Friday, December 23, 2016

A Christmas Carol, Starring Vincent Fegan: Review by William Mortensen Vaughan

TitleA Christmas Carol

My Rating**

Adaptation:  Starring Vincent Fegan as Ebenezer Scrooge

Date of Release:  Sunday, January 1, 2012

Format:  DVD, live-action, feature-length film 

Is this adaptation reverent?  Yes, it's reverent, but it's also creepy!

Does it include the phrase "God bless us...?"  [TBC]

Does it mention "God" or "Christ"?  [TBC]

What does my wife think of it?  She doesn't like it.  She thinks it's weird and creepy.  She doesn't like the lack of background extras.

How closely does this adaptation follow the original novel, by Charles Dickens?  This adaptation follows the original novel fairly well, but it is the epitome of why film producers should use background extras.  Although it follows the original story fairly well, it sorely lacks background characters.  It seems to have been shot in the country, rather than in a city; none of the scenes resemble a city such as London, where the original story took place.  There are no passers-by, no shoppers, no boys sliding on the ice, no workers warming themselves by a fire in the streets...  Fezziwig's ball is not a ball; it's a toast among only three people:  Mr. Fezziwig, Ebenezer Scrooge, and Dick Wilkins.  Fred's party isn't a party; it's Fred and his wife - just the two of them.  The scene with Belle and her husband does not even include her daughter, let alone any children - just her and her husband.  Bob is missing three of his six children.  The mother who owed Scrooge money and is glad about his death is missing her husband.  Old Joe attends only the laundress and the charwoman, and not the undertaker's man.

There are only two businessmen at the Exchange, commenting on Scrooge's death, instead of the three or four whom Dickens mentions in his novel.  (Whether or not there are three, or four, is open to interpretation, based on the original novel, but there are at least three:  one "fat man with a monstrous chin," "another," and "a third."  Dickens also makes mention of a "red-faced gentleman with a pendulous excrescence on the end of his nose," but this may or not may have be the man he refers to as "another.")  There are no other people at the Exchange, in this adaptation, which Dickens describes as a busy place, with "merchants" who "hurried up and down" and "conversed in groups."  My wife thinks the two men at the Exchange in this adaptation are the same two men who went to Scrooge's counting house to ask for a donation.

Although one of the women takes Scrooge's bed curtains to old Joe, and Scrooge wakes up on Christmas morning to exclaim that his curtains are still there, he is shown on a bed which is not a four-poster bed, and has no place to put bed curtains.  The scene is shot toward a curtained window, as if to imply that the bedroom window curtains are the bed curtains in question.

Several shots of female ghosts are included, for no apparent reason.  Perhaps the director owed these women a favor.

When and where does this adaptation take place?  The country, sometime after the introduction of power lines.

Is this adaptation a prequel or a sequel?  No.

Is this adaptation supernatural?  Yes.  Not only is this version supernatural, it seems more like one of Maria Olsen's low budget horror films than A Christmas Carol.  The music is dreadful, sometimes drowning out the dialogue.  The lighting and over-exposure, mixed with art and double or more expsosures, and the lack of background extras, and the solitary settings, as well as the female Ghost of Christmas Past's masculine, telepathic voice, all added to the creepiness of this film.

Is this adaptation "framed"?  Yes, this adaptation is framed by Charles Dickens, played by Laurence Foster, reading the story out loud.

How many original musical numbers and/or dance routines are included?  If there are any musical numbers in this film, they aren't memorable enough to mention. 

How attractive is the visual art?  The art in this film is very unattractive, especially the Phantom's hand, which seems to be covered by melting wax or acid.

How creative and instense are the transitions?  The transitions are inadequate.  They mostly consist of double or more exposure.

What is the most remarkable thing about this adaptation?
The most remarkable part of this whole film is the performance/monologue of Neill Fleming, in the role of Bob Cratchit, grieving for the loss of Tiny Tim.  This is the most heart-wrenching show of grief on the part of any Bob Cratchit for any Tiny Tim which I have ever seen.

What extras are included on the DVD?  This DVD allows chapter selection.  It also includes trailers, one of which is for an Irish, ghost hunting documentary.

Test your knowledge of this film by taking this quiz!

