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A Christmas Carol (Scrooge)

Movie Information

In Brief: The definitive Ebeneezer Scrooge — Alastair Sim — in the definitive film version of Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol is this year's Christmas film from the Asheville Film Society. Really, what else needs to be said about this film? If you've never seen it, you're missing a big slice of Christmas.
Score:

Genre: Christmas Fantasy
Director: Brian Desmond-Hurst
Starring: Alastair Sim, Mervyn Johns, Hermione Baddeley, Michael Hordern
Rated: NR

Here’s a movie that needs no introduction — the 1951 Alastair Sim version of A Christmas Carol (released as Scrooge in the U.K.). When you factor in knockoffs, TV episodes, TV movies, cartoon versions, musicalizations and the general run of indignities this story has been subjected to, there must be nearly 100 variations to choose from. But this is hands down the definitive film version of Charles Dickens’ classic Christmas ghost story. It combines both the warmth and the horrific elements of the tale in perfect balance. When it’s creepy, it’s incredibly creepy. When it wants to warm your heart … well, it would take someone even more hard-hearted than Mr. Scrooge to resist it. It seems that the film is really a happy merging of talents at just the right moment. Certainly, there is nothing else in director Brian Desmond-Hurst’s filmography to suggest he had a movie like this in him.

Of course, so much of it comes down to the inimitable Alastair Sim as Ebenezer Scrooge — and he is a Scrooge for the ages. All others are mere pretenders. Sim has every intonation, every move, every gesture and every facial expression down to perfection. It’s not so much a performance as it is Sim becoming Scooge. Though in all fairness, he’s not working in a vacuum. The rest of the cast is a big asset, and the production values and Richard Addinsell’s score are big plusses. It may just be the perfect Christmas movie. Keep your eye out for a young Patrick Macnee (you know, John Steed from The Avengers TV series) as young Marley, and a not-so-young Ernest Thesiger (from The Old Dark House and Bride of Frankenstein) as the undertaker.

The Asheville Film Society will screen A Christmas Carol Tuesday, Dec. 17, at 8 p.m. in Theater Six at The Carolina Asheville and will be hosted by Xpress movie critics Ken Hanke and Justin Souther.

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About Ken Hanke
Head film critic for Mountain Xpress since December 2000. Author of books "Ken Russell's Films," "Charlie Chan at the Movies," "A Critical Guide to Horror Film Series," "Tim Burton: An Unauthorized Biography of the Filmmaker."

18 thoughts on “A Christmas Carol (Scrooge)

  1. Erik Harrison

    Every year about this time, the argument begins – who is the definitive Scrooge? I confess I haven’t seen this, and will have to add it to the list. I’ve learned not to open my mouth during these discussions, lest I come to blows.

  2. Ken Hanke

    I’m curious — if you haven’t seen this, who are you arguing about?

    On Dec. 19 — starting at 8 p.m. — TCM has the Albert Finney Scrooge (1970), this film, the 1935 Brit cheapie Scrooge, the 1938 MGM A Christmas Carol (that was supposed to star Lionel Barrymore, but ended up with Reginald Owen), and the very odd (and preachy) Rod Serling TV film A Carol for Another Christmas, which was broadcast once on ABC in 1964. (If you see it, you’ll wonder how it ever got on TV once.) In any case, it presents an opportunity to Scrooge your brains out.

  3. Chip Kaufmann

    As you say, “all others are mere pretenders” but I cast my second place vote for George C. Scott in the 1984 version which was directed by Clive Donner who was the editor on this film.

  4. Ken Hanke

    At least you aren’t opting for Mr. Magoo or Jim Carrey. I don’t know that I’ve ever seen the Scott TV film.

    • Dionysis

      Mr. Kaufmann is correct; the version with George C. Scott is, in my opinion, among the best things the actor ever did, and is only a hairs width from being #1. I might even prefer it (slightly) to the earlier version, actually. It is well worth watching.

  5. Big Al

    My fave was the made-for-TV version starring Henry Winkler as Scrooge and set in the American Great Depression. (mid-to-late 80s?)

  6. Jeremy Dylan

    Due to Ken’s spruiking, I finally caught up with this. Boy howdy, what a movie.

    This is easily my favourite ‘straight’ version of the story. Just magnificent from top to bottom. From the sound design of Marley’s chains to the gorgeous cinematography, this really hits on all cylinders.

  7. Ken Hanke

    I was unaware I had spruiked. Did I excuse myself afterwards?

  8. Ken Hanke

    My fave was the made-for-TV version starring Henry Winkler as Scrooge and set in the American Great Depression. (mid-to-late 80s?)

    I cannot imagine a description less likely to get me to watch something.

  9. Chip Kaufmann

    I enjoyed the Mr Magoo version as a kid however I could never figure out how the myopic Mr Magoo’s Scrooge could read the inscription on the tombstone at the end.

  10. Me

    “As you say, “all others are mere pretenders” but I cast my second place vote for George C. Scott in the 1984 version which was directed by Clive Donner who was the editor on this film.”

    I’ve never seen the version in this review but it is consistently ranked as the best version. The George C. Scott version always holds a place in my heart since thats the one i grew up on.

  11. bsummers

    What can I say? I like the Bill Murray version, mostly for the small rolls for people like Bobcat Goldthwait and Carol Kane. I know, not everyone likes the modern re-telling of the classic stories, but sometimes you get interesting results.

    Like has anyone been following the live-action epic Scrooge performance-art piece by little-known local artist named Tim Moffitt? “Are there no workhouses? Are there no public-private partnerships?” Can’t wait for the curtain to come down on this one…

  12. Ken Hanke

    I’ve never seen the version in this review but it is consistently ranked as the best version. The George C. Scott version always holds a place in my heart since thats the one i grew up on.

    The fact that I was almost 30 when the Scott one came out and the Sim one is the one I grew up on may have bearing. You can, of course, see the Sim version on Tue. at The Carolina. It’s also on TCM on Dec. 19.

  13. Ken Hanke

    What can I say? I like the Bill Murray version, mostly for the small rolls for people like Bobcat Goldthwait and Carol Kane. I know, not everyone likes the modern re-telling of the classic stories, but sometimes you get interesting results.

    I’m fairly indifferent to it. The David Johansen factor weighs against it for me.

  14. bsummers

    “I’m fairly indifferent to it. The David Johansen factor weighs against it for me.”

    Oh yeah, The cab driver. Forgot about him…

  15. Ken Hanke

    Nothing against Murray or Carol Kane or Bobcat Goldthwait, mind you.

  16. Jeremy Dylan

    I like the Murray version, but it didn’t really stick with me.

    Has anyone here seen Patrick Stewart’s one man show version of the story?

  17. Erik Harrison

    Jeremy – I’ve heard it on audio. We used to play it as kids every year. It’s very good, but it amounts to a reading of the book more than a one man show.

    Ken – I’m not arguing for anyone, actually. The arguments between the George C. Scott and Albert Finney partisans have gotten too heated for me to have an opinion. Though I think MIchael Caine’s Scrooge is actually fairly excellent, regardless of how you feel about The Muppets.

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