My Top 10 Christmas Carol Films

Merry Christmas Eve you guys! I thought I would share with you all my top 10 favorite versions of Christmas Carol.

Of course if you followed Scrooge Month last year you know I love Christmas Carol.  It’s one of my favorite books and it’s hard to make a version I dislike (although not impossible.  I’m talking to you Ghost of Girlfriends Past).

What I love about Christmas Carol is the message of redemption, which is the true message of Christmas.  There are no lost causes and that is because of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ.  That is the lesson which Scrooge learns and I find it very moving.  In the end it is a message about hope and that’s what I want to see around the holidays. I write more of my thoughts of Christmas Carol in this blog post:

Anyway, my top 10 Christmas Carol Adaptations

a_christmas_carol_the_musical_advertisement10. Christmas Carol: A Musical– Not a perfect film but I think worth a watch.  I like the music from Alan Menken and  some of the fleshing out of the character of Scrooge is a cool take on it.

A_Christmas_Carol 20099. Disney’s Christmas Carol–  I know a lot of people don’t like it but I do.  There are silly moments but I appreciate the emotion they get right and how accurate it is to the book.

blackadder poster8.  Black Adder Christmas Carol- This hilarious special subverts the Scrooge story by convincing a poor sap to be bad instead of good! The writing is so on point and had me cracking up especially anything with the Queen of England.   Great performances from Rowan Atkinson, Hugh Laurie, Stephen Fry, Jim Broadbent and more. Scrooged_film_poster7.  Scrooged- a comedic version of Christmas Carol that pokes a lot of fun at media and particularly network TV.  It’s definitely a lose adaptation but it makes me laugh and has good performances throughout.

magoo theater actor6. Mr Magoo’s Christmas Carol- This is the only Mr Magoo I have seen but I like this version.  The animation is beautiful with a Hirschfeld quality to it and the music by Jule Styne and Bob Merrill elevate the special higher than it might otherwise be.

mickey blu-ray5. Mickey’s Christmas Carol–  A fun exercise for Disney having their characters playing other characters which we would see again in Prince and Pauper and a few other shorts in the 90s.  This does a great job introducing kids to the Christmas Carol story.  My only complaint is I wish they had made it a feature film instead of a short because a lot is left out.

christmas-carol-1999-patrick-stewart-scrooge-desmond-barrit-ghost-of-christmas-present4. Christmas Carol (Patrick Stewart version)- One of the most accurate versions with Patrick Stewart perfectly capturing the Scrooge described in the book.  Extremely well made especially for a made for TV movie and includes scenes almost always left out, which I appreciate like the Lighthouse sequence.

scott scrooge3. A Christmas Carol (1984)- I have a few little nitpicks with Scott’s accent and the music but other than that a great version.  Scott is great in the emotional scenes and the production feels earthy like what you imagine London might have been like in the 1850s.

Muppet_christmas_carol2. Muppet Christmas Carol– The best version by far for kids IMO. You have Gonzo sharing a lot of the text from the novel.  Michael Caine plays it straight with the Muppets and is believable in the more intense moments.  I love the songs and some of the more creative touches like having Statler and Waldorf play Jacob Marley.  Their song is great! My favorite Muppets movies are when they take on literature.  This and Muppet Treasure Island are actually my favorite Muppet movies.

1951poster1.  Scrooge (A Christmas Carol 1951)–  Starring Alastair Sim this version stands above the rest just on production values alone.  The cinematography is stunning, directing innovative, acting from Sims and others is wonderful and I appreciate some of the creative risks they took.  They flesh out Scrooge’s backstory a bit without taking it too far, which I  liked.  To me it has everything you could want in a Christmas Carol movie.

I hope you all have a Merry Christmas!  Thanks for your support for the blog this year.  God bless us everyone!

