Classic Christmas Movie Review #3 – A Christmas Carol

 Welcome! This is the 3rd installment in my Classic Christmas Movie Review. Today I will write about “A Christmas Carol”. More than just a movie, A Christmas Carol must first be addressed as a book. But I will discuss the movies in a moment, so don’t go away.

First published in December 1843, A Christmas Carol was written by Charles Dickens at a time when he was losing popularity in public opinion. It was also becoming the machine age, when people were struggling for work and the winters were incredibly cold. In the midst of these hardships, Dickens wanted people to remember why we celebrate Christmas in the first place. And up from the imagination of this young author sprung one of the most inspiring and imitated stories of Christmas.

Most of us are very well acquainted with the story so I don’t think a full synopsis is necessary. But in brief, Ebenezer Scrooge is a miserly man who scorns all manner of human kindness and goodwill. Some of this obviously stems from past heartbreaks, of which Scrooge has let make him utterly bitter and resentful.

Because of his unfeeling attitude, he is sent the spirit of his former partner to make him come to his senses. From that visit, Scrooge entertains three more spirits, the Ghosts of Christmas past, present, and future. They each show him the affects, directly and indirectly, he has on the people of London. At first Scrooge is unmoving, but as he sees the kindness of others, with much less luxury than he has himself, and further, the eventual end of himself, he begins to see just how important simple actions of kindness are in the world today. By the end of the book, the hard, cruel man from the beginning has become a caring, considerate, and totally reformed old man.

Its an amazing story that people love to hear again and again. Having been made into a number movies, and even audio dramas, the wonder and feeling of the original story is something we all long to have.

Now, like I said there are many versions of this story made into movies, but I will only address three.

Comparing the Versions: 

 1938 – With Reginald Owens in the part of Ebenezer Scrooge, this has to be one of the most heartfelt versions I have ever seen. Reginald Owens himself does a good job of portraying Scrooge as a grumpy old man, too busy and uncaring to bother with Christmas or relationships. But what I like the most about this version is the Cratchit family. Their joy at such simple pleasures manages to leave me feeling humble and grateful every year. Though they don’t have much, they are so happy for what they do have: being able to prepare the meal together, eating it together, and telling stories by the fire. So insignificant but so special, just the same.

1951 – This version features Alastair Sim as the odious Scrooge.

Having grown up watching the previous version, we were a bit skeptical of this one at the first. Now, I must admit, Alastair Sim plays a better Scrooge in that he brings so much more to the character than just grumpiness. He is bitter and scarred, obviously hardened by life, but it is still of his own doing. Difficulties with his father, and losing his dear sister, are evident in his bitterness. He sees no reason to be kind to a world that has dealt him such a harsh blow.

Another plus to this film, though it is slightly less in its joyful atmosphere compared to the ’38 version, there is more of Scrooge’s life depicted. It gives more of a reason for his hatred, and I must say, it sticks to the book better than any other version I know.

On a side note, Alastair Sim’s portrayal of Scrooge’s transformation is hilarious. An old man jumping around, smiling and laughing like a school boy, scaring his maid half to death, is just too good to miss.

2009 – When Disney put out this animated verison of the beloved story, we were delighted. Another to add to our list, we thought. People told us it was the best version they had ever seen, and that it stuck to the book better than any other. Great! So we watched it.

Ghost of Christmas Present, 1938

I was horrified! I can’t begin to tell you just how awful it was. The animation and voices themselves were well done, but the story, the way it was enacted, was absolutely wrong. In short, it was dark and creepy. I realize that the story naturally has elements that are meant to scare you as they scared Scrooge in light of the plot. But when you can only tell the difference between the jolly Ghost of Christmas present and the deathly Ghost of Christmas future by their dress, and not their manner, something is definitely wrong. They turned our dear Christmas Carol into a horror film! I still can’t see how people can say it is so good. Evidently they haven’t seen any other version, or if they have, then they must have never read the book. One last statement and I will move on. Dickens desired to make people realize, along with Scrooge, that Christmas is a time to celebrate Jesus birth, a time to be together and reach out to others. Not scare them into it by threatening nightmarish torture if not.

I realize many will not agree with me. To each his own. This is just my opinion, and naturally I think it good because it is my opinion. So feel free to comment and tell me your opinion but keep in mind I am not trying to squash anyone elses.

 To return to a lighter note, I mentioned earlier having the story on audio drama. Focus on the Family has a department dedicated to audio dramas, or radio theatres. They have put out many, from Little Women, The Secret Garden, and Anne of Green Gables, to Ben-Hur, Les Miserables, and Bonhoeffer: The Cost of Freedom. They have also done our favorites series by C.S. Lewis, the Chronicles of Narnia. All theatres are done with expert voices and excellent skill. Some feature the talents of well-known actors, like John Rhys-Davies and Andy Serkis. For Andy Serkis, see The Screwtape Letters.

Every Christmas we turn on the radio theatre of A Christmas Carol and listen while we paint, work a puzzle, or travel. Its definitely a part of our Christmas celebrations.

We have a lot of Christmas traditions, and since the holiday in question is only a few days away I don’t think I will be able to write about them. Only so much time in a day. Also, even though I only have three possible days to blog, I am going to TRY to post two more reviews. It’s a Wonderful Life will not be posted till after Christmas. Once again, I will give the reason for why I have chosen to do that in the review.

Thanks for reading. I hope you liked it and will come back to read more. So until next time…

Merry Christmas!

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