BLEAK HOUSE. (2005) THE BBC DRAMA SERIAL REVIEWED BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

gillian-anderson-bleak-house

BLEAK HOUSE. (2005) THE BBC TV DRAMATISATION BASED ON THE BOOK BY CHARLES DICKENS. DIRECTED BY JUSTIN CHADWICK AND SUSANNA WHITE.

STARRING GILLIAN ANDERSON, TIMOTHY WEST, CHARLES DANCE, ALUN ARMSTRONG, ANNA MAXWELL MARTIN, DENIS LAWSON, ALISTAIR MCGOWAN, LIZA TARBUCK, PHIL DAVIS, CAREY MULLIGAN, JOHNNY VEGAS, WARREN CLARKE, SEAN MCGINLEY, JOHN LYNCH, BURN GORMAN, SHEILA HANCOCK, CHARLIE BROOKS, IAN RICHARDSON, HUGO SPEER, PAULINE COLLINS, CATHERINE TATE, RICHARD GRIFFITHS, NATHANIEL PARKER AND MATTHEW KELLY.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

‘Shake me up, Judy…!’

This fifteen-part mini-series is a magnificent piece of work; a televisual feast, if you will, with a cast so impressive it’ll knock your socks off. It’s Victorian London, of course, with frequent forays into the English countryside to visit rich people’s country homes when the plot calls for it.

The titular Bleak House is the home of wealthy, middle-aged bachelor John Jarndyce. He’s kind and generous and open-hearted, which is why he gave a home, years ago, to the orphaned Esther Summerson, who is now his housekeeper.

Esther has no idea who her parents were. All she knows for sure is that she was ‘her mother’s ruin and disgrace.’ It can’t be comfortable, growing up with that kind of stigma pressing down on you like a layer of bricks, and with a genuine mystery shrouding the issue of where you’ve come from.

Esther is extraordinarily well-adjusted, compassionate and sensible, though, and she is generally loved by everyone with whom she comes into contact. Indeed, she has three suitors make love to her (in the Victorian way, that is, all earnest declarations and no sexual contact!) during the course of this seven-and-a-half hour televisual masterpiece, and all three of ’em still desire to connect their fates to hers even after she contracts the smallpox through playing Florence Nightingale to a young urchin, and becomes scarred. Now that’s what I call true love.

Also staying at Bleak House are Ada Clare and Richard Carstone, a pair of young lovers who are known as ‘the wards in Jarndyce.’ Let me explain. Jarndyce and Jarndyce is a court case that’s been going on in the English Court of Chancery for donkey’s years. Ian Richardson plays the officiating judge in the case. If ever an actor was born to wear a judge’s wig and talk dead posh in a court of law, it is surely he.

Ada and Richard are the two latest claimants to have a vested interest in the case, in which an old codger years ago left some conflicting wills when he popped his clogs. The only people currently benefiting from the case being dragged slowly and painfully through the courts are the lawyers. Isn’t it always the way? Absolutely no change there then, haha.

Ada and Richard are advised not to get their hopes up too much as regards inheriting this old geezer’s fortune. This case could go on for years, they’re told. It may never be resolved, they’re warned, and not without good reason, either.

Ada, being a typical female with a loving heart, cares only about the dashing young curly-haired Richard, but Richard makes the mistake of throwing his whole heart and soul into the case, which has broken bigger and better men than he. Will it cost him more than he’s prepared to pay…? (You know it will, lol.)

Charles Dance is superb as the terrifying Mr. Tulkinghorn, Attorney-At-Law, who is lawyer to the rich and privileged. He is not accustomed to having underlings talk back to him or tread on his toes and, by Jove, if they do, they’ll not do it a second time.

He’s unscrupulous and immoral and he’s not at all above a spot of blackmail if it lines his own pockets. He is feared, hated and despised by those who run afoul of him, and when someone finally does take a pop at him, there’s a line of suspects a mile long. It’s like the ‘Who Shot Mr. Burns?’ episode of THE SIMPSONS, lol.

His richest clients are Sir Leicester and Lady Honoria Dedlock, played by Timothy West and Gillian Anderson, who goes on to play Miss Havisham in the 2011 BBC TV dramatisation of GREAT EXPECTATIONS.

Sir Leicester lives in the sort of cloud-cuckoo-land inhabited by many rich aristocrats of the time. He doesn’t have a clue what kind of conditions the poor people of England are forced to live in, and it really gets his goat that his housekeeper’s son, a Mr. Rouncewell, has risen up from lowly beginnings to become a rich factory-owner. It doesn’t affect him adversely in any way whatsoever; it just gets up his nose to see a povvo rising through the ranks to become a man of substance.

Sir Leicester, to give him his dues, does really love his beautiful, much younger ice-queen of a wife, his Lady Dedlock, but she is one desperately unhappy woman. Lonely, by her own admission ‘bored to death with the weather, bored to death with her life and bored to death with herself,’ and she has a sad, shocking secret into the bargain that some of the more unscrupulous characters in this dramatisation seem determined to bring out into the open, purely for their own financial game.

Characters like the vile, evil Mr. Tulkinghorn and his long-suffering clerk, Clamb; Johnny Vegas as the aptly-named landlord, alcoholic and hoarder, Mr. Krook; Mr. Guppy of Kenge and Carboys, an ambitious young clerk who woos- or tries to woo!- Esther Summerson and who intends to rise in his profession, despite his Cockney accent and slightly odd facial features. Remember, young Guppy, you insolent puppy, love is not love which alters when it alteration finds!; and, last but definitely not least, Mr. Smallweed the moneylender, possibly the most repulsive and self-serving of all of Dickens’s villains. He makes Bill Sikes and Fagin the miser look like graduates (with honours) from charm school, he’s so disgustingly awful and foul-tempered and rude. ‘Shake me up, Judy…!’

Gillian Anderson is utterly sublime as the cold, distant Lady Dedlock, the woman with the boarded-up heart. Every inch the proud, haughty, arrogant aristocrat when the situation calls for it, she is nevertheless a broken, deeply wounded woman who once loved deeply and now keeps her heart under lock and key where no-one can touch it. Except that all kinds of vulgar riff-raff are now rattling at the lock and it’s only a matter of time before one of them penetrates to the inner sanctum. Must Honoria Dedlock pay for the sins of poor unhappy Honoria Barbary…?

Gillian Anderson’s face is just so fabulously photogenic; her eyes, her mouth, the planes of her face all combine to form a gloriously nuanced whole that reflect perfectly every emotion she’s required to express, from aristocratic disdain to heartbroken despair. It’s no coincidence that there are more close-ups of her boat-race than of anyone else’s in this TV dramatisation. She has a face to die for, the kind that could easily launch a thousand ships. THE X FILES‘s loss was surely Dickens’s gain…

There are plenty of other familiar faces here too. Alun Armstrong (he plays Daniel Peggotty in the TV dramatisation of DAVID COPPERFIELD) portrays Inspector Bucket (Are you sure it’s not pronounced ‘Bouquet,’ Inspector?), the copper who’s called in to solve the murder of a very high-profile- but deeply despised- man. Pauline Collins (SHIRLEY VALENTINE, the original UPSTAIRS DOWNSTAIRS) plays the appropriately-named Miss Flite, the crazy old bird-lady.

Hugo Speer (THE FULL MONTY; remember ‘The lunchbox has landed,’ and ‘Oh, hiya, Gerald, I di’n’t see you there!’) plays a decent man pushed to his limits by the dreadful Mr. Tulkinghorn and the possibly even worse Mr. Smallweed, who’d sell his own mother for a few quid and throw in his sister as well for a few shillings more, if he had a mother and sister, that is.

