Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Alvin's Christmas Carol: Review by William Mortensen Vaughan

TitleAlvin's Christmas Carol
My Rating****

AdaptationStarring Alvin and the Chimpmunks

Date/Year of Release
Wednesday, September 29, 1993

FormatVHS, animated
, feature-length comedy 

Is this adaptation reverent?  No, this adaptation is not particularly reverent.  There doesn't seem to be any emphasis on Christ or God, but plenty of emphasis on commercialism, and family and friends.


Does it include the phrase "God bless us...?"
  No.

Does it mention "God" or "Christ"?  No, this adaptation does not mention God or Christ, except in the word "Christmas."

What does my wife think of itMy wife cried when Mr. Ferrell explained to Ebenezer how much his newspaper meant to him.

 
How closely does this adaptation follow the original novel, by Charles DickensThis adaptation does not follow the original novel very well.  The whole dynamic between a Scrooge and a Cratchit, Belle, Fezziwig, Fred, and Marley are all missing.  Alvin the Chipmunk is "the Scrooge," but he's essentially a schoolboy with a newpaper route.  He selfishly writes a long list of items he expects his human grandparents to give him for Christmas, and is disappointed when his human "father" makes him deliver his newspapers, and he fails to make it to the mailbox in time to mail his Christmas wish list to his grandparents so they'll be able to get him what he wants in time for Christmas.


He has procrastinated writing an essay for school about the true meaning of Christmas, so, on Christmas Eve, he starts writing, but passes out before completing the task.  

While Alvin is asleep, Dave, his human father, appears to him in a dream, as the Spirit of Christmas Past.  Then his chipmunk brothers appear to him as the other Spirits of Christmas Present and Yet to Come.  No one appears to him in lieu of Jacob Marley.

Mr. Ferrell, an elderly man on Alvin's paper route, has a cat named Ebenezer.

Alvin fails to ensure that Mr. Ferrell has his newspaper on Christmas morning.  But, after his dreams, he has a change of heart, and starts putting everyone else first, and delivers a newspaper to Mr. Ferrell.  

What dialect is used?  A Chipmunk dialect of English.

When and where does this adaptation take place?  A small town, circa 1990.

Is this adaptation a prequel or a sequel? 
No.

Is this adaptation supernatural? 
No, this adaptation is not supernatural; the spirits are merely elements of Alvin's dreams.  It is somewhat odd, however, that these chipmunks, Alvin, Theodore, and Simon, talk and sing.
 
Is this adaptation "framed"
No.

What original musical numbers and/or dance routines are includedThe Chipmunks sing "The Christmas Song" and "Christmas Time Is Here," which are apparently written especially for them to sing.

How attractive is the visual art?  The art is adequate.

How creative and instense are the transitions, especially when "the Scrooge" is taken from one time and/or place to another?
  The transitions are adequate. 

What is the most remarkable thing about this adaptation?  The most remarkable thing about this adaptation is, perhaps, that Alvin is the only "Scrooge" who is a child with no employees, previous engagements to be married, or wealth.  He's merely a selfish brat.
 

What extras are included on the tape or DVDThe VHS tape has an ad for a half dozen other Alvin and the Chipmunks' videos.

Test your knowledge of this film by taking this quiz!

Monday, January 30, 2017

Guthrie Theater 1984: A Christmas Carol: Review by William Mortensen Vaughan

TitleA Christmas Carol
My Rating****

AdaptationStarring Richard Hilger as Ebenezer Scrooge
 

Year of Release1982

FormatVHS,
live-action, feature-length film of a stage play 

Is this adaptation reverent?  Yes, this adaptation is reverent, with carolers singing portions of "God Rest Ye, Merry Gentlemen!" and "Good King Wenceslas."


Does it include the phrase "God bless us...?"
  Yes, Tiny Tim and Mrs. Dickens say, "God bless us, everyone!"

What does my wife think of it?  She refuses to watch it, because she doesn't like musicals.

