My Rating: ***
Adaptation: Jack 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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