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.
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.
Looks 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.
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.
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.