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.

Scrooge 8 and 9: 2 Diva Tales

A_Carol_Christmas_DVD diva christmas carolI’m afraid I have a bit of a confession to make- I like cheesy made for TV movies.  I can’t explain why because they are the junk food of the cinema world.  What can I say every now and then I feel like some junk food movies!  This is particularly true at Christmas.  Most made for TV Christmas movies are syrupy and silly but overall pleasant.  The kind of movies that used to be made all the time and are out of fashion by the bigger studios.  There are times when I don’t want to be challenged but just enjoy a silly movie and romcoms in Hollywood have gotten so vulgar and crass these days that it’s very frustrating.  But at least I still have my Hallmark and Lifetime movies to keep me goey and happy.

So with that said let’s talk about 2 made for TV versions of A Christmas Carol.  I group them together because they are essentially the same movie- A Carol Christmas starring Tori Spelling and A Diva’s Christmas Carol by Vanessa Williams.  They are both technically weak but I enjoy watching them.  Of the two the Diva’s is better but mostly because I’d take a funny Kathy Griffin over Gary Coleman any day.

They are both the story of the Barbie Christmas Carol but that movie is a little more clever with details like mirrors for the Aunt Marley character and lots of traditional Christmas songs sung well.  Plus at least Barbie has animation that while on a direct to DVD level is more interesting than any film-making in either of these TV movies.

So they are both about divas who have let fame get to their heads:

Vanessa Williams plays Ebony, a Whitney Houston type who has forgotten her past as a foster kid who was part of a trio and then became a star.

vanessa williams

Tori Spelling plays Carol Cartman a TV Show host who’s aunt manipulated her career, forcing her to choose fame over friends (this one is really like the Barbie version).

cc tori

Both of them are making their poor beleaguered staff work on Christmas Day and both say ‘bah humbug’ and order people around like slaves. (Must be nice to be a diva sometimes… 😉 ).

Both have assistants that are the Bob Cratchit’s.  Vanessa’s is a man named Bob who she briefly dated but now has a son Tim who is dying. Tori has an assistant named Roberta who has a daughter named Lilly who’s ex is trying to take away from her because of all the hours she works for Tori.

So we get our Marley

For Vanessa she is an ex-bandmate named Marli who died in a car crash played by Chili from the band TLC.  There are some special effects that are pretty good when she shows her ‘real’ face to Ebony.  I also thought her chains were kind of clever.

ganz besonderes Weihnachtsfest, Ein / A Diva's Christmas CarolTori’s Marley is her Aunt Marla who Tori (Carol) always thought had her back but she tells Tori she was wrong.  She comes alive in a picture first and then we see her.  They could have done something more clever with her chains than just a few normal looking necklaces. tori marleyDid Marla have Carol’s back or was she actually out for her own good? Hmmm…

Then we get Past

For Vanessa it is Kathy Griffin who has some funny lines like when her outfit is complimented “last year I had to show Tom Ford all of his Christmas”.  That made me laugh.

diva pastAlso when she see’s the shadows she tells Ebony “these aren’t real people.  It’s like Los Angeles”  That also made me laugh.

Another funny line is “Stop being so hauntable. You skinny witch.  Did you say skinny?” Considering what she had to work with I thought it was pretty good.

We learn from Past that Ebony had a tough road with a mean father, and she was taken away from her brother on Christmas.

tori pastThe Tori version we get the considerable downgrade to Gary Coleman.  He’s actually fine but not as funny as Kathy Griffin.

He gets some jokes at his past.  The main point of Past is to show Tori who her Aunt really was and how she caused her to end things with her philanthropic ex.

diva presentFor Vanessa Present we get John Taylor playing a hard rocker that reminded me of Russell Brand in Get Him to the Greek.

He shows her the dumps her band is staying in and that Bob is about to quit to be with his son who is dying.  He also shows her how Terri her former bandmate is doing.

tori presentIn Tori’s version we have the great William Shatner as Present, and we see Tori’s ex is still doing good, and Roberta’s ex trying to take Lily away.  We also look in on her sister’s family who Roberta buys nicer gifts than the $20 Tori gives her to spend.

We also learn that her aunt Marla’s cohort is trying to change the show to a Jerry Springer like program that focuses on Freaks because sincere stories don’t sell (tell that to Oprah…).  Tori is horrified.

diva futureI thought Future was kind of clever in Vanessa’s version instead of having an actual ghost she stumbles upon a VH1 ‘Behind the Music’ program about the rise and fall of her life.  She then watches as everyone from Bob to her crew hate on her and she finds out about her tragic death.  Given the Diva’s Christmas Carol aired on VH1 I thought it was a funny in-joke and touch.

future toriTori’s Future is a definite letdown from Shatner and is a fairly generic limo driver.  She see’s herself as a washed up has been who everyone hates.

Both films show the characters funerals with nobody attending but the Cratchit’s of the stories.  The endings are also basically the same with them giving their Cratchit assistants raises and helping out the Tim’s.  They both treat their cast and crew better and give money to charity.  Tori ends up back with the ex (spoiler alert!).

Both of these movies fall into the category if my explanation sounds like something you will hate than you will hate them.  If they sound like something you will enjoy than you will enjoy them.  Movies like these are kind of like soap operas.  We all know when watching a soap opera that it is stupid and the acting is terrible but if done with enough camp and silliness than they are entertaining. A guilty pleasure I guess.

So while I can’t recommend them, I must own that I enjoyed watching both of them. (I mean doing a strengths and weaknesses on these films is kind of ridiculous)  It also probably helps that both leading ladies have reputations of being high maintenance and I’ve always liked Tori Spelling since 90210 days.  Vanessa Williams also can sing which helps in those sections.  Diva is definitely better than the Tori film but they are close.

Want a good laugh? Read this article of why Diva’s Christmas Carol is best holiday film ever.

I’m going to have to watch the silent films next to regain any kind of credibility I just lost from this review 😉

Also- the difference between these movies and the All Dogs Go to Heaven Christmas Carol which I hated so much is that wasn’t even fun. These movies know they are terrible and embrace it.  You don’t cast Gary Coleman and William Shatner in your movie if you are trying to make a serious film.  All Dogs is shrill, mean, obnoxious and stupid; whereas, these are just stupid and silly.