Thursday, November 13, 2008

A Christmas Carol (1977)

An adaption by the BBC with Sir Michael Horden as Scrooge.

If I could work my will, every idiot that goes around with 'Merry Christmas' on his lips
would be boiled with his own pudding and buried with the stake of holly in his heart.

~ Ebenezer Scrooge ~

A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens is one of the author's most loved works, even if it is admired only once a year at Christmas time. A simple morality tale reminding us of the spirit of Christmas, it has been filmed countless times, with and without musical interludes. I have to admit to a secret liking for the Muppet version from 1992 featuring Michael Caine as Scrooge.

A Christmas Carol was released as a novella by Dickens in 1843 and was a huge success. Some in fact regard it as partly responsible for a revitalisation of the Christmas customs and spirit which had been in gradual decline.

This BBC / Time-Life Television and ABC co-production dates from 1977. It is the earliest film in the Dickens Collection boxset.

The plot of A Christmas Carol is simple. Mean and miserly Ebenezer Scrooge is dedicated to one mistress - money! On Christmas Eve he resents the fact that his employee Bob Cratchit wants to take the whole of Christmas Day off work. Charity collectors are rebuffed with the comment that the poor should go to the poorhouses. When they say that some would rather die than go to these institutions Scrooge replies that perhaps they should die to reduce the surplus population!

That night Scrooge is visited by a number of ghosts who show him the error of of his ways. Firstly, his deceased partner comes to tell him that his own greed became a series of chains which he must bear in the afterlife. The three apparitions which follow are the Ghost of Christmas Past, the Ghost of Christmas Present and the Ghost of Christmas Yet To Come. Each presents him with visions which rock his soul to the core. Past shows scenes of Scrooge himself growing up and making the mistakes that would lead to the love of money being his watchword. Present shows him the Cratchit household just making do with his meagre earnings and coping with Tiny Tim, their much-loved but very ill son. Yet To Come shows him the changes that have occurred in the town after a certain much-despised miser has passed away.

It's no spoiler to say that Scrooge undergoes a profound redemption and wakes on Christmas morning a changed man full of good cheer.

At 58 minutes this production of A Christmas Carol keeps very close to the original story. It is Dickens for the purist without a song or Muppet in sight! The visual quality, is appropriate for a 1977 video production. This could be a big issue if it weren't for the quality of the performances. Michael Hordern as Scrooge is a real joy as he negotiates the huge character shifts with skill and conveys a genuine Scrooge. Bernard Lee, M from the James Bond films, is Jacob Marley, his old partner.

Despite the age, dodgy special effects and brief running time this is one of the better versions of the story, genuinely affecting without being milked for sentimentality.
By michaeldvd


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