Tony Grist (poliphilo) wrote,
Tony Grist

Let's Twist Again

The last TV adaption of Oliver Twist dramatised the backstory. We got to find out about Oliver's ma and her amours-and Oliver himself didn't get born until the end of episode one.  But it's such a familiar story, you really need to do something a bit different to grab the punters' interest.

I remember a version from my childhood which was so violent (by the standards of the time) that my dad went and stood in front of the screen during the murder of Nancy. So did Sikes kill her with a cudgel or the butt end of his pistol? I remember having heated debates about that in the playground.  Poor little kids- we were so woefully starved of TV violence in the 50s. 

Please sir, I want some more. Of course, my dear. Here's the shadow of Sikes danging from a rope. Ooh- whizzo!

The latest version- according to the Radio Times- is the 49th. So many? I had not dreamed death had undone so many. Coming so soon after Polanski's big screen version it seems a bit de trop. What they're hooking us in with this time is the prospect of Timothy Spall as Fagin. Wow, the first fat Fagin! Oh and they've got a black Nancy- Sophie Okonedo- and why not? There were plenty of black people on the streets of Victorian London.

I'm not sure why this particular Dickens novel has us by the balls. It's not his best- not by a long chalk;  it's not particularly well plotted and there aren't too many laughs.  I put it down to Fagin (one of the biggest chaarcters in Eng Lit) and two iconic moments- the thing with the gruel and the thing with the cudgel (or was it a pistol butt?). Dickens all but killed himself - and probably shortened his life- doing dramatised readings of the murder of Nancy. It was his biggest hit. And now I think of it I don't suppose there'd been anything quite like it ever before. English crime fiction starts here. 

Will I watch it? I don't know. Can I be bothered?  But I'm building up a head of steam to re-read the book.

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