A CHRISTMAS CAROL. (1984) BASED ON THE BOOK BY CHARLES DICKENS. DIRECTED BY CLIVE DONNER. STARRING GEORGE C. SCOTT, ROGER REES, DAVID WARNER, SUSANNAH YORK, FRANK FINLAY, ANGELA PLEASENCE, EDWARD WOODWARD, MICHAEL GOUGH, DEREK FRANCIS, LIZ SMITH AND PETER WOODTHORPE.
REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©
Christmas is the ideal time to watch- or read!- a bit of Charles Dickens, whose 1843 novel A CHRISTMAS CAROL formed the basis of much of how we ‘do’ Christmas today. The image of a picture-perfect, Christmas card/snowglobe idea of the Victorian English Christmas was firmly cemented in our pysches because of this marvellous book.
All the best and nicest Christmas cards have these gorgeous Victorian images imprinted on them. Children skating happily on a frozen-over pond, a Victorian shopping street with toy shops and bread shops and confectionery shops and butchers’ shops all festively decked out for Christmas, the magnificent real pine Christmas tree decorated with tinsel and dozens of brightly-lit candles and the home-made angel atop the lot, these are the images we know and love.
It’s probably best that no cards portray the house burning to the ground because the flame from one of the candles rather cheekily flew up the cardboard skirt of the tree’s crowning glory, the lovely angel.
And certainly no Christmas card would be crass enough to show Little Tommy drowning when he falls through a hole in the ice while skating, or Little Mary, starving with the hunger like many Victorian urchins were, freezing to death overnight in the pie-shop doorway, within sniffing distance of the delectable aromas of the delicious produce she could never herself afford. Thank you a thousand times to the greetings-card-makers who’ve spared us these tasteless scenes…!
And I know I say this every time I review another movie adaptation of A CHRISTMAS CAROL, but I never get tired of this story. George C. Scott is wonderful as Ebenezer Scrooge in this non-musical version from 1984.
He joins a whole host of other wonderful actors who have all taken on the role over the years: Alistair Sim, Albert Finney, Michael Caine, Jim Carrey (in a superb animated version) and even Kelsey Grammer in yet another all-singing, all-dancing musical version of the story.
George C. Scott won the Best Actor Oscar in 1970 for PATTON, but he’s also known for his horror acting in films such as THE EXORCIST 3, my personal favourite of the three EXORCIST films, and THE CHANGELING. THE CHANGELING is possibly the scariest ghost story of all time next to THE HAUNTING, which was based on the bestselling book THE HAUNTING OF HILL HOUSE by acclaimed author Shirley Jackson.
Ebenezer Scrooge is, of course, Charles Dickens’s famous miser, the crotchety, cranky old moneylender from Victorian times who thinks that Christmas and everything to do with it is a big fat ‘humbug.’ In his own words: ‘I do not make merry myself at Christmas, and I can’t afford to make idle people merry.’ Bah humbug, indeed.
David Warner (STRAW DOGS, DAMIEN: THE OMEN, TITANIC) is great here too as Bob Cratchit, Scrooge’s long-suffering clerk whom Scrooge pays a pittance of a wage. In addition, Scrooge is a bugger to work for and he’s constantly threatening Bob with the sack, so the job security isn’t worth much either.
Susannah York plays the terrifyingly efficient Mrs. Bob Cratchit and the mother of their half-a-dozen children. Well, there wasn’t much to do in the evenings back then before the telly was invented, lol, so big families resulted from all the extra sex they were having.
Tiny Tim looks much too corpse-like in this one. As with what we were saying earlier about the Crimbo cards, we want to see charming Christmassy scenes, not look at sick, starving urchins, tsk tsk. We don’t want to be made to feel guilty about how much better off we are than them, the very idea…!
Frank Finlay plays the ghost of Scrooge’s deceased business partner, Jacob Marley. Having lived a life exactly as penny-pinching, money-grubbing, cheerless and inhuman to his fellow man as Scrooge now does, he is forced to wear ‘the chains he forged in life’ for all eternity, and quite a weight they are too. He’s come to warn Scrooge to change his miserly ways, or else he’ll end up like him, the poor haunted Jacob Marley, for whom redemption can now never come.
Angela Pleasance, daughter of Donald Pleasence (Dr. Loomis in HALLOWEEN) and herself a terrific actor in her own right (I love her in SYMPTOMS from 1974), kicks ass here as the Ghost Of Christmas Past.
Sporting an uncompromisingly ‘Eighties blonde rocker hairstyle, she shows Scrooge his lonely childhood and the school where he lived all year round (‘I was a boy in this place’), even at Christmas, because his cold, hard father wouldn’t have him in the house.
His father, whose wife died having Scrooge, clearly blames poor Ebenezer for the death of his wife and is at least partly, if not wholly, to blame himself for how Scrooge turns out. It’s quite a sad little back-story and it helps us to understand why Scrooge hardens his heart against mankind and behaves in as miserly a fashion as he does.
He’s completely closed himself off to love and affection and his lovely fiancée Belle dumps him because she can clearly see that another idol- money- has replaced her. Scrooge is too foolish and weak to even try to hold onto her, a decision he’ll live to regret in the long cold cheerless years that follow.
Edward Woodward (THE WICKER MAN, THE EQUALISER) is even bitchier and blunter as the Ghost Of Christmas Present. He shows a frightened Scrooge what will happen to Tiny Tim if the Cratchit family remains as poor and hungry as it is.
‘If the shadows remain unaltered, the child will die.’ By the way, I don’t think that he, the Ghost Of Christmas Past, should be stuffing those two children quite so snugly under his robe like that but hey! Those were different times.
By the time the Ghost Of Christmas Future scares the living daylights out of Scrooge with the sordid little tableau featuring Liz Smith (Nanna from THE ROYLE FAMILY) as Scrooge’s housekeeper Mrs. Dilber and Peter Woodthorpe (HAMMER’S THE EVIL OF FRANKENSTEIN and THE SKULL for AMICUS) as Old Joe, Scrooge is more than ready to change his heartless ways.
No longer will he coldly maintain of his fellow men that ‘if they are going to die then they had better do it, and decrease the surplus population.’ No longer will he declare Christmas to be a humbug.
He makes up with his poor neglected nephew Fred (Roger Rees), the son of his beloved dead sister Fanny, and he delights the charity collector (Michael Gough; DRACULA, THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA- the HAMMER one) with news of a whopping donation. ‘A great many back payments are included in it, I assure you!’ Indeed they are, folks. Indeed they are.
So that’s it anyway; another day, another brilliant movie adaptation of Charles Dickens’s timeless classic. Happy Christmas to everyone reading this and remember, roasting your nuts on an open fire isn’t always as fun and painless as it sounds…
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:
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