Harold Skimpole (Nathaniel Parker) is, in his own refined way, even more detestable than Tulkinghorn and Smallweed put together. ‘A perfect child in such matters’ he may be, but a dangerous, spoiled child, who does as much damage in his own way as the more obvious and less genteel of Dickens’s villains. Did you hear what he says about his wife and children? The callous bastard! He needs a wake-up call, does Harold Skimpole.

Charlie Brooks, aka Janine from EASTENDERS, plays a povvo with an abusive husband, and Di Botcher the mother of another of Esther Summerson’s valiant suitors, a Welsh medic called Allan Woodcourt. As is usually the case with these big budget TV dramatisations, the viewer can have great fun playing spot-the-minor-celeb in the various roles.

Gillian Anderson and Charles Dance steal every scene they’re in and, when they’re acting together, it’s a toss-up as to who gets the better of whom, each of their characters being as cold and hard as the other and each as determined as the other not to let their guard down.

But the tragic Lady Dedlock has at least loved once, that we know of, has written billets-doux to a lover and lost that lover in painful circumstances. It makes her more human to us. Has the odious Mr. Tulkinghorn ever said ‘I love you’ to anyone but his own reflection in the shaving mirror? I wouldn’t bet on it…

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.

Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, poet, short story writer and film and book blogger. She has studied Creative Writing and Film-Making. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, women’s fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra’s books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:

http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B015GDE5RO

You can contact Sandra at:

sandrasandraharris@gmail.com

https://www.facebook.com/SandraHarrisPureFilthPoetry

https://sandrafirstruleoffilmclubharris.wordpress.com

http://sexysandieblog.wordpress.com

http://serenaharker.wordpress.com

https://twitter.com/SandraAuthor

NICHOLAS NICKLEBY. (1977) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

nick cover

NICHOLAS NICKLEBY. (1977) BASED ON THE BOOK BY CHARLES DICKENS. DIRECTED BY CHRISTOPHER BARRY.

STARRING NIGEL HAVERS, PETER BOURKE, DEREK GODFREY, ROBERT JAMES, KATE NICHOLLS, HILARY MASON, DEREK FRANCIS, PATRICIA ROUTLEDGE, PATRICIA BRAKE, DAVID GRIFFIN, PATSY SMART AND LIZ SMITH.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

Charles Dickens does good misery. GREAT EXPECTATIONS is rife with it. OLIVER TWIST positively overflows with it. DAVID COPPERFIELD has a goodly amount also. NICHOLAS NICKLEBY is no exception to the rule. The misery oozes out the sides if you are unwise enough to squeeze it.

The titular Nicholas Nickleby is barely out of his teens when his papa has the bad taste to pop his clogs without leaving his small family provided for. In Victorian society, this almost amounts to a death sentence.

Certainly, it is a sentence of shame, penury and humiliation in the eyes of your betters as you are forced to seek a situation almost certain to be beneath you socially, or worse, seek the charity of others or the state. (‘Are there no prisons? Are there no workhouses?’)

Nicholas, his pretty younger sister Kate and their silly flutterbudget of a mother are obliged to throw themselves on the mercy of their late father’s/husband’s brother Ralph Nickleby, a wealthy but heartless businessman in whose person the milk of human kindness appears to have dried up somewhat.

Think Ebenezer Scrooge, but without the benefit of that gentleman’s three ghostly visitations. Ralph dislikes Nicholas on sight, thinking him uppity and too opinionated, but our Nicky just says straight out what he thinks. He calls it like he sees it, and has a strong sense of justice and fair play which is to be commended.

Uncle Ralph is instrumental in Kate’s getting a situation as an apprentice milliner and dressmaker at Madame Mantalini’s, of which more later, and in Nicholas’s acquiring a position as assistant schoolmaster at Dotheboys (pronounced, my dear readers, pho-net-ic-ally!) Hall. This is a school in rural England (Yorkshire, in fact) so horrible it makes Old Creakles’ Salem House in DAVID COPPERFIELD look like a luxury spa by comparison.

The revolting gammy-eyed and snaggle-toothed Mr. Wackford Squeers, a rum cove indeed, charges twenty guineas a year to board boys unwanted by their families at his dreadful so-called ‘school,’ in which food is scarce, holidays scarcer and physical abuse plentiful.

Mr. Squeers has a fat objectionable son, a game-eyed objectionable daughter and a thin objectionable wife. Altogether they are a most objectionable family, and allowing them to run a school is a bit like putting a cat in charge of a small platoon of mice.

Still, anyone who wanted to run a school was allowed to run a school back then, no questions asked. Fred and Rose West and Jimmy Savile could have gone into the boarding school business together and no-one would have said ‘boo!’ to ’em. I’n’t that a shockin’ thought?

The fiercely principled young Nicholas falls afoul of the dastardly Squeers when he rescues a pathetic young orphaned slave called Smike, who has worked and lived in the school since he was a lad, from Squeers’ clutches. Nicholas gives Squeers a goodly dose of his own medicine while he’s at it, and Squeers is not one iota thankful for it.

Smike gladly returns to London with young Nickleby, but the pair must flee again when dear kindly old Uncle Ralph threatens to cut off his financial assistance to Kate and Mrs. Nickleby if Nicholas lives with them. The two lads go as far as Portsmouth, where they stay for a brief spell as part of Mr. Crummles’ theatre company. But then a mysterious note arrives for Nicholas, telling him that his sister Kate is in grave danger…

Nicholas arrives in London just in time to save his much-desired sister Kate from deflowerment and dishonour at the hands of two boorish swells, namely Sir Mulberry Hawk, by far the more offensive of the two and a proper Bentley Drummle to boot, and the aptly named Lord Verisopht, snigger, who represents about as much danger to the Nicklebys as a two-day-old trifle. Hawk, now, he’s one to watch, all right…

The timely entry into Nicholas’s life of the two identical twin brothers, the aptly-named Charles and Edwin Cheeryble, provides Nicholas with both a well-paid situation and also a cottage for himself, his mum and his sister Kate to live in. Now that Nicholas is earning a good wage, there is no need for Kate to work any longer for the Mantalini’s, who in any case have gone bankrupt, thanks to the poor spending habits of Mr. Mantalini.

The Mantalinis are a funny couple. Mr. Mantalini is a dandy, a gigolo, a popinjay, a fop with an eye for the ladies, whom I bet talks with a pure Cockney accent under his posh flowery foreign affectations. He’s a bit like Mr. Micawber in DAVID COPPERFIELD, always in pecuniary difficulties, always threatening suicide in scenes of high drama when he gets in too deep but never going through with it. Mainly because he’s, like, one hundred percent putting it on. Like Wilkins Micawber, he too has a devoted spouse of whom he’s not worthy.

The long-suffering and much older Mrs. Mantalini is played by Patricia Routledge (Hyacinth from KEEPING UP APPEARANCES). She keeps her dressmaking and millinery business going with the help of Mrs. Knag (Gretchen Franklin, or Ethel from EastEnders), while her husband eyes up her female workforce and runs up so many bills that she actually has to go to Ralph Nickleby’s place of business to ask him to put her spendthrift hubby on a fixed allowance. Much to Mr. Mantalini’s horror, I might add. He’s determined to put an end to it all, but if Wifey will only reconsider about the fixed allowance thing, well, he might just consider putting off suicide for a day or two. Just for a day or two, mind! He’s still going to do it, my life, my sweet, my love, just you watch him and see!

