Monday, December 24, 2007

SCROOGE (1970)

I recently wrote a blog post on my Mixed Media site about the various movie versions of Charles Dickens' "A Christmas Carol." I omitted this big-budget studio musical with Albert Finney as Ebenezer Scrooge because I hadn't seen it in many years and, though my memory was that I didn't care for it, I wanted to be fair to it so I dug it up and watched it again. It was actually worse than I remembered it, though that might be because I had just written my post on the other Scrooges (Alastair Sim, George C. Scott, Reginald Owen) and perhaps they were shining so brightly in my mind that Finney couldn't compete. At any rate, though this version does have its online fans (see its IMDb entry), it has been largely overlooked by the Pop Culture Christmas Machine, not often heralded in seasonal articles or rerun on cable. Finney was probably a little too young (at 34) to take on the role. Physically, the make-up is fine, but he seems uncomfortable as the old Scrooge and only slightly more comfortable as the younger one. This was made at the end of the big studio musical era in the wake of the success of OLIVER! so they probably figured another Dickens musical would be a sure-fire hit--as far as I know, it was not. The songs, by Leslie Bricusse (probably best known for the original DOCTOR DOLITTLE), are unmemorable and worse, with the sole exception of "Thank You Very Much," which despite a dreadfully banal lyric, has a catchy melody and is the basis of the movie's best production number, a happy funeral march in the streets celebrating the death of Scrooge during his Christmas Future vision. Finney's not a singer so he mostly does a Rex Harrison talk/croak which is not terribly appealing, and he plays the old Scrooge as though he were a stroke victim. The movie is ugly and listless, with only the final musical numbers having the energy and flow which the rest of the film lacks. The look of the film is OK but nothing special. The only other cast members worth mentioning are Edith Evans as the Ghost of Christmas Past and Alec Guinness as Marley's Ghost. There is a bizarre little sequence showing Scrooge falling into his grave and plummeting into Hell, met by Marley and a bunch of beefy demons dragging a massive chain for Scrooge. It's inventive, but it doesn't really fit. Not a terrible movie, but not a success, and if you can only make time for one version of Christmas Carol this season, choose from the Sim, Scott, or Owen, all on DVD. [Laserdisc] (Sorry, I never got around to my annual ritual of watching one made-for-TV holiday movie with a blandly handsome leading man; ABC Family seemed to have a lock on Christmas films this year, but none of them sounded appealing to me.)

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