Scrooge 28: Scrooge (Seymour Hicks 1935)

Before I start this is another movie that was colorized at the library. Colorization of classic black and white films is an absolute atrocity. You lose all the shadows, light, nuances the cinematographer and director worked so hard to get. Instead you get something that looks drawn on and adds nothing to the story.
To me it is as offensive as if I were to go up to a Van Gogh and say ‘I don’t like how you can’t see the images completely. I’m going to fix it’. Let the artists visions stand as they created it. Do not alter it!!!
I would rather not watch a movie than see it in a colorized version. I thought that was over with VHS tapes but I’ve learned from this project that it continues. It’s outrageous!

1935-xmas-humbug-scroogeI’m nearing the end of my Scrooge series so if there are versions you would like me to review let me know.  Tomorrow I am going to see it at the local theater- Hale Center Theater Orem and greatly looking forward to that.  They do a great job and the man has been playing Scrooge for over a decade and is better than any film version I have seen.

Let’s talk briefly about the 1935 version with Seymour Hicks.  We have already reviewed a version with Hicks in my review of the silent movies.In the 19113 version Hicks plays Scrooge as a violent character who looks like a bum, more of a Frankenstein creature than a businessman.

Here that is a tempered a bit but we still have the rumpled hair and the messy look.

1935-xmas-solicitorsThis is not a very successful movie but it isn’t terrible so if you are curious go for it.  Otherwise skip.

Scrooge- Seymour Hicks is a grumpy, Frankenstein kind of creature here but not as intensely violent as in 1913. He keeps the same expression throughout the movie and I didn’t get a feeling of change or redemption.

Donald Cathrop is very good as Bob Cratchit.  They show Tim’s body in this version and when Bob is grieving over his son it is moving.

1935 cratchitDifferences-

This is one of the few versions that includes the lighthouse/ship carol scene with Present (Stewart is the only other one I remember seeing it in).

They skip over a lot not showing you him and Fan or the Fezziwigs and jump to Belle watching Scrooge not give a loan extension to a young couple.  It left me wanting more and wishing they had changed things around.

There is also a strange scene where we see the King and Queen of England dining with their friends with the poor people outside.  They then all sing God Save the Queen.  It didn’t make any sense for the story except to make British audience members happy I guess.

Another big difference is you don’t see either Present or Future, just a shadow.  We know from the earlier silent films that they could make ghosts but chose not too here which is strange? It just doesn’t work.

You don’t see Marley either, just the door open and shut and Scrooge talking to a chair.

1935-xmas-marleyStrengths- Some of the cinematography is nice with the black and white shadows.  The acting is fine. The music is fine.

Weaknesses- The way they do the ghosts does not work. Scrooge still has that Frankenstein creature look which I don’t like.  He’s a businessman and should look like one.

The Pawn Shop scene at the end goes on way too long and feels more like a low grade horror movie than a respected literary adaptation.

So overall I am not a fan of this adaptation.  Like I said earlier if you are curious check it out.  If not a definite pass.


Scrooge 22: Blackadder’s Christmas Carol

blackadder poster

And now we have a very unique offering for Scrooge Month, all the way from Great Britain- The Blackadders Christmas Carol.

This is a completely hilarious riff on the Christmas Carol story but unlike Scrooged it completely subverts the narrative of Christmas Carol which might annoy me in lesser-able hands, but the jokes are plentiful and they nail  it every time. I laughed my head off.  Seriously one of the funniest things I’ve seen in years.

The gist behind the special is the Blackadder played by Rowan Atkinson is constantly taken advantage of by people because ‘he’s the nicest man in town’.  Much to the chagrin of his assistant Baldrick, a parade of people come into his office and take money and items from him including his Christmas tree and chicken. Pauline Melville as Mrs Scratchit is particularly funny begging for her Tiny Tim son who is clearly not so tiny.


Miriam Margolyes and Jim Broadbent are very funny as Prince Albert and Queen Victoria.  Robbie Coltrane from Harry Potter is Spirit of Christmas and the way he does his ‘magic’ is a riot.  Hugh Laurie, Stephen Fry, Miranda Richardson, Tony Robinson, Pauline Melville all at the top of their comedic games.