Anyway, Nicholas is happy and settled working for the two lovely Cheeryble brothers, but who’s that coming down the chimney at the cottage, of all places? Had Santa Claus been invented by that stage? You know, I don’t actually know. But what I can tell ya is, it ain’t him…!

And why is Nicholas so determined to prevent the marriage of the hideous old codger-slash-miser Arthur Gride to the beautiful, good-natured young Miss Madeline Bray? Could he have a vested interest, perhaps? A romantic vested interest, maybe?

(Gride’s frowsy old gin-sodden maid has the marvellous name of Peg Sliderskew; Dickens is great for making up hilarious names. Don’t tell me he didn’t have a giggle when he connected Kate to the household of a Mrs. Wititterly, or when he decided to call his wimpiest fop Lord Verisopht…!)

And to whom is Emmett from KEEPING UP APPEARANCES (‘She’ll sing at me, Liz, she will!) hoping to pay court, the old romantic? Just wait till Hyacinth finds out about this, there’ll be noses out of joint all over the shop. Yoo-hoo, coffee in ten minutes, Elizabeth…!

Newman Noggs, assistant to Ralph Nickleby, is a great character. He’s a true friend to Nicholas, as is Mr. Jagger’s clerk Wemmick to Pip in GREAT EXPECTATIONS, and is very helpful to the young Nickleby in the matter of the poor, miserable runaway Smike.

Can the deplorably ill-treated Smike, perpetually sickly and simple-minded, by the way, be kept out of the clutches of the abominable Wackford Squeers, and what is the mystery surrounding Smike’s birth? Where or what is that little attic room with the trapdoor in it he seems to remember? And what does the disreputable blackmailer Brooker have to do with it all?

(I’m afraid I don’t like Smike at all, even though he’s been ill-used and Charles Dickens is clearly presenting him as the victim here. I don’t like his soft, whispery way of talking and the way his mouth goes all over to one side when he speaks. To think he has the audacity to admire Miss Kate, and he a drooling simpleton! He must be out of his mind to even give the thought house room. Humph. Miss Kate, indeed! She may as well marry a chimney sweep who’s come down with the chilblains…!)

Also, can the animosity between the fair-minded Nicholas and his Scrooge-like Uncle Ralph ever be resolved? (Ralph Nickleby has a secret but he doesn’t even know it; can Nicholas ferret it out sometime soon, before it’s too late?) And if never the twain shall meet, how will it all come out? You’ll have to watch this six-part serial to find out, dear readers. Or you could read the book, whatever. It’s all good…!

(I believe that this story is still available in, erm, whatchamaycallem, books, in book form, anyone with eyes can, erm, whatsit called now, erm, gottit, readit…!)

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.

Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, poet, short story writer and film and book blogger. She has studied Creative Writing and Film-Making. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, women’s fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra’s books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:

http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B015GDE5RO

You can contact Sandra at:

sandrasandraharris@gmail.com

https://www.facebook.com/SandraHarrisPureFilthPoetry

https://sandrafirstruleoffilmclubharris.wordpress.com

http://sexysandieblog.wordpress.com

http://serenaharker.wordpress.com

https://twitter.com/SandraAuthor

DAVID COPPERFIELD. (1999) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

david copperfield

DAVID COPPERFIELD. (1999) A BBC PRODUCTION: BASED ON THE BOOK BY CHARLES DICKENS. DIRECTED BY SIMON CURTIS. TOM WILKINSON AS THE NARRATOR.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

‘Like many fond parents, I have in my heart a favourite child. And his name is David Copperfield.’ Charles Dickens.

‘Barkis is willin.”

‘Janet, donkeys! Donkeys!’

David Copperfield the book is a mammoth achievement on the part of its writer Charles Dickens. Nearly a thousand pages long, it details the life of the titular David Copperfield from his baby days to much, much later on in his life, and in such detail it would truly take your breath away. I’ve been reading the book myself this year and was delighted to find this film version of it, which was first broadcast on the BBC in 1999, on Christmas Day and Boxing Day.

Everyone loves a bit of Dickens at Christmas, whether it’s his perennial festive favourite A Christmas Carol, or Great Expectations, Bleak House, Nicholas Nickleby or any of his other works.

His books are immensely popular when it comes to screen adaptations, the way Shakespeare’s works lend themselves so readily to staging in the theatre. It’s fantastic the way we’re still familiar with Dickens and his oeuvres nearly a century and a half after his death.

In this version, a pre-Harry Potter Daniel Radcliffe in his first screen role plays David as a child. His childhood at the Blunderstone Rookery in Suffolk is idyllic, spent with his adoring mother Clara Copperfield and even more adoring nurse Clara Peggotty, played by Birds Of A Feather star Pauline Quirke, who’s perfect in the role.

David’s childhood is all tender cuddles and endearments and picture books and gentle tuckings-in at bedtime. His father has pre-deceased him, so David’s childhood is a thoroughly feminine affair.

His blissful existence changes when David returns from a visit to Yarmouth, where he has been staying at the shore with Peggotty’s kindly seafaring brother Daniel (Alun Armstrong: This Is Personal: The Hunt For The Yorkshire Ripper), Daniel’s nephew Ham, Daniel’s niece Little Em’ly (who is not Ham’s sister) and a weeping widow by the name of Mrs. Gummidge, played by Patsy Byrne, the actress who portrayed Miranda Richardson’s dotty old Nursie in comedy series Blackadder.

David returns to Blunderstone Rookery, from the happiest holiday of his whole life, to find that his lovely sweet mother has married her horrible suitor, the grim, black-clothed, stern-faced and joyless Mr. Murdstone, played by an unrecognisable Trevor Eve (Shoestring, the Frank Langella Dracula.)

Mr. Murdstone brings his equally horrible sister Jane, played by Zoe Wanamaker, to live with them, and between them they pretty well terrorise both mother and son. Their only ally is now the wonderful Clara Peggotty, who would die for either of her precious charges in a heartbeat.

After an altercation in which David is savagely whipped by Mr. Murdstone, his nasty step-father sends him away to boarding school against his mother’s wishes. But it was very much what happened to the sons of well-to-do men in the Victorian era. The boys and their mothers had little or no choice in the matter.

At school, the boys were whipped by their teachers and by older boys (for whom they were forced to ‘fag’ or skivvy), made to learn a load of dry, dusty old Latin, algebra, theorems and trigonometry while deprived of most material comforts, and then they left school damaged, broken, determined to take their revenge on the world and with the most intense sexual hang-ups about being flogged that would never leave them. Okay, so I’m making a generalisation here but you get the idea.

David’s head-teacher, the sadistic old Creakle, played by Ian McKellen, is practically addicted to whipping the boys in his rather dubious ‘care.’ David’s only friend and protector is, rather luckily, the arrogant young toff Steerforth, without whose patronage David would undoubtedly have suffered much more in his schooldays.

When David’s bullied and broken young mother dies, not long after giving birth to Mr. Murdstone’s child, Murdstone removes a heartbroken David from school (heartbroken about his mum, not about leaving school!), begrudging the money that would be required to pay for the boy’s education.

He then forces him to work in a London blacking factory of which he is part-owner. It’s no more than slave labour and David is bullied there by the older boys. I’m not sure what a blacking factory is but it seems to involve a great many icky barrels of boiling hot tar. Not exactly the place for a vulnerable child.

David is happy to lodge with Mr. Wilkins Micawber (genially played by Bob Hoskins), however, one of Dickens’s most enduring characters. Married (his wife is played by Imelda Staunton) with several children, Mr. Micawber is constantly in debt, constantly hiding from his many creditors, constantly having to pawn everything in the house in order to have money for food and constantly living in the optimistic expectation that something positive will ‘turn up’ to save his family from starvation and his family name from a perpetual blackening.

