Sunday, February 12, 2017

Alastair Sim in A Christmas Carol: Review by William Mortensen Vaughan

TitleA Christmas Carol
My Rating****

AdaptationStarring Alastair Sim as Ebenezer Scrooge

Date of Release
Wednesday, October 31, 1951

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

Is this adaptation reverentYes, this adaptation is reverent.

Does it include the phrase "God bless us...?"
  Yes, Bob Cratchit (Mervyn John's) family toast, and say, "God bless us!" and Tiny Tim says, "God bless us, everyone!"  Furthermore, the narrator quotes this quote by Tiny Tim, at the end of the film.

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

How closely does this adaptation follow the original novel, by Charles Dickens?  This adaptation follows the original novel fairly well, with some exceptions, and several additions:

The film begins with a hand taking a copy of the book titled A Christmas Carol, off a shelve full of other novels by Charles Dickens.  A Narrator (Peter Bull) quotes the initial lines about Jacob Marley (Michael Hordern) being dead, as the initial credits appear, on what appear to be sheets of paper or pages of a book.

The opening scene, after the opening credits, is at the Exchange, where Scrooge engages in a conversation about Christmas with other businessmen.  A man named Samuel Wilkins begs him for more time to pay off his loan, on the steps of the Exchange.

After showing Mr. Wilkins no mercy, Scrooge walks to his office, inside of which two gentlemen are waiting to ask him for a donation.  

Fred (Brian Worth) arrives after the gentlemen leave without a donation from Mr. Scrooge.  Mr. Scrooge shows him the door as well.

Then there is an scene featuring Tiny Tim (Glyn Dearman) and his mother (Hermione Baddeley), window shopping.

Meanwhile, back at Scrooge's office, Scrooge tells Bob Cratchit (Mervyn Johns) to take the next day, Christmas, off.  Then he leaves Bob to close shop.
Scrooge goes to a tavern after work, but seems unfamiliar with it, unlike the tavern Dickens describes, in his novel, as Scrooge's "usual, melancholy tavern," because, when Scrooge asks for more bread, the waiter changes his mind by informing him that bread costs extra.

When Scrooge arrives at the building where he lives, Scrooge hears someone calling his name.  Then Jacob's face appears in the doorknocker, with his eyes closed; then Jacob opens his eyes, startling Scrooge.  Later, Jacob Marley appears to Scrooge in person, and tells Scrooge about the three Ghosts that will visit him.  He tells Scrooge the first Ghost will arrive at one-o'-clock.

He also shows him other ghosts outside Scrooge's window, lamenting that they can no longer help the poorThen Marley takes his leave of Scrooge.

Scrooge slams the window shut, and literally runs to bed, where he pulls all of the bed curtains closed, and hides under his bed covers.

The bell tolls one, and the Ghost of Christmas Past (Michael Dolan) appears, taking Scrooge to see his school, and his sister, Fan. The scene of her death is added, as she begs Scrooge, with her dying breath, to take of her son.

Scrooge revisits the Fezziwig Christmas Ball, and his fiancee, named Alice (Rona Anderson), instead of Belle, in this adaptation.

Also added are scenes in which a new character, Mr. Jorkin (Jack Warner), offers Mr. Fezziwig (Roddy Hughes) a business proposition, which Mr. Fezziwig refuses.  However, Mr. Jorkin is able to persuade young Scrooge (Geoge Cole) to leave Mr. Fezziwig's company, and take a job at his company, where he becomes friends with Jacob Marley.

Mr. Jorkin is caught embezzling, but the scandal threatens to devalue the company's stock, so Scrooge and Marley offer to pay off the company's debt, on the condition that they are allowed to buy 51% of the stock in the company, effectively making them the new owners.

They take over Mr. Fezziwig's company, as well, letting one young employee keep his job, but for four Shillings per week, instead of the five Mr. Fezziwig was paying him.  

Mrs. Dilber (Kathleen Harrison) goes to Scrooge's office to ask him to visit Marley in Marley's final moments.  Scrooge does so, after work.  The undertaker (Ernest Thesiger) is already there, waiting for Marley to die.  Marley tries to tell Scrooge that they were wrong, and to save himself, but Scrooge doesn't understand.