Coltrane takes Blackadder to the Past with a diva queen and then goes into the future with a sci-fi world and it’s so strange and hilarious.

It’s the writing that makes this so funny.  You get lines like “I want a present! Give me something nice and shiny! And if you don’t, I’ve got something nice and shiny for you and it’s called an axe”

or blackadder hugh laurie

“Baldrick, you wouldn’t see a subtle plan if it painted itself purple and danced naked on top of a harpsichord, singing “Subtle plans are here again!” blackadder_1


“It’s a fist. It’s for hitting people with. (Punches Baldrick) And the great thing is, you can use it again and again! (hits Baldrick again)”blackadder future


“Yes! Unless I’m very much mistaken, you’re the winner of the ‘Round Britain Shortest Fattest Dumpiest Woman Competition. And for her to be accompanied by the winner of this year’s Stupidest Accent Award is really quite overwhelming” (said to Queen Victoria and Prince Albert!).

The whole point of the story is to show Blackadder that the mean people have all the fun.  What a clever and humorous subversion of the classic story.  At least I thought it was very funny.

That gives you an idea.  It’s kind of like Monty Python type humor, very dry and sardonic.

Here’s a clip from when they go into the future.  Ha!

If that looks like your style of humor you will love it.  If not than skip it.  I laughed my head off!

Oh and if you are a hulu plus member you can stream the entire Blackadder series.

Scrooge 21: An American Christmas Carol

american corlAmericans should all feel a little bit bad for Henry Winkler.  Why you ask?  Well, he is a Yale educated actor with loads of classical training and his biggest hit was spending 10 years on a TV show playing the Fonz.  This was the smooth talking, leather jacket wearing guy who could always get the girls and teach Richie Cunningham how to be cool.

Winkler has always had a good sense of humor about his glory days but he did try even back in then to do more dramatic work.  One such example was an American Christmas Carol made in 1979 for ABC Television.

And while he and the production put forth a good effort, in the end I can’t really recommend the picture.  It isn’t terrible just kind of slow with poor production values and some odd choices that bothered me.

The new take on the story is it is set in small town America in the 1930’s.  This would be fine but then they use a whole bunch of Canadian actors to play the parts.  That annoyed me a little bit.  I mean if you are going to have all Canadians in your cast call it a A Canadian Christmas Carol!  (I just can’t get the accents I want in Christmas Carol it seems unless your name is Alistair Sim!).   They also change all the names around and have characters refer to the Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens.  They are familiar with the story and it gets a little meta when Winkler’s character is talking to one of the ghosts about the ghosts who visited Scrooge ‘it’s not going to work you know’


Here is an old television promo for it.  You only need to watch the first minute or so of this video.


Henry Winkler Benedict Slade
Dorian Harewood Matt Reeves
Susan Hogan Helen Brewster
Cec Linder Auctioneer
RH Thomson Thatcher
David Wayne Merrivale
Michael Wincott Choir Leader
William Bermender Orphan
Brett Matthew Davidson Orphan
Christopher Crabb Tim
Williiam Ballantyne Minister
Tammy Bourne Sarah Thatcher
Chris Cragg Jon Thatcher
James Douglas Sam Perkins
Arlene Duncan Jennie Reeves


Scrooge- Winkler is fine with his performance but the writing, makeup and direction don’t do him any favors . I can tell he is trying but they make Slade (that’s the Scrooge characters name in this) kind of like Prince John in Robin Hood.  I mean this guy is a bad dude and you guys know I like the more villainous Scrooge’s best.  Here’s the difference in the book Scrooge is able to be a miser because he does not interact with others.  He doesn’t even know the smallest detail about his own clerk.  As he points out to the Benefactor his ‘occupation consumes him’.

