Sunday, December 14, 2003

Review – A Christmas Carol (1938)

Like most television owners who grew up in this society, I’ve seen several versions of Dickens’s best-known story. Of all the productions I’ve seen so far – or at least of all of them that tried to do a straight job of re-telling the story without re-setting it in Las Vegas or re-casting it with Woody Woodpecker or some such – this one is my least favorite. The film-makers appear to have been working with a much shorter running time than usual, and thus they seem to have had some tough choices on what to leave in and what to leave out. The result, unfortunately, comes across as a Cliff’s Notes summary of the tale. And that doesn’t work for me, because my favorite parts tend to be the small touches that each movie does a little differently, or in this case frequently not at all. They’ve also cut out a lot of the character development during the Ghost of Christmas Past part that helps make Scrooge seem less like a cartoon miser and more like a person who might have a normal human need for affection and repentance buried within him somewhere. And even if Jacob Marley doesn’t exactly make or break the whole show, he does at least set the stage. This has got to be the most lackluster Marley I’ve ever seen. Anyone who objects to the wailing, chain-rattling histrionics of the usual portrayal should see this one just so you can get a taste of how bad understating the character can be. See if desperate