A and A's Movie A Day

Watching movies until we run out.

A Christmas Carol (1984)

December 22, 2010

A Christmas Carol (1984)

I often jokingly refer to this movie as “George C Scott in: Man Getting Hit By Football” but the truth of the matter is that this is by far my favorite adaptation of the classic Dickens Christmas morality play. There are a great many interpretations of this subject matter, from the Disney cartoon (origin of Scrooge McDuck,) to the musical Scrooge starring Albert Finney, to Scrooged – the comical Bill Murray take on the subject, to the wonderful Blackadder Christmas Carol, to the Muppet version we’ve already reviewed for our project. I have not watched Bob Zemeckis’ 3-D CGI version (indeed I somewhat dread it.) Of course there are countless serious dramatic versions of the story as well. Patrick Stewart. Alastair Sim. Picking a favorite is largely a matter of personal taste, but this is the one that stands out in my mind.

As with The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings, and Treasure Island this story is one that I have fond memories of my father reading to me and my sister. It was a fondly anticipated Christmas tradition that we would sit beside him on the sofa beneath our vast Christmas tree in our pajamas and bathrobes with our feet tucked up under us as he read out the original Dickens. I liked the story because it was slightly sinister. Not many Christmas stories involve death and ghosts. There are unsettling moments in the story such as Scrooge snuffing out the ghost of Christmas past or the hollow eyed children beneath the cloak of the ghost of Christmas present. In a way it’s a horror story as much as it is a Christmas story – something which is largely glossed over in most versions that I have seen.

As a character Ebenezer Scrooge must be one of the greatest roles an actor can get. Not only do you get to play an almost irredeemably nasty man – always a fun and cathartic thing – but you then get to show him slowly realizing the error of his ways and ultimately becoming the giddy, jovial very spirit of Christmas. Talk about a character arc. George C. Scott attacks the role with relish and completely sells Scrooge at every stage of his story. At the start Scrooge clearly takes a perverse pleasure in his view of the world in this version. He is amused by the foolishness of all these people who squander their hard earned money on non-essential trivialities. Scott’s Scrooge is less mean-spirited than simply aloof and self righteous. It’s a fun interpretation that makes his eventual redemption believable. He doesn’t need to be a different person altogether, he just has to be shown that there’s more to the world than his narrow vision encompasses.

It should say something that I was somehow unaware until tonight that this version of the story was a made-for-TV adaptation. I was somewhat surprised when we put the DVD in tonight that it had no widescreen option – because it was broadcast in the early Eighties and therefore was filmed in a 4:3 aspect ratio. The production values are so lush, so detailed, so marvelously alive that I had always assumed that it was a theatrical release. Nothing about this movie speaks of corners cut. The costumes are fantastic, the sets are wonderfully dressed to evoke a real sense of the time period, the lighting is fantastic. (I particularly like some of the supernatural lighting used on Scrooge during the visit of the ghost of Christmas yet to come – creepy and cool, managing to pull him out of the scenes he’s witnessing without any special effects whatsoever.) Remember that this movie was contemporary with things like the Ewok movies and Amazing Stories – the quality of television productions in that day was uneven at best.

I’ve always loved this story. It’s all caught up in the anticipation and wonder of Christmas from my childhood. And this production of the story perfectly captures the images I had in my young mind as my father read to me all those years ago. Every time I watch it I’m a child all over again, enjoying the wonderful anticipation of the Christmas season. Only three more days now ‘till Christmas, and I just can’t wait!

December 22, 2010 - Posted by | daily reviews | , , , , ,

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