In this version Scrooge is a Repot man which means at the beginning he goes from house to house repossessing items from people (on Christmas Eve no less).  This feels almost Gestapo mean. Especially when we get a scene where he confiscates all the books of a store and rips them out from the bindings . It made me practically physically ill to see those beautiful books destroyed like that.  He also repossess a piano from the orphanage that he grew up in until he was adopted.

american 1st edition

Differences-  There are almost too many to mention them all.  Of course, we have the change in setting and time.  Scrooge was an orphan rescued by a man named Mr Brewster who teaches him how to work with wood and build furniture.  (This is all seen by Past who is the man from the bookstore seen above).

Slade grows up and wants to implement the moving assembly line to make chairs and Brewster thinks it isn’t right to make such a shoddy product.  It’s another movie where darn old capitalism is the villain.  It’s like the ‘Gold, gold, gold’ song in Pocahontas.  Groan.  Dickens is so much more subtle.  He does not condemn the earning of money but just a man who has removed Christ and other people from his life.

The Marley character is actually a teacher or mentor to Scrooge and teaches him ‘the ways of business’ and his name is Mr Latham.  His scene is fairly forgettable.  It’s kind of like the Mr Jorkin bit in Alistair Sim but in that case Jorkin was more of a secondary influence not a mentor.

cratchit winkler

Slade fires his clerk Bob Thatcher because he suggests to him that a good business investment might be opening up the old mill that Mr Brewster used to own.  Slade’s reaction seems extreme and it turns out that Thatcher’s son Jon needs to go to Australia to see a doctor for his condition.

All of the ghosts are people Slade confiscated possessions from earlier in the film, which could have been clever but never quite works.

The rest of the story is what you would expect until Future comes. They cast Dorian Harewood as the last ghost and he is a wonderful actor but in an all white movie it bothered me a little bit that the only black man we see is the part that is usually a grim reaper type.  It’s such an offensive racial caricature to have the angelic white people and the token looming grimacing black man.  Future isn’t a villain per say but he is usually symbolic of death and it just annoyed me.  (It’s made even worse that when Future is introduced Slade’s radio goes bonkers and starts playing hip hop music…Groan.

Also in Future there is an auction where Slade’s possessions are bought by vengeful townsfolk and then burned in a big fire.  How is that the Christmas spirit to stoop to Slade’s level?  They burn things that could be used by people, could help people which is almost as bad as Scrooge destroying the books. The Finney version made the same mistake.  Christmas is supposed to make people kind and forgiving, not vengeful and vitriolic.

future winkler

Strengths- The strengths are the acting.  Like I said, Winkler tries his darndest.  It’s a shame he wasn’t given better writing, makeup and direction.

The sets and costumes are fine and there are some nice messages throughout.  I like what they were trying to do but it just doesn’t work.

Weaknesses- There are so many problems.  Mainly it creates a tonal problem when we have Slade interacting with people, taking their things and destroying books (I hated to watch that!).  Scrooge is supposed to be making only Bob and maybe Fred’s life miserable.  Other than that he is terrified of poverty and the world, not out there taking pianos from orphanages. It’s just an entirely different character and one that is way less likely to be moved by the 3 visits.

Also, I had a problem with the casting of Future and the way that was handled but mostly it is slow and feels dare I say it, a little boring.  All the stuff about the moving assembly line and modernization dragged and took us away from Christmas and the message of the story.

So yeah this one I would say skip. Poor, poor Henry Winkler.


Scrooge 20: Stingiest Man in Town 1978


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.

stingiest humbugAs 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.

bob cratchit stingiest stingiest man past 1978-toon-mrs-fezziwig stingiest marley

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?)

1978-toon-old-joeThe 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.

1978-toon-childrenThis 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.

stingiest man cartoon fred

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!

Scrooge 19: Scrooge- Albert Finney

scrooge-albert-finney-original-soundtrack-cd-dce1aFor 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

The cast is honestly fine in the film. It’s not my favorite but it’s not the reason it didn’t work.
albert finney

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.

finney drunkAlso there are times when Finney seems to be playing Quasimodo more than Scrooge.  He is a sharp, capable businessman not someone with special needs that is hunched over and garbling words.

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.

finney cratchitThe scenes with Isabelle and the songs there are fine, and Finney actually plays the young Scrooge which I doesn’t happen very often.

