For the most part for Scrooge Month if I saw a version I did not care for I let it go and moved on to the next one (animated versions have been rough!). But the Albert Finney version is so iconic that I feel like I need to talk about it. Alas, it is not a favorite of mine. If you like it that is awesome. Sincerely but it took turns that I was not a fan of.
Scrooge is clearly a result of the huge success of Oliver! in 1968. Coming out in 1971 it is a musical version of the Christmas Carol story (like Oliver! was a musical version of Oliver Twist). Just a reminder Oliver! won Best Picture when 2001 Space Odyssey wasn’t even nominated….Oscars is such a joke.
Anyway, the styling and feel of Scrooge feel similar to Oliver but it is not as true to its source material. So, let’s talk about it.
I couldn’t find a trailer but you’ll get an idea from the screen caps and photos I show.
|Albert Finney as Ebenezer Scrooge|
|Alec Guinness as Marley’s ghost|
|Edith Evans as Ghost of Christmas Past|
|Kenneth More as Ghost of Christmas Present|
|Paddy Stone as Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come|
|David Collings as Bob Cratchit|
|Frances Cuka as Mrs. Cratchit|
|Richard Beaumont as Tiny Tim|
|Michael Medwin as Fred, Scrooge’s nephew|
|Mary Peach as Fred’s wife|
|Gordon Jackson as Tom, Fred’s friend|
|Anton Rodgers as Tom Jenkins|
|Laurence Naismith as Fezziwig|
|Kay Walsh as Mrs. Fezziwig|
|Suzanne Neve as Isabel|
Scrooge- At first I kind of liked Albert Finney as Scrooge. I like when his anger is filtered by his work and not just anger at everything and everyone . He is mad at Fred for interrupting his work. Same with the Benefactors. However, when Scrooge meets Present he drinks from the milk of human kindness and for the rest of the movie Finney appears to be half drunk. That kind of inebriation works for the Crazy Scrooge moments but not throughout the whole film.
Strengths- Like I said the cast is pretty good. Alec Guinness is fine as Marley (in the early section at least).
A few of the songs are engaging. I really liked the opening number and the credits sequence a lot. Also David Collings was fine as Bob Cratchit although the Cratchit scenes didn’t quite work for me. Cratchit actually defends Scrooge too much in the toast. It doesn’t feel genuine and the Cratchit’s must feel genuine.
The sets are also pleasant to look at until it takes a turn…
I combined these because they are basically one in the same. There are a lot of problems.
1. It takes too long to get to Past- 40 minutes. Why? Because of the songs. I still hold the best musical version of Christmas Carol is Muppets Christmas Carol and the reason why is because most of it’s songs tell the story. For example, we hear all about Scrooge in the opening number.
In this film the songs, competently written as they might be, stop the narrative. We don’t need a song about how Scrooge hates people. We already know that . Nearly every song tells us things we already know so it slows everything down.
And really Scrooge taking the time to sing a song about how he hates people doesn’t really fit with his character. He is totally absorbed in his work and would want to get back it as soon as possible. Again, in the Muppet version the songs are sung about Scrooge, not from him until the end when Scrooge singing is appropriate .
Kenneth More is ok as Present but again I don’t like that he gets Scrooge drunk.
Then we get to Future and things start going downhill. We get a song called ‘Thank you Very Much’. This is sung by a mob gathered to cheer on the death of Scrooge and the removal of their debts. First of all they will be transferred to someone else. In the book the couple is grateful for a few days respite from the loan, not tearing up loan books.
But even if the loans are forgiven aren’t the people supposed to be an example of the goodness of Christmas? It is only in the slums of the Pawn Shop that we see the glee over Scrooge’s things. Not a mob of people singing with a coffin coming out. That felt so against the tone of the story to me.
Plus, it is awkward because Scrooge thinks they are cheering him on . He says ‘I have labored all my life to be worthy of this demonstration”. I felt bad for Scrooge. Again, he’s a smart businessman and understanding the events of the Future humble him and make him want to change. This just feels uncomfortable and not in keeping with Christmas…
But then it takes another turn. We get the scene with the grave and I thought ‘that’s strange. There are still 20 minutes left in this movie. What else are they going to do?’
Well my friends Scrooge goes to Hell. That’s right H E L L. And who does he see in Hell. Why Jacob Marley of course. (Wasn’t Jacob’s hell to wander the earth and see the joy he could not enjoy?). The special effects are laughable. The sets look like a a cheap haunted house.
Can you believe it? In the world of this story where Scrooge is going to be the head clerk for Lucifer in Hell why would Marley be given the opportunity to come and rescue his friend? And why would he seem happy to see said friend in Hell? Wouldn’t he be a little disappointed that his friend didn’t listen to the Spirits?
The chains are over the top, the oily chain laborers are ridiculous, the whole thing was like something out of an old Ed Wood movie. I sat there stunned at what I was seeing.
Scrooge is terrified at the idea he is the dead man left alone with no mourners. That is enough. If it takes Hell to turn him around is that not a pretty shallow repentance? It’s kind of like if I told you I was going to beat you to death if you didn’t say you were sorry than of course you will say you are sorry.
If I told you how your injury to me had hurt me and how it left you alone and you pondered it and said sorry that is true repentance worthy of change. Anyone would repent if shown Hell.
Maybe other people can overlook this turn the story takes but I could not. So this is definitely one of my personal least favorite versions. I am open to different interpretations. I think I’ve shown that (I even had a laugh at Tori Spelling) but at least those versions kept the basic framework of miser, visitors, recognizing loneliness and despair, and change.
This is like a Wagnerian opera where we are told how awful sin is and how the wicked will be punished without any of the subtlety or heart of a true conversion experience.
So this is a definite skip. On to better versions.