How closely does this adaptation follow the original novel, by Charles Dickens?  This adaptation follows the original novel fairly well.  There are a few departures from the original novel, however.  The scene at Old Joe's pawn shop is missing; a funeral procession for Scrooge is added.  Young Scrooge proposes to Belle the day before he begins working for Mr. Fezziwig.  In a later scene, Mr. Fezziwig concludes his Christmas Ball as soon as Belle arrives, to allow her to be alone with Scrooge, an opportunity she takes to break off her engagement to Scrooge.  Previously, when Scrooge is a boy, Fan visits him at school, but she tells him that she snuck away from their father to give him a Christmas present, and has to return before he misses her.

What dialect is used?  Plain English.

When and where does this adaptation take place?  London in the 1800's.

Is this adaptation a prequel or a sequel? 
No.

Is this adaptation supernatural? 
Yes, this adaptation is supernatural, with the usual Ghosts of Marley and Christmases Past, Present, and Yet to Come.
 
Is this adaptation "framed"
Yes, this adaptation is framed by Charles Dickens writing and reading his novel at his desk, as his family tries to celebrate Christmas with him.

What original musical numbers and/or dance routines are included(See above.)

How attractive is the visual art?  The set, wardrobe, and architecture/art are adequateThe desks are mishapen and slanted at odd angles, so it looks as if paperweights would slide off of them.

How creative and instense are the transitions, especially when "the Scrooge" is taken from one time and/or place to another?
  The transitions are adequate.  This film is an odd combination of stage play and special film effects.

What is the most remarkable thing about this adaptation?  The most remarkable thing about this adaptation is, perhaps, the use of a paperweight on Charles Dickens' desk, which later appears in the story when Fan gives it to young Scrooge for a Christmas present, after a scene in which old Scrooge throws it at Fred.  Fred keeps it as a memento of his hateful Uncle, and shows it to his guests on Christmas.  Scrooge mentions it when he shows up at Fred's on Christmas Day, but tells Fred to keep it.


Test your knowledge of this film by taking this quiz!


Sunday, January 29, 2017

George C. Scott as Scrooge: Review by William Mortensen Vaughan

TitleA Christmas Carol
My Rating****

AdaptationStarring George C. Scott as "the Scrooge"

Date/Year of Release
Monday, December 17, 1984

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

Is this adaptation reverentYes, this adaptation is reverent, starting with a rendition of the hymn "On Christmas Night All Angels Sing." 


Does it include the phrase "God bless us...?"
Yes, Tim Cratchit says, "God bless us, everyone!"

Does it mention "God" or "Christ"?  Yes, God and Christ are mentioned in hymns and blessings.

What does my wife think of it?  She likes it. 


How closely does this adaptation follow the original novel, by Charles Dickens?  This adaptation follows the original novel fairly well. It begins with a narrator (Roger Rees) stating that Marley (Frank Finlay) is dead.  Fred (also played by Roger Rees) visits Scrooge in his office on Christmas Eve.  The portly gentelmen seeking a donation do not.  Scrooge leaves Bob Cratchit (David Warner) working in his office, while he goes to the Exchange.  En route, he discovers Tiny Tim Cratchit (Anthony Walters) waiting for his father.

At the exchange, in a scene not included in the original novel, Scrooge sells his corn to some businessmen.


After closing the corn deal, Misters Poole and Hacking (Michael Gough and John Quarmby, respectively) introduce themselves to Mr. Scrooge, seeking a donation.

Bob closes shop without Scrooge, and takes Tiny Tim to Cornhill to watch the other boys play in the snow and slide on the ice.

Meanwhile, Scrooge returns home, where he sees Marley's face on his door knocker. Jacob Marley appears, but does not show Scrooge the other ghosts, although Scrooge hears them as Marley departs through his window.

The Ghost of Christmas Past (Angela Pleasance) appears, and takes Ebenezer back to one of his lonely Christmases at a boarding school, where old Scrooge tells the Ghost that his father held a grudge against him because his wife (Scrooge's mother) died giving birth to him.

