Tuesday, January 1, 2013

A Christmas Carol (1984) Review

I really need to think of a better title for this post, because the one you see before you is not really accurate.  You'll be reading about the George C. Scott version of A Christmas Carol (hereinafter referred to as ACC because your editrix is a lazy typist), yes, but what you'll be reading isn't technically a review.  I do like writing blog posts about movies, but my posts tend to be Rambling Mishmashes of My Thoughts and General Impressions When Watching This Movie.  Which is a rather long and drawn-out way of describing this type of post.  Which is why I just use the handy-dandy word "review."  However, if you really want movie reviews, Yet Another Period Drama Blog isn't the best place to go.   But if you want a great deal of nonsense and rambling mishmashes... set a spell and take your shoes off.

Anyways.  Moving on.

I've read ACC almost every Christmas since I was about eight years old-- I think it was Christmas 2002 that my mom read it out loud to our family in the evenings and I was mesmerized by the story.  It was scary in parts, but it was such a good kind of scary, and by the time the next Christmas rolled around I wanted to read it on my own.  I didn't get around to it this year, with so many other things going on, but I did get to see an extremely faithful (and delightful) screen adaptation of the book, which was almost as good.

Before this movie, I'd never seen a "straight" adaptation of ACC-- only the Muppets version, which is wonderful on its own, but not quite as faithful to the book as it might be.  Heehee. Melody has been recommending this version of ACC to me for a full year now, and so when I discovered that my library had a copy, I put it on hold and my family sat down together to watch it on a Friday evening in mid-December.  And I LOVED IT.  Shall I give you a rundown?  I shall indeed.

George C. Scott is one of those actors who is supposedly very famous and I'm supposed to recognize, but to be honest I'd never heard of him before this movie.  And at first, I wasn't too thrilled.  My mental image of Scrooge is that of the original book illustrations: the tall, thin guy with the pointy nightcap.  I blush to admit it, but the computer-animated Disney version of Scrooge comes closest to the Scrooge of my imagination.  I didn't like George C. Scott's looks at all... at first.  Which just goes to show that I can't be trusted when it comes to liking/not liking certain actors and actresses.  "[Miss Dashwood], I fear, is not very constant."  At any rate, despite what he may have lacked in physical appearance, I thoroughly enjoyed Mr. Scott's portrayal of Scrooge-- he was just the right kind of squeezing, wrenching, grasping, scraping, clutching, covetous old sinner that Scrooge is supposed to be.  And his transformation at the end was truly believable-- I was quite pleased.  (My mom and I did have to wonder, however, if all that somersaulting about on the bed at the end was filmed in just one take... heh.  He does seem a bit old to be cavorting about like a little kid in a bouncy castle.)

Jacob Marley, played by some guy whose name I do not know (and am not in the mood to search for on IMDb) was excellent.  Marley always scared me more than any of the other ghosts when I was little, and his appearance in this film sent delightful chills down my spine (yes, I'm easily scared... get over it).  The Marley brothers in the Muppet version are, of course, hilarious, but sometimes one wants just a little more... hmm... accuracy.  I do hope the picture above does not scare any of my younger readers-- but hey, they'll be fine.  It's culture.  (Okay, it's horrid of me to review ramble about one version of ACC while quoting lines from another one, but if I am a wild Beast I cannot help it. It is not my own fault.)

Bob and Mrs. Cratchit were delightful-- I haven't seen the version of Jane Eyre in which they played Mr. Rochester and Jane, but I'd like to.  Bob Cratchit was just as I'd pictured him when reading the book (sorry, Kermit, you're not quite the thing) and though Mrs. Cratchit wasn't quite as I'd imagined her, she was still good.  I liked the interaction between the two of them, and the little mistletoe scene was especially cute.  :D The Cratchit kids were good too-- the whole atmosphere in the Cratchit household was one of fun and affection.  It felt like a real family, another of those touches that made this movie so... oh, I don't know... I don't like to use the word "delightful" all the time because it seems like a cop-out but it keeps coming to mind.

The only Cratchit I did NOT care for was Tiny Tim... I have to wonder if the auditions held for that role included a casting call for Absolute Ugliest Child in the British Isles.  Okay, so there was probably makeup involved to make him look sickly... but still.  And the way he talked irritated me no end.  "Mewwy Cwishmas, Meestah Scwooooooooooge."  Please.  Give me a wide-eyed green baby frog any day, thankyouverymuch.

The person whom I always refer to as "Nephew Fred" (though supposedly in this movie his name is Fred Holywell) was probably the most likable character in the whole shebang.  He's pleasant, cheerful without being annoying, forgiving and fun.  And he kinda-sorta looks like Edmund Sparkler.  I'm not the only one who thinks that-- my dad first pointed it out in one of his early scenes and we spent the rest of the movie exclaiming over his resemblance to Sparkler-be-quiet.  It isn't his facial features so much as his facial expressions and way of talking that remind us of Sparkler.  Of course he doesn't go around calling people "mater" and expressing his approval of those who have no nonsense about them, but he did make us think of Sparkler.