The main thing you need to remember about Mr. Micawber is that you should, under no circumstances whatsoever, ever lend him money. It will undoubtedly be the last you see of it. He’s free with his IOUs all right, but unfortunately you can’t eat those. 

While lodging with Mr. Micawber, David has the experience of visiting his friend in Debtor’s Prison and of becoming intimately acquainted with the local pawnbroker, played by comedian Paul Whitehouse. When the Micawbers move away, on the promise of something’s unexpectedly having ‘turned up,’ David decides he’s had enough of the factory.

He runs away to Dover, to the one relative he has left in the world, his wildly eccentric Aunt Betsey Trotwood, played by Maggie Smith. David is as happy as Larry living with his Aunt Betsey and her no less eccentric but kindly and well-meaning lodger, Mr. Dick, played by Ian McNeice.

Aunt Betsey goes to bat for him against the odious Murdstones and, even when she does send him to school, it’s to a nice decent school in Canterbury. While there, he lodges with Aunt Betsey’s cordial lawyer Mr. Wickfield and his beautiful daughter Agnes, who treats David like a brother and becomes a lifelong friend. David has fallen on his feet here, lol.

The star of the whole show is Nicholas Only Fools And Horses Lyndhurst as the startlingly red-haired and sinister clerk of Mr. Wickfield’s, Uriah Heep. Being ‘umble’ is Uriah’s thing. Falsely ‘umble, that is, pretending he’s content to stay a lowly clerk when his ambition secretly knows no bounds. He’s the kind of poisonous wretch, however, who prefers to get ahead by bringing others down and trampling on their broken bodies on his way up the ladder to take their place.

He has his evil eye on Mr. Wickfield’s business and, even more disturbingly, on Mr. Wickfield’s lovely daughter Agnes, and he loathes David from the start, seeing him as a competitor for both ‘commodities.’ He tries to hide his hatred for David under a simmering veil of ‘umbleness,’ but I think both men know the real score. Can David prevent Uriah from doing the ultimate damage to his dearest friends…?

There’s so much more to the story. He meets the love of his life, Dora, and he entertains ambitions himself of becoming a writer, even though his grounding is in the law. My favourite storyline in the whole book/film is what happens to Little Em’ly and the poor devastated Peggotty family when David unwittingly releases a viper into their collective bosom.

And, as the cast list reads like a Harry Potter ‘pre-union,’ may I suggest that, as brilliant as Trevor Eve is in the role of Mr. Murdstone, a black-haired and hatchet-faced Alan Severus Snape Rickman might have been even better?

Michael Boone Elphick plays Peggoty’s suitor Barkis, and Cherie Lunghi is cast in the role of Steerforth’s autocratic mother. Thelma Barlow, who for years played the fluttery Mavis Wilton, Rita Fairclough’s sidekick, in Coronation Street, here portrays Uriah Heep’s mother (‘Be ‘umble, Uriah, be ‘umble!’). Comedienne Dawn French is the tipsy Mrs. Crupp, David’s landlady when he first lives independently. As adaptations go, this is an excellent one, and with an all-star cast to boot. It’s well worth three hours of your time. I say go for it…!

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.

Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, poet, short story writer and film and book blogger. She has studied Creative Writing and Film-Making. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, women’s fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra’s books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:

http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B015GDE5RO

You can contact Sandra at:

sandrasandraharris@gmail.com

https://www.facebook.com/SandraHarrisPureFilthPoetry

https://sandrafirstruleoffilmclubharris.wordpress.com

http://sexysandieblog.wordpress.com

http://serenaharker.wordpress.com

https://twitter.com/SandraAuthor

OLIVER TWIST. (1948) A MOVIE REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

fagin

OLIVER TWIST. (1948) BASED ON THE BOOK BY CHARLES DICKENS. DIRECTED BY DAVID LEAN.

STARRING ALEC GUINNESS, ROBERT NEWTON, KAY WALSH, HENRY STEPHENSON, FRANCIS LOFTUS SULLIVAN, MARY CLARE ABSALOM, DIANA DORS AND JOHN HOWARD DAVIES.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

‘It’s the old story… no wedding ring…’

Okay, so we’re probably all agreed that Lionel Bart’s 1968 musical version of this story is the best one. Wonderful songs like FOOD GLORIOUS FOOD, CONSIDER YOURSELF, YOU’VE GOT TO PICK A POCKET OR TWO, I AM REVIEWING THE SITUATION and OOMPA-PAH have been belting out of peoples’ tellies every Christmas for the last fifty-odd years. It’s a flawless film, the kind of film that gives musicals a good name.

But this 1948 re-telling of the Dickens classic is a proper corker too, even if the cast doesn’t burst into full-throated song every five minutes, lol. Its opening scenes are magnificently atmospheric in a dark brooding kind of way and deal with a subject that’s only implied in the musical version, that is to say, the arrival of Oliver’s beautiful young mother at the workhouse across the moors in the middle of a thunderstorm.

She’s already in labour and in terrible distress, both physically and emotionally. She gives birth to the child in the company of an ancient crone and a doctor, then ‘takes one look at ‘im (Oliver) and promptly dies,’ as the marvellous Harry Secombe as Mr. Bumble informs us in the musical version.

She is wearing an expensive locket that would lead to her highborn identity- and her child’s- being uncovered and to Oliver’s being restored to his wealthy and caring blood relatives, if it were brought to the attention of the proper authorities.

But the locket is unfortunately stolen by the old crone who attends the miserable workhouse birth, and so Oliver is brought up ‘on the parish’ like any other wretched orphaned waif. Poor kid.

Francis Loftus Sullivan was born to play a beadle. He’s brilliant here as Mr. Bumble, the workhouse official who places Oliver Twist with the undertaker Sowerberry after Oliver draws the short straw, asks for more chow at dinner-time and gets ejected from the workhouse after due consideration by the gluttons- sorry, by the gentlemen- of the Board.

The apprenticeship at the undertakers’ goes tits-up when Oliver runs afoul of Noah Claypole, Mr. Sowerberry’s nasty little assistant. A very young blonde-bombshell-in-waiting Diana Dors plays Charlotte, the Sowerberry’s slatternly maid, by the way. She’s already a beautiful woman, though this role’s not quite as glamorous as some of her later ones…!

Oliver, as we all know by now, runs away to London and falls in with Fagin the Fence, the vile receiver of stolen goods and corruptor of London’s youth, and his little band of pickpockets, cut-throats and thieves. Alex Guinness does a top job as Fagin, the Jewish miser whose huge hooked nose, straggly beard and voluminous rags all proclaim him to be a scoundrel of the first water.

He sends his boys, the Artful Dodger and Charlie and all the lads, out into the metropolis each day- ‘Cheerio but be back soon!- to rob and pilfer wallets, jewellery, silk handkerchieves and whatever other gew-gaws and fol-de-rols the toffs of London might be carrying about their exalted persons. He sells on the stuff and keeps most of the proceeds for himself, the scallywag.

When the green-as-grass and scrupulously honest Oliver is taken out for the first time with the Artful Dodger and Charlie and he sees them robbing an old gentleman, Oliver gets the blame and finds himself up before the Beak or Magistrate. And no, a Beak ain’t a bird’s mouf…!

The old gentleman who was robbed, however, a courtly old toff called Mr. Brownlow, is kindly disposed towards the sick and ill-treated Oliver and takes him home to live with him. It’s a strange but fortuitous ‘twist’ of Fate- lol- that will eventually lead to the discovery of the truth about Oliver’s true parentage.

