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.