Sunday, December 11, 2016

Dec 5 - A Christmas Carol (1951)

I've really been looking forward to this one. Prior to this little experiment, it's actually been several years since I've seen any Christmas Carol, but in my slightly fuzzy memories this one sits proudly on the top of the heap as my favorite version. It's the one I watched in middle school after reading the book in English class. There's warm memories of seeing it in those delirious days before Christmas break started. Possible unfair nostalgia aside, it is very highly regarded by others, including high-falutin' film reviewer I'm not completely off base.

It held up remarkably well. I'm realizing now that eventually, theoretically, I'll reach a point where I won't have anything new to say about the latest movie I've watched. It'll be a patchwork of previously made points and criticisms. It's harder and harder to make as many unique notes and observations. I'm not quite there yet, but with a divine adaptation like this one I'm getting closer. Succeeding posts could just be "This part was done well, like in 1951. They missed this point that 1951 nailed."

So. Let's looks gorgeous. That strikes you immediately. The lighting is incredible and creates a look that gives this one a very unique "personality"..which is saying something among a dozen other black and white, gloomy London set movies. Watching this you realize how flat and lazier the cinematography in other versions was. The contrast is so deep without destroying any details. I'd love to see this one on Blu-Ray.

Alastair Sim is amazing as Scrooge. More than any others thus far, at the beginning of the movie he feels unhinged. The look in his eyes and his expressions paint him as not just a grumpy man, not just bitter, but someone who has been divorced from humanity for so long that he's on a different plane.

Marley's appearance is fantastic. The sound design and acting is just as chilling as I remembered. Finally, one of my favorite lines made it into Scrooge's dialogue in its entirety. I've personally never had indigestion related hallucinations, but I suppose eating a bite of underdone potato might've been a much scarier experience in mid-19th century England than it is now, I dunno...but I've always loved when Scrooge is trying to dismiss Marley as a bad dream, just a result of some tummy trouble and he says, "There’s more of gravy than of grave about you, whatever you are!" Very cute and clever line, Chuck.

I've talked about the difficulty in making Scrooge's redemption feel complete and honest and earned, and this is the most successful job so far. The Christmas Past segment is quite long and provides ample reasoning behind how Ebenezer became who we first meet. Knowing how crucial this segment is to the arc, a few new flashbacks are included to flesh his background out. We see that his sister Fan died on or around Christmas. We see some seeds of greed being planted and sowed while working with Fezziwig and later when he first meets and works with Jacob Marley. Just a few more minutes spent in his youth helps him feel so much more real and his personality more justifiable.

The next two ghost visits are done very well, but hard to say much more about them compared to other movies. The Past segment is done so well in this case, that the other two being very faithful is about all I can really remember. I will reiterate that, upon getting to visit other locations and peek into the Cratchit's or Fred Scrooge's home or the "pawn shop"?...I don't know what exactly the location is at the end where all the people are trying to hock Scrooge's stuff after he died, the grimy look of London is perfect. I feel like washing my hands just thinking about it. None of the fakey, far too clean look that plagued some earlier adaptations.

The glaring flaw with this one for me is when at the end as Scrooge wakes up, realizing he is alive and well, he asks the hosuekeeper what day it was and not the boy walking outside. For a movie that nailed so many of the iconic moments that are burned into out collective pop culture brain, they screwed this up.

Watch it on YouTube
  1. A Christmas Carol (1951)
  2. A Christmas Carol (1938)
  3. Scrooge (1935)
  4. A Christmas Carol (1910)
  5. Scrooge, or, Marley's Ghost (1901)
  6. The Christmas Carol (1949)

No comments:

Post a Comment