Frank Lloyd’s version of Charles Dickens’ Oliver Twist features a young Jackie Coogan as Oliver and Lon Chaney as Fagin. The film appears to be a faithful but highly condensed cinematic presentation of the novel, and is generally entertaining.
Orphaned at birth, Oliver Twist is apprenticed out of a childrens’ workhouse to an undertaker. Goaded into trouble, Oliver is compelled to escape to London where he is immediately taken into Fagin’s band of dear boys, all pickpockets and thieves. When arrested for theft, Oliver is adopted by rich old Mr. Brownlow. Spotted on the street by Nancy and Bill Sikes, Oliver is kidnapped back into Fagin’s control. Forced into a robbery that he doesn’t want to commit, Oliver is shot by Sikes. When nursed to health, Oliver is returned to Mr. Brownlow. The net of the law threatens to tighten around Sikes, Fagin and the gang when Nancy meets with Brownlow to inform him of the nefarious designs on Oliver. Nancy is murdered by an angry Sikes. When the law catches the criminals, the true circumstances of Oliver’s birth are revealed.
Jackie Coogan turned in a very good performance as Oliver. Lon Chaney is hardly recognizable in Fagin makeup. Standouts in the large supporting cast are Edouard Trebaol as The Artful Dodger and George Siegmann as the ominous Sikes. Esther Ralston is lovely in a small, early role. — Carl Bennett
2000 DVD edition
Oliver Twist (1922), color-tinted and color-toned black & white, 74 minutes, not rated,
with The Light of Faith (1922), color-tinted and color-toned black & white, 32 minutes, not rated.
Film Preservation Associates, distributed by Image Entertainment, ID5835DSDVD, UPC 0-14381-58352-6.
Windowboxed 4:3 NTSC, one single-sided, single-layered DVD disc, Region 0, 5 Mbps average video bit rate, 192 kbps audio bit rate, Dolby Digital 2.0 mono sound, English language intertitles, no foreign language subtitles, 13 chapter stops, snapper DVD case, $24.99.
Release date: 29 August 2000.
Country of origin: USA
The video transfer for this edition comes from a 35mm preservation print prepared in the 1970s by the owners of the Blackhawk Films collection. The intertitles and main titles had at that time been reset. The cinematic footage has been well copied and retains a broad range of greytones and image detail. The print is slightly compromised by mild frame jitters, a slight fluttering of exposure differences from frame to frame, sporatic emulsion damage, dust, a few splices, scratches, and an occasional patina of scuffing.
More than one section of missing film has been restored utilizing footage from a 16mm reduction print of flat contrast and a lighter and slightly decomposing 35mm print. Overall, the print is very good and is pleasant viewing. The video transfer itself is slightly windowboxed to make the maximum amount of the original image viewable on most televisions.
A theater pipe organ music score performed by John Muri and recorded for the Blackhawk preservation print accompanies this edition in well reproduced mono sound.
The disc also features another Lon Chaney film, The Light in the Dark (1922), which has survived only in a drastically-edited three-reel version retitled The Light of Faith, as prepared by a Christian organization in the 1930s.
USA: Click the logomark to purchase this Region 0NTSC DVD edition from Amazon.com. Your purchase supports the Silent Era website.
Canada: Click the logomark to purchase this Region 0NTSC DVD edition from Amazon.ca. Your purchase supports the Silent Era website.
BFI Video Publishing
2006 DVD edition
Dickens Before Sound (1901-1924), black & white and color-toned black & white, 171 minutes total, BBFC Classification E,
including Oliver Twist (1922), color-toned black & white, 74 minutes, not rated.
BFI Video Publishing, BFIVD526, UPC 5-935673-00526-2, ISBN 5-03567-300526-2, EAN 5.03567E+12.
Windowboxed 4:3 PAL, two single-sided, dual-layered DVD discs, Region 2, ? Mbps average video bit rate, ? kbps audio bit rate, Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo sound, English language intertitles, no foreign language subtitles, chapter stops, standard DVD keepcase, £24.99.
Release date: 28 August 2006.
Country of origin: England
The collected films are presented for the first time with new scores by the composer and pianist Neil Brand. Includes audio commentary by screenwriter Michael Eaton on The Cricket on the Hearth, spoken word performance by Ken Campbell of Dickens’ original text over Gabriel Grub and The Pickwick Papers, and a fully illustrated 40-page booklet with an introduction, notes on each film and original production stills, plus a downloadable essay by Dickens scholar Graham Petrie.
North American collectors will need a region-free PAL DVD player capable of outputting an NTSC-compatible signal to view this edition.
United Kingdom: Click the logomark to purchase this Region 2PAL DVD edition from Amazon.co.uk. Your purchase supports Silent Era.