When Marley dies, Scrooge is only too happy to inherit all of Marley's belongings.

The Ghost of Christmas Present (Francis de Wolff) shows Scrooge the Cratchit residence, where Bob proposes a toast to Mr. Scrooge, and his family says, "God bless us!"  Tiny Tim says, "God bless us, everyone!" 

Instead of showing Alice with a husband and children, the Ghost shows her in what appears to be a homeless shelter, comforting the poor.

The Ghost also shows Scrooge Fred's Christmas Party, where Fred proposes a toast to Mr. Scrooge, although two of the women there indicate that they despise Scrooge.

Mr. Tupper [sic] (Richard Pearson) flirts with Miss Flora (Eleanor Summerfield).

No games are played, but Fred and his guests dance a waltz.

The Ghost of Christmas Present shows Scrooge Ignorance and Want, in the form of children hiding under his robe.  Then he leaves Scrooge running down the street...

...and into the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come (Czeslaw Konarski).    

This ghost shows Scrooge the Cratchits mourning for Tiny Tim; the scene with Mrs. Dilber, another woman, and the undertaker, at Old Joe (Miles Malleson's) pawn shop, which, in this adaptation, is filled with children working among his marketable rubbish; and the two businessmen at the Exchange mentioning Scrooge's death, without naming him.  When Scrooge asks who they're talking about, the Ghost shows him his tombstone.

Begging for mercy, Scrooge wakes up to find himself in his own bed on Christmas morning.  He asks his charwoman, Mrs. Dilber what day it is, and gives her a Guinea for a Christmas present.  He also promises to raise her wages from two Shillings a week to ten.  Then he sends her away to celebrate Christmas.

Then Scrooge looks outside his bedroom window, and sends a boy to get the prize turkey, which he sends to Bob Cratchit's house.

Then Scrooge goes to Christmas dinner at Fred's.

The next day, Scrooge catches Bob coming in late to work.  Instead of punishing him, he raises Bob's salary.  After promising to discuss this over a hot bowl of punch, he sends Bob out to buy some more coal.       
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? 
Is this adaptation supernatural? 
Yes, this adaptation is supernatural, with numerous ghosts.
Is this adaptation "framed"
Yes, this adaptation is framed by a Narrator, whose voice is heard at the beginning and end of the film.

What original musical numbers and/or dance routines are includedThere are several musical numbers and dances included in this adaptation, including "Barbara Allen," sung by Fred and his guests.

How attractive is the visual art?  The set, wardrobe, architecture, and art are 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; an hourglass floats and/or spins through a windy tunnel to show time travel.

What is the most remarkable thing about this adaptation?  The most remarkable thing about this adaptation is, perhaps, the addition of Mr. Jorkin, who hires Scrooge and introduces him to Jacob Marley, and the scenes which develop Jacob and Marley's characters and their relationship with each other over the years.

What extras are included on the DVDsThe "Ultimate Collector's Edition" includes two discs, which are not labeled Disc 1/A and 2/B, or anything like that, so I'll call them "Colorized" and "Black and White."

The "Colorized" Disc contains:

1)  A colorized version of the original black and white film

2)  A copy of the black and white film "Scrooge" (1935), starring Seymour Hicks

3)  Subtitles in English or Spanish

4)  An audio track in narrative English for the blind

5)  "The Spirit of Christmas Past:  George Cole Remembers Alastair Sim"

6)  "Richard Gordon Remembers George Minter and Renown Pictures"

7)  "Charles Dickens:  His Life and Times"

8)  "Before and After Restoration"

9)  "Photo Gallery"

The "Black and White" Disc contains:

1)  "A Christmas Carol" in black and white, with 3 x 4 resolution    
2)  "A Christmas Carol" in black and white, with 9 x 16 resolution

3)  an audio commentary by Marcus Hearn and George Cole (young Ebenezer Scrooge)
A Christmas Carol Ultimate Collector's Edition 

4)  Cast Bios:

           Alastair Sim
           Kathleen Harrison
           Jack Warner
           Bryan D. Hurst
           Mervyn Johns
           Hermione Baddeley
           George Cole

Test your knowledge of this film by taking this quiz!

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