What I knew going into this one is that it’s generally regarded as the most faithful to the Dickens text (which I am currently reading for the first time, so cannot comment upon yet) and that it’s not as visually rich as some other adaptations. I also knew George C. Scott’s turn as Scrooge had a pretty good reputation.
For the opening half or so of the film, my reaction to this one was pretty muted. The opening is slow, and the Christmas Past section is surprisingly low energy. It doesn’t help that the Ghost of Christmas Past played by Angela Pleasance is pretty lifeless, and the movie uses cheap transition effects to the past. (Gotta make budget cuts as a TV movie somewhere, I guess.)
The one early bright spot is Marley’s ghost, who is probably the creepiest version of the ghost I’ve yet seen, with otherworldly makeup and acting intensity by Frank Finlay.
I was also down on Scott as Scrooge during the opening half of the film. He’s a great curmudgeon, just a really shitty old man, but he was thoroughly passive and buttoned down during the Christmas Past segment. I always enjoy when Scrooge has a heightened reaction to seeing his past mistakes.
BUT this one takes a major turn for the better as it wraps up the Christmas Present segment. Scrooge’s vision of the poor that he condemned as “surplus population” is dark and freaky, and even that is hardly prep what comes next.
I can say without reservation that this is my favorite Christmas Yet to Come segment — Michael Carter is genuinely haunting as a death specter, and the gloom and dread of life wasted builds to the gut punch reveal of Scrooge’s tombstone.
I also quite liked the redemption segment. Scott really comes to life with an infectious smile and laugh. And his reunion with his nephew is the best that beat has ever been depicted — I was choking up at Scrooge’s remorse and cautious warmth.
So it’s not quite an all-timer, but the 1984 Christmas Carol is definitely a strong one that gets better as its runtime goes — and same for George C. Scott as Scrooge.
- Review Project: A Christmas Carol
Very Good (6/8)
Note: This review was originally published elsewhere. Please excuse brevity or inconsistencies in style. If you have questions or feedback, please leave a comment or contact me.