A CHRISTMAS CAROL (1984)
“Christmas comes but once a year, sir..”
“A poor excuse for picking a man’s pocket every 25th of December.”
A Christmas Carol is probably my favorite stage play, probably my favorite Christmas story in general, and I’ve seen A LOT of different versions of it. I recently saw the Jim Carrey version and there were parts of it that were absolutely brilliant. I always love the Muppets Christmas Carol, and Michael Caine plays a great Scrooge. But my favorite combination of everything, from the atmosphere to the acting to the truth to the original story, is definitely the 1984 television production starring the absolute man himself, George C Scott.
Scott plays probably the best Scrooge in my opinion. His absolute cold demeanor in the film is so genuine, and there are even lines where he seems to enjoy being so greedy. His face lights up when he basically robs a few men out of a few hundred dollars on a deal at the exchange. When delivering the classic “boiled in his own pudding” line, he’s actually laughing! What the hell man? But the part of Scrooge, as you should know, extends to a lot more than just being a curmudgeon for half of the film and then being happy about life. You need to see a genuine change in the character throughout the film, a visible understanding for the human condition by the time the last spirit gets to him. And that’s what you see in this version more so than any others. Scott plays an undoubtable bastard for the first part of the film, to the point where you can’t wait for the spirits to show up and knock some sense into him. But the thing is that really shows how great this Scrooge is being played are his reactions to each of the spirits. They are perfect. Christmas Past makes him sad that he’s let Christmas, and his family and loved ones for that matter, out of his mind. Present makes him feel that he should be more charitable to the people around him, from his employees to the homeless he called “idle people” earlier in the film. And then there’s Future which gives him perspective that even with all his money, nobody will remember him in the next generations and he has in fact ruined families. That’s what makes a good interpretation, and that is what makes this version shine. You see the change in him with every spirit, and the look of him happily getting ready to go out into the world on Christmas Day is just fantastic. You truly believe that this man is changed for the better.
The rest of the actors are great too. Frank Finlay is my other favorite part of this film, and his portrayal of Jacob Marley is the version that sticks out the most in my mind. Everything about his performance from the cold dead stare, to the rag he uses to keep his jaw shut until he has something poignant to say, to the powerful, foreboding voice. It’s just awesome. Even when he screams to prove that he’s a real ghost, it’s actually pretty damn scary. The Cratchit family is good too, but this needs to be said… THE TINY TIM IN THIS FILM IS HORRIFYING! I mean Christ on sale, he’s the scariest child I’ve seen outside of the Village of the Damned! The pale face, the sunken in eyes, the robotic tone of his voice, the Ghost of Christmas Future has NOTHING on this kid! The spirits are everything you’d expect them to be. Past is a brightly glowing woman with a very serious tone. Present is a very loud, booming man with a very sarcastic tone (It’s even more amazing when you realize that it’s the lead from The Wicker Man. I keep expecting Scrooge to see a sight that makes him say “Oh Dear God! Oh Jesus Christ!”). And future is… Death, pretty much. I’ve seen a lot of versions of the story where Future is portrayed by a woman in red, or someone with a scarred face, but it’s a lot more impactful when the spirit is a faceless spectre of death. In fact for most of his part, you don’t see him at all. Just his shadow. And it’s a lot more powerful than just some guy in a robe.
All in all, this is an amazing story and even if you’ve never seen A Christmas Carol, that’s the best thing about it. Every single interpretation is self contained, powerful, and memorable in some way. So as that creepy, dead eyed child says against all of our wishes, “God Bless Us, Everyone!”
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