As I have said several times on the blog during Scrooge month I am trying to be positive and so if I completely dislike a version I will skip it. So far the animated versions of Christmas Carol have not been very entertaining (Mickey’s being the exception).
They are pretty much all musicals and the songs aren’t great and they end up feeling boring rather than entertaining.
However, there are a few that while not great have some things to recommend so I’ll cover them. So is the case with the 1978 Stingiest Man in Town. It is actually a remake of a version I’ve actually covered in my Basil Rathborne review.
They kept all the songs including the Santa Claus song which I wish they had skipped but most of the other songs are ok. The animation is done by the Rankin/Bass team who primarily focused on stop motion holiday specials such as Little Drummer Boy, Jack Frost, Rudolph, Frosty the Snowman etc.
Like I said, it’s not a good movie. In fact, in some ways it’s terrible but it did just enough to warrant a review where I wouldn’t feel overwhelmingly negative.
Couldn’t find a trailer but here is the opening song to give you a feel.
Scrooge- Walter Matthau
B.A.H. Humbug- Tom Bosley
Marley- Theodore Bikel
Young Scrooge- Robert Morse
Fred- Dennis Day
Past and Present- Paul Frees
Bob Cratchit– Sonny Melendez.
Scrooge is voiced by Walter Matthau which like George C. Scott is a strange choice because his voice is so American. And why in an animated feature would you cast a different voice for young scrooge? Live action does this because an old actor cannot usually pull off a young look. In animation that isn’t a problem and our voices are basically the same.
So his voice just doesn’t fit Christmas Carol. Plus, I keep waiting for him to tell a joke. I’m so used to Walter Matthau meaning comedy and I know he played grumpy curmudgeons in movies like Grumpy Old Men but it didn’t quite work here.
Differences- Well, the big difference is there is a narrator voiced by Tom Bosley named B.A.H. Humbug (isn’t that hilarious Bah Humbug is his name?). Groan. He is very annoying. Makes Jiminy Cricket look like a seasoned pro.
As I mentioned they also include the Santa Claus song which doesn’t belong in this story. This is a story about Christmas and redemption. Leave Santa Claus to the Santa Claus stories…
Aside from the Santa Claus song the rest of the songs are fine. I’ve certainly heard worse. I can see why they were popular enough from the 1956 version to warrant a reuse. An Old Fashioned Christmas is a pretty good carol and the other songs are decent songs.
There are also segments that feel heartfelt and are pretty accurate to the book and the scenes with Isabel and Scrooge I liked well enough. So the content wasn’t that bad. It’s just the appearance and the voices and a few other odd touches that felt off.
All of these segments were pretty good.
The scenes in the Pawn Shop and with future are very well done and creepy. And aside from the bug and the Santa scene it is fairly accurate to the story so for kids it’s not a terrible way to introduce them to the story (although much better ways out there so why bother?)
The voicecast gives it their all and Theodore Bikel is very good as Marley. Also frequent Rankin/Bass collaborator Paul Frees is very good in his various roles.
Also some of the backdrops and settings are lovingly drawn. It seems hard to believe that many of Rankin/Bass went on to work for Studio Ghiblin and Hiyao Miyazaki. So different!
Well there are a lot. First of all, the animation is just weird. All of the characters look like bobblehead dolls with giant heads and small bodies. It looks so odd.
This is going to sound mean but they look like Sloth from the Goonies. I don’t know why they made that choice in the design?
Also like I said the Santa Claus and Matthau’s American comedic voice is distracting. But there is a heart to all the performances, the story and music that is sincere and pleasant. It just felt weird and I couldn’t get over the look of the human characters. Plus, the addition of B.A.H. Humbug was super lame.
I can picture if you like things that are a little bit strange and you like animation that is odd looking than you might enjoy this. Those are the big hurdles that kept me from enjoying it completely. It wasn’t for me but for a particular type of viewer I think it could be a lot of fun. Maybe I’ve just grown soft because of the bad animated versions I saw. I don’t know. With all its faults, this was at the top of the pack if you can believe it…
Things are looking better than ever for the Disney’s Christmas Carol. Definitely my favorite feature film animated version. Still will be reviewing the Tim Curry version and Mr Magoo’s Christmas Carol also by Rankin/Bass I believe. Both by special request. We will see!
14 thoughts on “Scrooge 20: Stingiest Man in Town 1978”
I haven’t even heard of this one, but Walter Matthau sounds like a good choice for a Scrooge.
He’s fine. Just like Scott he is very American sounding which I dont care for in a Scrooge and I just know that voice for comedy so it’s hard for me to accept but he’s fine
My main issue was with the weird heads on the characters but I didnt hate it. It has its pluses
Nah…the quality of the animation is just not good enough for my taste. And really, what is that with this musical version that it has to be put on screen again and again? No matter how often you do it, the songs will still not add anything to the story.
Isnt it just the twice? If the heads weren’t so strange I wouldn’t have minded the animation but that’s a big if. Heads are a big deal! I think the music is fine except for the Santa song that doesn’t belong. I think Muppets is much better but I know we disagree on that front.
Anyway I didnt hate is so much I felt I shouldn’t review it but when you’ve got much better versions there is no point in watching this one IMO
No, not really….the Muppets version is not for me, and I think that Menken has done better work when it comes to songs imho, but he knows how to use songs to further a story.
Yep. I’m well aware of your feelings on the Muppets. I love it and I do think it is the strongest Scrooge musical, so we will have to agree to disagree on that one. (I’m planning on that being my Christmas Eve review if you were wondering.).
Good thing there is a Scrooge for everyone.
I won’t jump to this movies defense but I found a few things I liked but those weird heads. Don’t get why they designed them that way. I tried to be fair and write an entertaining review.
I agree on the Menken musical. I didn’t hate it. It was tolerable but certainly not his stronger work. But I still think Muppets is better but again agree to disagree on that one.
Anyway, always glad for the comments. Thanks.
But we don’t disagree….the Muppet version might be the best musical adaptation. But for me, there isn’t a truly good version.
Fair enough. I’ll take it! 😉
I wonder if part of it is it is just hard to write original Christmas music. It’s been so done from every angle so it tends to be pretty bad. I like it when they use the traditional carols but new songs almost never work. What I do like about the Muppet songs is they keep the story going. Like Marley and Marley tells us the words of Marley. Whereas other versions have all the talking and then have a song which makes things feel drawn out. Like with the Finney version we’ve just seen Scrooge be mean. We know he hates people. We don’t need to have him sing about hating people. It slows the momentum of the movie and usually makes them cut out parts of the story in order to fit in the songs.
Anyway, it’s a challenge. Even the version I see at my local theater I’m not that crazy for the songs. It seems a hopeless enterprise. 🙂
There is a German stage version which did pretty good with the songs…sadly not really that good with the adaption part. The version has only one Christmas angle which in the end turns out to be Belle, and it’s very…well, a German would say “kitschig”. The version removed most of the gravitas from the story. But the songs on their own might be better, at least I remember liking them more than the ones from the muppet version. Especially that one: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gbwb5GdgqGI
The part is about the population of London singing about how Scrooge suddenly becomes a nice man again, and what he does for various people who really needed help. I like it because the sound is still very similar to traditional Christmas carols, and it naturally furthers the story by describing how much Scrooge changed.
Cool. Will check it out
Well and B.A.H Humbug has to be one of the worst puns and characters I’ve ever heard of. Groan…