This year’s Christmas Review covers yet another adaptation of Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. This 1970 version is a musical, with Albert Finney as Scrooge and Sir Alec Guinness as Marley’s Ghost. It serves up Dickens with a vision of Hell on the side– and it’s the first film adaptation I ever saw.
Cast, Crew, and Other Info:
Directed by Ronald Neame
Written by Leslie Bricusse from the novella by Charles Dickens.
Albert Finney as Ebenezer Scrooge
Sir Alec Guinness as Marley’s Ghost
Edith Evans as the Ghost of Christmas Past
Kenneth More as the Ghost of Christmas Present
Paddy Stone as the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come
Michael Medwin as Fred
David Collings as Bob Cratchit
Laurence Naismith as Mr. Fezziwig
Suzanne Neve as Isabel Fezziwig
Frances Cuka as Ethel Cratchit
Mary Peach as Fred’s Wife
Kay Walsh as Mrs. Fezziwig
Richard Beaumont as Tiny Tim
Nicholas Locise as Goose Boy
Additional cast and crew may be found here.
Okay, seriously? Does anyone not know the story already? The full text may be found here. If you haven’t checked this off your “must-read” list at least once already, go now and read the original. We’ll still be here when you return.
While other actors have made a stronger mark in the popular culture as Scrooge, Finney manages to be both frightening and nuanced in the role. Scrooge is over-the-top as a character, but Finney invests him with human depth.
Sir Alec Guinness was one of the great actors of his time, but you wouldn’t know it from his mediocre performance of Marley. Part of the fault lies with the script. Marley seems to gloat over Scrooge’s impending doom, rather than express the concern for his former business partner. Since that is Marley’s entire motive, it puts the performer in an awkward place.
Guinness also, allegedly, took issue with the production, which placed him in an uncomfortable flying harness.
Originality: 2/6 At this point, very little can make this story original. This version adds a music score and a low-budget vision of Hell. The Hell-sequence is either disturbingly funny or just plain disturbing, depending on your perspective, and often excised from broadcasts.
Effects: 3/6 The low-budget effects are cheesy but functional. The wandering souls appear to be on their way to a Halloween party. The reveal on the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come might yet frighten little children.
Acting: 5/6 Finney isn’t particularly a singer, but he performs Scrooge well, and appears both as the older and younger versions of the character.
Production: 4/6 It’s very clear that the film has been shot in studio, with indoor streets, studio lighting, and unfrozen breath. The sets remain impressive, in a theatrical sort of way. For some reason, this production updates the story’s present tense from the late 1840s to 1860.
Emotional Response: 4/6 Dickens’ story still holds its power, but the songs add little. Most distract from the story, though “Thank You Very Much” makes for a grimly amusing number.
Overall: 4/6 Better adaptations exist. If you like musicals or are some sort of Christmas Carol completist, this is a fair version of the time-honoured tale, and it features a strong central performance.
In total, Scroogereceives 28/42.
Past Christmas Carol Reviews:
Carol for Another Christmas (1964)
Batman: Noel (2011)
A Muppet Christmas Carol (1992)
A Christmas Carol (1999)
A Christmas Carol (1951)
A Christmas Carol (1938)
Mickey’s Christmas Carol (1983)
Clearly, George C. Scott must grace our pages next year.
Merrie Christmas and a Happy Sundry Other Holidays to you!