A CHRISTMAS CAROL

(1984 - TV)  (UK)
With George C. Scott, David Warner, Frank Finlay, Angela Pleasance, Edward Woodward, Michael Carter, Susannah York, Roger Rees, Anthony Walters
Directed by Clive Donner
Reviewed by JB

"I guess you didn't like my 'more gravy than grave' joke, eh?"     This handsomely-mounted television production of Dickens' immortal story ranks as one of the most well-rounded versions ever made.  With the exception of George C. Scott, there are no real outstanding performances, but at the same time, there is little to nitpick about.  Everybody, from David Warner as Bob Cratchit down to the smallest parts, does an admirable job at bringing Dickens' characters to life, while Scott offers a subtle, deeply shaded interpretation of old Ebenezer Scrooge that stands up with the best of those Ebenezers who came before.

     With little emphasis on special effects, it's really Scott's show and he carries it off splendidly.  Some may be disappointed, as I originally was, with his low key performance, but Scott plays Scrooge as a man tightly clinging to the emotional armor he has built for himself, refusing to surrender his dignity, even in his post-ghost euphoria.  His performance reflects the values of the entire production.  If there is any criticism to be leveled here, it is that while it touches upon every key moment of the original story, it is all a bit too even-handed.   The Ghost of Christmas Past sequences should be wistful enough to make the happier Ghost of Christmas Present sequences a welcome relief, and the Ghost of Christmas Present scenes should be joyful enough to make the Ghost of Christmas Yet To Come scenes that much darker.  Yet, like Scott's performance, everything is a bit underplayed, which undermines some of the emotional impact of the story, though not so much as to make this film a misfire.

     No version of A Christmas Carol is ever going to be perfect, and the wonderful thing about having so many is that every version is a favorite of somebody's.  Scott's is loved by many, while others prefer Alistair Sim's, Seymour Hicks' or Patrick Stewart's.  Or, God help us, Mr. Magoo's.  And I say, God bless them all, every one. 4 - JB

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