A Christmas Carol, on CBS
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Well, of course there have been lots of adaptations of Charles Dickens' classic story over the years, both theatrical movies and TV movies, and lots of Christmas episodes of TV shows that are based on the story, and movies that are based on it but radically depart from the original story. That's generally fun. As far as straight up adaptations go... well, I'm not sure how many I've seen, but probably a few. In any event, it's a timeless story, worthy of being so often remade. But this here TV movie is probably my favorite incarnation. I remember watching it on TV when I was a kid, though I'm not sure whether it was when it first aired in 1984, or some later year if it reran. I feel like it must've been a rerun, because I think I already was familiar with Edward Woodward from "The Equalizer" when I saw this, and that didn't start til 1985, I guess. And... there are various other actors who later became familiar to me from other stuff, like Roger Rees and David Warner and Joanne Whalley. I sort of vaguely recall having been aware of who George C. Scott was, though I don't think I had actually seen him in anything. In fact, I probably still haven't seen him in anything but this....
But anyway, like I said, I've seen other adaptations, but this remains my favorite, and I think there are plenty of people who agree that it is the definitive version. I must have actually read the story at some point in my life, but I don't really remember it well enough to compare it to any adaptations. I should reread it, but I expect this version is pretty faithful. I suppose you know the basic story, but I'll summarize, just in case. It's set in Victorian England. There's this old miser named Ebenezer Scrooge (played here by Scott), who hates Christmas. And just in general, he's a stingy, miserable person who doesn't seem to care about anyone or anything except money. And he's very annoyed by everyone who celebrates Christmas. His nephew, Fred (Rees), invites him to join his family and friends for Christmas dinner, as he does every year; but every year, Scrooge refuses. Meanwhile, Scrooge has an employee named Bob Cratchit (Warner), who is barely supporting his family on what he earns from Scrooge. And among his children is a boy called Tiny Tim, who is sickly and walks with a crutch, but he has a pretty positive attitude.
Um, well, I should say that Scrooge had a business partner named Jacob Marley, who died seven years ago. On Christmas Eve, Marley's ghost visits Scrooge, wearing heavy chains that he must carry as he wanders the world, seeing all that he might have been a part of in life, but had chosen not to. And he tells Scrooge that his own chains will be longer and heavier when he eventually dies, but he has hope of avoiding this fate. This hope lies in his being visited that night by three spirits. One, the Ghost of Christmas Past, shows Scrooge various important points in his life, when he was a nicer and happier person than he is now, though there was some stuff that wasn't happy. His father really wasn't a great guy, but Ebenezer did love his sister, Fan (Whalley), to whom Fred would later be born. Another memory the spirit showed Scrooge was when he was apprenticed to a man named Fezziwig, who did a good job of making Christmas merry. And Ebenezer was in love with a woman named Belle. It's kind of ironic and tragic in a way, that... well, it seems he felt unworthy of her, and so he thought once he made his fortune he'd be worthy... which is what apparently led to his preoccupation with money and business, which in turn led him to neglect her, and led her to stop loving him.
Well, anyway. Eventually Scrooge is returned to the present. And then he meets the Ghost of Christmas Present (Woodward), who shows Scrooge various things going on in the year the story's set in, including how the holiday is celebrated at Fred's home, as well as Bob Cratchit's. And also a homeless family. And then the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come shows him the future, which is sad for the Cratchits, and for Scrooge himself. Um... I may have said too much about the plot, but I'm trying to be vague, and you probably knew all this, anyway. And I think I'm leaving some stuff out. But the upshot of it all is that Scrooge ends up repenting of his ways and dong his best to... you know, keep Christmas in a good way, make up with Fred, help the Cratchits, etc. It's all quite nice.
What else to say? There's some humor in the movie, as well as tragedy, and some fairly scary stuff. Good music. Good costumes. Good acting. Good story all around, though maybe some things weren't entirely... eh, I dunno what to say. A person changing his entire personality in one night is kind of hard to believe, and at the same time, I can't help but wonder how much it was because he was afraid of the future. The past was important to remind him of who he used to be and how that came to change, and the present was important in its own ways... I suppose all three periods worked together to affect the change in him, but I kind of feel like if the future was too heavily weighted as his motivation for change, it almost shouldn't really count. But whatever. It's still good. Oh yeah, I also felt like if he'd lived all along the way he ends up living, he would never have had enough money to be as generous as he eventually became. But again, a minor quibble. Anyway... yeah, there are a number of little things about the movie that I always remember, which helps my nostalgic appreciation of this version, I guess. And I dunno what else to say. I'm glad to have the DVD. And um, if you have to choose one version of the story to watch, this is a good one to go with....