Christmas recommendation: “Scrooge” (1970)

| December 6, 2008

This remains my favorite Christmas movie (yes, even over “A Christmas Story”). It is a musical version of Dicken’s “A Christmas Carol”, starring Albert Finney in the title role. I am not alone in my praise for this movie; note that of the 406(!) customer reviews for it at Amazon, 366 (90%) give it 5 stars and another 21 give it 4 stars.

“Scrooge” didn’t do all that well when it was released theatrically in 1970. Movie critics didn’t like it, feeling that it was somehow silly in the light of the earlier ‘classic’ versions of “A Christmas Carol” (in particular the 1951 Alastair Sim version). For years after that, if “Scrooge” showed up at all, it was in a chopped-up, pan-and-scan version on TV; I can remember my own profound disappointment when I first saw it on TV. The VHS release wasn’t much better — while not chopped up, it was still pan-and-scan, losing much of the outstanding cinematography and choreography.

But for five years now, it’s been out on DVD in an uncut widescreen version. The movie itself has held up very well. The score and libretto are outstanding; a few of the movie’s songs have crept into the mainstream over the years (I heard the Mormon Tabernacle Choir sing one on their weekly broadcast earlier this year). As mentioned above, the choreography is outstanding as well, as are the cinematography and art direction.

The real key, though, is Albert Finney in the title role. The director cast a young man (Finney was only in his early 30s when this was filmed) as Scrooge, figuring that it was easier to make a young man look old than to make an old man look young. Furthermore, the old Scooge is not played as a stern if elegant patrician; he’s played quite literally as a dirty moneygrubber, with a permanent hunch to his back. His Scrooge is not someone you would want to cross or meet in a dark alley.

The movie shows a bit more of Scrooge’s young life (via the Ghost of Christmas Past), giving a better sense of Scrooge’s descent from a tall, handsome, modest young man to the bent-over miser he becomes. It also adds a scene of Scrooge in Hell (as part of the visit of the Ghost of Christmas Future) that is quite humorous and at the same time chilling (so to speak). And there are a few changes in the final sequence of events as well, but they represent a payoff from things set up early on.

At its core, though, “Scrooge” fully delivers on Dickens’ original message of regret, repentance, and redemption, and it does so in a powerful fashion. I recommend it without reservation.  ..bruce w..

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About the Author ()

Webster is Principal and Founder at Bruce F. Webster & Associates, as well as an Adjunct Professor of Computer Science at Brigham Young University. He works with organizations to help them with troubled or failed information technology (IT) projects. He has also worked in several dozen legal cases as a consultant and as a testifying expert, both in the United States and Japan. He can be reached at bwebster@bfwa.com, or you can follow him on Twitter as @bfwebster.

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  1. Bruce Henderson says:

    Now this is fun, Tammi and I were watching this last night on DirectTV….