Monday, December 17, 2012

Dang, there's a lot of "Scrooge" movies

Like most folks in US/ Canada/ England and other parts of the Dickens-reading world, I'm a fan of Dickens' shortest and most-on-the-nose work, A Christmas Carol.

On Sunday evening one of my favorite movie versions, the 1984 A Christmas Carol starring George C. Scott, was on AMC.  It was a good era for special effects, before things went crazy with CG and filmmakers knew how to work within their limitations but had made art out of editing, shadows, light and fog machines.  As Scrooge, George C. Scott doesn't come off as goofy or immediately redeemable, but he does appear human - the smiles at Fezziwig's made all the more meaningful as they crack the ossified grimace, or the realization of what is coming as he witnesses his own future.

The story is endlessly adaptable as evidenced by the infinite variations in local theater, the 93 entries in IMDB for the character "Ebenezer Scrooge", and that doesn't include the riffs on the story in virtually every long-running sitcom or film with the character with the name changed (see: Frank Cross).  It's harder to say how many movies are actually called "A Christmas Carol".  Somewhere between 45 and 150.  And Scrooge?  There are 200 results for Scrooge.  Or just 9 results for anything exactly named Scrooge.  One of those is an episode of Martin, which should really count either 5x more or 10x less, depending on who you ask.  But let us never speak ill of the lovely Tisha Campbell who was merely a pawn in the schemes of Martin Lawrence.

There's Mickey's Christmas Carol, A Muppet Christmas Carol and the recent Jim Carrey CGI mess of Disney's A Christmas Carol if you need introductory versions for the kids.  Adults can watch the George C. Scott version or countless others, including the excellent version from 1999 starring Patrick Stewart.

Since people could film stories, A Christmas Carol has been a staple.  Here's the 1910 Edison version.

Heck, in 7th grade, I played The Ghost of Christmas Future in our (controversial) home video of Geraldo dissecting the story for our Language Arts class.

While the story is supposedly universally beloved, the themes and ideas must reflect differently off folks of varying political persuasion.  Scrooge begins with a decidedly Ayn Randian take on his fellow man and ends by becoming a philanthropist.  It's both the liberal dream of Scrooge redistributing wealth and proof to conservatives that the individual's charity is where it's at.

I suppose Dickens knew well that the goodness of man has a common denominator, and it can be found in terms we can all not just understand but in our understanding of what makes for a better way to live best with your fellow man.

It's a bit silly to try to sell you on A Christmas Carol, so I'll stop while I'm ahead.  But I am now done with my Dickens for this year.

By the way, the Disney CGI movie really is awful.  I was a little embarrassed while watching the 30 minutes of it I caught on cable.  Just say no to any Christmas movie with Jim Carrey - including the Grinch thing which is only made kind of okay but the confusing feelings you may have about a "sexy Who" played by Christine Baranski.


Matt A. said...

To me, the greatest version remains "Scrooged." Even despite Bill Murray having that Dennis Miller mullet. I don't think it would hold up for the "kids" these days, though.

The League said...

Scrooged is a GREAT version. Certainly worked for me as a translation upon its release. Good question if the 80's-ness works well for the younger folk.

Fantomenos said...

I think you're right about the pan-political appeal of Dickens.

The Claremont Review of Books recently had a piece about Dickens being a passionate moderate, either a very conservative liberal, or vice-versa.

Certainly his emphasis on personal responsibility as well as his recognition of our inter-dependence resonates with people of all persuasions.