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The old miser Scrooge was the worst of cheapskates,
The most feared and hated of men,
And even on Christmas, the gladdest of dates,
His “humbug” supplanted “Amen.”
He hectored Bob Cratchit, his tireless clerk,
Resented his kind nephew Fred,
And never would donate or take off from work,
But praised the workhouses instead.
One dark Christmas Eve, in his home all alone,
His dead partner Marley appeared,
With ponderous chains and lugubrious moan
For the conduct to which he’d adhered.
He warned Ebenezer he too had a chain
He’d forged from a lifetime of greed.
Three spirits that night would begin a campaign             
To change his behavior with speed.
The first spirit showed Christmases of the past,
Of childhood and his career,
Of how Scrooge’s greed branded him an outcast,
Devoid of all romance and cheer.
The second ghost offered a present-day view,
Completely uncharted by him,
Of Cratchit’s large family, humble but true,
And sweet crippled boy Tiny Tim.
He saw that his nephew was wholly sincere
In granting a meal invitation,
And that, if some kindness did not interfere,
Poor Tim would soon face expiration.
The final ghost showed him a future in doubt,
In which Tiny Tim was with God,
In which a rich man no one dared care about
Had died and been raided by fraud.
This man so forlorn, with no friend but his pelf,
Was buried with nothing but scorn,
And when Scrooge perceived that this man was himself…
He woke up upon Christmas morn.
So moved by the spirits was miserly Scrooge
That he had been changed overnight
And let out a joyous compassion deluge
That gave his charwoman a fright.
He bought Bob a goose and surprised with a raise
And called upon Fred and his wife
And cared for dear Tim in benevolent ways
And kept Christmas all of his life.

Though I’ve already written a post for Bill Murray’s Scrooged, that was a modern-day comedy; this post is for the original straight-faced version of Charles Dickens’ morality tale. Although there have been countless retellings of the Christmas novella, starting with a silent version by Thomas Edison back in 1908, they’re all pretty much the same, and my poem does not apply to any one in particular. Still, I am partial to two: specifically the classic 1951 Scrooge, featuring Alastair Sim in the title role, and (believe it or not) the 2009 Disney animated version with Jim Carrey. Both have their strengths and weaknesses, and, as far as I’m concerned, both are classics.

Alastair Sim’s portrayal of Ebenezer Scrooge is often cited as the best. He spits his bitter words out quickly and has a face well-suited for scowling. When that face is turned to grinning and laughing instead, the change seems entirely genuine and unforced. All the supporting actors are excellent, especially Mervyn Johns as Cratchit and the angel-faced Glyn Dearman as Tiny Tim, who honestly is much too big to be sitting on anyone’s shoulder.

What I enjoy most about this version is its additions to the familiar story. It includes all the recognizable quotes that we expect from these films, but it builds upon Scrooge’s character, particularly in his change as a younger man. Whereas most versions have him going straight from dancing at Fezziwig’s to breaking up with his sweetheart Belle (here called Alice for some reason), this film presents the death of his sister and his betrayal of Fezziwig, events that were not in the book but certainly could have been and add context to his change of heart. I also liked the moment between Scrooge and charwoman Mrs. Dilber; whereas the Disney version features Scrooge scaring her for laughs, Sim does the same but then gives her a heartfelt gift that will surely change the unfeeling future he witnessed. Where the film stumbles a bit is in its few overacted moments and the highly dated effects, though the transitions with the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come are well-done.

As for my other favorite, the motion-capture Disney version is easily the most visually interesting telling. It utilizes the CGI animation with arresting dexterity, swooping throughout 19th-century London and viewing Scrooge’s world from a number of previously unseen angles. Jim Carrey portrays Scrooge and all three ghosts through both his voice and movements. Other actors such as Gary Oldman, Cary Elwes, Robin Wright Penn, Colin Firth, and (Lost alert!) Fionnula Flanagan also fill various roles, often more than one, but the detailed animation tends to overshadow their performances. The visuals, such as the Ghost of Christmas Present’s method of travel, are frequently spectacular, though the animators get too carried away with Christmas Yet to Come, shrinking Scrooge, launching him along rooftops, and making his voice unnecessarily squeaky. These additions for the sake of excitement or humor are impressive to watch but add nothing to the story. Even so, the film is surprisingly faithful to the source material and admirably doesn’t try to modernize the dialogue to make it more salable. Both films also feature a number of Christian hymns.

While most critics might claim the Alastair Sim film to be the definitive version of A Christmas Carol, it’s difficult for me to make that judgment. Each may have flaws, but no version of this beloved story is inherently bad. While I’m partial to these two, I also enjoyed Patrick Stewart’s portrayal of Scrooge and Disney’s previous edition of the tale featuring Scrooge McDuck and many of their most popular characters. Whichever version you prefer, there’s no question that A Christmas Carol is a holiday classic, preaching a message of goodwill to our fellow men that continues to be relevant today.

Best line: (Tiny Tim) “God bless us, every one!” (I know, it’s obvious)

Artistry: 10
Characters/Actors: 10
Entertainment: 9
Visual Effects: varies
Originality: 8
Watchability: 9
Other (classicness): +2
TOTAL: 48 out of 60

Next: #139 – Secondhand Lions

© 2014 S. G. Liput

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