SCROOGE

(1935)
With Seymour Hicks, Donald Calthrop, Robert Cochran, Mary Glynne, Oscar Ashe, Marie Ney, C.V France
Directed by Henry Edwards
Black and White
Reviewed by JB

"Touch my robe... TOUCH IT!... ah, yeah, that's the spot..."     It feels Scrooge-like to criticize this early British version of Dickens' A Christmas Carol, because so much of it is superb.  But the lack of special effects hurts the fantasy elements, and some performances are severely lacking.  In this version, Jacob Marley appears as nothing, simply a voiceover, so we never get to see the chains he forged in life, one of the most important visual elements to the story.  Similarly, the Ghost of Christmas Past is blob of light and the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come is the shadow of a long finger, but in actuality, these skimpy effects work rather well.  The one Christmas spirit we do see, Christmas Present, is played by an actor, Oscar Ashe, who doesn't project the earthy, lusty joy of life that is required for the role.  In fact, he can't get through five words of dialogue without looking and sound like he needs to burp and then take a nap.  Yes, this particular ghost should be somewhat of a slob, but no so much that you would actually be afraid to touch his robe for fear of catching something.   And I must nominate Mary Glynne as the worst Belle ever.  She's such an overacting drama queen, she inadvertently makes us feel that Scrooge was rather lucky to have been dumped by her.

     And yet, with all that going against it, this early version of the tale is still worth revisiting for the performance of Sir Seymour Hicks, still one of the grandest Ebenezer Scrooge's on film.  His portrayal of Dickens' most famous character stands with those of Alistair Sim and Albert Finney, both of whom seem clearly influenced by Hicks, especially Finney.  He captures everything about Scrooge, both the craggy, dried-up shell of a man at the beginning of the story and the rejuvenated saved soul at the end.  Despite a lack of effects, the film is still visually enticing, especially during the shadowy and ghastly Ghost of Christmas past episode. The film depicts foggy London town of the Dickens book better than most versions, and Donald Calthrop is a sympathetic, believable Bob Cratchit.   All of these good points go a long way to temper any defects with the cast and the disappointing manifestations of the Ghosts.

     Having watched this film several times over the past few years, it has now has tied for second place in my list of top five adapations of A Christmas Carol, standing side by side with the Albert Finney version. 3½ - JB

NOTES: The version I procured to review the film may have been cut.  If I get around to getting a complete copy, I may review this film again.

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