Thursday, September 16, 2004

Who's your favourite Scrooge?

Cogitations on the comparative cinematic cobblers compiled by
Creamguide (Films).

This Week:

Whilst ruminating on the subject for this week's Movie! Movie!,
staring into the fireplace and trying to wash the Tio Pepe out of
Gizmo's hair, we were shaken out of our contemplative torpor by the
decidedly (we reckon) unseasonably early arrival of the Littlewood's
Christmas catalogue. We had a quick flick through of course, if only
to marvel at the crappiness of an illuminated climbing Santa and to
wonder why it's now possible to purchase the entire series of George
and the Dragon of all things on DVD, but on the whole we're not of a
mind to welcome the pre-emptive first-strike jingle of sleigh bells
and the disturbing sight of Christmas trees jostling uncomfortably
alongside Hallowe'en costumes in Woolworth's (a metaphor for the
contradistinction of religion and the pagan forces of economy in
modern society if ever we've seen one). Still and all it does bring
to mind the eternal festive question that strikes within the
collective mind (both feline and otherwise) of Creamguide (Films):
what version of A Christmas Carol is the best?

It's rather a waste of time and other things to postulate a
hypothesis that seeks to challenge the unavoidable and universal
conclusion that the Alistair Sim outing in the role of yer actual
Ebenezer Scrooge, that being, erm, SCROOGE, is the best by a long
chalk. Sim is so utterly perfect in the role in demeanour, movement,
look and performance that there's not much we can add to the general
consensus that this one is, indeed, the greatest. There's lots more
to commend it as well as Sim, though. Patrick Macnee plays the young
Marley in a brash, junior Nazi kind of way which is entirely in
keeping with the situation (and of course it's possible to discern
even at this early age the talent that would take him all the way to
ROLLING THUNDER on the telly), George Cole, Sim's junior version of
himself, gets the younger Scrooge down to a copperplate `t', Elsa
Lanchester is particularly common as the charlady, Miles Malleson is
suitably shambolic as Old Joe and even Jack Warden is great as the
Ghost of Christmas Past. All great stuff. No Christmas is complete
without it.

But of course, not every Yule is made cool by the presence of
SCROOGE and we do on occasion have to labour under the strain of
various inferior versions. Schedules used to be replete with festive
specials that harpooned the basic story and chucked them into a
suitably despicable urban setting for various gruesomely schmaltzy
tales of redemption but these were nearly always bloody awful (apart
from the regular HIGHWAY TO HEAVEN ones, natch) and other films also
hijacked the theme to get their own made-for-TV kicks, but we shan't
consider those here. Instead let's look at three other versions and
decide which amongst them is the worst.

First comes the Clive Donner helmed A CHRISTMAS CAROL which has the
added bonus of the proper title and the especial bonus of George C
Scott as Scrooge. David `suitable case for' Warner is an adequate
(but, we would contend, no more) Cratchit and Michael Gough is even
on hand as one of the William Mervyn-style Kindly Old Gentlemen. Of
course, the otherwise brilliant Edward Woodward is heartily in place
as the Ghost of Christmas Present but he's really just too darn
scary for our liking. He's supposed to be the nice one, isn't he?
Anyway, on the whole a good effort (even thought the Tiny Tim `God
Bless You' rating is a little high).

Second we have to plump for THE MUPPETS CHRISTMAS CAROL for serious
consideration. Despite the obvious immediate setback of starring
that Michael Caine character it's difficult not to love this with
its giant ghosts and singing fruit and veg and Billy Bunny freezing
to death in the streets. Since it's a waste of time to get into the
plot (and we're really rather assuming that you know it anyway) we
can instead concentrate on the added bits – the trimmings, if you
will – and they all taste pretty good. No human involvement to speak
of, Statler and Waldorf as Marley and Marley (do you see?), singing
lobsters and a relatively low Tiny Tim quotient (mitigated in any
case by his being a frog) all make this a good `un we reckon. And
your hearts as cold as a wet Christmas if you think otherwise.

So two down and one to go. As things stand the processes of
elimination aren't really on the side of A CHRISTMAS CAROL starring
Reginald `Admiral Boom' Owen so it only really falls to us to
confirm the sentence. The film that we have taken to referring to as
The Bloody Reginald Owen One isn't that bad in itself but there's
nothing so dispiriting as a disappointing Xmas film and on that
value scale then this just bites the big one. If this was the only
Dickensfest available on or around Christmas Day we would be very
miffed indeed: the sort of miffed that only a 5 kilo tin of
Celebrations can mollify. However, there seems to be a sort of
unspoken deal between the schedulers and the public on this one.
They seem to have to put it on regularly (to satisfy what bizarre
Masonic shenanigans we don't know) but they do so at such an either
early or late hour that it doesn't interfere with the lives of men.
So that's all right then. Verily The Bloody Reginald Owen One is the
worst version of all.

We shan't wish you a Merry Christmas at this stage, since that would
be just daft, but we will instead make an early Christmas wish for a
halfway decent version of A Christmas Carol this year (although
preferably not the Albert Finney one either, thanks).

With thanks to CreamGuide


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