“A CHRISTMAS CAROL”— Ultimate Collectors’ Edition

“A Christmas Carol”

Ultimate Collectors’ Edition

Amos Lassen

It may be September but retailers are letting us know that Christmas is coming and one sure sign of this is when the film of “A Christmas Carol” is making its way into stores. But this film of the Dickens’ novel is not just any movie. It is the film with Alastair Sim’s tour-de-force performance as the ultimate miser that has helped to make it a beloved version of the story and one of the best-loved Christmas films of all time. 

It comes to us this year with a new state-of-the art High Definition transfer from the original 35mm negatives and many wonderful extras. It has the magnificent, full-bodied portrayal of Ebenezer Scrooge by Alastair Sim that leaves everyone else looking pale by comparison. Director Brian Desmond Hurst keeps the focus on Scrooge’s life story, beautifully simplifying and underscoring the theme of lost women. Sim’s commitment to the role is at times astonishing.

Released in 1951, this is simply the best movie version of “A Christmas Carol” because of the perfectly cast Sim and his bravura performance as the old miserly skinflint Ebenezer Scrooge, turning from old meanie to a nice guy and playing both with equal conviction and charm.

In the famous tale, Scrooge is given a chance for redemption when he is haunted by ghosts of Christmas Past (played by Michael Dolan), Present (Francis De Wolff) and Yet To Come (C Konarski) on Christmas Eve.

Among the movie’s many qualities are the wonderful ensemble cast and Noel Langley’s amusing and poignant script that wisely stays close to the Dickens original. The rudimentary special effects of the era have their own kind of charm and work well in context. It is atmospherically filmed in black and white by cinematographer C Pennington-Richards.

Sim’s characterization of Charles Dickens’ notorious curmudgeon Ebenezer Scrooge is not only generally regarded as definitive, but is also the only one of his films to achieve wide circulation in America, where it became a Christmas television perennial.  Even when the stellar cast temporarily usurps his performance, he shines.  Simsrelished the chance to play Scrooge as both villain and reformed hero and takes delight in mocking the trappings of Christmas at every opportunity, shooing away carol singers and refusing to contribute to a fund for the poor. But after he’s learned his lesson, he becomes almost gleeful and even dances a little jig as he realizes that he might actually enjoy living as a reformed character.

An impressive supporting cast supports Sims (Mervyn Johns and Hermione Baddeley as the downtrodden Cratchits, Michael Hordern as Scrooge’s deceased partner Jacob Marley, Patrick Macnee as young Marley, Kathleen Harrison as Scrooge’s Cockney housemaid, and a scene-stealing Ernest Thesiger as an over-eager undertaker. The film’s real voice of authority comes from Rona Anderson as Scrooge’s fiancée Alice: in a crucial central scene when she bitterly rebukes him for favoring material wealth over love of his fellow man.

The Victorian London setting is effectively staged and alternates between a picture-postcard white Christmas to an altogether harsher impression, as homeless women hold on to their children. Not only does this implicitly rebuke Scrooge for his callousness, it reminds us of the reforming zeal underpinning Dickens’ own words.

Special features

  • Audio Commentary by Marcus Hearn and George Cole
  • “Spirit of Christmas Past”–George Cole remembers Alistair Sim
  • “Richard Gordon Remembers George Minter & Renown Pictures”
  • “Charles Dickens–His Life and Times”
  • Bonus: Colorized Version
  • Before & After Restoration Comparison
  • Optional Narrative for the Blind
  • Photo & Press Book Gallery
  • Cast Bios
  • Original American and British Theatrical Trailers
  • “Scrooge” (1935 Seymour Hicks Version)”

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