SCROOGED. (1988) DIRECTED BY RICHARD DONNER. BASED ON THE 1843 NOVELLA, A CHRISTMAS CAROL, BY CHARLES DICKENS.
STARRING BILL MURRAY, ROBERT MITCHUM, ALFRE WOODARD, KAREN ALLEN, DAVID JOHANSEN, CAROL KANE, BOBCAT GOLDTHWAIT AND MARIA RIVA.
I love this Christmas film, though it has certainly divided opinion between those who think it’s brilliant and those who think it’s a little too dark and mean-spirited to be a perennial Christmas favourite, and yet here we are, lol.
It’s a re-telling of the traditional festive story of Charles Dickens’s, in which a mean old miser is visited by three ghosts on Christmas Eve and is taught by them the true meaning of Christmas. What is the true meaning of Christmas, you ask?
Well, I would say it’s to let others into your heart at this emotional time of year, and to try and do as much good for them as you would have them and others do for you. I think that’s it in a nutshell, but you may of course have your own interpretation.
For some people, it just represents a break from work and a microwaveable turkey dinner for one. For television bigwig, Frank Cross (played by Bill Murray), it means keeping his staff and crew working late into the night on Christmas Eve on a live version of the Charles Dickens’ story, A CHRISTMAS CAROL. Sounds like a pretty big ask, doesn’t it?
Not for the cynical, battle-scarred Frank Cross, who damned well didn’t get where he is today (IBC Television President) by pussy-footing around the employees’ feelings and needs. Did ‘e ‘eck as like, as they say down Weatherfield way. If Frank’s stuck in work on Christmas Eve, slaving away over a hot script, then so will his workers be, goddammit!
Frank is so scabby that he gifts the people he doesn’t give a shit about- his devoted personal assistant Grace and his kindly brother James- a poxy IBC towel for Christmas, whereas the top network executives he feels he has to kiss up to all get Hi-Fi stereo-slash-VHS-recorders.
Grace’s kids (one little fella has been unable to speak since he witnessed his father’s death) to their mom when she finally gets home: ‘Mommy, mommy! Where’s your bonus?”
Grace: ‘I’m drying my hair with it…!’
Anyway, so much for Frank Cross and his much-vaunted kindness and generosity! His old deceased boss Lew Hayward, played by the handsome John DYNASTY Forsythe, comes to Frank to tell him that, due to his Scrooge-like ‘Bah! Humbug!’ mentality, he can expect the Three Spirits in due course.
The Ghost of Christmas Past is an obnoxious taxi driver played by David Johansen of the predating-glam-rock-and-punk band, the New York Dolls. Frank is shown by this ghost how he cruelly dropped the love of his life, Claire (Karen Allen of Indiana Jones fame), for the lure of showbiz money and glamour. Claire works in a homeless shelter now, but she’s still crazy in love with Frank, more fool her…
The Ghost of Christmas Present is a delightfully violent fairy played by horror movie star Carol Kane, who once starred in one of the scariest horror films ever made: WHEN A STRANGER CALLS. (‘Have you checked the children?’)
Frank, through the ball-breaking, ass-kicking little tiny fairy, learns that he pays his personal assistant Grace a pittance which doesn’t go far enough in enabling her to support her hungry family, and that he’s treated his brother James disgracefully, even though James still loves him and wants to be pals with him again.
Frank is finally urged to change his selfish ways by the Ghost of Christmas Future, who shows him what it feels like to be cremated. Yes, cremated, and I don’t fancy it either, lol. And what’s even worse than being cremated? Being cremated with no-one there to mourn for you because you were such a curmudgeonly so-and-so in life…
Bobcat Goldthwaite as fired IBC employee with a grudge Eliot Loudermilk also features in the transformation of Frank Cross, as does a rather frightening glimpse into Grace and Claire’s cold, bleak futures… the futures that will happen if Frank doesn’t make the effort for them now. Will Frank get off his smug, comfortably insulated network hiney and step up to the plate…?
Robert Mitchum, star of the Golden Age of Hollywood (CAPE FEAR, RYAN’S DAUGHTER, THE WINDS OF WAR, WAR AND REMEMBRANCE, etc.), plays Preston Rhinelander, Frank’s boss, and Preston’s wife, interestingly enough, is portrayed by a lovely lady called Maria Riva, the daughter of none other than acting royalty, Marlene Dietrich.
Bill GHOSTBUSTERS Murray is great when he’s doing anything, but he’s probably at his best when he’s administering death by a thousand verbal paper cuts to his co-actors, that is to say, when he’s being supremely bitchy, catty, cutting, sarcastic, insulting, you name it, he can do it. He’s got a repertoire of insults that STRICTLY’s Craig Revel-Horwood would die for, dawling, and that’s saying something…!
SCROOGED is up there with NATIONAL LAMPOON’S CHRISTMAS VACATION, CHRISTMAS WITH THE KRANKS, JINGLE ALL THE WAY, HOW THE GRINCH STOLE CHRISTMAS, DECK THE HALLS and all those other terrific Christmas films that we re-watch every year even though we know them upside-down and inside-out by now. They’re as much a part of Christmas as sage and onion stuffing and wrapping paper, so let’s watch ‘em all again this year and to hell with the begrudgers. It’s only once a year, after all…