A CHRISTMAS CAROL (TV)

(1971 - animated)
With the voices of Alistair Sim, Michael Hordern, Michael Redgrave
Directed by Richard Williams
Reviewed by JB

     This half-hour television production which won an Oscar after it was subsequently released to movie theaters visually captures Dickens's tale as well or better than any other version.  The animation, design and direction go a long way to make up for the film's pace, which, owing to the half-hour running time, is much too fast to be a completely effective telling of the Dickens tale.

    One of the novelties of this version is its voice cast, which features Alistair Sim reprising the role of Ebenezer Scrooge, a part he played to perfection in 1951's SCROOGE.  Michael Hordern, who played Marley's Ghost in that film, also reprises his original role.  The results of this casting are uneven.  Hordern is still perfect as Marley, matched by a creepy character design by the animators that, like all the characters, was allegedly based on the book's original drawings.  Sim, however, is unfortunately disappointing.  Nearing the end of his life, the actor no longer had the power in his voice to portray the mean side of Scrooge as effectively as he did in 1951.  The redemption scenes, which feature Sim's still infectious laughter, are much better, although, with the film running out of time at that point, those scenes are severely truncated.

    Still, fans of the story should appreciate this film for how much it does capture of the original story.  The Ghost of Christmas Past is finally shown as it was described in the book, as a flickering spirit so unstable it sometimes appeared to have six arms.  The children representing Ignorance and Want have rarely been as vividly portrayed as they are here, and even with the short running time, the film includes the ghostly hearse traveling up Scrooge's staircase as well as The Ghost of Christmas Past taking the old geezer out to sea to show how even isolated men in the loneliest situations still manage to muster up some Christmas cheer.  Finally, Tiny Tim, usually portrayed by some treacly precocious child actor, is actually shown to look like the sickly, dying child he was in the book.

    All in all, a tasty Christmas treat for its wonderful visual style if for nothing else.  3 - JB

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