Holiday Watch: A Christmas Carol (1984)

Charles Dickens’ story, A Christmas Carol, has been done, re-done, re-imagined, re-gurgitated, re-thought, and just generally re’d. It’s easy to get jaded about it. What a wonder it is to be presented with what I consider to be the definitive filmed version.

I had mixed feelings about this production when it was first shown. Having grown up with the Alistair Sims version of the tale, I had some preconceptions about how the story should be told. Also, George C. Scott as Scrooge wasn’t exactly the first name that came to mind when thinking of an English merchant. Even so, I remembered well his turn as the Beast in Hallmark’s Beauty and the Beast some eight years before. It was an unexpected performance from an actor you didn’t expect to find in a fairy tale. That, combined with the visually stunning look from the promos, gave me hope that this would be a good production.

Honestly, I don’t think “good” covers it. Scott’s Scrooge is a terror. He’s frightening not so much because he’s “over the top”, but because he isn’t. This Scrooge isn’t far removed from the money slaves running many companies in the present day.

Perhaps the key character in this entire production is the setting. The movie was filmed on location in Shrewsbury, England–the very town where Dickens gave the first public reading of the story. The look and feel of A Christmas Carol is captured so well, you can’t imagine the verisimilitude being mimicked in a studio.

In the end, though, it comes down to the script and the actors who say the words. There’s a humanity in this telling that is often wanting in other attempts. It feels as if not just Scrooge, but we the viewers, are being escorted through Christmases past, present, and future. The audience isn’t kept at arm’s length. For this, much credit must be given to the supporting cast. From nephew Fred to the boy in the street the morning of Scrooge’s redemption, the actors seem to be living the roles, not acting them.

As I said, for me this production was a revelation. I have not seen an attempt of doing this classic tale that equals this version, much less surpass it. Yes, others have their charms, but nothing else has quite captured the scope and depth of the story that was achieved in this 1984 TV movie. If you get the chance, I highly recommend that you take the time to settle in and enjoy.

4.75 of 5 

For more movies, go to the list at: Watching the Holiday Movies

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