Monday, February 20, 2017

Reginald Owen in A Christmas Carol: Review by William Mortensen Vaughan

TitleA Christmas Carol
My Rating****

AdaptationStarring Reginald Owen 
Date ReleasedFriday, December 16, 1938

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

Is this adaptation reverentYes, this adaptation is reverent.  It includes the hymns "God Rest Ye, Merry Gentlemen!", "Hark!  The Herald Angels Sing," and "O, Come, All Ye Faithful!"

Does it include the phrase, "God bless us..."?  Yes, Tiny Tim ends the show by saying, "God bless us, everyone!"

What does my wife think of it
She thinks it's "good."

How closely does this adaptation follow the original novel, by Charles Dickens?  This adaptation follows the original novel
fairly well, with a few interesting exceptions.  

It almost seems to make Barry MacKay the star, inn the role of Fred.  The first scene opens on the streets of London, on Christmas Eve, "more than a century ago," where the viewer finds Fred walking through the snow.  He reaches an icy place where children are sliding, and slides with them.  There he meets Tiny Tim, who introduces him to his big brother, Peter.  When the boys mention their surname, Cratchit, Fred verifies that they are Bob Cratchit's sons, and informs them that he's the nephew of their father's boss, Mr. Scrooge, and that he's on his way to see them.

Peter asks Fred to give Bob a shopping list from his mother, since the boys are afraid of Mr. Scrooge, and would rather not go to his office.  Fred understands, and is glad to do take the note to their father.

At Scrooge's office, Fred finds Bob aloneHe gives Bob the shopping list from his wife.

Bob apologizes for his sons making an errand boy out of Fred.  

Fred says he was happy to do it.

It's cold, so Fred asks Bob to put some coal on the fire, but remembers Scrooge doesn't allow it.  Fred then gives Bob a bottle of port wine.  Excited, Bob decides to put some coal on the fire after all.

Scrooge arrives just as Bob is about to take his first sip of port wine.

After Fred and the charity workers leave, Scrooge finally releases Bob a half hour late.  Scrooge also gives him the next day, Christmas, off.

Bob reminds him that his weekly wages are due, so Scrooge gives him fifteen Shillings and Sixpence.

Bob gleefully leaves, and Scrooge pockets the bottle of port wine Fred left on Bob's desk. 

Before shopping, Bob gets ambushed by boys who throw snowballs at him.  Good natured, Bob shows them how to pack a snowball tight with bare hands.  Then one of the boys announces a new target is approaching.  Bob hides, and, on the boy's signal, launches the hard packed snowball.

The snowball hits the target, which, unfortunately, is Scrooge's hat, which is knocked onto the icy street.  Unfortunately, before Bob can retrieve it, a horse-drawn carriage runs over it - first one wheel, then another.

Scrooge fires Bob on the spot.  Bob reminds him that their contract requires Scrooge to give him a week's notice.  Scrooge says his weekly wage will spare him the grief of enduring Bob another week, but, since his hat costs sixteen Shilling and Sixpence, Bob owes him a Shilling.  Bob hands over the Shilling, and Scrooge heads for his "usual, melancholy tavern."

One of the boys apologize for his part in Bob losing his employment.

Bob gently, sadly taps the boy on the shoulder, and staggers away in silence.

Then he cheers up, and goes shopping.

Long story short, Scrooge makes Fred a partner so he can afford to marry his fiancee, Bess, a.k.a. Elizabeth.  He takes Fred and Bess to Bob's house, where he promises to raise Bob's salary and hire Peter.

Tiny Tim says "God bless us everyone!" and the final credits roll.

Gone is the scene of Mr. Fezziwig's Christmas Ball.  Instead, he gives young Ebenezer and Dick each a gold Sovereign on Christmas Eve, which, being one British Pound, is almost 130% of Bob's weekly salary years later.  Mr. Fezziwig also gives the boys Christmas off, but asks them to return for Christmas Dinner.

Also missing are any scenes or mention of Belle.  Instead, the Ghost of Christmas Past, in the form of a young, blonde woman, starts nagging Scrooge, so he puts part of her angelic garment over her face and starts to strangle her, only to wake up with his sheet around his pillow, instead of the girl's dress around her head and neck.

Also missing, of course, is the scene at Scrooge's office on the day after Christmas.

Another interesting turn in this adaptation, is that Mrs. Cratchit proposes a toast to Mr. Scrooge, with a hope that he'll increase her husband's wages.

A couple of the most interesting scenes, which are added to this adaptation, are at a church to which the jolly Ghost of Christmas Present takes Scrooge on Christmas Day.  There the viewer sees Fred and Bess, singing "O, Come, All Ye Faithful!" together, sharing a hymnal, and obviously in love.  Bob and Tiny Tim also share a hymnal.

Outside, after the service, the priest is seen sliding on the ice, so Fred is able to persuade Bess to slide with him, until they fall into a snow bank where they take a few moments to smooch before they get up.

When Scrooge shows up at their Christmas Party and informs Fred that he's making him his partner, the couple immediately decide to get married.  Then they accompany Scrooge to Bob's house, where Scrooge promises to raise Bob's salary, and, eventually, to hire Peter.

What dialect is used?  Plain English.

When and where does this adaptation take place?  "More than a century London...on Christmas Eve"

Is this adaptation a prequel or a sequel?  No.

Is this adaptation supernatural? 
Yes, this adaptation is supernatural, featuring four ghosts and time travel.
Is this adaptation "framed"

What original musical numbers and/or dance routines are includedCarolers sing "God Rest Ye, Merry Gentlemen!" and "Hark!  The Herald Angels Sing."  Fred, Bess, Bob, and Tiny Tim sing "O, Come, All Ye Faithful!" with a congregation at a church.

How attractive is the visual art?  The set, wardrobe, architecture, and art are excellent, in spite of being in black and white.

How creative and instense are the transitions, especially when "the Scrooge" is taken from one time and/or place to another?
  The transitions are good, including aerial footage of London when the Ghost of Christmas Past takes Scrooge by the hand, and flies with him like Superman!

What is the most remarkable thing about this adaptation?  The most remarkable thing about this adaptation is, perhaps, the emphasis which is placed on Fred, as if his character were the main character.  Few adaptations, if any, add as much character development of Fred as this one does.  

Also, this is a rare adaptation in that Scrooge literally fires Bob.  In most adaptations, this is merely a constant threat.

What extras are included on the DVD[TBC]

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