Carol Reed (The Third Man) softens the edges of his social commentary as he heads into the slums of 19th-century London in this vigorous adaptation of Lionel Bart’s musical version of the Dickens classic.
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Oliver! is not merely unfaithful to Dickens but completely inappropriate as well. First of all, Lionel Bart seems to belong to that Broadway-West End school of thought that believes a musical can be made of anything from The Decameron to Das Kapital… Bart sentimentalizes the grime and crime with his ludicrous lyrics. Worse still, the group numbers of lower-class Londoners destroy the Dickensian literary heritage of individuality and grotesque contrast.