It’s December, which means adding to my Christmas YouTube playlists. Tonight I bring you two versions of A Christmas Carol: Being A Ghost Story Of Christmas. Well, three really since I’m also linking to Project Gutenberg’s post of the book itself free and legal to download. They even have a version for the Kindle, so…more than three? However, only two of them feature the actor Alistair Sim as the reformed miser. (Yeah, people keep forgetting how that story ends.)
A Christmas Carol is an amazing work by Charles Dickens. It doesn’t chastise Ebenezer Scrooge for his wealth but how he acquires it and what is done with it. The ugliness of humanity is present in any financial demographic and Dickens highlights that. Rich or poor, there is good in evil in both, as seen with the Cratchits and Scrooge’s uncle as well as the people shown to Scrooge in the visions, especially from the Ghost Of Christmas Yet To Come. Meanwhile, Present tends to throw his own words back at him, since Future can’t talk. Through Past we see how he became the old miser of today and it makes perfect sense. He isn’t put down for what happened to him so much as how he reacted to it, hardening his heart and focusing on his wealth rather than using that wealth to help others. Again, the story doesn’t attack him for what he has but who he is, and believes that he can become a good man, which in the end he does, presumably avoiding Jacob Marley’s fate.
Tonight I bring you two version of Alastair Sim portraying Scrooge and Michael Horden as Jacob Marley, and only because I know someone will be bothered if I only look at the one. Yes, both men took on the two roles in animated and live-action form. Adding to the Christmas special playlist this year is the 1971 animated version, originally airing on ABC, produced by Chuck Jones and directed by Richard Williams. However, it’s master animator Ken Harris whose visual styles make this a stand out take among the many, many interpretations.
If you’re here for Sim and Horden themselves however you were probably expecting the 1951 live-action black and white movie where they physically plays the old and dead respectively misers. Well, I have that too for everyone’s benefit. Or maybe you’re a fan of both, in which case it’s a double special event. Whichever you prefer, enjoy!
The kind have a different style from the wicked, who come off as more creepy. Making Scrooge more like the kind shows the good man within that the spirits bring out by the end, and the way those spirits are visually depicted are amazing. What really works here is the depiction of Ignorance and Want, the former being the one to most be wary of. It’s so scary without giving kids nightmares that it works perfectly. I will say that I wish there had been more of a soundtrack, and being a half-hour long means you don’t get everything in there. Still, while not my favorite it’s definitely one to watch.
I have to say that I prefer the animated version of this year’s choices. Animation does a better job portraying the spirits for example, though I supposed in modern time CG can get around that. I’m also not a fan of all the additions that I’ve not seen in previous versions. I don’t hate them, and comparing Scrooge’s mother’s death in childbirth to his sister’s to explain his disconnect from Fred was actually genius. I haven’t read the book in years, and only had time to skim it then, but the other extra scenes just didn’t work for me. It is interesting to see how Ebenezer and Jacob met, but not really necessary for me. Neither of these have I seen before, and the extra scene with Mrs. Cratchit and Tim at the beginning didn’t really add anything to the story. Also not sure while Belle’s name was changed to Alice.
That said, the performances, even Michael Horden being a bit dramatic as Marley, are quite good. Horden also portrayed Marley in the animated movie, and the hamming seems to work better there, while the physical portrayal doesn’t work nearly as well. (Look at him among the spirits pointing out the homeless woman and her son. It was almost funny if it weren’t a tragic moment.) Everyone plays their parts well and the cinematography and effects are certainly decent for 1951, but whole mass of spirits thing just doesn’t work. I’m not trying to put this version down, but I’m not sure it holds up for newer audiences. It doesn’t even hold up for me and I probably won’t put it in the playlist.
Neither of these are my favorite version, and I’m still looking for that one. However, these are perfectly equitable depictions. You can tell they worked hard on it and the results speak to quality works. I’m just still trying to track down my favorite version. Time may have lost me that one but the search continues.