Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Scrooge, Starring Albert Finney: Review by William Mortensen Vaughan


My Rating*****

Adaptation:  Starring Albert Finney as Ebenezer Scrooge

Date of Release:  Thursday, November 5, 1970

Format:  DVD, feature-length, live-action, musical comedy

Is this adaptation reverent?  Yes, this adaptation is somewhat reverent, but also humorous.

Does it include the phrase "God bless us...?"  Yes.  The Cratchits say this together on Christmas Day, in their home.

Does it mention "God" or "Christ"?  Yes.  

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

How closely does this adaptation follow the original novel, by Charles Dickens?  This adaptation follows the original novel fairly well, but this adaptation takes place in 1860, about the time the British started minting its copper coins in bronze instead of copper, instead of in 1843, as some versions portray.  In the novel, the Ghost of Christmas Present indicates that he has more than 1,800 brothers, but doesn't specify more precisely how many.  In this adaptation, the year is indicated when the Ghost of Christmas Present (played by Kenneth More) asks Scrooge what year it is, and Scrooge tells him, "1860." 

Instead of beginning with a narration about Marley being dead, this film begins with a scene of children singing "Hark, the Herald Angels Sing!" from door to door, until they reach Scrooge's place of business.  Scrooge threatens them with a coal shovel, so they mock him by calling him "Father Christmas." 

Fred (Michael Medwin) visits Scrooge in his office, but the portly gentlemen do not ask for his donation, until he has dismissed Bob Cratchit (David Collings), and is locking the door to his office from the outside.

After work, Bob Cratchit is seen with one of his daughters, and Tiny Tim (Richard Beaumont), shopping on their way home.

Scrooge is seen going about the streets interrupting various people at their places of business, to remind them how much they owe him and when.  While in the street, he sings a song, "I Hate People."  Children also sing a song to mock him, again calling him "Father Christmas."

Jacob Marley (Alec Guinness), visits Scrooge, and shows him the other ghosts outside his window, with their chains.

Then the Ghost of Christmas Past (Edith Evans) visits him, looking more like Mrs. Santa Claus.

As with several other versions, this version shows Scrooge meeting "Belle" (Suzanne Neve) at Fezziwig's Christmas ball, although, she is apparently Isabel Fezziwig, one of Mr. Fezziwig's daughters or nieces.  Laurence Naismith plays Mr. Fezziwig, and Kay Walsh, Mrs. Fezziwig.

This ball is very elaborate, with a fiddler playing for the dancers, who sing a unique song about Christmas:  "December the 25th!"

This is followed by a duet between old Scrooge and Isabel when he sees her curtailing their engagement to be married.

The Ghost of Christms Present is perhaps the most impudent and sarcastic Ghost, often belittling earthlings in general, and Scrooge in particular.  But he serves  Scrooge his special wine, and sings a song with him about liking and enjoying life, and Scrooge finds he enjoys the wine and life more than he anticipated.

Tiny Tim sings a solo for Christmas.

Fred's wife (Mary Peach) insists that they and their guests play a game called "The Minister's Cat," which proves to be hilarious, as the clapping players try to think of adjectives for the Minister's Cat, which start with certain letters of the alphabet by the time it's their turn to say, "The Minister's Cat is a such-and-such cat!"

The Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come (Paddy Stone) shows Scrooge a parade in honor of his death, although he doesn't realize it.  Everyone sings praise and thanks to him, apparently for dying, but Scrooge, not realizing he's in his own funeral procession, keeps asking what he did to deserve such gratitude, and starts singing and dancing in the parade in celebration of his death, "Thank You Very Much!"  This is perhaps the most hilarious musical number in the film!

Scrooge also finds himself descending into hell where he sees Jacob Marley again, and receives his own ponderous chain in a cold cell similar to the one he keeps Bob Cratchit in.

Then he wakes up in his own bed.  He has a boy buy the prize turkey and bring it to him, but, instead of sending it to Bob's, he takes it to him personally, with an entourage of children.  He meets Fred and his wife in the street, and gives them presents, so Fred's wife invites him to dinner at their house that day. 

Then he buys or rents a Father Christmas costume, which he wears to Bob's to give him the turkey, as well as other presents for his wife and children.  All of this is done with a lot of singing, bell ringing, pipe playing and dancing in the street.  Scrooge even slides on the ice like a child.

Finally, he returns home to prepare for his dinner invitation, and bids farewell to the door knocker where he previously saw Marley's face.

What dialect is used?  Plain English.

When and where does this adaptation take place?  London, in 1860.

Is this adaptation a prequel or a sequel?  No.

Is this adaptation supernatural?  Yes, there are the usual ghosts, as well as a scene in hell.

Is this adaptation "framed"?  No.

How many original musical numbers and/or dance routines are included?  This film is a musical comedy, full of music, singing, and dancing, including a violinist and bell ringers.

How attractive is the visual art?  The drawings and calligraphy in the opening credits are excellent.

How creative and instense are the transitions?  The transitions are adequate - mostly just cutting to (or fading in and out between) the next scene.

What is the most remarkable thing about this adaptation?  The most remarkable thing about this adaptation is the overall sense of good humor.  It is also one of the most elaborate as far as dancers, singers, and musicians, as well as sets and wardrobe.

What extras are included on the DVD?  Scene selection and English subtitles are available on the DVD.

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