1951 - Not Rated - 86 Mins.
|Director: Brian Desmond Hurst|
|Producer: Brian Desmond Hurst|
|Written By: Noel Langley (based on the novel by Charles Dickens)|
|Starring: Alastair Sim, Kathleen Harrison, Mervyn Johns, Hermione Baddeley, Michael Hordern |
|Review by: John Ulmer
Few characters are a true part of culture. Various creatures come and go, but only a few really stick around for eternity.
Ebenezer Scrooge is one of those rare characters such as George Bailey or The Terminator who are quoted or imitated or just remembered in everyday progression. How many times have you heard the word "Humbug" used to describe disgust or lack of enthusiasm?
Every Christmas, there is a handful of films I watch. The most famous holiday tale of all time, "It's a Wonderful Life," is always a first priority. I also enjoy watching Clark Griswald blunder about in "Christmas Vacation," those nasty little critters wreak havoc in "Gremlins," the bitter TV manager in "Scrooged" get taken back in time by three unconventional ghosts, Kevin McCallister defend his house in "Home Alone," and Ebenezer Scrooge say "Humbug."
"It's a Wonderful Life" is, and shall remain, the better of the two. But "Scrooge" is a close second for the most likable and good-hearted holiday film. It's the best Charles Dickens book adaptation, and having read Dickens' work, it stays very true to the original.
The story has been done with muppets and cartoon characters and even Bill Murray (a fine modern reworking, too), but this is and will remain the best version simply because everything about it is extraordinary. I think that many of the "great movies" are those that grow finer with age, and "Scrooge" gets only better and better every time I see it.
Any filmgoer or classical literature fan is familiar with the story. Ebenezer Scrooge (Alastair Sim at his cranky best) is an old man living in London, England, thriving off the fortunes of his business but not able to enjoy the splendor of his wealth due to pure greed that exists within his soul.
Scrooge is the dreaded town miser, the guy everybody moves out of the way for so they don't have to suffer the humiliation of being glared at by him. He walks through the streets of London with a scowl on his face and a look of extreme hatred. Nobody likes Scrooge, and Scrooge likes nobody, so it's a win-win situation.
One Christmas Eve, after commanding family man Bob Cratchit (Mervyn Johns) to come to work the following morning, he retreats to his dark manor and is visited by four ghostly figures: his old friend and business partner, Jacob Marley (Michael Hordern) is the first, warning Scrooge that he will be visited by three more fellow unearthly beings. Scrooge is indeed visited by the various ghosts, first by The Ghost of Christmas Past (Michael Dolan), who takes Ebenezer Scrooge back in time to the point in his life when money meant nothing to him and happiness and love was everywhere.
Then The Ghost of Christmas Present (Francis De Wolff) appears, showing Scrooge how other less fortunate beings such as Bob Cratchit are enjoying their Christmas, despite the fact that there is much sorrow and misery surrounding them. (Joy comes from the inside, remember?) Bob's son, Tiny Tim (another cultural icon), is a crippled boy who manages to look past the problems of life and appreciate the fine things. "God bless us, every one," he says. It's the best line in the movie because it means so much.
The Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come (C. Konarski) is the last of the spirits, giving Ebenezer a horrifying view into the future and the fate of his demise. This is Scrooge's ultimate wake up call, and the morning after (Christmas Day), Scrooge finally learns how to appreciate the fineness and pure joy of life. For greed, despite Gordon Gekko's prophecy, is not good.
Alastair Sim isn't just good as Scrooge, he completely embodies him. He's grumpy and frumpy and in a split second manages to turn Scrooge into a likable character towards the end -- a character no longer driven by hatred and malice but rather by love and kindness.
This is a universal theme as old as the days -- money isn't true happiness -- and "Scrooge" is the most clear and evident and believable example of this. It's a true classic story in the sense of the meaning, and not only does it deserve to be remembered as a fine story, the film itself deserved to be remembered as the classic it is.
Over the years, Dickens' tale has been giving some acceptable and mediocre film treatments, and "Scrooge" is without a doubt the best of the best. From acting to set design, I can't imagine that, if Dickens were alive today, he'd find a single thing wrong with the adaptation of his beloved novel.
Some movies are just fun, while other movies actually conceal important messages. "Scrooge" is, without a doubt, one of the most important and moralistic films ever made. Dickens' tale is one of the most black-and-white examples of greed vs. happiness, and the screen treatment is extraordinary: a story of learning to appreciate life instead of humbugging it. After all, nobody likes a humbugger.