Directed by Clive Donner
I will not even bother going over a brief summation of the plot because if you do not know it by this point then you never will.
This is quite possibly my favorite live action version of the Charles Dickens classic. George C. Scott is simply amazing as Ebenezer Scrooge. Scott was an amazing actor who knew just how much of what to give for each scene. Scrooge is not comically greedy in Scott’s portrayal but rather a jaded individual that has chosen the reliability and safety of material possessions over people.
Scott is not British, but I first saw this movie on CBS when I was a young child and did not know too much about him other than he was in Patton. He did the accent well enough that I was convinced he could be. That is kind of important actually in my opinion. A British accent much like a genuine Southern accent or any accent really is difficult to fake and if you try too hard or have never been exposed to a particular accent, mimicking one can be difficult if not impossible without sounding like a parody.
We have a fantastic supporting cast as well. Among them is Edward Woodward who was cast as the Ghost of Christmas Present. The man was an amazing actor. Present was a boisterous a**hole here that you found charming. Noted actor David Warner appears as Bob Cratchit. The legendary Susannah York is Mrs. Cratchit. And Roger Rees is Scrooge’s nephew Fred Hollywell as well as serving as the film’s narrator. That right there is a good group who were supported by a fine group of actors in the other roles. A fun fact is that in this film is British character actor Derek Francis, who here played Pemberton, also appeared in Ronald Neame’s 1970 musical adaption “Scrooge” starring Albert Finney as Scrooge. There he played a Gentleman of Charity.
And the acting was just fantastic. Not overly saccharine and not campy at points. They took this as a serious drama. You even felt bad for Tiny Tim which I find astounding. Call me heartless but normally I do not feel bad for Tiny Tim. I actually find him a little annoying. He’s a sickly child designed to make Cratchit’s life more tragic and to pull at your heartstrings and the trope has been duplicated so much since this book came out in order to generate pity for a particular family in a story that I just can’t take it but here they make it work. They made the character sympathetic and not a cheap ploy.
We have a good script that remains largely faithful to the source. What changes there are appear minor to the best of my memory when it comes to the book. Most importantly they retain the tone of the story and try not to put their own spin on it. If the material is not good enough to be faithful to in your opinion, then why are you filming it? Creators that “reimagine” material need to ask that.
The movie is beautifully filmed. The movie looks stunning throughout and, for lack of a better way of putting it, it looks like Christmas. It might be a little silly to say but it has a visual Christmas feel without hitting you over the head consistently. There are not decorations throughout to the point of looking as if Martha Stewart vomited Christmas all over the place. There is just enough to set the mood and that combined with the music set the season. Based on its overall quality one would think this was a theatrical release, but it was presented on television only in the U.S. with a theatrical release in Great Britain.
The visitation by Jacob Marley (Frank Finlay) borders on horror in its presentation and that is when this particular scene from the book when done on film works the best. Scrooge is frightened and by extension you should be a little frightened as well or at the minimum a little uncomfortable. And much of the dialogue in the scene here is taken from the book.
The three visitations are very dramatic, and you can watch as Scrooge realizes what changed him and where he’s going wrong and at first he doesn’t even want to believe it. But the moments with the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come (Michael Carter) are perhaps my favorite. That thing is still frightening to me to this day. It has that out of tune screech whenever it does something and those creepy kids underneath the cloak. More importantly the ending depicted for Scrooge is pathetic. He dies unloved and alone and his indignity is made worse because he is robbed by his housekeeper.
When I first saw this adaption, we had just read the book in my English literature class in school and in my opinion, this is one of the most faithful adoptions I have ever seen. They make a few changes and add a scene or two but nothing overly significant. You can follow along with the book with little problem. I think this is more accurate than the Albert Finney musical that my teacher a year or two later touted as the best.
This version of A Christmas Carol is an amazing film bolstered by great performances and a strong script along with fantastic direction. In my opinion it is one of the more faithful adoptions and one which can help elevate your holiday spirit. Check it out.