Mrs. Nephew Fred (okay, so technically she's Mrs. Holywell, but I like silly names) was sweet, just as she's supposed to be.  The simile game played at the Holywells' Christmas party, though not in the book *scowls and taps foot* was great fun to watch, and though she seemed a bit slow on the uptake when it came to the phrase "tight as," she seemed quite a likable character.

I absolutely adore movie connections, and when I watch a film for the first time and spot a familiar face, you can usually hear me from here to Halifax.  (My family saw White Christmas for the first time on Christmas night, and when I spotted George Chakiris as a random uncredited dancer in one scene, I squealed "BERNARDO!" in a most unladylike manner of which I am much ashamed.  But not too ashamed to put it on my blog for the whole world to see... cough.)  Anyway, do you recognize the chap on the right?  He's one of the solicitors who comes to Scrooge near the beginning of the film, a rather insignificant character, but he also happens to be Ponceau from... (all together now, Leaguettes)... THE SCARLET PIMPERNEL!

The Ghost of Christmas Past was not exactly awful, but I must say I didn't much like her.  The Ghost is supposed to be a child, or at least a being with the appearance of a child, and though she was better than a creepily-animated little girl sporting toilet paper streamers (yep, I'm dragging in the Muppets again), she reminded me rather eerily of a makeup-free Dolly Parton, which was not the kind of impression I wanted to have of the Ghost of Christmas Past. (Apologies to Dolly Parton fans everywhere.  Erm... well... on second thought...)

The Ghost of Christmas Present was much like Mary Poppins-- he flew, pulled things out of nowhere and was practically perfect in every way.  Just exactly the way I pictured him in the book (yes, I know you're getting tired of hearing that) and the most accurate portrayal of this spirit that I've seen yet.  He had just the right blend of jollity and sternness-- the Muppet spirit has only the jollity.  I will confess to being a wee bit freaked out during the Want and Ignorance scene (it was abrupt and unexpected, to say the least) but that doesn't mean it wasn't good.  That part is supposed to freak you out a little.

That being said, I'm not sure if I would recommend this movie for children under six.  The Ghost of the Christmas Yet to Come scared my seven-year-old brother more than he cared to admit, but since he's not at all accustomed to movies scarier than Up, he might not be the best standard to go by.  At any rate, the Ghost of Christmas Future was not very spooky, but he was frightening enough.  I did think that section of the movie was exceedingly well done-- the music especially was very exciting.

Have I really gotten this far and said so little about the music?  With the exception of traditional English carols (which were grand, by the way) all the music in this film was composed and conducted by none other than Nick Bicat, who composed the TSP music that we know and love.  (Not to mention Clive Donner directed the whole thing... and Ponceau makes an appearance... sheesh, all we need is a visit to Blakeney Manor and ACC could become TSP's companion movie!  Purchase both today in a handsomely bound box set!)  The entire soundtrack had a deliciously old-fashioned feel to it: suspenseful at the right moments, warm at cheery at others.

The costumes, too, pleased me mightily. (They were garments, you know.  Garments were invented by the human race as a protection against the cold.  Once purchased, they may be used indefinitely for the purpose for which they are intended.  Unlike coal, you know, which is momentary and costly...) I tend to be quite picky about costume accuracy in movies, and the piddling fact that I'm no expert doesn't keep me from turning up my nose at a dress that doesn't fit the time period.  The costumes in this film looked like they came smack out of Victorian London, and the dress in the picture above was one of my favorites.  Can't say I thought much of many of the hairstyles (though the lady in that picture is sporting a nice one) but then, it was the era of side ringlets, and what can you do about that?  Not much.

Overall, I highly recommend this delightful (there, said it again) Christmassy film.  It's family-friendly (minus the scary elements mentioned earlier), old-fashioned (always a plus), a reasonable length (100 minutes) without being too rushed, and the music is swellissimus.  My rating?  Nine stars out of ten... excellent.

I do hope you've enjoyed reading this... and now, please get back to work before I am forced to conclude that your services are no longer required.*

*Mr. Scrooge said it first. I am only quoting.


Padmé Arya Éowyn Istalrí Skywalker said...

I must say I like the musical version done by Hallmark much better...although that could be because I was in it (not the actual movie, but a stage production)
If you haven't seen it, you definately should...it's great and I can't get the songs out of my head!

Alexandra said...