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

A Christmas Carol, Featuring the Voice of Tim Curry: Review by William Mortensen Vaughan

TitleA Christmas Carol

My Rating**

Adaptation:  Featuring voices of Tim Curry, Whoopi Goldberg, Michael York, and Ed Asner

Year of Release:  1997

Format:  DVD, animated, feature-length film

Is this adaptation reverant?  Yes.

Does it include the phrase "God bless us...?"  Yes.

Does it mention "God" or "Christ"?  Scrooge and Tiny Tim say, in unison, "God bless us, everyone!"

What does my wife think of it?  She doesn't think it's very memorable.

How closely does this adaptation follow the original novel, by Charles Dickens?  This adaptation follows the original novel fairly well, but gives old Scrooge a dog, named Debit.
  
A child begs at the door of Scrooge's counting house before Fred arrives, without singing "God Rest You Merry Gentleman" as described by Dickens.  Instead of threatening the child with a ruler, as Dickens describes, Scrooge throws coal at him, then sends Cratchit to retrieve the coal, which Cratchit hands him after Fred has left, while the gentlemen collecting donations are still in the counting house.  Scrooge places the lumps of coal in the bucket, and locks the bucket in a safe.

This adaptation includes the scene at a place Dickens describes as Scrooge's "usual, melancholy tavern," which some versions exclude.  Although Dickens mentions Scrooge having dinner at his "usual melancholy tavern," reading "all the newspapers" and "[beguiling] the rest of the evening with his banker's-book,"
Dickens does not mention anyone else being at the tavern.  Dickens leaves it to the reader's imagination to create a waiter or waitress, and/or any other customers.  This adaptation shows a tavern full of people, with a redheaded waitress who performs a song and dance routine.

Young Scrooge has a cat in this version.  He sees Robinson Crusoe, as mentioned in the novel, but, instead of Ali Baba and the other characters Dickens mentions, Scrooge, in this adaptation, sees himself as a matador, and as King Arthur, removing the sword from the stone.

In this adaptation, in the scene where young Scrooge is older, but still in the boarding school, his sister comes and removes him from the school without their father's permission, unlike in Dickens' original novel, in which Fan tells Scrooge that their father sent her to bring him home in a carriage.

Although many film adaptations show Scrooge with Belle at Fezziwig's Christmas Ball, Dickens makes no mention of Belle until he describes the scene in which she breaks off her engagement to marry Scrooge.  In this adaptation, Belle does not appear at Fezziwig's Christmas Ball, but only appears later, when she releases Scrooge from his promise to marry her.

The Ghost of Christmas Present in this version is a black woman, who refers to her sisters, instead of her brothers, unlike Dickens' white, male Ghost of Christmas Present, who refers to more than eighteen hundred of his brothers.

On Christmas morning, the new Scrooge has Fred and his wife meet him at Cratchit's for dinner, to which he unexpectedly invites himself, instead of waiting for the day after Christmas to tell Cratchit about raising his salary.  This is unlike the original novel, in which Dickens has Scrooge anonymously send the Cratchits a turkey on Christmas Day, going later to Fred's for Christmas Dinner, and not seeing Bob Cratchit again until the day after Christmas, when Bob arrives late, and Scrooge rewards his tardiness with a pay raise. 

What dialect is used?  Plain English.

What dialogue is added?  Opening narration about Marley being dead has been replaced by narration about different types of songs.

When and where does this adaptation take place? Victorian England.

Is this adaptation a prequel or a sequel?  No.

Is this adaptation supernatural?  Yes.

Is this adaptation "framed"?  Yes, this adaptation is framed by a narrator.

How many original musical numbers and/or dance routines are included?  Several musical numbers are included, such as the song and dance routine in the tavern, which does not seem the least bit melancholy, contrary to Dickens' description.

How attractive is the visual art?  The art and animation is acceptable.

How creative and instense are the transitions?  The transitions are acceptable.

What is the most remarkable thing about this adpatation?  The addition of Debit the dog is perhaps, the most remarkable thing about this adaptation.

What extras are included on the DVD?  There are no extras on this DVD.  This film plays automatically, and I can't even find a menu or splash screen for it.

Test your knowledge of this film by taking this quiz


Anthony D.P. Mann in A Christmas Carol: Review by William Mortensen Vaughan

TitleA Christmas Carol

My Rating**

Adaptation:  Starring Colin Baker as Charles Dickens

Date of Release:  Friday, November 20, 2015

Format:  DVD, feature-length, live-action film

Is this adaptation reverant?  Yes.

