December 24, 2015

A Christmas Carol [1984]

Edward Woodward [no relation] as The Ghost of Christmas Past is the standout in this made-for-television adaptation. He's jovial at times, but as Scrooge shows some sympathy for the poor souls of London, the ghost really lays into Scrooge for his hypocrisy. His lustrous blanket of chest hair was distracting at times! George C. Scott is the star, and he does a fine job, but he's not cold and mean enough; he seems too easily persuaded by the spirits. Also, his Scrooge does not use the word "humbug" properly; Scott throws the word around as a general expletive.
The remainder of the role are filled by a stellar supporting cast: Roger Rees [you may remember him as Kirstie Alley's rich boyfriend on Cheers] is charming as nephew Fred. David Warner, whom I'm used to seeing as a villain - he plays Ultimate Evil in Time Bandits, for example - is touching as the tender, emotional Bob Crachit. Susannah York (Kal-El's mom in Superman I and II) is fine as Mrs Crachit; Mark Strickson (Dr Who companion Turlough) is young Scrooge, and Strickson plays opposite Lucy Gutteridge, who played the romantic lead in the comedy Top Secret! that same year opposite Val Kilmer. Kilmer's future wife Joanne Whalley appears briefly as Scrooge's sister.

The special effects are kept to a minimum. Jacob Marley's chains and bank boxes are especially effective, with great clanking noises. Once Marley materializes in Scrooge's bedroom, his ghostly appearance is maintained by lighting and all-monochrome makeup only. Scrooge's travels with the spirits are not fussy.