Saturday, December 8, 2012

A Finney Scrooge

In 1970, a new Scrooge appeared in theaters. This was the first theatrical color and musical film adaptation of the story for theaters.

Albert Finney plays a curmudgeonly Scrooge who becomes a lively cheery soul after his visitation. The story follows that of the book rather closely, adding in Scrooge being briefly harassed by street urchins as he makes his way home on Christmas Eve, when he also visits people who owe him money, grudgingly giving them extra time to pay off their loans, often requiring additional fees.

More time is spent with Bob Cratchit, introducing Tiny Tim and his siblings and mother a little early as Bob goes shopping for the Christmas dinner.

Marley takes Scrooge flying through the sky with other phantoms, warning that he may share their fate.

The Ghost of Christmas Past (dressed like a proper Victorian lady) also shows some scenes of Scrooge's courtship with Isabel, who is now Fezziwig's daughter. Her relationship with Scrooge is demonstrated by her putting an engagement ring in a scale and having it outweighed by two coins.

The Ghost of Christmas Present has Scrooge get drunk off of the "milk of human kindness," and does not display Ignorance and Want. Scrooge awakes in his bed, and finds the next Ghost waiting for him in his home.

The Ghost of Christmas Yet To Come is the most altered. Old Joe, Scrooge's business partners and the man who owed Scrooge money are not seen, instead Scrooge's funeral procession is seen, with one big twist: these people are joyfully celebrating his death as they still owed him money. When Scrooge sees his grave, he begs that he may change, then he sees it open, then the Ghost's face is revealed to be a rotted skull. Scrooge falls into his grave into Hell, where Marley greets him. He is given an icy office to do paperwork for the Devil in, then his chain is placed on him. This makes him wake up and decide to change his ways now.

Scrooge dances and sings in the street, buying toys and food for the Cratchit family, gifts for people he meets on the street, accepting Fred's invitation, and forgiving debts as he buys a Father Christmas costume and delivers his gifts to the Cratchits' home. Eventually, he tires and heads home, hanging the false Father Christmas bear and hat on his knocker, saying he will prepare to spend Christmas with Fred. (We felt the film-makers missed a beat by not having the knocker turn into Marley's face there.)

The film is punctuated by twelve new songs and a large finale that reprises many of them. The opening song "A Christmas Carol" plays over the opening credits. "Christmas Children" is sung by Bob as he goes shopping. "I Hate People" is sung by Scrooge as he leaves his office. "Father Christmas" is jeeringly sung by the street urchins who harass Scrooge. "See the Phantoms" is sung by Marley as he and Scrooge fly through the sky.

"December the 25th" is sung at Fezziwig's Party, while the song "Happiness" is sung by Isabel. "You... You..." is sung by a reflective Old Scrooge about his ended relationship with her.

"I Like Life" is sung by the Ghost of Christmas Present and Scrooge, while Tiny Tim sings a song called "The Beautiful Day." The rousing "Thank You Very Much" is sung during Scrooge's funeral procession, and he joins in, having just missed noticing his coffin.

Scrooge sings "I'll Begin Again" after he awakes from his vision of Hell, and the finale consists of "Thank You Very Much," "Father Christmas," "Thank You Very Much" again, and finally "A Christmas Carol."

While it's a cheerful and bright adaptation, it again fails to point out exactly why Dickens wrote the story. The poor are seen as honest working people or jovial street urchins who would get by pretty well even if Scrooge hadn't reformed. Again, the main people who appear to benefit from Scrooge's reformation are the Cratchits.

But this jovial and rousing take on A Christmas Carol should not be missed.

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