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 .

albert finney pastThey also make some strange casting choices like Edith Evans as Ghost of Christmas Past.  Everything from her costume to her demeanor did not fit that ghost at all.

Kenneth More is ok as Present but again I don’t like that he gets Scrooge drunk.

finney present spread

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.

finney mob

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. finney future bones

finney grave  finney grave2 finney hell finney hell2 finney chains finney chains2

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.

Scrooge 17: Christmas Carol 1938 Reginald Owen

owen posterOther than Alistair Sim this version with Reginald Owen of Christmas Carol is probably the most well known traditional retelling.  It’s a fine version but not one of my favorites mostly for a few odd choices it makes.

You guys know I am pretty open minded when it comes to interpretations of this story.  It’s a novella so every filmmaker is going to make it their own but in this case I feel the changes slow down the picture and even though it is only an hour and 9 minutes it feels long.

Trailer: (Introduction by Lionel Barrymore who was famous for his Scrooge on Broadway and originally offered the part )


Reginald Owen as Ebenezer Scrooge
Gene Lockhart as Bob Cratchit
Kathleen Lockhart as Mrs. Cratchit
Terry Kilburn as Tiny Tim Cratchit
Barry MacKay as Fred (Scrooge’s Nephew)
Lynne Carver as Bess (Fred’s fiance)
Bunny Beatty as Martha Cratchit (uncredited)
June Lockhart as Belinda Cratchit (uncredited)
John O’Day as Peter Cratchit (uncredited)
Leo G. Carroll as Marley’s Ghost
Ann Rutherford as Spirit of Christmas Past
Lionel Braham as Spirit of Christmas Present
D’Arcy Corrigan as Spirit of Christmas Future

owen scroogeScrooge- Reginald Owen is fine as Scrooge.  He is kind of like the Scott version, a bit softer than the best versions in my opinion but perfectly fine performance.

Differences: (There are a lot in this one)

It takes a long time to get to the spirits.  Again it’s only 69 minutes and it takes almost 30 to get to Past.

Big difference is Scrooge fires Cratchit because of a snowball fight and his wanting the day off.  Cratchit then spends the rest of the movie overcompensating to his family and lying about it.  I wonder if this was a Depression era influence? Losing your job may have seemed like a tougher thing than having a terrible one?

We also learn that Fred and his girl Bess are not married because of financial worries.  They hope Scrooge will help them to be married.  This doesn’t really make sense as he is the only child and surely some money from Scrooge’s father would have gone to Fan? Given Bess is a simple girl with no dowry I don’t see why marriage would have been a problem.  It seems a strange problem to create for the story.


Another difference is when Marley comes he waves at 3 men to come and get the intruder.  Again this just stalls the story and hurts the momentum.

marley owenPast takes Scrooge to see his childhood self, a part which can be skipped on occasion.  And we actually see Scrooge crying for a long bit, which I found moving (it’s only like 5 seconds but it feels long and heart wrenching).

owen past

Then we get to Fezziwig’s and Scrooge is still a young lad so there is no Belle romance, no betrayal.  Again a strange choice. In this film Scrooge’s betrayal is to Fred and Bess not to a love of his life. Not quite as compelling.

present owen

Present comes and instead of going to Cratchit’s or Fred’s right away we go to church.  I normally like when the religious elements of the story are highlighted but this scene doesn’t really add anything but for Scrooge to see that Bess and Fred really are in love and to get some pretty music (a great boys choir sings).

Then we have Fred and boys skating outside the church and more with Fred and Bess.

And Present takes him to the Cratchit’s where we get a long sequence of them getting the goose, cooking, eating, talking.  Cratchit tells Martha he has been sacked. It just feels slow.

The last major difference is after Present instead of immediately meeting Future Scrooge is back in his bed smiling and there is a montage of his daydreams about Christmas and how wonderful it is.

owen future

This feels too soon and makes the final victory at the cemetery less convincing because he already seemed converted a few minutes earlier.  If he has already decided to change and embrace Christmas than why make him go to the cemetery?

