Archive for December, 2010

** A Christmas Carol (1938)

Loew’s, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

Reginald Owen, Gene Lockhart, Kathleen Lockhart, Terry Gilburn, Barry MacKay, Lynne Carver, Leo G Carroll, Lionel Braham, Ann Rutherford, D’Arcy Corrigan, Ronald Sinclair

Ebenezer Scrooge, visited on Christmas Eve by the ghost of his 7 years dead partner Jacob Marley for his salvation, is visited by 3 ghosts, the Ghost of Christmas Past, the Ghost of Christmas Present, and the Ghost of Christmas Yet-to-come.  They are trying to show him that he must change his ways or end up a miserable sad old man with no friends and no one who cares.  Scrooge sees the happy and sad times in the past which made him what he is.  He sees the love of Christmas and the good and bad things that happen on this day, and finally what he is to become.

This is a slightly different variation of the Christmas Carol story.  Lionel Barrymore was set to play Ebenezer, but bowed out due to illness and Reginald Owen was chosen.  Every year Barrymore would read the book on a radio broadcast, but refused in 1938 so as not to interfere with this movie.  It’s a lighter and somewhat less scary version of the film than most of the others, and did some groundbreaking in many ways.  The story was modified for the sake of the film however and does not follow the book so closely.   For one thing Bob Cratchit smacks Scrooge with a snow ball and is fired.  Then on Christmas Day,  Scrooge shows up at the Cratchit’s house and hires him back.  (Normally he waits until the day after Christmas to play with Cratchit about firing him for being late).  Another interesting fact of this version is that Gene Lockhart, a fine actor in his own right, was joined in this film with his wife Kathleen, and his daughter June.  This is the first film appearance of June Lockhart, later known as Timmy’s mother on Lassie, and the Mom on Lost in Space.   This must have been fun to play a daughter to your real life Mom and Dad who are playing your parents in the film.  Also mysteriously missing from this version is Scrooge’s girlfriend (Usually called Belle) who broke their engagement after Scrooge changed to a new person who measures everything by money.  Where was Belle?  At very least, smaller kids who are scared of the scary scenes in the modern versions of the story will probably be able to handle this lighter and happier version.  I really love this one as well.

EdG – EdsReview Dot Com – A Movie Review Blog

 

 

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** A Christmas Carol (1999)

Turner Network Television, Hallmark Entertainment

Patrick Stewart, Richard E Grant, Joel Gray, Ian McNeice, Saskia Reeves, Desmond Barrit, Bernard Lloyd, Dominic West

Ebenezer Scrooge is a miserly old businessman in 1840’s London.  One Christmas Eve his partner, dead 7 years, arrives to warn him of the error of his ways.  That night 3 ghosts arrive and show Scrooge his past, present, and future selves.

This is a very accurate retelling of the short story by Charles Dickens.  Patrick Stewart is an excellent choice for Scrooge.  I have heard the books on tape version of the story by Patrick and it’s one of my favorites.  Richard E. Grant is also an excellent Bob Cratchit.   The vision and recreation of 1840’s London is awesome.  It looks to me exactly how I would have expected it.  The story is complete and includes a lot of the little details of the story that most retellings omit.  A few of the lines have been changed to modernize the language which I don’t really appreciate, but all in all this one of the very best versions of a Christmas Carol that I have seen, and I think I’ve seen them all!   I would definitely put this one in the top three best versions for sure.  Patrick Stewart is an amazing actor.  I shed a tear as the old Scrooge did all in his power to try to get young Scrooge to run after Belle and get her to come back.  Of course he could not, but the emotion he put out there gets to me every time.

EdG – EdsReview Dot Com – A Movie Review Blog

 

 

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The Jim Henson Company, Jim Henson Productions, Walt Disney Pictures

Michael Caine, Dave Goetz, Steve Whitmire, Jerry Nelson, Frank Oz, David Rudman, Donald Austen, Jessica Fox, Robert Tygner, Steve Mackintosh, Meredith Braun, Robin Weaver, Raymond Coulthard, Russell martin, Theo Sanders

Charles Dickens (The Great Gonzo, aka. Dave Goetz) narrates and hosts us to view the story of Ebenezer Scrooge (Michael Caine) who is a miserly old fellow who abuses his lone employee Bob Cratchit (Kermit the Frog, aka. Steve Witmire).   The ghost of his former partners,  the Marley Brothers (Statler and Waldorf, aka. Jerry Nelson and Dave Goelz) who warn him of what will happen if he doesn’t change his ways.  Scrooge is visited by the ghosts of Christmas Past, Present, and Future who touch his heart to help him realize the wrongs he has done.