Fagin and his band of villains and thieves, including the housebreaker and all-round bad guy Bill Sykes and his girlfriend Nancy, are all up in arms about Oliver’s new circumstances. What, Oliver taken? This is a disaster!

What if he peaches, blows, squeals, snitches on the gang and reveals their names and whereabouts to the law? They’d all be for the drop. (This is how they described the jolly process of being hanged.) ‘If the game were up with me, Bill, I fear it would be up with a great many more besides, and it would go rather worse with you than it would with me…’

Fagin puts the fear of God into Bill Sykes. Bill resolves to get the troublesome Oliver back at any cost, even though the kindlier and more compassionate Nancy, with a heart as big as all-outdoors, would prefer to leave the poor child where he is. One day, the couple see Oliver out walking by himself, running an errand for Mr. Brownlow. It’s only a matter of minutes before he’s back in the clutches of the gang and the die is cast…

The marriage of the pompous but not entirely heartless Mr. Bumble to the horrible Mrs. Corney, the self-serving, cold-hearted auld Bitch-With-A-Capital-B who runs the older folks’ workhouse, is both a source of mirth and terror.

Imagine ending up in a marriage as awful, as abusive and utterly joyless as this one. ‘If that’s what the law believes, then the law is an ass! The law is a bachelor, and the most I would wish for it is that its eyes would be opened by experience, Sir. By experience!’

Poor Nancy shares the same fate as the Nancy in the musical version, but it somehow seems grimmer and more dreadful here in stark black-and-white. There’s a very poignant moment when, after the terrible deed is done, Bill Sykes is looking round their bedroom at all the little things that were Nancy’s, her hairbrush and perfume bottles and powder puffs and her side of the bed.

There is something very poignant about someone’s belongings after they’ve passed on. Remember Vera Duckworth fondling dear old Jack Duck-Egg’s spectacles after his death in CORONATION STREET? The whole of Britain and Ireland were reaching for their hankies…!

The book goes one better and portrays Bill Sykes as being most dreadfully haunted by the ghost of the murdered woman after he does what he does. He flees to the countryside after the murder but is so tormented, both by what he’s done and also by the spectral sightings that chill his blood, that he ends up returning to the city, hue-and-cry or no hue-and-cry. Better the devil you know, eh, Billy Boy…?

I love the scene in the film where Nancy’s talking in secret with Mr. Brownlow on the very steps that lead down to the mighty Thames, while the Artful Dodger is concealed, listening for all he’s worth, just around the corner. This super-atmospheric scene is also in the book, though not in the musical version.

Want to hear some random facts about the 1948 film? Kay Walsh who plays Nancy was married to David Lean, the director. David Lean also directed the superb 1946 film version of Charles Dickens’s ‘GREAT EXPECTATIONS,’ starring John Mills as Pip, Valerie Hobson (THE BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN, WEREWOLF OF LONDON) as Estella and Martita Hunt as Miss Havisham.

Mary Clare Absalom who plays the awful Mrs. Corney was an absolutely stunning beauty in her youth, and was also a stage actress and silent movie star. Kathleen Harrison, Mrs. Sowerberry, also plays the charwoman Mrs. Dilber opposite Alastair Sim in the superb 1951 film version of SCROOGE. 

The film’s producer, Robert Neame, was the father of Hammer actor Christopher Neame, who plays Johnny Alucard, Dracula’s little bitch, in DRACULA AD 1972, opposite Christopher Lee. Hattie Jacques from the CARRY ON movies has a cameo role here as a singer in the Three Cripples tavern.

Finally, Alec Guinness’s performance and make-up as Fagin caused great offence in certain circles, especially the outrageously oversized hooked ‘Jewish’ nose, because it was all thought to be desperately anti-Semitic. Not a cool thing to be accused of in the very recent aftermath of the Holocaust, as I’m sure you’ll agree.

John Howard Davies makes a great Oliver, just as good as if not better than Mark Lester from the musical version. This black-and-white version is overall of terrific quality and the equal of the musical, but you just can’t beat those familiar old songs. All together now: ‘As long as ‘e needs me…’

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.

Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, film blogger, poet and book-and-movie reviewer. She has studied Creative Writing and Film-Making. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, womens’ fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra’s books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:

http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B015GDE5RO

You can contact Sandra at:

https://www.facebook.com/SandraHarrisPureFilthPoetry

https://sandrafirstruleoffilmclubharris.wordpress.com

http://sexysandieblog.wordpress.com

http://serenaharker.wordpress.com

sandrasandraharris@gmail.com

https://twitter.com/SandraAuthor

 

A CHRISTMAS CAROL: THE PATRICK STEWART ONE! (1999) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

scrooge patrick stewart scared

A CHRISTMAS CAROL: THE PATRICK STEWART ONE! (1999) BASED ON THE NOVEL BY CHARLES DICKENS. WRITTEN FOR TELEVISION BY PETER BARNES. DIRECTED BY DAVID JONES. STARRING PATRICK STEWART, RICHARD E. GRANT, SASKIA REEVES, DOMINIC WEST AND JOEL GREY.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

Patrick Stewart does a terrific job as Ebenezer Scrooge in this made-for-TV version of the timeless Christmas tale. No matter how many versions I see, and there are quite a few knocking around, I never get tired of watching this story of festive cheer and redemption unfolding on the screen before me.

Patrick Stewart makes for a very fit and trim-looking Scrooge, a Scrooge whose bearing is noble rather than stooped and bent-over and who looks as if he might just be able to run after you- and catch you!- if you endeavoured to pull an Artful Dodger on him and pinch his wallet or pocket handkerchief right out from under his very nose. This is no decrepit or dilapidated Scrooge. This is a Scrooge in top physical form, a Scrooge to be reckoned with. He’s still a miserable git, though.

Anyway, it’s Christmas-time once more, Christmas Eve in fact, and a full seven years ago tonight since the demise of one Jacob Marley, Scrooge’s business partner and the only person he could really call his friend.

Scrooge, the renowned miser and whizz-kid down at the Stock Exchange, is in his office as usual, grumping and bitching at his humble clerk Bob Cratchit about how much coal he’s putting on the fire. Scabby or what?

Richard E. Grant plays the servile but good-natured family man Bob Cratchit. I was surprised by this bit of casting because I was fully expecting him to be playing Scrooge’s posh nephew Fred but no, he’s playing Bob and they’ve even blacked up his gnashers to make him look like a proper povvo from Dickensian times. Realistic, I have no doubt, but somewhat off-putting, if I may say so.

Bob and his equally black-toothed Missus have six hungry chilluns atween ’em. Which only goes to prove the long-held opinion that there wasn’t much to do of an evening before the invention of the telly. Scrooge only pays Bob a measly fifteen bob a week, which is nowhere near enough to keep his six scraggy urchins in Playstation games and iPhones and whatnot. Better call CHILDLINE…!

Still and all, though, the Cratchits are determined to celebrate Christmas together no matter how poor they might be. Unlike mean old Mr. Scrooge, who’s busy screaming abuse at the child carol singers and telling the gentleman charity collectors looking ‘to make some slight provision for the poor at this time of year’ to bugger off. Bah humbug indeed.

While Bob runs gleefully home to his family at close of business on Christmas Eve, Scrooge returns home to his gloomy chambers alone. Here he is visited by the ghost of his former business partner Jacob Marley. Jacob, wrapped in ‘the chains he forged in life,’ the lock-boxes and money-bags that were his stock-in-trade while he lived, has a terrible message of hope and despair for his old mucker.

