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

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A CHRISTMAS CAROL (1984): THE ONE WITH GEORGE C. SCOTT. REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

scrooge george c scott ed woodward

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:

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