Does it include the phrase "God bless us...?"  [TBC]

Does it mention "God" or "Christ"?  [TBC]

What does my wife think of it?  She thinks that the Director, Anthony D. P. Mann, looks too young and fat to play Scrooge.  She also thinks it's perhaps the worst musical she's ever seen.  Furthermore, she dislikes the way some of the footage is shot up the actors' noses.

How closely does this adaptation follow the original novel, by Charles Dickens?  This adaptation follows the original novel fairly well.  There are some modifications to the original story.  For example, the scene in which Scrooge's door knocker resembles Marley's face, is missing.  Also, Scrooge, played by Anthony D.P. Mann, doesn't go home from work on Christmas Eve; instead, he stays at his office.  He sings a song to a portrait of his partner, Marley, played by Terry Wade.  Later, he notices that Marley is missing from the portrait, and suddenly discovers that Marley's ghost is seated in his office.

The Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come (Pamela Prendergast) is a tall woman dressed in black, like a widow at a funeral, showing her face, speaking, and singing!  The Ghost of Christmas Present (Andrea Hiltz) is a fat woman.  The Ghost of Christmas Past (Sherri Paterson) is a blonde woman.

What dialect is used?  Old fashioned English.

When and where does this adaptation take place?  Victorian England.

Is this adaptation a prequel or a sequel?  No.

Is this adaptation supernatural?  Yes.

Is this adaptation "framed"?  Yes, by a narrator, Charles Dickens, played by Colin Baker.

How many original musical numbers and/or dance routines are included?  Various orginal songs are included.

How attractive is the visual art?  The period costumes look well made and believable; the architecture and sets are adequate, but unimpressive.

How creative and instense are the transitions?  The transitions are acceptable.

What is the most remarkable thing about this adaptation?  I found the original songs very moving and/or entertaining.

What extras are included on the DVD? The DVD includes a behind the scenes featurette, starring Colin Baker.

Test your knowledge of this film by taking this quiz

Dora's Christmas Carol Adventure: Review by William Mortensen Vaughan

Title:   Dora's Christmas Carol Adventure

My Rating*

AdaptationDora the Explorer, by Nickolodeon

Year of Release:  2009

Format:  DVD, animated, made for television

Is this adaptation reverent?  This adaptation is not particularly reverent.  Although it is intended for children, it has an emphasis on commercialism.

Does it include the phrase "God bless us...?"  [TBC]

Does it mention "God" or "Christ"?  [TBC]

What does my wife think of it?  She's neither impressed nor amused.

How closely does this adaptation follow the original novel,
by Charles Dickens?  This "adaptation" isn't a legitimate adaptation; it is an unrelated story with the phrase "Christmas Carol" incorporated in the title, presumably to boost marketing.  This story is about Dora the Explorer (voice of Caitlyn Sanchez) traveling through time to help someone get off Santa's naughty list.  Harry Chase provides the voice of Santa Claus.  The only thing this adaptation seems to have to do with A Christmas Carol is its title.

When and where does this adaptation take place?  This story starts at a modern North Pole, but Dora the Explorer travels through time and space.

Is this adaptation a prequel or a sequel?  No.

Is this adaptation supernatural?  Yes.  Santa is treated as a real person, and Dora has the ability to travel through time.

Is this adaptation "framed"?  No.

How many original musical numbers and/or dance routines are included?  Various original musical numbers are included, such as "Noche Buena" [Christmas Eve (literally "good night")] in mixed Spanish and English.

How attractive is the visual art?  The art is simple but attractive.

How creative and instense are the transitions?  The cartoon transitions are acceptable.

What extras are included on the DVD?  Chapter selection is available on the DVD, as well as two Special Features, which include two music videos and a behind the scenes featurette.

Test your knowledge of this film by taking this quiz!

Ebenezer, Starring Jack Palance: Review by William Mortensen Vaughan

TitleEbenezer

My Rating***

AdaptationJack Palance stars as Ebenezer Scrooge.