WHAT?! Never seen a straight ACC?! Impossible! Ok, so maybe not. But ACC is my dad's favorite Christmas story, so I've seen almost every version on the planet. :D Our holiday staple is the 1951 B&W version...love it muchly. Pretty accurate except that it fleshes out the early Scrooge years...which I like. :) I actually really liked the Disney one...and of course the Muppets. Another one I haven't actually seen yet is the Patrick Stewart one, which I understand has many period drama actors in it. Richard E Grant, Ian McNeice, Dominic West (as FRED?! Yeah, I'm wondering too...), Elizabeth Spriggs, Laura Fraser (as Belle - !!!!!)...yeah. Would like to see that one.

And being the George C. Scott version was all about TSP, Our Boy should have been Fred. Wouldn't he have made a splendid Fred? Just the right age at the time, too. Sigh.

And I MAY be seeing Les Miz tomorrow instead of Thursday! Scream!

Hayden said...

I just have to leave a comment to say...this was the first year we watched White Christmas (all the way through anyway; we've caught bits and pieces over the years) and my sister and I noticed the same thing and screamed "Bernardo!!!" as well.

Interesting coincidence :)

I've seen this movie several times, but not this year. I had caught like, three other versions of a Christmas Carol on TV and was a little Christmas Caroled out :)

Yeah, the ghost of Christmas Past was just... *creepy* Of course I caught an old animated version of A Christmas Carol that actually had the voices of Michael Gambon and Kate Winselt in it...but it was. really. weird.

Don't recommend it. at all. ahem.

But I enjoyed this post very much!

Melody said...

I *almost* forgot to click on comments before I started reading. Which would have been a grave mistake. :D

Sorry, Kermit, you're not quite the thing... HAHAHA.
By the bye, I started watching a little of the 1999 ACC a few days ago (Scrooge has a bald head in that one... and that is definitely not the thing :P), and the guy who's Mr. Cratchit on there is I think the same one who played Sir Percy on the TSP miniseries... and I couldn't picture that. At all. o.O

Delightful is a delightful word. Definitely better than awesome. :P

*My* personal suspicion is that Tiny Tim Actor was a relation of someone making the film. (Like Minnie May Barry, you know. :P) Because it was "introducing" that actor. Haha. I didn't like him either, as you know. He annoys me every. time.
I don't much care for the wide-eyed green baby frog, howevah. :P

HA! Perhaps she merely didn't like the simile "tight as a drum" and wanted to think of something better. (She DID think of something better, anyways. :D) But you know how it is when you're on the spot. I daresay I'm slow on the uptake often. And then I feel mortified. And then people probably talk about me like you did about her. (I knowww, she's just a CHARACTER...) And you know, the book doesn't say they DIDN'T play similes. They played lots of games and it proberly didn't mention all of them. ;) It's period-correct, at least. (Not like the 1999 version where Belle and Young Scrooge were WALTZING when it looked like it was supposed to be sometime before 1810... and her hair was down...)

Totally don't recognize that dude from TSP. But I daresay you know. :P

If you ever see the 1999 version (and it's rather creepy), perhaps you will become reconciled to this Ghost of Christmas Past once you see THAT one. He's... crawly. (And it's a guy. And it's WEIRD.)
I don't know who Dolly Parton is. Just sayin'. :P

Sometimes I don't actually mind side ringlets. I didn't think Janet's were really too bad. (That was Fred's Wife's name in this version. ;))

I think children under six could watch this if they simply follow my example and flee from the room when there is anything they don't like. (I can't remember actually doing that... hahaha... but it's possible. I did used to do that. And I was easily bothered by things. :P) But in general, I do think you're right. Technically I can't remember seeing this particular version before I was six. Possibly my parents made sure I wasn't around for the scary parts, and it seems like we used to watch the one with Alistair Sim perhaps more often than this one...
Although I do think the Yet to Come was a little creepy in the Muppet version as well. Heehee.

Anyway. I'm SO glad you liked this!! :D I always thought you would, of course, but 'tis nice to know. :) And I did indeed enjoy reading this. I always enjoy your rev--rambles.

Jessica said...

I also love this movie. :-) We just watched it on Christmas Eve, as usual.

I enjoyed your rambling review. Very witty, my dear.

Anonymous said...

I just discovered your blog whilst trying to see some Sense and Sensibility 2008 photos, and I LOVE IT! Thank you for the very fun and witty reviews and the photos! You think like I do and I also love period movies and am not ashamed of it (I've been telling people for decades now that I'd love to see a return to the horse and buggy - you should see the looks I get! :o)) I, too, love this version of A Christmas Carol! But, I also like this Tiny Tim the best of all the versions - go ahead, boo if you want!! He seems to really fit the part I think! Oh well, you've got a new fan for your blog anyway! Angela

Carlye said...

I have seen every version available, and this is the absolute best. You're wrong about Tiny Tim, though. He's supposed to be sick, and this kid looks like he's going to be lucky to make it to the end of the movie. I hate it when Tim looks too robust.