Strengths- I don’t want to be too hard on it because it’s not unwatchable by any means.  The acting is good, it is shot well and the restoration is clear and crisp in the version I saw.

The music is fine, all the sets look good and it has a pleasant feel about it. I enjoyed watching it but it just isn’t my favorite.

The Tiny Tim is excellent and has a beautiful singing voice and there is really only one song ‘O Come All Ye Faithful’ sung at the church and I enjoyed the number.

Reginald Owens pours his heart into the role and he is fine as Scrooge.

owens cratchits

Weaknesses- I said most of them.  They just added the wrong things which make it feel slow even though it is not a long movie.  Losing Belle in favor of Bess and Fred doesn’t work and makes the conversion feel less personal to Scrooge.

Like I said you can tell it is a lovingly produced film.  They took some chances and I respect that but for me most of them didn’t quite work.  Still, if you end up watching it you won’t be miserable.  You’ll enjoy it just fine.

Scrooge 5: Scrooge 1951 (Alistair Sim)

1951posterBefore beginning this project I asked around social media and my friends what their favorite version of Christmas Carol is.  Some mentioned Muppets, Scrooged or other alternative versions but as far as traditional tellings Alistair Sim’s 1951 version came up the most.  It is without a doubt the most critically lauded and with good cause.  I would certainly rank it in my top 5.



Alastair Sim as Ebenezer Scrooge
Kathleen Harrison as Mrs. Dilber
Mervyn Johns as Bob Cratchit
Hermione Baddeley as Mrs. Cratchit
Michael Hordern as Jacob Marley/Marley’s Ghost
George Cole as Young Ebenezer Scrooge
John Charlesworth as Peter Cratchit
Michael Dolan as The Ghost of Christmas Past
Francis de Wolff as The Ghost of Christmas Present
C. Konarski as Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come
Rona Anderson as Alice (Belle)
Carol Marsh as Fan
Brian Worth as Fred
Miles Malleson as Old Joe
Ernest Thesiger as the Undertaker
Glyn Dearman as Tiny Tim
Roddy Hughes as Fezziwig
Hattie Jacques as Mrs. Fezziwig
Louise Hampton as Laundress
Peter Bull as First Businessman, Narrator
Eliot Makeham as Mr. Snedrig
Hugh Dempster as Mr. Groper
Richard Pearson as Mr. Tupper
Jack Warner as Mr. Jorkin

Before beginning the review I wanted to speak out against the colorized version I saw at my local library.  Those colorized versions of classic black and white films are an absolute atrocity.  It looks terrible, like a pastel crayon was put to the film and ruin the gorgeous lighting and shadows we only get with black and white.  I’d rather you not watch the movie at all than watch a colorized version.

Moving on.


Scrooge- As I said Alistair Sim is Scrooge in this version.  He was a comedic British actor and evidently at the time Dickens films were all the rage.  Leonard Maltin does a fascinating introduction to the version I watched where he said David Copperfield, Great Expectations, Old Curiosity Shop and more had all been done and are considered masterpieces.  I will definitely be looking up those films because the shots looked gorgeous.

A comedic, yet still serious, actor like Sim is perfect for Scrooge because it creates a subtle performance that is hard to get when it is just anger, no wit behind the barbs and attacks. He is excellent at resisting yet being moved by the visits all the way till Future.  He feels he is too old to change and should just be done away with rather than try. That felt like a very human response.


Now we have to remember that the original text is a novella and so when taken to the big screen it is going to need some fleshing out in certain sections.  Each version adds to it in different ways and so far I haven’t seen a version that felt outrageous or so off keeping with the story that it angered me.


In this version we spend a lot of time with Past played by Michael Dolan.  We see Fan who is older than Scrooge in this version.  Scrooge’s Mother died in childbirth, which is why his father hates the sight of him.  There is a moment when Scrooge realizes he has done this same thing to Fan’s son and it is devastating.  We see Fan rescue Scrooge and then on her deathbed Scrooge storms out before he can hear her pleading with him to watch over her boy.  Again, another devastating moment very well portrayed by Sim.

