Friday, December 16, 2016

Dec 8 - Scrooge (1970)

Another musical. But thankfully, another fantastic musical. Around this time, especially when it comes to theatrical releases, I've gotta imagine that producers were thinking, "Okay, we can't just throw out any lazy, by-the-book adaptation and expect people to gobble it up. Most people are happy just to stay in and watch the perfect 1951 movie on their TV on Christmas Eve. We might need to make sure our movie's a little bit special." So they thought a little longer and decided that a grand musical with fun songs and a little lighter heart might be worthwhile.

Just a couple factoids, this was the first theatrical adaptation to be in color. Albert Finney was only 34 at the time, as far as I can tell by my extreeeeemely exhaustive research, I believe this is the first time a young man played Scrooge and underwent makeup to appear older in the present. Rather than a middle-aged or older actor playing Scrooge and trying to get by with makeup to play Scrooge in the past or just having another actor play him. It works very well, Finney is terrific at every age and the connection to his character is a little stronger by only seeing a single familiar actor in both timeframes.

The first thing I noticed, right at the beginning, was how "bold" the camera work was. In retrospect, the earlier films feel very strongly like adaptations from the theater. Actors stay sitting in a large single room. If there's much activity, it's often a character entering a door and then exiting it at the end of the scene. I hadn't thought about it until now, but many scenes in the first adaptations feel much more stiff. Here, when Fred first visits Scrooge, the characters are walking back deeper into the office while talking and the camera is navigating between bookshelves and around desks. There are long, snaking shots through London crowds on the street as Scrooge walks home. I didn't realize I wanted it, but it was a very refreshing approach.

I'm now struggling a bit with how to describe the plot, when it's just done really well. The songs are clever and catchy and as entertaining as they are useful to progressing the story along. One good specific moment I can bring up is in the Christmas Future segment, there is a song, maybe the best one on the soundtrack, called "Thank You Very Much" and it features a large group outside his building cheering and "thanking" Scrooge. Scrooge, of course, at first thinks this is everyone coming around and finally showing him some well-earned gratitude and doesn't catch that they are thanking him for dying and relieving them of all their debt.

The crowd is singing and toting Scrooge's coffin through town like a fan surfing on a sea of hands to the front of the stage. Scrooge joins the crowd's procession and sings and dances along with them, never noticing his coffin is the real star of the show. And he doesn't realize he has died until he is taken to the graveyard where Tiny Tim is buried and sees a grave that's never visited and learns it's his.

I've always thought the whole Christmas Future part with Scrooge's death, where we see housekeepers getting rid of his belongings they've stolen and fellow businessmen talking about what a dull affair his funeral would be was pretty silly. I mean, in that Scrooge doesn't realize it's his death everyone is talking about until he sees his grave. It makes Scrooge seem like an idiot. "I've been visited by four ghosts all with a very Scrooge-centric agenda and I've seen moments across the span of time that only pertain to my life and how I've lived who in the world would this dead turd everyone's talking about be?!? Wha..what!? It's me? Noooooo!!! What a twist!" And this is the first time that the formula is tossed aside and something different and more interesting is attempted. And I love it.

Watch it on YouTube
  1. A Christmas Carol (1951)
  2. Scrooge (1970)
  3. A Christmas Carol (1938)
  4. Mr. Magoo's Christmas Carol (1962)
  5. Scrooge (1935)
  6. A Christmas Carol (1910)
  7. Shower of Stars: A Christmas Carol (1954)
  8. Scrooge, or, Marley's Ghost (1901)
  9. The Christmas Carol (1949)

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