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Oliver! (1968)


Warning: screenonline full synopses contain 'spoilers' which give away key plot points. Don't read on if you don't want to know the ending!

The workhouse. Dozens of boys march on a treadmill, grinding flour. At the he dining bell, the workhouse boys, among them Oliver Twist, file into the hall to collect their bowls of gruel. The gruel is eaten in no time and the boys, still hungry, draw straws to see which will 'ask for more'. Oliver draws the short straw and fearfully steps forward to make his request. The Beadle, Mr Bumble, is shocked. He and Widow Corney decide the best course of action is to put Oliver up for sale.

Mr Bumble leads Oliver through the snow-bound streets, the asking price dropping rapidly. Eventually, Oliver is sold to Mr. Sowerberry, the undertaker, for 3 guineas 'on approval'. Noah Claypole, another Sowerberry employee, is cruel to the boy, taunting his dead mother. Oliver fights Noah and is locked in a coffin until Mr Bumble arrives, declaring the cause of the boy's obstinacy to be meat. The Sowerberry's are advised to keep Oliver on a strict diet of gruel.

Oliver runs away next morning, heading towards London. He is befriended by the Artful Dodger, who offers him a place to stay and food. The Dodger leads Oliver to Fagin's hideout. Fagin explains the kind of 'work' his boys undertake: picking pockets. The boys offer up the wallets, neckscarves and watches they have 'picked' throughout the day and Fagin shows Oliver how to 'make' wallets.

Later, Fagin slips out to a pub, in search of Bill Sikes. Nancy, Sikes' girlfriend works there. Sikes arrives and hands over stolen goods, with Fagin promising to pay him the following day. The next morning before Fagin sends the boys on a pocket-picking expedition, Oliver included, Nancy arrives to collect the money Fagin owes Bill.

The boys set to work, looking for opportunities to lift wallets. Oliver, completely inexperienced, is caught and arrested because he doesn't run off quickly enough. Fagin's boys return to the hideout, reporting Oliver's apprehension. Fagin is furious, fearing Oliver might reveal the whereabouts of his hideout and the details of his gang.

Oliver appears before the magistrate the following day. Too frightened to reveal anything, he is branded a liar and a thief. But another man proves Oliver's innocence. Oliver's accuser, ashamed that he almost caused the imprisonment of an innocent boy, offers to take Oliver in.

In his new home, Oliver is quickly transformed. He is well dressed and looked after. From his bedroom window, he observes passing street vendors crying their wares. Meanwhile, Nancy is coerced into bringing Oliver back to the hideout. The moment he sets foot outside his his new home, Oliver is seized and dragged off by Nancy to Fagin's.

Oliver insists his new guardian will come to find him, and this worries Sikes and Fagin, believing the boy may already have betrayed them. Sikes turns violent, hitting Oliver and threatening Fagin. Rattled, the old man begins to think about running off with his 'savings', wondering if a different kind of life might suit him better.

Bumble and Mrs. Corney, now married, arrive at Mr Brownlow's house (summoned by a letter enquiring after the identity of Oliver's mother), to discover that Oliver is the rightful heir of the Brownlow family: Oliver's mother was Mr Brownlow's niece.

Meanwhile Sikes plans to use Oliver for a burglary job and takes the boy from Fagin's den, to Nancy's fury. Nancy visits Mr Brownlow and confesses to snatching Oliver. She will not compromise Sikes and Fagin, but promises to return OIiver to London Bridge that night.

Sikes' burglary is bungled and he flees with Oliver to the pub. Nancy manages to slip out with Oliver, with Sikes in pursuit. They almost make it to London Bridge when Sikes catches them - he kills Nancy and runs off with Oliver. Mr Brownlow arrives too late to stop him. But Bullseye, Sikes' pet dog, leads the police and Brownlow to Fagin's lair.

Sikes takes Oliver out onto the roof, while below a crowd gathers. The police try to climb the wooden steps to reach Sikes but they collapse. They look for access on another street, giving Fagin and the boys chance to escape, but not before Fagin trips and loses his stash of gold and jewels to the Thames mud. Sikes tries to rig up a rope to swing from one building to another. He half succeeds, but the crowd throw stones as he tries to establish a foothold - then a shot rings out. The police have killed him and his body swings from the high gable roof.

Fagin, now without home and money, and the Dodger look set to begin a new life of crime somewhere else in the city. Oliver begins a new life with Mr Brownlow, reunited with his real family.