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A Christmas Carol / Scrooge (1951)

by on 2010/12/17

1951’s A Christmas Carol — called Scrooge in its original release — seems an obvious choice for a seasonal selection.  There are, however, many similar options.  Why this particular one?  For a geek, the reasons are clear:  it’s the original supernatural, time traveling, alternate reality trip.  And was it all a dream?  For me the story was, but the movie?  Not so much.

Alistair Sim stars as Scrooge in this piece, widely considered to be the definitive interpretation of Charles Dickens’ holiday tale.  Set around 1830 in (presumably) London, England, Scrooge goes about his business as usual despite the festive climes, or tries to do so at any rate.  Over the course of Christmas night, he is visited by four spirits who…

Oh, spare me.  Who doesn’t know the story?

What I found less familiar were the numerous hints that old Ebenezer was not beyond saving.  Whereas I had previously thought of him as a rampant, shallow old grouch, my assumption was inaccurate.  As hard and materialistic as he purports to be, he has moments of doubting his senses . . . an interesting allowance for one who would likely never trust the softer skills of emotion and intuition.

We may infer he is as he is because he’s been hurt before, and the details of the plot do bear it out.  In addition to his failure in wooing Alice in their youth:  his mother died in delivering him; his father blamed him for her death; his sister died too, in delivering Fred, the nephew he was charged with supporting.

Little wonder then he should have built the proverbial wall ‘round his heart.  The number of locks protecting his doors would certainly gird the cliche.  There is hope for him nonetheless for, as much as he may grumble, he does allow Cratchit leave on Christmas Day and — judging by the flashbacks — he’s been doing it for years.

However, none of these details are unique to this production.

What’s unique is a certain melodrama, especially in the performances of old Marley and old Scrooge.  Although Alistair Sim can be entertaining in the final act, his hyperactivity early on just grates.

Another peculiarity here are the voices which echo too much, in the audio equivalent of a blur.  While the “outdoor” sets look convincing, the actors’ voices reverberate in a noisy “indoor” cacophony.

None of my issues obscures the fact A Christmas Carol is ahead of its time.  A parable of greed and generosity, it also offers some interest to geeks . . . themes of antisocial loneliness, an obsession with materialism, and the nature and manipulation of reality.  Plus it’s a requisite Christmas classic of redemption, yet not without some grit.  This version falls a little bit short, but the story is worth checking out.

* * *

Rated 14A for frightening scenes

86 minutes

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