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Scrooge

There is something like 60 different film and television versions of Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol — and that's not including the versions that appeared on TV shows like "Sanford and Son" and "Happy Days," where the basic premise of Dickens' timeless tale of Yuletide redemption was retooled to accommodate the series. All in all, A Christmas Carol is one of the most heavily adapted works of literature, and it remains forever synonymous with the holiday of Christmas. Transforming A Christmas Carol into a lively musical, the 1970 British film Scrooge ranks among the better adaptations of Dickens' novel. Just in case you aren't familiar with the plot, Ebenezer Scrooge (Albert Finney) is the stingiest man alive in 19th century London. Feared and hated by almost everyone he comes in contact with, Scrooge deplores Christmas. But after being visited by several spirits — including the ghost of his former business partner (Alec Guinness) — who show him the error of his ways, Scrooge emerges from the experience transformed. Albert Finney does a tremendous job portraying Scrooge as a bitter, twisted old man. At the time Scrooge was released, Finney was only 34 years old, and the fact that the actor uses very little make-up as a means to appear older only makes his performance all the more powerful. Equally as impressive are Guinness as Jacob Marley and the scene-stealing Kenneth Moore as The Ghost of Christmas Present. Aside from the Golden Globe-winning performance by Finney, one of the key things that separates Scrooge from the countless other versions of A Christmas Carol is the music by Leslie Bricusse. An Oscar-winning composer and lyricist, Bricusse's numbers breathe energetic life into Dickens' story. Bricusse also wrote the script and weaves the music in so seamlessly one would almost think that Dickens originally wrote A Christmas Carol as a musical. For years, veteran director Ronald Neame's Scrooge was a television staple during the holiday season. This version of A Christmas Carol was for many people, especially those that grew up watching television during the '70s, a quintessential telling of the tale. But in its broadcast version, Scrooge was heavily butchered, with a few seconds trimmed here and there and one major sequence removed completely. Unless you saw the film theatrically, or rented it on video, then you've probably never seen the sequence when Scrooge goes to Hell. Cut from most television broadcasts, the Ghost of Christmas Future leaves Scrooge in Hell, where Jacob Marley leads the old miser to his home for all eternity — an ice-cold accounting office where Scrooge will serve as assistant clerk to Lucifer. Paramount's DVD release of Scrooge features a good anamorphic transfer (2.35:1) and Dolby Digital 5.1 audio — the presentation captures much of the Oscar-nominated set and art direction that had been lost during three decades of full-frame broadcasts. It's the perfect family holiday film, and a much-welcome DVD release. Keep-case.
—David Walker



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