Change your money-grubbing, miserly ways, you greedy old bastard, is the message in a nutshell. If you don’t start loosening the purse-strings and making the welfare of mankind your business tout de suite, you’ll end up like me, Jacob Marley, doomed to walk abroad for all eternity without the power to intervene where you see misery, hunger and poverty!

It’s a pretty clear and chilling message, but Jacob can’t be sure that it’s penetrated Scrooge’s thick skull. Three ghosts will be coming, he warns Scrooge before he takes his leave of the frightened old miser, to make sure that the message to ‘change’ really gets through. Expect the first ghost when the bell tolls one…

As we all know by know, the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Christmas Present and Christmas Future do come to see Scrooge and, through little vignettes from his own past, present and future, show him the error of his ways.

Joel Grey, who positively sparkled as the wickedly bitchy and lecherous MC in CABARET some two-and-a-half decades earlier in CABARET, is lacklustre and as flat as a pancake here as the Ghost Of Christmas Past. I hate slagging him off when he was so mesmerisingly good in CABARET, but his heart’s clearly not in this role here.

Scrooge, of course, ends up changing his miserly ways and becomes ‘a man who knows how to keep Christmas well.’ He befriends Bob, raises his salary and vows to help Bob and his hungry family in the future. Bob thinks his master’s gone mad, of course, but he’ll go along with the madness as long as it means a few more shillings in the family coffers.

Scrooge also eats large helpings of humble pie round at his nephew Fred’s place, where Fred is entertaining his guests at Christmas dinner. Fred is the child of Scrooge’s dead sister Fanny (tee-hee, fanny is a rude word!), the one person in the world who truly loved Scrooge and thought there was some good in him.

Why Scrooge wasn’t kinder to poor good-natured, warm-hearted Fred for this reason from the start is a mystery, unless it was the case that Fanny (snigger!) died giving birth to Fred and that’s why he’s hated Fred all this time.

In some versions, we hear that this is the exact same reason for Scrooge’s father disliking his son and forcing him to live at school all year round. In other words, Scrooge’s mother died birthing him and Scrooge’s father wanted nothing to do with the boy.

Having been treated like this himself by his own father, it’s surprising that Scrooge would have behaved the same way towards his nephew. It’s a very harsh and unfair way of going on, isn’t it?

The child can’t be blamed for the demise of the mother, heart-breakingly sad and unfortunate as that is. In any case, Scrooge now determines to be the best uncle to Fred he can possibly be, so all’s well that ends well.

Except that Scrooge now owes Dominic West’s Fred about thirty years worth of back-payments in Christmas and birthday book-tokens, lol. I can’t imagine that Scrooge would have gifted any young’un with the cash to heedlessly fritter away on penny candy and saucy French postcards, can you? Not while they could have been doing something useful with the money.

You’ll see one or two recognisable faces in the cast. Ian McNeice (NATIVITY 2: DANGER IN THE MANGER!) plays Scrooge’s first employer, dear old Mr. Fezziwig, he of the fat wife and equally plump daughters.

It will be very hard to marry off all three of these hefty lassies unless old Fezziwig can give each of ’em an equally hefty dowry to sweeten any potential marital deal. I’m just saying. I’m genuinely concerned for the romantic futures of these three comely heifers, lol.

Liz Smith (THE ROYLE FAMILY) is perfectly, beautifully cast as the cackling old Mrs. Dilber, Scrooge’s ancient charwoman-housekeeper, and Celia Imrie, from every English film ever made, or so it would seem, is suitably ringleted and corseted as one of Fred’s rather frivolous Christmas dinner guests. They do love their silly games, Gawd bless ’em every one.

And Gawd bless Mr. Scrooge too who, from this day forward, will be ‘the founder of the feast’ in a properly meaningful way. This will be my last Scrooge review for Christmas 2018 (I’ve finally run out of Scrooges to review, can you believe it!), so I’m glad to be going out on a high note with this one.

Patrick Stewart makes a top-notch Scrooge. And Tiny Tim, lightly roasted, makes a more than acceptable turkey substitute in a pinch. I’m only surprised that none of his hungry relatives ever thought of it before, to be honest. Tuck in while it’s hot, folks…

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.

Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, film blogger, poet and book-and-movie reviewer. She has studied Creative Writing and Film-Making. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, womens’ fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra’s books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:

http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B015GDE5RO

You can contact Sandra at:

https://www.facebook.com/SandraHarrisPureFilthPoetry

https://sandrafirstruleoffilmclubharris.wordpress.com

http://sexysandieblog.wordpress.com

http://serenaharker.wordpress.com

sandrasandraharris@gmail.com

https://twitter.com/SandraAuthor

THE MUPPET CHRISTMAS CAROL. (1992) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

muppets scrooge

THE MUPPET CHRISTMAS CAROL. 1992. PRODUCED AND DIRECTED BY BRIAN HENSON. MUSIC BY PAUL WILLIAMS. BASED ON THE NOVEL BY CHARLES DICKENS.

STARRING MICHAEL CAINE, STEVEN MACKINTOSH, MEREDITH BRAUN, ROBIN WEAVER, KERMIT THE FROG, THE GREAT GONZO, RIZZO THE RAT, MISS PIGGY, FOZZIE BEAR, SAM THE EAGLE, ROWLF THE DOG AND KERMIT’S NEPHEW, ROBIN. REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

‘The years performed their terrible dance.’

The Marleys were dead, to begin with… This is, quite simply, the best Christmas movie ever made. It’s a top-notch reworking of the Charles Dickens’ classic, A CHRISTMAS CAROL, in which Ebenezer Scrooge, the meanest man in Christendom, is visited on Christmas Eve by Three Spirits who show him the error of his ways.

Michael Caine is superb as Scrooge, the Victorian moneylender who’s so mean he wouldn’t give you the steam off his piss, as we say here in Ireland. He underpays his employees, he’s a horrible uncle to his nephew Fred and he gives short shrift to the gentlemen who come collecting for charity on Christmas Eve.

He only lets his workers, among them Bob Cratchit, brilliantly played by Kermit The Frog, have Christmas Day off work because there won’t be any other businesses open to do business with. Tsk, tsk. What a cantankerous old skinflint.

Bob is glad to be rid of him when close of business finally arrives on Christmas Eve because Bob, along with his wife Emily and their four children, twin girls Belinda and Bettina (the living image of their mother Emily, played by Miss Piggy!) and two boys, Peter and the ailing Tiny Tim, do know how to keep Christmas well. Which is more, much more, than can be said for Mr. Scrooge. Humph.

Scrooge goes home alone to his cold, dark gloomy chambers. From the moment he sees the face of one of his long-dead business partners, Jacob Marley, materialise superimposed over the front door knocker of his house, he gets an uneasy feeling that tonight isn’t going to be like most nights. And by Jiminy, he’s dead right!

Statler and Waldorf, the two incorrigible old jokers who sit up in their box at the Muppet Theatre every night and gleefully heckle the performers, turn up to his chambers first as the ghosts of Scrooge’s deceased business partners, Marley and Marley.

Wearing the terrible ‘chains they forged in life,’ the two auld lads try to convince Scrooge that living for his cashboxes the way he does is the way to end up in hell, chained for all time to the things you mistakenly thought were important in life. They don’t have much luck. Scrooge is going to need more convincing.

Next, the Three Spirits, the Ghosts of Christmases Past, Present and Future, whose ghoulish coming was foretold by the shades of Marley and Marley, arrive bang on schedule on Christmas Eve night.

