Ossus Library Index Drama Movie Index

A CHRISTMAS CAROL

Directed by Brian Desmond Hurst (1951, United Artists)
Starring Alastair Sim, Kathleen Harrison, Mervyn Johns, and George Cole

Scrooge is visited by the ghosts of Christmas, in an appeal to have him to change his ways.

View Count: Twice

 

 

4 stars

December 22nd, 2001 on TV

 
    An excellent rendition of this story, better than most, and it never resorts to fake-looking special effects. 

We watched the black-and-white version of this edition, and I'm not sure how it compares to the colorized version. I think it's probably a little better... But I am searching for the best version of A Christmas Carol, with the most interesting places and times that Scrooge visits. I've heard that this is it, and I was thoroughly impressed. But the search will continue.

The best part of this movie was Alastair Sim as Scrooge. Although we don't get to see a lot of him after he is brought back in time with the spirits, what we see in the introduction is beyond compare. Even Patrick Stewart didn't shine like Sim in that role in his version. He has one of the most expressive faces, shows such an incredible range of emotion, that we had no choice but to watch him as the center of attention. Even when he is shrieking, which is usually the most annoying part of the film, he was incredible to watch. But the best part comes at the very beginning when the solicitors come into his office asking for donations. His responses, which are available by who knows how many people over the ages, have never been dealt the same razor's edge and quick wit.

The other characters are minor in comparison to Sim's Scrooge. Bob Cratchit was nice as the shy clerk who asks for Christmas day off, "if it's convenient". He was appropriately persistent in a reluctant kind of way when giving a toast to his boss, even though his wife and kids grumble at it. Tiny Tim has barely a part in this version, and I wonder in which version he is given a larger part, which I remember a bit about? 

The maid who took care of Jacob Marley and then Scrooge was also really fun to watch. She became terrified when Scrooge woke up in the morning and was so giddy. She really thought he had gone insane! The only other character that I really think is worth mentioning is Scrooge's nephew. I wish we had seen more of him, too. And I wonder which version it is where we see them playing a lot of games in "Christmas Present", instead of just dancing. 

Of course, we have the three ghosts. The ghost of the Past was rather indistinct, and didn't really do much for me. He seemed kindly and loving, though. Present was jolly, but didn't really show Scrooge all that much. I liked the way he grew old before our eyes, though, and he was very firm with Scrooge. Finally, I think Future was just scary enough. He wasn't seen often, but he looked like a real spirit, too. None of that plastic helmet piece or stilts that we saw in the latest version

I was surprised to see so much time spent on introduction. And by the time Christmas Past is finished, there is only half an hour left to the movie. I would have liked less time spent in the past, more spent in the present. I can always do without the miners and the others that Scrooge didn't know, and deal more with the people he was close to. The continuity between some of the scenes was neat to see, though, especially with respect to Alice. We see the engagement, then they grow apart, separate, and in the Present, Alice is tending the sick on Christmas day. 

By the time we got to the future, there was not much time left for much viewing. We see the expertly done scene with the pawn broker, and the grave, and then the night is over. The denouement was much too short for my tastes. I would have liked to see more of Scrooge at his nephew's party, and more with the Cratchit's when the receive the goose. But these parts were well done anyway. The only thing that I think was under-performed was Scrooge's giving Cratchit a raise. He sits behind his desk looking miserly, but giddy at the same time, and when Cratchit enters, he continues to sit and finally gives the raise. I thought he should have raised out of his seat and shown some of his giddy emotion in body language, instead of just showing a wide grin. 

But that's a very minor complaint in a movie that was performed and produced exceptionally well. The movie looks great; even though it was made in black-and-white, I didn't really notice. The movie is old, but except for a few scenes where the TV station's tape is washed out a little, the movie could have been made today. It's that good. But I will still search for other versions, so that I can make an "informed" choice. I see that the DVD is available with both black-and-white and colorized versions of this edition on the same disc. Interesting...
 
   

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