This was a made for TV version, but doesn't suffer for that. Who ever cast the supporting actors was smart enough to realize that Scrooge needs to be surrounded by believable characters, and so we find some fantastic actors populating good old London. But as with any version of this classic story, the emphasis is on Scrooge himself. And Scotts performance drives this version.
George C Scott presents us with a far more complex character than we often find. One of the most striking scenes for me was the interaction between Scrooge and his nephew Fred. I am used to a jovial, bubbly Fred, full of smiles and Christmas cheer, and a wizened, scowling Scrooge. But here we find Fred talking in earnest. solemn, almost sermonising about the good Christmas has done him. Scrooge meanwhile laughs. He laughs at the idea of merry Christmas, laughs at the thought of boiling those who wish others a merry Christmas and laughs at how much more clever he is than his fellows, seeing Christmas for the true humbug it is. But this laughter never reaches his eyes. It's scornful, wicked and mocking, with no joy or love at all. And as we watch it becomes clear what a clever choice this is. This self satisfied smugness places transforms Scrooge, who can be seen often as a victim even from the first act, on a much higher pedestal. He's not just shutting the world out, defending his views when he's challenged, but he openly mocks and enjoys doing so, and so as we see his world view shift it's even more satisfying, even more gratifying to us as an audience and to him as a character as well.
I've already touched upon the supporting cast, but standing out amongst a field of giants is the always watchable David Warner as Bob Cratchet. He's warm, loving, put upon, the perfect, downtrodden everyman. As an aside, can I just say how happy I always am when Bob steps out of the office, as he does here, wearing a white 'comforter'. It's just nice when details like that are kept in.
Now for my Christmas Carol bugbear. If you read any review of this movie by me you'll see the same thing. TINY TIM! Gah!? Why do the other Cratchet children like him? Surely when we see the future and the wee lad is dead the others are thinking 'finally, now father will love US instead'. That coupled with the fact that he's a very young child makes it amazingly hard to cast. To young and the kid can't act. To old and he's hardly going to be 'tiny'. In this version they have erred on the side of tiny, and let acting talent be damned! The issue with this is that it means lines that are frankly trite and would never really be said in the actual world sound even less believable coming from the lips of an inexperienced child actor. Don't worry Anthony Walters, you'll go onto to much better things in the fut… Oh… A quick mention should be made about The Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come. I became rather smitten with the eerie sound made when it 'spoke'. Frankly, I loved it. Just the right level of creepy to keep the hairs on the back of my necks dancing. I vaguely remember having to drink a can of toughen up as a child during those moments, which is exactly as it should be.
With a stand out cast, surprisingly good prodction values and a script that's pretty close to Dickins this is a version that's pretty close to the original, and yet is well paced enough to not bore the pants off of younger family members.
Year of Release: 1984
Country of Origin: UK/US
Running Time: 100 min
Aditional Information: Made for TV
Director: Clive Donner
Producer: George F. Storke
Screenplay: Roger O. Hirson Based on A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens
Photography: Tony Imi
Music: Nick Bicât
Cast: George C. Scott, Frank Finlay, David Warner, Susannah York, Edward Woodward, Roger Rees
Tomorrow it’s the 2000 version of How the Grinch Stole Christmas. After that Fred Claus. Sunday, which should be a day of rest but what the heck is going to be Santa Claus the Movie.