reed), which leads to Bill and his woman Nancy (Shani Wallis) abducting young Oliver.
It is very rare that you get two very good versions of the same story but that is the case with Charles Dickens "Oliver Twist". On one hand you have David Lean's beautiful and dramatic version of "Oliver Twist" from 1948 and then you have this equally beautiful but also gloriously entertaining music version of Dickens story from 1968. They are simply as good as each other offering up a different take on the same story.
Now there are a lot of things which are great about "Oliver!" such as the acting with Ron Moody delivering a comical performance which is so sharp you expect that when he wasn't in front of the screen he acted that way all the time. It is the same with the brooding presence of Oliver Reed as the evil Bill Sikes and Shani Wallis as Nancy delivers some of the movie's most powerful and moving musical numbers. There is also of course the young talent with Jack Wild stealing many a scene as The Artful Dodger and of course Mark Lester who certainly delivers the naive aspect of young Oliver.
But in truth what grabs you about "Oliver!" is the complete production which starts with the wonderful sets which combine what feels like real streets but then having this fake ness with beautifully drawn backdrops which gives this the feeling like a stage production but where the stage is huge. The is also Carol Reed's eye for a shot and scenes of dark alleys with walls glistening with damp and bridges all have this wonderful atmosphere about them giving this musical a dark but not overly sinister edge. And of course there is the musical side with not just memorable songs but big production dance numbers which bring scenes to life from dancing policemen to Nancy bringing a bar to life in a rendition of "Oom-Pah Pah".
What this all boils down to is that "Oliver!" is simply a great musical and a wonderfully entertaining take on Charles Dickens "Oliver Twist". But whilst there is so much in "Oliver!" which deserves a mention for me it is director Carol Reed who makes the movie as it is his vision, his eye for a shot and his control of the musical elements which makes it such a fun experience.