Since first being published in December 1843 Charles Dickens’s story of Ebenezer Scrooge’s emotional transformation from hoarder to Ho Ho-er has been presented in many forms. A Christmas Carol has been adapted into opera, ballet, a Broadway musical and even a mime show starring Marcel Marceau. On film there have been at least 28 versions of the story and dozens more for television.
This week the Reel Guys have a look at the best big screen versions of the classic story.
Richard: Mark, there is only one must-see out of all the dozens of film and TV versions of the Charles Dickens classic and that’s the 1951 Alastair Sim version. Nearly perfect in every way, it is a tale of redemption that confirms the fundamental spiritual nature of Christmas itself. In other words, it makes us feel good. Accept no substitutes. If, however, you’ve already seen it this year or you’re allergic to black and white movies, there are alternatives.
MB: Richard, you are so right. The movie HAS to be in black and white to make us feel the spirit of Dickensian deprivation. It’s the classic. But growing up in a Jewish household, it didn’t have any importance to me as a child. I discovered it much later, and was transfixed by its narrative power and perfectly gloomy mood. May I contrast this with the Jim Carrey version? Now that’s a movie with no sense of mystery, and a buffoonish interpretation of the lead character. I feel sorry for children who grow up with this bloated, CGI-laden excuse for a classic. Richard, please don’t tell me you like it!
RC: Before I saw the Jim Carrey version of A Christmas Carol I wondered why remake a story that has been done so often and so well in the past. I’ve seen it and I’m still wondering. The weirdly lifeless animation was creepy, akin to a Christmas story performed by zombies.
MB: Let me praise Bill Murray’s version Scrooged. It’s far from authentic, light years away from Dickens, but it makes its points in a very modern way. Bill Murray is great in it, and the writing is sharp and satirical. Setting it in the milieu of the television industry obviously changes the mood of the original, but as long as you see the movie as an interesting and successful riff upon the original story, and not as a substitute for it, it’s a great movie for the season.
RC: I agree. It’s become a must see for me every year. Although I don’t have to see The Muppets Christmas Carol every year, it is a treat to see Michael Caine as Scrooge. I also like the musical Scrooge with Albert Finney in the lead.
MB: I’ve never seen it! I sure hope they gave Tiny Tim a tap solo.