Directed By: Clive Donner
Starring: George C. Scott, Frank Finlay, Angela Pleasence
Tag line: "A new powerful presentation of the most loved ghost story of all time!"
Trivia: Scrooge's grave can still be visited at St Chad's Church graveyard, Shrewsbury, where the churchyard sequence was shot - the production team left the gravestone in place once filming was completed
There have been several film versions of Charles Dickens’ 19th century Holiday tale, A Christmas Carol, from the Thomas Edison-produced adaptation in 1908 all the way up to Disney’s 2009 animated offering, starring Jim Carrey. Perhaps the most beloved cinematic take on the story came in 1951, with Alistair Sim playing the part of Scrooge, but for me, this U.S. made-for-TV rendition of A Christmas Carol, starring George G. Scott, will always be my favorite. I watched it the night it first debuted on CBS in 1984, and since that time, It’s become a staple of my regular Holiday rotation.
Ebenezer Scrooge (Scott) is the nastiest, stingiest man in all of London. While most are happily preparing for the upcoming Christmas season, old Scrooge is tending to business inside his tiny office with his assistant, Bob Cratchit (David Warner), who he forces to work long hours for very little pay. As far as family is concerned, the only person Scrooge has is his nephew, Fred (Roger Rees), who, every year, invites his uncle over for Christmas Dinner, an invitation that Scrooge always scoffs at.
One night, Scrooge is haunted by the ghost of his former business partner, Jacob Marley (Frank Finlay), who warns his old colleague that he must change, and accept Christmas into his heart. To help him see the error of his ways, Marley tells Scrooge he’ll be visited that evening by three spirits: the ghosts of Christmas Past (Angela Pleasance), Christmas Present (Edward Woodward) and Christmas Yet to Come. With these spirits to guide him, Scrooge must learn to keep Christmas in his heart, not only in December, but year round.
Having made a career out of playing gruff characters, George C. Scott seemed the natural choice to star as the mean-spirited Scrooge, and true to form, he’s a real son-of-a-bitch at the film’s outset, angrily pushing street carolers out of his way and refusing to contribute money to assist the poor. He even tries to drive off Tiny Tim Cratchit (Anthony Walters), who’s just standing on the corner, waiting for his father to finish work. Yet what’s truly remarkable about A Christmas Carol is how the actor pulls off the later scenes, when Scrooge, after glimpsing his sad future, becomes a changed man. Having so convincingly portrayed a bastard for most of the movie, Scott’s transformation into a kind, caring individual is just as believable. The scene where the actor’s giddily jumping up and down on his bed, overjoyed that he hasn’t missed Christmas, is itself reason enough to see it.
Directed by Clive Donner, A Christmas Carol is awash in period costumes and settings, all of which look wonderful, and there are plenty of memorable moments as well, from Jacob Marley’s creepy visit to the boisterous sequences featuring Edward Woodward’s Ghost of Christmas Present. A mostly faithful adaptation of the classic Dickens tale, 1984’s A Christmas Carol is also a beautiful motion picture, with George C. Scott delivering one hell of a performance.