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Sunday, November 30, 2014

For the most part, movie adaptations of Charles Dickens’ classic A Christmas Carol are hit or miss. In my experience, 95 percent of them are generally a miss. But I will always hold three versions of this story as three of the finest movies ever made, along with being the three best adaptations of Dickens’ work. One of those classics is the 1984 adaptation starring George C. Scott as Ebenezer Scrooge.

This movie had a lot working against it when it comes to reaching the level of holiday classic, not the least of which is the fact that it is a made-for-television movie and I, for the most part, despise made-for-television movies. But there is just so much good about this movie that it is impossible to ignore it, and easy to call it an all-time classic.

George C. Scott was as passionate about acting as General George Patton was about going to war. Scott was a believer in the sanctity of the craft and it showed in every single role he ever played. When he won an Oscar for his performance in Patton, he refused to show up to claim his award. He called acting award shows “public displays with contrived suspense for economic reasons.” Here, here, Mr. Scott. Here, here.

When I first heard about the release of this movie, I refused to believe that it actually starred George C. Scott. First of all, it was a made-for-television movie and George C. Scott despised television. Secondly, it was a retread of a story that had been done 100 times before. Why would George C. Scott take an interest in this kind of a movie? When I watched this movie for the first time, I will never forget it. Finally, a made-for-television movie that transcended the stigma attached to that label and delivers an unbelievable result.

I was not surprised to find out that Scott had been nominated for an Emmy for his performance. However, I was surprised to see that he did not win the award. For all of his great work, George C. Scott won only one award- his Oscar for Patton. Just further proof that the Academy sometimes gets it right, but most times gets it wrong.

Scott’s performance in this movie is brilliant, but he does not carry the movie on his own. David Warner plays Bob Cratchit, and he does so with a demur, yet reinforced, manner. The way in which Warner’s Cratchit unceasingly bows to Scrooge, but yet refuses to allow his economic position dictate how he and his family are to be treated by anyone else, is something every Bob Cratchit should aspire for.

The effects for this made-for-television movie are amazing and add so much to the story. The effects do not go over the top, but they do help Scrooge to make his transformation in a gradual but convincing manner. Scott pulls back on his Scrooge at the perfect moments and unleashes his Scrooge in rage and happiness just when it is required. The interaction between the actors in this movie is what makes it such a pleasure to watch.

There are two issues I have with this movie and I believe they are issues that prevent this movie from getting five full stars. Anthony Walters plays Tiny Tim and he is neither convincing (like Richard Beaumont is in the 1970 rendition) nor does he appear to be a professional actor. Sure, the kid is cute and gives plenty of “aww” factor, but he is obviously reading off cue cards throughout the film and that is extremely distracting.

The other problem I had with this movie was the jerky motions of the Ghost of Christmas Yet To Come. It is obvious that this is a statue on a track being moved about and, in many instances, the track does not appear to be very stable. The ghost bounces up and down and acts as a diversion from an otherwise excellent execution of Scrooge’s final transformation.

If you are a fan of Christmas movies, then this is a film you need to see at least once. It picks you up, transports you back to merry old England in the late 1800’s and tells Dickens’ story exceedingly well. This is a made-for-television movie that acted as the perfect vehicle for a George C. Scott performance.

Rating: 3 ½ out of 5

George N. Root III is a drive-in fanatic who can put drive-ins on hold in December to make room for Christmas.

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