Then Fan (Joanne Whalley) appears to Scrooge after he has become a young man (Mark Strickson), and takes Scrooge outside the school, where their father (Nigel Davenport) is waiting for them, and where he informs Scrooge that he will begin working for Mr. Fezziwig (Timothy Bateson) as an apprentice three days later.

As their carriage departs, old Scrooge and the Ghost remain, discussing Fan and her son, whom Scrooge identifies as Fred Holywell, although his surname was never given in the original novel.

Then the Ghost takes Scrooge to Mr. Fezziwig's place of business, where his young self and Dick Wilkins (Spencer Banks) celebrate Christmas with their old boss, his wife (Pat Rose) and their three daughters, their suitors, and Belle (Lucy Gutteridge).

Then the Ghost shows Ebenezer the day Belle broke off their engagement to be married, and another day, when she is playing outside in the snow with her children as her husband (Peter Settelen) approaches, and informs her that he saw Ebenezer, whose partner was about to die.

Then Scrooge meets the Ghost of Christmas Present (Edward Woodard) who takes him into the streets on Christmas Day, and to the home of Bob Cratchit, where Bob informs his son Peter (Kieran Hughes) that Fred has offered him (Peter) a job as an apprentice for three Shillings and sixpence a week.

Then the Ghost takes Scrooge to his nephew's Christmas Party, where one of the guests mocks him.

Afterward, the Ghost takes Scrooge to the streets, where he hears a homeless family discussing their limited options.  

The Ghost also shows Scrooge the wretched children under his robe.

Then the Ghost leaves Scrooge in the street, cold and alone in the dark, in a place unfamiliar to him, and the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come appears to him.

First, this Ghost shows him the Exchange, where three businessmen discuss his death.

Secondly, the Ghost takes him into his own home, where his corpse apparently lies under a sheet.

Thirdly, the Ghost takes him to old Joe (Peter Woodthorpe's) pawn shop, where's Mrs. Dilber (Liz Smith) sells Scrooge's belongings.

Finally, the Ghost takes Scrooge to his tombstone.

Back in his room, Scrooge discovers it's Christmas Day.  After having a boy fetch the poulterer, Scrooge takes a walk, dropping money in the can of some carolers, and pledging a donation to the portly gentlemen whom he happens to pass on the street.

Another scene shows the poulterer delivering the prize turkey to Bob Cratcit's house, where he explains that it was paid for by an anonymous benefactor.  The poulterer doesn't take a cab; he drives his own carriage. 

Finally, Scrooge visits his nephew for Christmas Dinner.

The next morning, he waits for Bob to arrive late, only to double his salary, and promise to help him ensure that Tim's health would improve

What dialect is used?  Plain English.

When and where does this adaptation take place?  London in the 1800's.

Is this adaptation a prequel or a sequel? 
No.

Is this adaptation supernatural? 
Yes, this adaptation is supernatural, featuring four ghosts.
 
Is this adaptation "framed"
Yes, this adaptation is framed by Fred's narration.

What original musical numbers and/or dance routines are includedIn addition to "On Christmas Night All Christians Sing," carolers sing "I Saw Three Ships," as well as "Peace on Earth/God Bless Us Everyone," which was apparently written specifically for this adaptation.

How attractive is the visual art?  The sets, wardrobe, and architecture are excellent.

How creative and instense are the transitions, especially when "the Scrooge" is taken from one time and/or place to another?
  The transitions are adequate.  The Ghost of Christmas Past shows scenes from the past in the reflection of her cap.  The Ghost of Christmas Present shows scenes in the flames of his torch.  The Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come changes scenes with bolts of lightning and claps of thunder.

What is the most remarkable thing about this adaptation?  The most remarkable thing about this adaptation is, perhaps, the song
"Peace on Earth/God Bless Us Everyone," which is played repeatedly throughout the film.
 
What extras are included on the tape or DVD[TBC]

Test your knowledge of this film by taking this quiz!