We also get the Fezziwig’s and the girlfriend this time named Alice.  Some do not care for a man named Mr Jorkin played by Jack Warner.  He woes Scrooge away from Fezziwig and then embezzles money from the company, only to have Scrooge and Marley rescue the business and claim 51% of ownership as a result making ‘Scrooge and Marley.

The reason I do not have a problem with this is because the book does not tell you how Scrooge went from Fezziwig to losing Belle and being consumed with money.  We just know a new love has captured his heart and that he ‘fears the world too much’.  Something had to happen to have made him fearful.

He was a businessman so it is natural to assume he did business with all kinds of unsavory characters, especially the further down the line he got.  In fact, he compromises his judgement working with Jorkin once and as is often the case once leads to another, to another.  He alone is still responsible for becoming the man he becomes.  There are after all other men including Fezziwig who chose to not take the Jorkin bait.

So no that doesn’t bother me.  In fact, I found it an interesting take on the story. Like I said something has to have happened to have made him grow cold to the world.

The rest of the tale is pretty standard.  They do make a bigger deal of Mrs Dilber who is his charmwoman (servant).  She is one of the women who sells his things in the pawn shop scene and was played by a well known actress Kathleen Harrison who is very funny in the crazy scrooge segments (and so is Sim).

1951scrooge and cratchit

Strengths- All the acting is wonderful . Sim is great.  I love Mervyn Johns as Bob Cratchit, and Michael Hordem is my favorite Marley.  The scene of Marley’s ghost is so well done.  The music by Richard Addinsell is perfectly paced to build momentum towards our reveal.  The special effects of the era still look good and I love the way Marley looks tired and worn down.  It’s like every word is an effort.


This version also remembers the Christian element to the novella.  To Dickens, Scrooge just hasn’t ignored a pleasant holiday but he has ignored Jesus Christ and His gift.  At least to me, the book is so clear that Tiny Tim remembers who died on the cross and his foil Scrooge does not.

alistair and present

Present tells Scrooge “‘the child born in bethlehem. He does not live in men’s heart one  day a year but in all the days . You have chosen not to seek him in your heart; therefore, you shall come with me and seek him in the hearts of men of goodwill”.  That’s a message so often forgotten in most versions.

Because of the religious themes there is a real sense of repentance not just remorse at the end. As a Christian I find the ending very moving and definitely puts this version at the top of my watch list every season.

Like look at this shot where we see just Future's hand and then the look of horror on Scrooge's face.  It is stunning.
Like look at this shot where we see just Future’s hand and then the look of horror on Scrooge’s face. It is stunning.

The cinematography is uniformly strong with gorgeous shadows ,lighting and atmosphere.  They never go for the easy angle or uninteresting shot.  It reminds me of watching a Hitchcock film, that rich in cinematography and direction.   The acting is great all around and like I said the music is one of the best with carols coming at just the right moments (to emphasize the religious themes of repentance and atonement of Christ using carols).

Weaknesses- There aren’t that many.  But if I had to nitpick the past section maybe goes on a bit too long but it’s only an 86 minute movie so not really.  The Cratchit’s are great.  Tiny Tim is great.  The scene with Alice as an adult at the poorhouse is very moving.

I guess it is not the most kid friendly version with a lot of dialogue and definite scares but I don’t see that as a weakness because there are so many that are kid friendly (as my recent entries have shown!)

All in all a definite holiday classic that is a favorite of most film lovers and casual holiday moviewatchers alike and for good reason.

Scrooge 4: Barbie in A Christmas Carol

Barbie_in_A_Christmas_CarolOk everyone get your girlie on and let’s do Christmas Carol Barbie style.  I mentioned the Barbie movies in my post Consider Your Audience.  They, along with the Tinker Bell movies, do a good job producing content for the vastly underserved girl 4-8 market.  A lot is made for both boys and girls and of course you have the occasional Frozen and Tangled but I’m glad these series exist for girls looking for good stories they can enjoy.

