Worth Reviving – Scrooge
Review by Ray Schillaci
Now, I’m not just giving this wonderful movie a mention because of the holidays (but, it helps), and this 1970 film should not be confused with the 1935 film of the same name or Bill Murray’s Scrooged. Cinema Center Films and Waterbury Films present a joyous musical starring Albert Finney (Erin Brockovich, Big Fish, Tom Jones) as Scrooge, and our dear Obi-Wan Kenobi, Sir Alec Guinness as Jacob Marley’s Ghost. Include a great cast featuring Edith Evans (The Chalk Garden, Tom Jones) as the reserved Ghost of Christmas Past and Kenneth More as the delightful Ghost of Christmas Present, toe-tapping music, and an all-around first class production, and you have an enjoyable viewing experience with the family.
Scrooge was not the rousing hit the studio had hoped for, but it became one of those movies that was more endearing over the years as did Leslie Bricusse’s other writing credits – Doctor Dolittle, Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, and Goodbye, Mr. Chips. Mr. Bricusse was a not only a writer, but he was also listed as working with the Music Department, soundtracks, and continues to have credits today with the CW’s Supergirl and Marvel’s Thor: Ragnarok.
There has been over a dozen versions (TV and features) of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol counting Muppet, Mickey Mouse, and Mr. Magoo interpretations. Scrooge has been portrayed by some great actors including George C. Scott, Sir Patrick Stewart, and Jim Carrey, but Albert Finney’s Ebenezer Scrooge is one of the most complex. He’s not just a mean Grinch-like crotchety old man. Finney’s portrayal is heart-wrenching, sympathetic, and damn if the man can sing with such heart.
The production itself is a beautiful recreation of a timeless classic. For those who just arrived on Earth, Scrooge tells the tale of a miserable old miser that is shown the errors of his ways by three ghosts that visit him on Christmas Eve: the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present, and Yet to Come. Scrooge is made to reflect on his lonesome childhood and the few people that tried to make it nicer. He’s shown gatherings where people of the present, family and his employee, Bob Cratchit, still find kind words for Scrooge through the holiday. There is also the emphasis on Bob Cratchit’s family and their young crippled son, who will break your heart with his sweet song. In fact, there are so many delightful musical numbers in the film it may remind you of another great family staple, the Oscar winning movie, Oliver!
Director Ronald Neame (’46 Great Expectations, The Poseidon Adventure) demonstrates a sure hand, and does not flinch going with writer Bricusse’s more controversial material, which he is to be applauded for. The distribution company in the states worried about scenes from the Christmases Yet to Come. For the younger folk, the idea of actually showing a frightening picture of death hurtling Scrooge at his grave was quite risky. But, then they went a step further, taking him to hell. The production design for hell is quite gruesome for its day. This caused the original print to be edited and have the hell sequence taken out.
But, Paramount Studios has provided an uncut version on DVD. The sad part is that the film has a Blu version, but no extras. Scrooge was nominated for four Academy Awards! And, no extras, Paramount? Bah Humbug! Pick this one up for all your yuletide merriment.
Directed by: Ronald Neame
Release Date: November 18, 1970
Run Time: 113 Minutes
Distributor: 20th Century Fox (theatrical), Paramount Pictures (home entertainment)