Oliver Twist is a 1997 American made-for-television film from The Wonderful World of Disney, based on the novel of the same name by Charles Dickens. The film was directed by Tony Bill, written by Monte Merrick and Stephen Sommers, and produced by Walt Disney Television. It stars Richard Dreyfuss, Elijah Wood, David O'Hara, and Alex Trench as the titular character.
As in most film adaptations of this novel, Monks, Oliver's half-brother, is not in the film. There are other changes as well. The bookseller does not testify for Oliver at his trial, but Rose Maylie does. Most of the changes are minor, but a major one is that when Oliver is taken in by Fagin's gang he himself, and not the Widow Corney, is in possession of his mother's locket, and Oliver has come to London, not just to seek his fortune, but to discover his true identity. Mr. Bumble is only in one scene, and the Widow Corney's role is expanded. And, as in the musical, Nancy is murdered at London Bridge, not in her bedroom as in the novel.
Oliver Twist premiered on ABC November 16, 1997.
A pregnant woman staggers to a workhouse door in the rain and Widow Corney, the owner, takes her in. A baby boy is born as the mother dies. She leaves him a locket, containing a portrait of her mother, which Corney takes. Mr. Bumble, her assistant, names the child Oliver from his rotating alphabetical list of names. Six years pass and Oliver is now working in the workhouse. When he requests to see his locket, Corney, while showing it to him, says he can have it if he’s a good boy when he’s twelve. Six years later, Oliver is forced into drawing straws at dinner for who has to ask Corney for more food. After drawing the shortest one, she throws him out of the workhouse for daring to ask her such a question-without his locket despite his pleas. He returns to steal his locket at night and heads out to London.
Once there, Oliver gets hungry and tries to steal an apple, but is stopped by a young man named Jack Dawkins, also known as the Artful Dodger. The Dodger explains that he’s a professional pickpocket and thief and proud of his work. He offers to take Oliver in with the band of boys he lives with and his boss, Fagin-an old and sly man who teaches the group how to steal. Upon arriving, Fagin takes Oliver's locket as Oliver is dressed and welcomed. However, Oliver meets Bill Sikes-a thief and murderer to whom Fagin owes an enormous sum-and his kind girlfriend, Nancy. Dodger begins to teach Oliver about the art of thievery that same day. At night, Oliver catches Fagin admiring his treasure which he keeps hidden in a box and Fagin threatens him with death if he steals from it. However, when asked, he admits that it is where he is keeping Oliver's locket. Three months later, Oliver is sent out to pick his first pocket as Dodger orchestrates the plan. They are to steal a man's watch in a bookstore, but Oliver is caught red-handed. Thinking quickly, Dodger grabs the watch instead and runs off with Oliver, but he escapes while Oliver is mistakenly identified as the thief. Dodger, in hot water for having lost him, goes to court to try to rescue him. At the trial, Mr. Brownlow (the victim)'s niece testifies for Oliver that he was not the boy, and Oliver refuses to name Dodger as the culprit. Rose offers Oliver to be a guest at their mansion in Grosvenor Square. There, he sees a portrait on the wall of the same lady his locket contains. When told it is Mr. Brownlow's late wife, and that they had one daughter who always carried a gold locket with that portrait, he and Rose realize that it means he may be Mr. Brownlow's grandson and her cousin.
Meanwhile, Dodger manages to locate Oliver through witnesses who heard Rose's offer in court. Deciding that Oliver knows too much to be left on his own to possibly let something slip about the gang, Sikes convinces Fagin to let him kidnap Oliver with Dodger and Nancy's help while Oliver is running an errand for Mr. Bronwlow. However, Nancy does so unwillingly, and Dodger-at the last second-refuses to put Oliver in the bag intended to be used for his abduction. Back at the hideout, Oliver confirms that he let nothing slip about the group, but tells Nancy that he loved the Brownlows and feels guilty knowing that they will think he stole the books he was returning on his errand. Nancy's heart wins out as she tries to return Oliver to the mansion, but is seen in the street by Sikes and forced to go back. Extremely suspicious as to what she was doing, Sikes hires Dodger to follow her the next day. Meanwhile, Sikes weasels out of Oliver that he knows where Fagin's treasure is kept. At night, Sikes tricks Oliver into thinking that they're going to Fagin's, but instead forces him to go to the Brownlow's to steal at gunpoint. Inside, without Sikes watching him, Oliver purposely drops the bag of silver he's holding to wake Rose. Sikes and Oliver escape, but Mr. Brownlow sees Oliver, confirming his suspicion that he is a thief. That night, Dodger encourages Oliver to escape if he gets the chance.
The next day, Nancy goes to the Brownlows-unknowlingly followed by Dodger. She tells them of Oliver's abduction and agrees to return him at London Bridge at midnight. Dodger attempts to tell Sikes nothing happened, but, threatened, admits of overhearing the agreement. Still wanting Oliver to be free, he takes Oliver to the bridge himself to throw Sikes off the trail. Unfortunately, Nancy, unaware of Dodger's plan, is murdered near the Bridge by a furious Sikes who accuses her of double-crossing him. In the meantime, Oliver has gone back to the hideout to retrieve his locket before he moves in. He picks up the box, but Sikes walks in the door at that moment and sees the treasure. He then pulls out his gun to kill Oliver in order to keep him quiet, but Fagin arrives, followed by Dodger,who tackles Sikes. Nancy's dead body has been found, and the angry mob, seeing Bullseye-Sikes's dog-near the scene follow him to the hideout. When they arrive, Sikes locks the door, takes the box and Oliver (as a hostage) up to the roof, and leaves Dodger and Fagin below. On the roof, Oliver grabs the box from Sikes, who lividly turns on Oliver and slips. His neck gets caught in a coil of rope attached to a beam high off the ground. He is hung by the noose on the spot as the police watch. Dodger is arrested by them for his pilfering, and while Fagin negotiates with Oliver for the locket, ultimately capitulates. The locket finally proves that Oliver is in fact Mr. Brownlow’s grandson by the matching of the portraits. Oliver bids a fond farewell to Dodger who is hauled off to jail as he promises to see him again someday. Oliver is last seen sleeping happily in his new family home.Richard Dreyfuss as Fagin
Elijah Wood as The Artful Dodger
David O'Hara as Bill Sikes
Alex Trench as Oliver Twist
Antoine Byrne as Nancy
Olivia Caffrey as Rose Maylie
Anthony Finigan as Mr. Brownlow
Maria Charles as Widow Corney
Des Braiden as Magistrate
Eileen Colgan as Mrs. Bedwin
Eilish Moore as Cook
Lisa Dwan as Agnes
Conor Evans as Chief Constable
A.J. Kennedy as Police Constable
Jeffrey O'Toole as Hugh