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Monday, November 24, 2014

In the past, I did a review for the version of Scrooge starring Alastair Sim and I gave it high ratings. This week, we discuss the only musical version of Scrooge that is worth watching and it stars the immortal Albert Finney. Released in 1970, I remember seeing this movie at the Palace when I was but a tiny spud and I thought it was glorious. All these years later, I still think this movie is nothing short of glorious.

This is the only version of Scrooge that was smart enough to get a young actor and put him in old man make-up to play both young and old Scrooge. Finney was only 34 years old when he made this, but the make-up is amazing and, even in close-ups, Finney looks like a dried up old man.

As with any musical, there are one or two songs I could do without that I would classify as simply annoying. But, for the most part, the music in this movie is a lot of fun and the musical numbers look wonderful. Finney had to be 34 years old to do some of the physical acting he did in this movie as an older actor would not have been able to dance, run and jump around like Finney does. Trust me, I know.

One of the nuances of this film that seems to get lost by a lot of people is the use of the song “Thank You Very Much.” When we first hear it, the citizens of London are thanking Scrooge for dying and relieving them of their debts. When we hear it at the end of the movie, it is a raucous celebration of Scrooge’s transformation. I find the whole dual purpose to be interesting and it always makes that ending song a bit more substantial for me.

In the Star Wars series of movies, Alec Guinness played the mentor Obi-Wan Kenobi and established himself as a pop culture icon. But before he was convincing Imperial guards that these were not the droids they were looking for, Guinness played one of the most accessible versions of Jacob Marley ever captured on film.

Guinness has a substantial and creepy song in this movie, but he was supposed to have two. He sustained a double-hernia doing some of the stunts for Scrooge and his big musical number was cut out of the final film, so Obi-Wan was never a big fan of this version of Scrooge.

There is no denying the brilliance of Albert Finney, but the sad thing is that most Americans only know Finney as this version of Scrooge. He is a Shakespearean actor, has a recurring role in the Bourne franchise of movies and he even played Pope John Paul II in a television movie. Finney’s biggest successes have been on the live stage and he approaches every movie role like a live stage performance. That is the thing that makes his acting so memorable and it is just one of the elements he brings to Scrooge that few other actors outside of Alastair Sim brought to the role.

The one big complaint I have about this movie is that certain parts of it tend to drag, especially the ending song. I understand that we are going for the big finish, but it just seems to go on forever.

The other problem I have with this film is that it tends to sacrifice important parts of the story to make room for big musical numbers. The revelations that Scrooge is supposed to have with the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come are not there because of the extended musical numbers. A cardinal sin this movie commits is that, in order to squeeze in a couple of extra versus with the Ghost of Christmas Present’s song, the lines “Are there no prisons? Are there no workhouses?” do not appear. This would have been a five-star movie if they had sacrificed the songs for the story instead of the other way around.

But there is no denying that this movie is a holiday classic. It is a great movie for the whole family to watch and I guarantee that young children will enjoy the bouncy musical numbers. The acting is extremely convincing, which is hard to find in musicals. A lot of that has to do with a cast that includes Albert Finney and Alec Guinness. There is a lot more right about this movie than there is wrong and that makes for a wonderful holiday classic.

Rating: 3 ½ out of 5

George N Root III is a Lockport resident and drive-in fanatic. During the holidays, he watches nothing but Christmas movies. Follow along with his weekly movie reviews.

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