They give the terrified Scrooge what for, showing him what a miserably lonely child he was in his youth, how he is scorned and shunned by all in the present, and how little he’ll be missed on his death.

Scrooge, as we all know, repents his tight-fisted ways and pays festive visits to both his gobsmacked nephew Fred and the impoverished Cratchit family, who are delighted to see that he comes bearing gifts.

One of my favourite scenes is where Bob Cratchit, an amiable man who only sees the good in people, tries to get his wife Emily to join him in drinking a toast during Christmas dinner to ‘Mr. Scrooge, the founder of the feast.’ 

She nearly becomes apoplectic with rage, saying things like: ‘Founder of the feast indeed!’ and ‘If he were here, I’d give him a piece of my mind and I hope he’d choke on it…!’ She doesn’t have quite the rosy-eyed view of the world that her husband has, and I don’t blame her.

While Bob is out at work, she’s the one who has to feed her family out of fresh air and find clothes for them and heat their freezing little icebox of a house. She also has to watch her youngest child, Tiny Tim, grow steadily weaker for the want of good food, a bit of warmth and the right medicines.

The wife of a rich Victorian banker may have been able to lie on her chaise-longue all day, pale and languid, but the wives of poor men were up against it all right. It’s no wonder that the spirited Emily Cratchit, fiercely loyal to her husband who busts his hump daily for Scrooge for tiny wages, would dearly love to ‘Hi-yah!’ Ebenezer Scrooge into the middle of next week. You go, girl.

The songs are fantastic, every single one of them an unforgettable Christmas classic. This is a great karaoke film because you and your whole family can sing along as loudly as you like to the tunes, especially if you have the subtitles and therefore the words.

There are some genuinely spooky and atmospheric scenes in Scrooge’s dark, cold old chambers as he awaits the arrival of the spectres. The Ghost Of Christmas Future is particularly grim. I think he’d put the willies up most people, this fella.

The atmosphere of love and togetherness in the Cratchit household, despite their poverty and Tiny Tim’s imminent death, would bring a tear to the eye of the most hard-hearted viewer. They have a sense of family that’s most fitting for the time of year, but that you can imagine sustains them right through the rest of the year as well. And yet they’re not too sickly-sweet, like the Waltons, lol. Bob’s genuine warmth and Emily’s feistiness and fierce protectiveness of her family sees to that.

The film is chock-a-block with typical Muppet comedy too, as you might expect. The Great Gonzo playing Charles Dickens is an inspired piece of casting, and Rizzo the Rat makes an adorably funny sidekick to the great nineteenth-century novelist. It’s the perfect Christmas film and a wonderful tribute to the season that the Victorians are credited with, if not inventing, exactly, then at least putting their own stamp on it.

Let’s not forget either, though, that it’s ultimately a horror story, involving the visitation by ghosts of a man who seriously needs to change his miserly ways. And change them he does, in the many versions of the story committed to celluloid. Could this even be the most often-told ghost story of all time…?

I don’t know, but what I do know is that this little film is top of my Christmas movie-list every single year without fail. It’s a heartwarming, brilliantly-scripted classic. What else can I say about it? Just watch it for yourself. You’ll see what I mean. But make sure you try to get an early night first, okay? After all, there’s only one more sleep till Christmas…

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.

Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, film blogger, poet and book-and-movie reviewer. She has studied Creative Writing and Film-Making. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, womens’ fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra’s books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:

http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B015GDE5RO

You can contact Sandra at:

https://www.facebook.com/SandraHarrisPureFilthPoetry

https://sandrafirstruleoffilmclubharris.wordpress.com

http://sexysandieblog.wordpress.com

http://serenaharker.wordpress.com

sandrasandraharris@gmail.com

https://twitter.com/SandraAuthor

THE THREE SCROOGES: THREE FILM VERSIONS OF CHARLES DICKENS’ ‘A CHRISTMAS CAROL’ REVIEWED BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

scrooge alastair sim

THE THREE SCROOGES: A TRIPLE FESTIVE FILM REVIEW OF CHARLES DICKENS’ 1843 NOVELLA: A CHRISTMAS CAROL. REVIEWS BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

A CHRISTMAS CAROL- 1951. DIRECTED AND PRODUCED BY BRIAN DESMOND HURST.

STARRING ALASTAIR SIM, GEORGE COLE, PATRICK MACNEE, MERVYN JOHNS, KATHLEEN HARRISON, HERMIONE BADDELEY, MICHAEL HORDERN, MILES MALLESON, HATTIE JACQUES, ERNEST THESIGER AND GLYN DEARMAN.

DISNEY’S A CHRISTMAS CAROL- 2009. DIRECTED BY/CO-PRODUCED BY/ SCREENPLAY BY ROBERT ZEMECKIS.

STARRING JIM CARREY, GARY OLDMAN, COLIN FIRTH, BOB HOSKINS, CARY ELWES, FIONNUALA FLANAGAN AND ROBIN WRIGHT PENN.

A CHRISTMAS CAROL- A MUSICAL VERSION- 2004. DIRECTED BY ARTHUR ALLAN SEIDELMAN.

STARRING KELSEY GRAMMER, JENNIFER LOVE HEWITT, JANE KRAKOWSKI, JESSE L. MARTIN, GERALDINE CHAPLIN AND JASON ALEXANDER.

I guess I’d better get something straight right from the start. My favourite film version of Charles Dickens’ super-popular Christmas book will always be the one with The Muppets and Michael Caine in it, the 1992 version.

Michael Caine is the best he’s ever been, playing the famous miser who gets taught a stern lesson by three spirits on Christmas Eve a long time ago, and Jim Henson’s iconic puppets really help to drive home the message of Christmas to the viewers, who will all be in floods of tears by the end. Whaddya mean, speak for myself? I am speaking for myself, haha.

But just because I have a favourite movie version of the perennial Christmas phenomenon (trust me, it’s a freakin’ phenomenon!) doesn’t mean that there aren’t a load of other brilliant film adaptations out there too. I’ve picked out three great ones for us to look at today, all telling the same basic story but in different ways.

Does everyone know the story? It’s been filmed umpteen times and parodied about as often, so there’s probably not a soul alive today who hasn’t seen some version or another of Dickens’ probably most commercially successful work.

It’s true that if Dickens were alive today, he’d surely be able to retire on the immense royalties and the film rights that derive from this book alone. A CHRISTMAS CAROL would be his pension plan, in the same way that the song MERRY CHRISTMAS EVERYBODY would be for the band SLADE or I WISH IT COULD BE CHRISTMAS EVERY DAY for WIZZARD. Sure wish I could get me some of that yearly Crimbo action…!

Anyway, Ebenezer Scrooge is an old moneylender living alone in gloomy chambers in pre-Victorian London. He is notoriously mean and heartless to the clerks who work for him and to the poor families who are obliged to borrow money from him.

To the rich fat-cat businessmen with whom he consorts, he’s a joke and a figure to be despised and pitied. His stinginess and penny-pinching are legendary throughout London. Not something you want to be known for, really, is it?

Things change forever, however, when Scrooge is visited by three spirits one lonely Christmas Eve. Well, it’s four spirits, really, as he receives a visit from his long-dead business partner Jacob Marley initially, Marley serving to kind of pave the way for the Big Three who’ll come along later as foretold.

The three spirits, the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Future, show Scrooge terrifying visions from his, well, you know, past, present and future that serve to scare the miserliness out of him forever. He does a complete about-face and, from that night forward, it was always said of him that ‘he was a man who knew how to keep Christmas well.’ Oh, the wonderful quotable quotes!

