Scrooge 10: A Christmas Carol (1984)

scott scrooge

After being completely silly in my last entry let’s get to a legitimate version of Christmas Carol.  Made in 1984 for television, A Christmas Carol, stars George C Scott as Scrooge surrounded by an excellent cast all around:

George C. Scott – Ebenezer Scrooge
Frank Finlay – Marley’s Ghost
Angela Pleasence – Ghost of Christmas Past
Edward Woodward – Ghost of Christmas Present
Michael Carter – Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come
David Warner – Bob Cratchit
Susannah York – Mrs. Cratchit
Anthony Walters – Tiny Tim Crachit
Roger Rees – Fred Hollywell
Caroline Langrishe – Janet Hollywell
Lucy Gutteridge – Belle (Scrooge’s unappreciated fiancée)
Nigel Davenport – Silas Scrooge (Ebenezer’s and Fan’s cruel father)
Mark Strickson – Young Ebenezer Scrooge
Joanne Whalley – Fan Scrooge (Ebenezer’s beloved sister and Fred’s mother)
Timothy Bateson – Mr. Fezziwig

Trailer: I couldn’t find a trailer probably because this was made for TV but this is a highlight reel:

Differences- This version is very good but it doesn’t take any risk.  It keeps it pretty close to the book with no backstory or delving more into Scrooge’s choices and why he became the way he was (aside from the normal past stuff in the book). As I like the book I don’t have a problem with that.  I’m fine either way.

scott scrooge2

The biggest difference is Scott is a very light hearted Scrooge.  He laughs a lot more than other Scrooge’s I’ve seen.  This is not in the book.  As I shared in my Disney review Dickens describes Scrooge in very harsh terms:

” Scrooge! a squeezing, wrenching, grasping, scraping, clutching, covetous, old sinner! Hard and sharp as flint, from which no steel had ever struck out generous fire; secret, and self-contained, and solitary as an oyster. The cold within him froze his old features, nipped his pointed nose, shrivelled his cheek, stiffened his gait; made his eyes red, his thin lips blue; and spoke out shrewdly in his grating voice. A frosty rime was on his head, and on his eyebrows, and his wiry chin. He carried his own low temperature always about with him; he iced his office in the dog-days; and didn’t thaw it one degree at Christmas.”

I mean he has thin lips and rooms get colder when he enters them.  The laughter is certainly mocking in tone so it is still wicked but in a lighter more subtle way than other versions.  Here’s a screencap I took of the beginning of the movie when he is talking to Fred.

scott smilingLooks like quite a jolly bloke.  I realize he was smiling about the wrong things but it does seem to weaken his repentance at the end when he isn’t as bad to begin with. But I don’t mind it.  It’s just different.

Strengths- All the performances are good.  David Warner is great and warm as Cratchit and Frank Finlay is very scary and effective as Marley.

bob 19842marley scott

The other major strength is the sets.  It feels like England.  Every detail from the turkeys and geese that go as high as the building at the poulters to the street lamps and carolers.  This attention to detail is particularly impressive considering it was made for TV (we saw in my last post the quality of made for TV nowdays…).


It is also very strict to the book as far as the plot.  So if you are a purist you will enjoy it.  I like traditional telling’s and more creative so this is great with me.  And like I said with such likable performances it is easy to be engaged throughout.

Past, Present, and Future don’t really do anything new or take any risks with the story but it’s a great story so it isn’t needed.

scott past scott present

The scenes with the Cratchit’s are particularly good and warm.  It feels like an actual family and Mrs Cratchit and Tiny Tim are wonderful.

Scott is very good in the ending, both the penitence and the Crazy Scrooge segments.  When Present leaves him he justifies his behavior for a few lines and then realizes he has been left alone and it seems to be the first time he has recognized his loneliness and it frightens him.

This is a Scrooge that is more misapplying his energy than a covetous sinner who is frightened by poverty.  I always saw Scrooge as being more motivated by that fear but in this one it is more a love of business, being smarter than everyone else,  and a lack of courage (he says that to Fred) that leads him to his unhappy lot. It’s a different and interesting take on the story.

Weaknesses- Well, there are two big weaknesses.  Even though Scott is very good he is a very American Scrooge.  He makes no attempt at a British accent and sounds like he should be leading Americans to war as Patton not giving orders at the stock exchange in London.  Everyone around him is British including his young self so it is very distracting.  He must have just not been able to do a convincing British accent.

It’s a little puzzling when they had any number of British actors they could have selected.  They could have even had Laurence Olivier do it.

The other weakness is the music. It is very annoying and distracting with a sharp electronic sound to it (I’m talking about the score not the sections of carols).  At certain scenes especially with Marley it is so loud and shrill I had to turn down the volume on my TV.  It belongs in a thriller not an 19th century period piece.  I realize Christmas Carol is a ghost story but it just didn’t work for me at all.

But those are two relatively minor quibbles to a very strong film.  It is definitely in my top 5 versions and one I reach for every year when I just want the traditional version, no strings attached.  I am sure you and your family will enjoy it too.

7 thoughts on “Scrooge 10: A Christmas Carol (1984)

  1. It’s my favourite, by far….and what you quoted as weaknesses is in my eyes the biggest strength of the adaptation. Okay, I admit, I wouldn’t be bothered by the accent, plus the DVD I own has for some reason no English sound, but Scott’s performance is perfect in my eyes, because it is so subtle. And I think his change is more believable exactly because he is mostly a cynic.

    I love the music! Especially the music they picked, but also the scores for the more suspenseful scenes. It makes me shudder just by listening to them, and therefore puts me in exactly the right mood for those scenes. And boy, are they well done. They strike exactly the right balance.

    High points of this adaptation is for me the way they handled the Belle story (especially the part in which he says that he nearly followed her, and the ghost says that “nearly” is an empty word).

    Honestly, it is in a lot of ways like the Mickey version…if those two were not more or less from the same year, I would have thought that one version was heavily influenced by the other. The emphasis on Scrooge being the one who choose this kind of life, that he ruins the holidays for himself because he isn’t ready to participate in anything, aso.

    I think this one strikes the perfect balance between being faithful to the book, and being an entertaining adaptation. It makes me laugh at the right places, it makes shudder, and it touches my heart.

    1. It is very entertaining film. We will have to agree to disagree on the music though. I found it very grating and all wrong for the type of film it was. But like I said they are more minor foibles.
      As far as the accent there is a Jane Eyre with William Hurt where he is also very American Rochester and I still like it so it’s not a deal breaker for me just a minor weakness that takes me out of the story from time to time.
      I really like the take on it. Some people like a more dramatic transformation because it’s more of a religious conversion like say Paul’s conversion in the Bible from a sinner to a saint through embracing Christ (or Christmas). Others like a more subtle one than is in the book. I can appreciate both styles. The acting and sets are great in this. Did you see that wall of geese? Amazing they had such a budget for a TV movie.

      I’m glad you mentioned the Belle segments because they are very good. He justifies his actions towards her to the near end. It isn’t until he truly feels alone that he panics. That is an interesting take.

      It’s a great version!

      1. I like how slowly is more gentle personality shines through (for example when he really wants to stick around for the game), but still has to get dragged every step and keeps arguing for his way of life – but is still pretty much redeemed by the point the last ghost turns up (and the design of it is awesome!),

        I also like the scene with the guy who lost his job and is now living with his family under the bridge.

    1. Yeah if push comes to shove I prefer the more dramatic turnarounds but I like this too. Room in my heart for many Scrooge’s. 🙂

Leave a Reply