25 Days of Christmas - The Nice List: A Christmas Carol (1984)
I'm pretty sure I've never seen a traditional film version of A Christmas Carol, until now. I read the novella in junior high (possibly) and have seen a couple different stage versions. And Scrooged is certainly my favorite Christmas film, but as far as a faithful translation of Dickens' story onto film, I've come up empty. Oversight officially remedied.
At first it was difficult to take on an adaptation of such a famous story, one that's been told or parodied endlessly for decades. At first I thought "Why waste my time? I know what happens!" But my better judgment kicked in, and I convinced myself I needed to see a version of the story that didn't star Bill Murray. And with George C. Scott's adaptation considered by many to be the "definitive" version, I popped in this 1984 made-for-tv-film and, much to my surprise, really enjoyed it.
Scott is fabulous as Scrooge, and when he's paired with Edward Woodward's Ghost of Christmas Present, the chemistry was flawless. I certainly didn't expect as much humor, or horror, from what I assumed would be a dull adaptation, but there was great undercurrent of dry wit in the script, brought out effortlessly by the actors. A few other random faces that I've come to know over the years surprised me too: David Warner as Cratchit, Roger Rees as Scrooge's nephew Fred, and Joanne Whalley as Fred's wife, Fan. I was a little creeped out by Tiny Tim (Anthony Walters), but I think that was mainly due to the heavy "sick" makeup he wore. Overall, it was a magnificent ensemble.
I was also happy that the film didn't feel too dated, being nearly 30 years old. Surely that's due to its traditional setting in 19th century England. Even so the only criticism in production value was the overpowering score. At best it was distracting, at worst it made me want to mute my t.v. altogether. But it stands as a sign of the times.
So as a traditional Christmas film, A Christmas Carol is probably one of the best I've seen in awhile. And despite knowing the ending, when Scrooge woke up on Christmas morning a changed man wanting to do good for others, I admit my heart swelled like the Grinch's.