A cin­e­matic his­tory of a fes­tive clas­sic

The Herald on Sunday - Sunday Herald Life - - NEWS - By Paul Rodger

‘TIS the sea­son to watch Christ­mas movies, and screen ver­sions of Charles Dick­ens’s much-loved spook story, A Christ­mas Carol, will be play­ing on re­peat. The novella that brought us the tight­wad we all love to hate, Ebenezer Scrooge, was pub­lished in 1843, and since then the story has been adapted for ra­dio, the­atre, opera, even graphic nov­els – with the ear­li­est sur­viv­ing film adap­ta­tion dat­ing back to 1901. Other early pro­duc­tions in­volved the first Amer­i­can pro­duced ver­sion, re­leased in 1908 and sub­se­quently lost, and the pop­u­lar 11-minute si­lent film re­leased in 1910 – star­ring Marc McDer­mott and Charles S Ogle. Here is our top five:

Scrooge (1951): Con­sid­ered one of the great­est de­pic­tions of the story, di­rec­tor Brian Des­mond Hurst’s film was praised largely for Alas­tair Sim’s per­for­mance as Scrooge. Sim’s por­trayal of the miserly top-hat­ted pro­tag­o­nist re­flected a typ­i­cally huffy, un­car­ing fig­ure, but with a cu­ri­ously emo­tional edge. The ac­tor re­ceived crit­i­cal ac­claim for por­tray­ing a Scrooge whose char­ac­ter is chal­lenged by his own in­ner de­mons and trou­bled past.

Mickey’s Christ­mas Carol (1983): De­rived from Dis­ney’s 1974 au­dio mu­si­cal An Adap­ta­tion Of Dick­ens’ Christ­mas Carol, this was the stu­dio’s first orig­i­nal fea­ture car­toon in 30 years – bar re­leases – to star its fig­ure­head, Mickey Mouse. Fea­tur­ing Don­ald Duck, Goofy and other Dis­ney favourites, the film sees Scrooge McDuck (voiced by the late Alan Young) be­ing con­fronted by three Christ­mas ghosts, be­fore re­pent­ing of his cur­mud­geonly ways, and was nom­i­nated for an Academy Award for Best An­i­mated Short Film.

Black­ad­der’s Christ­mas Carol (1988): First aired on De­cem­ber 23, 1988, the BBC’s 42-minute par­ody of the fa­mous tale pre­ceded the fi­nal in­stal­ment of the much-loved TV com­edy se­ries. With mem­o­rable lines in­clud­ing, “Baldrick, you wouldn’t see a sub­tle plan if it painted it­self pur­ple and danced naked on top of a harp­si­chord”, the Christ­mas spe­cial of­fered up the tra­di­tional Black­ad­der cast – Rowan Atkin­son, Tony Robin­son and Stephen Fry – and fea­tured a hugely en­ter­tain­ing ap­pear­ance by Rob­bie Coltrane, por­tray­ing the Spirit of Christ­mas who vis­its the ever an­i­mated and witty (Ebenezer) Black­ad­der on Christ­mas Eve and in­tro­duces him to his an­ces­tors, with hi­lar­i­ous re­sults. The Mup­pet Christ­mas Carol (1992): Part mu­si­cal, part com­edy-drama, Walt Dis­ney’s take on the tale fea­tured Michael Caine as Scrooge and an all-star Mup­pets line-up of Ker­mit the Frog, Miss Piggy, Gonzo and Rizzo the Rat, left. Fol­low­ing the tra­di­tional nar­ra­tive of the miserly Scrooge re­ject­ing Christ­mas in­vi­ta­tions and char­ity, the film plays out as a light-hearted mu­si­cal cel­e­bra­tion of Christ­mas spirit. Orig­i­nally billed as one of Dis­ney’s big­gest re­leases of the year, it fell short of box of­fice ex­pec­ta­tions but is now con­sid­ered a Christ­mas clas­sic for younger au­di­ences.

A Christ­mas Carol (2000): Shot in Alexan­dra Road coun­cil es­tate in Cam­den, London, this TV movie stars Ross Kemp – in his first role af­ter de­part­ing East­end­ers – as Ed­die Scrooge, a men­ac­ing loan shark who is haunted by the three spir­its of Christ­mas, fol­low­ing the mur­der of his busi­ness part­ner Ja­cob Mar­ley (Ray Fearon). De­spite its mod­est bud­get, the film ranked a favourable 7/10 on film site IMDB. The 75-minute dra­mafan­tasy has es­tab­lished a cult fol­low­ing for its left-field ap­proach to the char­ac­ter of Scrooge and its sin­cere ex­plo­ration of the ethics in Dick­ens’s tale.

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