A and A's Movie A Day

Watching movies until we run out.

Movie 297 – A Christmas Carol (1984)

A Christmas Carol (1984) – December 22nd, 2010

There are ever so many versions of this story out there. We’ve already reviewed the Muppet version for our project, and while the Blackadder version is far too short for us to include, we still watched it this year. It’s been adapted many times over the years, with various well known and lesser known actors playing the lead role. And while I know that Patrick Stewart has done Scrooge, and I do love Patrick Stewart, this will always be my very favorite version. There’s something about it that just makes it work in every way I want. Maybe it’s that it’s the version I’ve seen the most. Maybe it’s the music, or George C. Scott’s Scrooge. I’m not sure. But I love it.

My mother and I tend to quote from this version during the Christmas season. It’s not so much the words that are important as the delivery. Specifically we have a habit of telling each other every dessert we make is “a triumph!” as Bob Cratchit tells his wife about her pudding. It’s one of those movies that has embedded itself into my family’s lexicon, and I’ve passed that on to Andy. I love sharing my family’s Christmas favorites.

Given that this is a classic story that’s been told and retold, I don’t think I need to spend too long going over the plot, really. Ebenezer Scrooge is a stingy grouch of a man who says nasty things and treats other people abominably and sees Christmas as a pointless waste of time and money. After being met by three spirits of Christmas on the night of Christmas Eve, however, he learns what the spirit of the day truly is and repents of his ways, changing course to avoid a lonely death with mockery his only remembrance. It’s a good story, with plenty of emotional weight to it, even if it is a little heavy handed in places. Scrooge is shown his childhood – an unhappy time spent alone at a boarding school thanks to a father who blames him for his mother’s death. He sees the love of his youth and how he lost her. He sees the lives of Bob Cratchit’s family, his nephew, Fred. He sees strangers, out of work and desperate. And he sees a bleak future, with death a certainty for both himself and Tiny Tim Cratchit.

It’s the same story no matter how you look at it. Except the Blackadder version, but that’s parody anyhow. So what are the best bits here? I’ve got to say, George C. Scott’s Scrooge is truly fantastic. He’s gruff and blustery and when he walks he leads with his chest. He has a presence and gravitas, with his deep scratchy voice and truly excellent scowl. He takes obvious delight in flustering others and causing them discomfort and Scott plays him with such conviction, it’s easy to see how he has everyone around him cowed. And then when he’s seeing the various Christmases his transformation is fantastic, both dramatic and subtle, with outbursts and little asides and facial expressions. He still enjoys discomfiting people after his transformation, but not in a negative way. It’s a character trait I find fascinating and he keeps it throughout the movie, but it’s not really written in there. It’s all in his body language and grins.

I also love the overall look and feel to this version. It truly looks cold and bitter in many of the scenes and the characters, from the main to the small, are all either dressed appropriately or clearly cold because they don’t have the means. And the costumes are gorgeous. Scrooge is fully dressed for most of the movie, as opposed to being in his pajamas and dressing gown, but somehow it works. That he would still want to be formal and present himself as a well-off man, even when traveling invisible with a spirit of Christmas. There’s a really nice feeling for the period here, even if some of the instruments shown are a bit anachronistic. The clothing, the houses, the hairstyles, the whole community. It feels right. It feels full and festive with the season, which is perfect in contrast with Scrooge’s offices and home, so devoid of anything but business.

I would like to take the space to point out a couple of actors in this version. Mark Strickson, perhaps better known as Turlough from Doctor Who, plays a young Ebenezer Scrooge, and does so quite well. He’s awkward and hopeful, then just plain awkward. It’s painful, seeing Scrooge so young and lost. The ubiquitous David Warner plays Bob Cratchit with a very nice sense of warmth and good cheer regardless of his troubles and crotchety boss. And Roger Rees, who also seems to pop up more frequently than I’d otherwise realized before this project, plays Fred, Scrooge’s nephew. He also does all of the narration, and I have to say he does have a fantastic voice and delivery for the role as well as doing a good job with Fred. They’re all actors I knew from elsewhere, and when I was younger I hadn’t made the connections. As I got older I started to realize where I knew them all from and it’s a treat to see actors like this doing some classic roles.

As I said, I realize there are many adaptations and renditions of this story. It’s been parodied, modernized and done faithfully on film, television and stage. And that’s not even touching the various print editions. But this one holds a place in my heart. It’s George C. Scott and the rest of the excellent cast. It’s the costumes and the set dressing and the fantastic Ghost of Christmas Present, played by Edward Woodward. It’s the music and everything. I love this movie and I saved it for closer to Christmas for a reason. It needs to be watched close to the holiday, with its message of giving and sharing and compassion. It really feels like Christmas to me now, and it gets more so with every movie we watch.


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

1 Comment »

  1. My favorite version is still with Lionel Barrymore, who did a version on radio in the ’40s that I had on an LP as a kid and listened to many, many times.

    Comment by Doc Wheat | December 24, 2010 | Reply

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