25 Days of Christmas (Carol): Day 1
This holiday season, dear readers, I’ve decided to treat you with something special: my own potential breakdown. Perturbed with commercial overload of all things Christmas, I’ve taken drastic measures. For twenty five days, including Christmas day itself, I will watch a different adaptation of A Christmas Carol and post my impressions. Any version I can find, I will watch. Today, I start you off with an adaptation that many consider to be one of the best: 1951’s Scrooge starring Alastair Sim.
The movie starts off innocently enough with a shot of a bookcase containing various Dickens classics. The narrator (voiced by Peter Bull, Ambassador Alexei de Sadesky in Dr. Strangelove) finds a copy of A Christmas Carol and begins to read. Once the story picks up, he is not heard from again until the end of the film. We are introduced to Scrooge, who is played rather nastily by Alastair Sim. Scrooge has always been a mean character, but Sim’s portrayal is particularly devious. He believes that prisons are made for the poor who can’t pay their debts, and those who cannot stand that fact should drop dead to decrease the surplus population.
The unease of Scrooge leading up to the haunting of Jacob Marley was done extremely well in this adaptation. There is a almost genuine look of fright on his face as he is being tormented by the voice of his dead associate and the ringing of bells, intensified by a powerful musical score. The interaction between Jacob and Ebenezer, however, seemed to drag the film to a screeching halt. Scrooge is a cruel man led by his own greed, yet upon the seeing of his dead associate, he acts as if he’s ready to change his ways right there, without the need of the three ghosts. Chalk this one up to Sim’s inability to tone his energy down.
The Ghost of Christmas Past was done in a way I’ve never seen done before in previously seen adaptations. Instead of the usual Ebenezer as a happy youth route that most adaptations take, this one goes right for the jugular. In one fell swoop of depressing moments, it explains that Ebenezer’s mother died giving birth to him, his sister suffers the same fate giving birth to his nephew, and the influence of a crooked embezzler turned Scrooge into the man he is. The past even goes as far as showing Scrooge at Marley’s deathbed, apathetic to his imminent demise.
After the intense display of the Ghost of Christmas Past, it was disappointing to find the visit of the Ghost of Christmas Present to be very lackluster. Yes, the man playing the ghost was clearly taller than Scrooge, but it didn’t feel as powerful as the joyous giant I’ve seen him as in other adaptations. It wasn’t until the very end of this segment that it became interesting again. The ghost lifts up his coat to reveal two famished and dirty looking little children, which he explains are “ignorance” and “want”. An odd way to show Scrooge the error of his ways, but strangely effective.
The Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come was even weaker. Scrooge, already a shell of his former shelf simply begs to see no more. After a boring, long-winded scene showing his former charwoman trying to sell off his curtains to a seedy and disgusting looking man, I found myself begging the same thing. Just show him the tombstone and get on with it!
Luckily the end part of the story completely redeems two lackluster ghosts. Ebenezer Scrooge is a changed man alright…he’s batshit insane! He begins to chase around the charwoman, his laughter overpowering her screaming. While trying to convince her that he hasn’t gone mental, he exacerbates the situation by trying to do a headstand on a nearby chair. I’m not joking. The senile Scrooge then makes good on his promise to change for the better, the final scene showing him walking with a now crutchless Tiny Tim.
Though this movie had moments that absolutely annoyed me, I must say I enjoyed it overall. If there is a version of A Christmas Carol you want to see featured this month, put the name and the year of the film in the comments below or email me your suggestions.