Vincent Price Narrates A Christmas Carol: Review by William Mortensen Vaughan

TitleThe Christmas Carol
My Rating**

AdaptationNarrated by Vincent Price

Date/Year of Release
Sunday, December 25, 1949

Format:  DVD,
live-action, feature-length, black and white film

Is this adaptation reverent?  Yes, it includes enough of the hymn "God Rest Ye, Merry Gentlemen" to mention Baby Jesus' birth.


Does it include the phrase "God bless us...?"
  Yes, Vincent Price quotes Tiny Tim as saying "God bless us, everyone!"

What does my wife think of it?  She thinks it is one of the worst adaptations of A Christmas Carol.

How closely does this adaptation follow the original novel, by Charles DickensThis adaptation follows the original novel fairly well.  Ebeneezer [sic] receives a visit from his nephew Fred, in his office Christmas Eve.  Fred refers to his wife as "Caroline," although, in the original novel, Caroline is the poor woman who was relieved when her husband informed her that Scrooge was dead.  No portly gentlemen arrive to collect donations.  


After releasing Bob Cratchit, as Scrooge departs from his office, carolers are heard singing "The First Noel," but none of them appear.  Later, when the Ghost of Christmas Present shows Scrooge himself as a schoolboy, Scrooge says he regrets not giving a carrolling boy anything that day, presumably referrring to one of the carolers.

There is no sliding on ice, but the Narrator does mention Scrooge having dinner at his "usual, melancholy tavern."

The Ghost of Jacob Marley appears to Scrooge in his private quarters, but does not show him the other ghosts in chains.

Then the Ghost of Christmas Past appears as an old man wrapped in what appear to be bedsheets.  He shows Scrooge himself as a schoolboy, but not the arrival of Fan; nor is she mentioned.  Neither is Mr. Fezziwig mentioned, but the Ghost asks Scrooge if he should show him the time his fiancee broke off their engagement to be married.

The Ghost of Christmas Present looks like a young man in a robe.  He shows Scrooge the Cratchits celebrating Christmas in their home.  Tiny Tim says, "God bless us, everyone!"  Then, after a brief conversation between Scrooge and the Ghost of Christmas Present, thunder claps and the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come appears.  No mention of Fred's Christmas party is made.

The Ghost of Christmas Future looks like an old man in black bedsheets.  He shows the Cratchits mourning for Tiny Tim.  Then he shows Scrooge four businessmen talking about his demise.  Finally, he shows Scrooge his tombstone.

Scrooge wakes up in his private quarters on Christmas morning.  He has a conversation with a boy outside his window, but does not send him to fetch anything.  Instead, he goes out on his own.

Fred and Scrooge visit Bob on Christmas Day, bringing them a large bird to cook, and other presents.  Scrooge mentions having met a surgeon at church that day, to whom he promises to take Tiny Tim.

What dialect is used?  Plain English.

When and where does this adaptation take place?  London, circa 1850.

Is this adaptation a prequel or a sequel? 
No.

Is this adaptation supernatural? 
Yes, it shows four ghosts.
 
Is this adaptation "framed"
Yes, this adaptation is framed by the narration of Vincent Price, reading from a copy of the novel.

What original musical numbers and/or dance routines are included"God Rest Ye, Merry Gentlemen!" and "The First Noel" serve as background music.

How attractive is the visual art?  The wardrobe and set are barely adeuate.  All scenes are indoors. 

How creative and instense are the transitions, especially when "the Scrooge" is taken from one time and/or place to another?
  The transitions are poorly done; they consist of the Ghosts motioning for Scrooge to follow them in dark rooms, and pointing; then the camera cuts to another scene or shot.  Outdoor scenes are noticeably absent.

What is the most remarkable thing about this adaptation?  The most remarkable thing about this adaptation is, perhaps, the narration by Vincent Price.  His headshot is on the cover, and on the DVD itself.  He gets top billing, and rightly so, in my opinion.  I would rather watch him narrate the entire book than the poor footage sprinkled between the scenes of him narrating this adaptation.
 

What extras are included on the DVD[TBC]

Test your knowledge of this film by taking this quiz!