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Oliver Twist
Approx. run time 386 minutes
Genre Drama
Written by Charles Dickens
Directed by Alan Bleasdale
Starring Robert Lindsay, Keira Knightley, Michael Kitchen, Sam Smith, Julie Walters.
Country UK
Language English
Original channel ITV1
Release date 28 November 1999
Original run November 1999 – December 1999
No. of episodes 4

Oliver Twist is a 1999 television mini-series produced by ITV based on the book Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens.

Contents

Plot

The first episode revolved around Oliver's parents (Agnes Fleming and Edward Leeford) as they struggled to fight their love for each other. Edward struggled with his estranged wife Elizabeth Leeford, mother of his son Monks, and Agnes struggled with her family's life. When it came to them both being together, Elizabeth murdered Edward and planned on murdering Agnes, she made Monks kill her, but Agnes ran away, her sister Rose (Keira Knightley) witnessed this and was left traumatized. Agnes was pregnant with Oliver when she ran away, she ran into the main streets of London and collapsed, she was taken into the workhouse where she gave birth, she died shortly after.

Oliver was taken to a different sort of workhouse whilst he was a child, once he reached 10 he returned to receive abuse and torture. The boys of the workhouse pulled straws to decide which of them should try asking for more; Oliver got the short straw. He was then sold to Mr Sowerberry, not before being beaten by Mr Bumble. Most of Mr Sowerberry's family abused Oliver as well. When Noah Claypole insulted Oliver's mother he lost control and ran away. Monks, who was aware that Oliver was alive, arranged for Fagin to take the boy in and train him as a pick-pocket. Oliver was taken by the Artful Dodger and taken to Fagin. Oliver believed Fagin to be a magician as he knew his name straight away. Monks arrived and began having a fit when Oliver was asleep, shortly after he told Fagin that he wanted Oliver to be disgraced in public. Fagin set up Oliver to get caught pick pocketing by Mr Brownlow. Dodger, Oliver and Charley (a newcomer to the story) stole from Mr Brownlow, the Dodger pushed Oliver into him and the street thought Oliver was guilty. Before the trial, Oliver was badly beaten and when he came to the trial the drunken magistrate. During the trial, the owner of the book store reveals that it wasn't Oliver who stole the book. The charges are dropped and Oliver is thrown out onto the streets.

Mr Brownlow takes Oliver in and Oliver lives with him and Mrs Bedwin, unaware that Mr Brownlow was very close to his mother and father. Nancy (Emily Woof) is forced to bring Oliver back by Fagin and Bill (Andy Serkis). She does so, despite Oliver's best attempts to run away. Mr Brownlow later shows hostility towards Mrs Bedwin and sends her to another house down South. Oliver is taken back to Fagin's hideout and the gang strips him of his clothes and take the books and money he was given to return by Brownlow. Bill Sykes then comes up with a plan to steal money from a house down south, it's actually the house in which Mrs Bedwin is now living.

Agnes' sister Rose is also living there too. Oliver, Bill and one of Fagin's thugs break in and Oliver is shot by the guards. Oliver is dumped in a ditch by Bill. Fagin then informs Monks who loses his temper unaware that Nancy is listening outside the door. Oliver is found by Mrs Bedwin, Rose and the guards and taken in. Mr Brownlow arrives to apologise to Mrs Bedwin, they make up and Mr Brownlow learns what happened to Oliver. Fagin and Monks head to find if Oliver is still alive, when they arrive Oliver sees Fagin and Rose sees Monks, who she saw years ago trying to kill her sister.

When Fagin learns that Brownlow is looking for him, he tells his gangs to scatter. Meanwhile, Mr Brownlow and the others move back to London to continue their search. Rose tells Mr Brownlow about her nightmares of Agnes' attacker and her vows to find him. Nancy heads to Brownlow's house to tell him what she heard between Monks and Fagin. Fagin is already aware of her deceit and send Dodger and Charley to spy on her. Dodger returns and Fagin tell Bill. Elizabeth (Monks' mother) dies of a heart attack and Monks ends his quest to kill Oliver, he is arrested afterwards though by Brownlow and his guards. Bill returns to Nancy and kills her, she is found by Charley and one of Nancy's friends. Everyone suspects Bill and he's the most wanted man in London.

Fagin begins to lose control of the situation and is forced to change his looks in order not to be captured. Bill is cornered when an army of London men and women plan to kill him, he leads them up to Fagin's new quarters and the pair plan an escape. They both make their way up on the rooftop. Fagin pretends that Bill has kidnapped him and Bill loses his balance and falls off the building to his death. Fagin is mistaken for a humble victim. Oliver recognises Fagin and he is arrested by the police. Fagin is visited in prison by Oliver and Brownlow to find out about a letter which Monks gave Fagin, Fagin tells Oliver where it is.

Whilst in prison, Fagin shows signs of becoming insane as he talks to himself and is constantly forgetting he's in prison. Brownlow and Oliver find the letter which was made by Oliver's dad to his mother. Brownlow reads the letter. Monks tells Brownlow and Oliver about the horrible childhood he has had and promises to change his ways, Brownlow frees him and allows him to go down South. Years later, Monks is married and expecting a baby and Rose marries the man of her dreams. Oliver is present at the wedding as the series draws to a close.

Cast

The cast included

Controversy

The adaptation, by Alan Bleasdale, attracted controversy, particularly for the decision to begin with two hours of backstory (much of it invented by Bleasdale) before reaching the plot of the novel. Furthermore, Bleasdale altered well-known sections of the novel.

VHS and DVD releases

On 27 March 2000 ITV released a double box set VHS of the adaption. It was co-owned by the TV and movie company Carlton. Then on 16 October 2006 ITV re-released it on DVD. The VHS version remains a "collectors item" as it's almost impossible to find one now that the DVD version has been released.

External links

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