Barbie in A Christmas Carol is the 14th Barbie film and was made in 2008.  It does not have the production value of some of the earlier films like Barbie as Rapunzel 2002 or Barbie of Swan Lake 2003.  My favorite is Barbie in the 12 Dancing Princesses 2006.  But this is passable animation for a direct to video release. It’s the very stark, low cost CG (and I would prefer hand drawn) but I didn’t mind it.


The voice work and music is always good in the Barbie movies and is here; although no big names except Kelly Sheridan returns as Barbie. They take a few different touches to make the story work within the Barbie world but unlike Smurfs the essence of the story is there.

Differences: Obviously big difference is it is in Barbie world and all the key characters are women. We start out with little sister Kelly not wanting to go to the charity ball and wanting to stay at home (who has a charity ball on Christmas day but nonetheless).

kelly and barbieKelly says she hates Christmas so Barbie tells her sister a story about a Victorian opera diva named Eden. Barbie then becomes our narrator for the Christmas Carol story.


Scrooge: Eden Starling is a diva opera singer who has been raised by her Aunt Marie to practice and shut the world out.  She has decided to make her team, including her best friend Catherine (Cratchit in the story) work over Christmas for their new show.  She has airs and doesn’t respect anyone even her best friend who she accuses of working on another show on the side (Catherine is a costume designer).

Aunt Marie has a saying “in a selfish world, only the selfish survive” and this has become Eden’s mantra. So it is no doubt a surprise when Jacob Marley is in fact Aunt Marie.  I thought it was kind of clever that Marie does not have cash boxes on her chains but mirrors.

aunt marie barbieShe tells her she was wrong about the world being selfish and that it is good and loving.

Past comes and is a big Eden Starling fangirl which I thought was kind of clever and funny.  She takes her back to her childhood when Marie was making her practice on Christmas but she sneaks out and spends the day with Catherine.

pastMarie is definitely a beast and a pretty chilling character.  It was a little bit of an interesting take to have Jacob and Cratchit characters in this story so intimately a part of the entire story not just present. I liked that.

barbie presentPresent takes Eden to see her colleagues angry at Eden for making them work and throwing tomatoes at her.  At first she is outraged and then she see’s Catherine going to her other show.  It turns out it is a choral program for an orphanage.  One of the orphans is named Tammy (Tiny Tim of course). They all love and idolize Eden.

barbie futureFuture shows Eden as a poor washed up singer.  She fired her team for being late on Christmas and then had one disaster after another including a hypnotist that was funny. Catherine has become a famous designer but is bitter and has accepted the ‘in a selfish world, the selfish succeed’ mantra.  I thought that was an interesting take to have Cratchit become Scrooge in the future.  Never seen that before . She can’t bare to see her friend this way and realizes she needs to change.

catherine barbieStrengths- I think fans of the series will enjoy this entry.  It’s about as good a job as could be done in this world with this story.  I liked the voicework and a few of the touches like Aunt Marie and the message about selfishness were effective. The idea of a diva barbie fits and I enjoyed it. I’m glad they went with traditional carols instead of new songs and they are all performed well.  I also thought the idea of Marley being basically Scrooge’s mother and Cratchit being his best friend (girls in this version of course) was interesting.  I also liked the design of Aunt Marie with the mirrors on the chain.

Weaknesses- the animation is strictly on a direct to video level. I am sure some people would find it very garish and ugly.  It is kind of jerky and can be unpleasant at times to look at, but only in moments and then it is good again.  It is certainly not a traditional take on the story but most of the components are there (Marley, Cratchit, Tiny Tim, Spirits) but I’m sure purists would have an issue with it.  There are better Barbie movies but this is in the top half I would say.

It is made to target 4-8 year old little girls and I think it does its job quite well. So if you have a girl in that age range sit down and watch it together.  You will enjoy the holiday memories!