Alastair Sim is superb as the crotchety Scrooge in the 1951 film. He plays literature’s most famous miser in a wonderfully understated but utterly realistic way. This is quite a grim version, and the bit where the charlady Mrs. Dilber (a fine performance from actress Kathleen Harrison) boasts about taking down the dead Scrooge’s bed-curtains and stripping the corpse of its nightshirt would really put the willies up you.

‘Bed curtains? Do you mean to say that you took ’em down, rings and all, while ‘e’s a-lyin’ there…?’

The bit at the end, though, where Scrooge puts things right with the poverty-hardened old biddy would gladden your heart. Alastair Sim is almost maniacally happy as he gallivants about, delighting in his second chance, and the shock on Mrs. Dilber’s face is a sight to behold.

Especially when he does an impulsive handstand while wearing only his nightshirt and she gets to witness wiv ‘er own two eyes the wondrous image of his meat and two veg in all their unclothed glory. Not exactly a vision for a respectable woman to be seeing, now is it?

Funny though, lol, to see Mrs. Dilber’s utterly horrified face. She finks ‘e’s gone stark staring mad, she does. She wouldn’t be at all surprised if the men in the white coats came for ‘im and carted ‘im off ter Bedlam.

Miles Malleson (a much-loved Hammer Horror actor) is a superb choice for the role of Old Joe, the mercenary scallywag who buys the bed-curtains from Mrs. Dilber for a good price because he’s always had a ‘soft spot for the ladies.’ Harrumph.

George Cole, star of MINDER in his later career, has a heartbreaking scene in this film as the younger Scrooge with a lovely full head of dark curly hair. Attending his beloved sister Fan’s deathbed, he leaves before she can extract a very important promise from him. His premature leave-taking leads Scrooge to make the same kind of mistake his own father made with him, Scrooge, and it will take a long, long time to put right.

Ernest Thesiger (THE BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN, THE OLD DARK HOUSE) has a cameo role here as the undertaker who is waiting to see to Jacob Marley’s corpse even before the old fellow’s breathed his last. 

‘Ours is a very competitive business, you know.’ 

Hattie Jacques (the CARRY ON films, SYKES the comedy series) also has the briefest of cameos (now you see her, now you don’t) as Mrs. Fezziwig, the buxom wife of Scrooge’s first employer. She looks lovely and young in her dusky-pink dress, dancing with her husband and laughing her head off in the spirit of the season.

I myself have a colorised version of the film that came free with the now defunct NEWS OF THE WORLD and was introduced by the actor Patrick MacNee, who actually has a small part in the film. While the colour is lovely and muted and not at all garish, I imagine the black-and-white version to be even more atmospheric.

All those marvellous scenes where the snow is falling silently on the quiet Victorian streets! Just imagine seeing ’em in black-and-white. It’d be really something. This Alastair Sim version of the film is the one I feel most captures the Victorian feeling of Charles Dickens’ wonderful old book. The shops, the lights, the snow, the housewives scurrying along with their baskets and bonnets, rushing to grab a Christmas goose before they’re all sold out; it’s like stepping into another world.

The DISNEY version from 2009 is surprisingly good, surprisingly grim and surprisingly scary. I know one or two adults who freaked out when Jacob Marley’s long-dead jaw broke free from its cloth confines and flapped about like a pair of ladies’ bloomers on a clothes-line in a gale-force wind. If anything, it seems that death and dying were even grimmer in Victorian London than they are today. Shudder. 

Scrooge’s house and bedchamber are terrifyingly dark and shadowed and Jim Carrey, an actor I don’t otherwise care for over-much, does an outstanding job as the voice of the miser. Imagine his fear when he’s interrupted by the ghost of his former friend and business partner while he’s huddled over his meagre supper on that fateful Christmas Eve:

Scrooge: ‘Speak comfort to me, Jacob!’

Jacob Marley: ‘I have none to give.’ 

Heh-heh-heh. Tough titties, in other words.

The animation in this version is fantastic. I myself love the way that the characters closely resemble the actors who are voicing them. For example, Scrooge’s nephew Fred is played by Colin Firth and he not only sounds like Colin Firth, he’s the spitting image of him too, which is kind of funny. 

The rotund and cheerful Bob Hoskins is the rotund and cheerful Mr. Fezziwig, who gives the best Christmas parties in London, and Gary Oldman plays the quiet Bob Cratchit in whose breast hides a terrible suffering. Maybe the words ‘Tiny Tim’ might ring a bell with you guys?

All the good quotes are in there too, everything from: ‘There’s more of gravy than of grave about you!’ and ‘If they are going to die then they had better do it, and decrease the surplus population!’ to ‘These are the shadows of the things that have been; that they are what they are, do not blame me.’

Oh, and don’t forget ‘It’s a poor excuse for picking a man’s pocket every 25th of December’ and ‘The spirits have done it all in one night; of course they have, they can do anything they like!’ Such brilliant lines, and all infinitely quotable.

I’ve even heard some people say that this DISNEY version of the film is the most accurate re-telling of the story they’ve seen. Whether it is or it isn’t, it really is surprisingly good, and everyone in my family always bursts out laughing when Scrooge actually steals the pennies off of the deceased Jacob Marley’s eyes with the words that just about sum up his utter stinginess:

‘Tuppence is tuppence!’

The musical version starring Kelsey Grammer is surprisingly good fun too. The songs are great craic altogether and the man we’re probably more used to seeing as Frasier Crane from both CHEERS and FRASIER and as the voice of criminal mastermind Sideshow Bob from THE SIMPSONS does a splendid job as the legendary meanie.

Scrooge makes the huge mistake in this version of throwing away the love of a well-tasty Jennifer Love Hewitt as Emily, a top bird the likes of which you probably didn’t get too many chances with in Victorian London.

He also refuses to help his former employer, the aforementioned Mr. Fezziwig, he of the simply splendiferous Christmas bash, when old Fezziwig’s business is in trouble. Given the kindness shown to Scrooge by old Fezziwig and his plump wife, this refusal to help old friends does not reflect Ebenezer in the best of lights, sadly.

I like this version too because it gives us an insight into what very obviously caused Scrooge’s terrible miserliness with money and his deathly fear of poverty. It’s probably no wonder that he turned out as he did but still, there’s such a thing as taking things too far, you know. He might do well to remember that, the little dickens…!

This version has a sexy blonde scantily-clad Ghost Of Christmas Past in it, by the way, who was leg-bombing away to beat the band a good decade before Brad Pitt’s gorgeous missus Angelina Jolie cottoned onto the trend.

The various Ghosts Of Christmas Future have been scaring the manners into kids since the cinema was invented, and I myself have always loved the Ghost Of Christmas Present, who never drops in without bringing enough festive food with him to feed an army. Now that’s the kind of guest you want round your gaff of a dark and dreary Christmas Eve. 

‘Come in and know me better, man!’

Well, that’s it. Only six days left till Christmas Day, 2018. Better go and get some provisions in. Do you happen to know if the poulterer’s in the next street still have the big prize turkey in their window? They do? How marvellous! I’ll just nip round and get it for Christmas dinner. It looks like it might be pretty heavy, though. Fuck it anyway. I’ll just shop online like I always do…

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.

Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, film blogger, poet and book-and-movie reviewer. She has studied Creative Writing and Film-Making. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, womens’ fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra’s books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:

http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B015GDE5RO

You can contact Sandra at:

https://www.facebook.com/SandraHarrisPureFilthPoetry

https://sandrafirstruleoffilmclubharris.wordpress.com

http://sexysandieblog.wordpress.com

http://serenaharker.wordpress.com

sandrasandraharris@gmail.com

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