Date of Release:  Tuesday, October 13, 1998

Format:  VHS & DVD, live-action, feature-length Western film made for television

Is this adaptation reverent?  Yes, this adaptation is reverent; however, it shows Scrooge having dinner at a house of ill repute, cheating at poker, and fist and gun fighting.

Does it include the phrase "God bless us...?"  [TBC]

Does it mention "God" or "Christ"?  [TBC]
 .
What does my wife think of it?  She thinks it's "unique."

How closely does this adaptation follow the original novel, by Charles Dickens?  This adaptation takes place in a Canadian version of the wild, wild west, featuring Jack Palance as Ebenezer Scrooge, perhaps the most evil Scrooge ever portrayed.  Ebenezer is a gun man, who frequents a house of ill repute.

Albert Schultz plays Bob Cratchitt, Scrooge's bar tender, at his saloon.

Daryl Shuttleworth plays Fred, Scrooge's nephew, the local constable, who dresses like an organ-grinding monkey.
           
Ricky Schroder plays a young man named Samuel Benson, who loses his money, ranch, and horse to Scrooge, playing poker and getting into a fist fight with him.  Scrooge beats him at poker, then, when the young man starts a fight with Scrooge, after losing all of his money and the deed to all of his land to him, Scrooge beats him up with his bare hands, and takes his horse as payment for the damage done to his saloon during the fight. 

I'm not sure which character this young man is supposed to correspond to, in the novel.  He is of no relation to Scrooge or Cratchitt.  He is the fiance of Jacob Marlowe's daughter, Erica Marlowe, played by Amy Locane.  Jacob, played by Richard Halliday, is Scrooge's deceased partner, surnamed Marlowe instead of Marley.

When Jacob dies, he leaves his saloon to Erica, but Scrooge keeps it for himself, and gets Erica a job as a cleaning lady in Martha's house of ill repute.  The Martha in this version, played by Darcy Dunlop, is the proprietor at the house of ill repute, instead of Bob Cratchitt's eldest daughter.

Bob has two boys and a girl, but nothing seems to be wrong with any of them.

Samuel Benson is the youngster with the health problem:  bad eyesight.  Due to his poor eyesight, he misses when he shoots at Scrooge in a gun fight, but, by then, Scrooge has been visited by the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present, and Future, and not only spares the boy's life, but admits he cheated at poker, and gives him back his property, and promises to buy him some eyeglasses.  He also apologizes to his fiancee, Erica, and gives her the saloon which her father had intended for her to have when he died.

In this version, Scrooge got married, but his wife left him for a Royal Canadian Mountie (Richard Comar), who appears as the Ghost of Christmas Present.  A squaw (Michelle Thrush) serves as the Ghost of Christmas Past, and a cloaked phantom (Morris Chapdelaine) the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come.

For the grand finale, Scrooge appears on horseback at the town Christmas pageant, in the role of Father Christmas, and the children and their parents join him in singing an unusual carol.

What dialect is used?  Plain English.

When and where does this adaptation take place?  Canada when the horse was the primary means of transportation. 

Is this adaptation supernatural?  Yes; ghosts are included.

Is this adaptation "framed"?  No.

How many original musical numbers and/or dance routines are included?  At least two musical numbers are included.  Scrooge throws Cratchitt's boots at carolers outside his saloon, and sings with his fellow entertainers and the audience during the grand finale.

How attractive is the visual art?  This adaptation was filmed on a ranch in Canada, and captures the feel of a typical Western movie, with open spaces, horses, and six-shooters.  While playing poker, the players don't even bother with chips, but use cash, and the bartering system (bags of gold and deeds to land).

How creative and instense are the transitions?  The special effects used during the transitions are acceptable.

What is the most remarkable thing about this adaptation?  As I mention above, Jack Palance's Ebenezer is perhaps the most evil version of Scrooge ever portrayed.  Although Scrooge threatens a child with a ruler in the original version, there is no indication he ever physically assaulted anyone.  In this version's future, Scrooge shoots a young man dead during a duel, over the poker game in which he cheated - not to mention beating the boy up with his bare hands, before receiving his ghostly visitations.  Also, while the original version of Scrooge was unfamiliar with the red light district in London, this Scrooge frequented a house of ill repute on a regular basis.

What extras are included on the DVD?  No extras are available on the DVD.  My DVD copy has no extras; I just press [Enter] on my DVD player's remote control to play the movie from the splash screen.

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