This is such a wonderful version of A Christmas Carol.  This one is part life performance and part puppetry of Jim Henson’s Muppets.  This is typical in Muppet performances where the line between real and unreal is often blurred beyond recognition.  Additionally the often break the 4th wall with the audience and talk directly to the audience.  This causes some of the funniest moments in the film.  The choice of the old hecklers Statler and Waldorf to play the Marley Brothers is brilliant.  Most of the Muppets appear in one role or another throughout the film.  They treat the story with great respect, and it is very close to the original story during all the fun and chaos.  Some of the songs in this movie have stayed with me through all these years, and I love to hear them every Christmas when I pull out the old VHS and watch this one once again.  The patter between Mr. and Mrs. Cratchit (Kermit and Miss Piggy) and the kids is great, and who could play Fezziwig better than Fozzie Bear?   This is just about a perfect retelling of the story and one of my very favorites.

EdG – EdsReview Dot Com – A Movie Review Blog

 

 

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United Productions of America

Jim Backus, Morey Amsterdam, Jack Cassidy, Royal Dano, Paul Frees, Joan Gardner, John Hart

Mr. Magoo is an actor, and starring in a version of  A Christmas Carol as Ebenezer Scrooge.  As the movie starts, Mr. Magoo is on the way to the theater, and of course has all kinds of issues getting there.  He ends up in a Chinese Restaurant and thinks he’s backstage.  But eventually he gets there just as the curtain rises.  Then Magoo is no stooge!  He plays Scrooge to the hilt, in fine fashion.  We see the show from the audience, and at the breaks we get reminded that Magoo is NOT Ebenezer Scrooge, but an actor playing the role.  This gives this version of the story a special feel to it that is missing in the other versions.  This is a musical version and the songs are very memorable. Scrooge meets his deceased partner Jacob Marley who teaches him of the fate that’s awaiting him if he doesn’t change.  Then each of the 3 ghosts visits him and he gets to view his youth to remember where he came from, the present to remind him of how badly off the Cratchit’s are, and the future to see the eventual end of his as an unloved and unwanted old miser.  In the end the audience gives Magoo a standing ovation.

Each of the characters plays the role just fine and it’s hard to remember you’re watching a cartoon.  This is a musical, as I said earlier and I still remember the songs from my childhood.   30 years later my daughter watched it and loved the music as much as I did.  I can still remember the night this was on TV in 1962 when I watched it with my grandfather.    This may be part of what hooked me on the story in the first place.   One last note.  Last time I checked the entire version of this tv special was available on You Tube.  It’s hard to find it on TV anymore, but having it on the computer makes it viewable to anyone who wants to. You can find it at Amazon.com….in fact, there’s even a BluRay version.

EdG – EdsReview Dot Com – A Movie Review Blog

 

“This is not a preview of the film, but just a sample scene from the classic TV movie”

 

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Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Animation

Ernest Borgnine, Dom DeLuise, Sheena Easton, Taylor Emerson, Bebe Neuwirth, Charles Nelson Reilly, Steven Weber

The “All Dogs” team returns with Belladonna (Bebe Neuwirth) an evil witch of a dog that has an whistle that will control all the dogs and force them to steal Christmas.  She’s teamed up with Carface (Ernest Borgnine) and Charlie and Itchy are out to convince Carface to fight Belladonna.  They determine the best way is to pretend to be ghosts and haunt Carface as the ghosts of Christmas past, present, and future and change his heart.  We find out that Carface was badly treated as a puppy and has hated Christmas ever since.  Can Belladonna be defeated before midnight on Christmas Eve and Christmas saved?

This is TV animation and is typical of the “All Dogs” films.  Still, kids are going to enjoy the cartoons and watching the dogs, and it’s not really scary anymore than most TV’s.  But if your dog suddenly has his eyes start turning green and spinning in spirals, watch out.  He’s under Belladonna’s control.  Not a great story for grown ups (unless you’re a big fan of Saturday Morning cartoons of your youth) but it’s a good movie to entertain the kids with, and a decent revision of A Christmas Carol even though it’s changed in many ways.  The heart of the story is still there.   Hint though:  If you’re thinking of trying to destroy Christmas and stop it once and for all,  give it up.  It seems only the Taliban can do that.  Nobody else has even come close to pulling it off.  Not the grinch, not the martians, and certainly not Belladonna!  🙂

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