The Great Family Film Poll: Oliver!

Mark Lester stars as Oliver in the popular Dickens musical.
Mark Lester stars as Oliver in the popular Dickens musical.

When I was a kid, we didn't have animated ice princesses screaming "Let it go". No, we had gangs of Victorian street urchins and their masters, all singing about petty thievery, child labour and malnourishment.

Ah, yes, the good old days of classic British cinema.

I'm not sure when I first saw Oliver! on the big screen. It certainly would have been later than 1968 when it first came out.

But it's stuck with me, this film of the stage musical of Charles Dickens' Oliver Twist.

It was thrilling, frightening, grim, violent. But it sure had great tunes. Still does.

It had some terrific faces and voices among the adult cast, too. Ron Moody as Fagin, Oliver Reed as Bill Sikes and Harry Secombe as Bumble, the ogre who stares down Oliver when he makes his request for a second helping of orphanage gruel.

While its kid stars - including Mark Lester as Oliver, Jack Wild as the Artful Dodger - made you want to join their gang-as-chorus line singing Consider Yourself, Food Glorious Food or You've Got to Pick a Pocket or Two.

It remains a great introduction to musicals and the world of Dickens, too. Yes, it might look a bit dusty these days but Oliver! is a classic and a good way to convince boys and girls that musicals don't have to be about animated ice princesses either.

They should see the Oscar-winning original before the forthcoming remake by the folks who gave us the 2012 version of Les Miserables. Russell Crowe as Fagin? Hugh Jackman as Sikes? Quite.

Russell Baillie, entertainment editor

- NZ Herald

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