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December 5, 2015

Scrooge (1951)
Director: Brian Desmond Hurst
Actors: Alastair Sim, Michael Hordern, Mervyn Johns

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Synopsis: Miserly curmudgeon, Ebenezer Scrooge (Alastair Sim), is visited by three spirits on Christmas Eve night, to teach him a lesson about the true meaning of love and charity.

Review: My ‘A Christmas Carol’ retrospective continues apace with this, inarguably the definitive and best adaptation of Charles Dickens’ seminal Christmas fable. It really is a lovely, lovely film – there’s something about the immemorial, evocative quality of black and white photography that serves the raw material of ‘A Christmas Carol’ so well. The slate-grey Victorian canvas comes across so beautifully here, and the effect of the four spirits visiting Scrooge is done better here than in all subsequent adaptations – despite many of those films having the advantage of colour photography, animation (some of them), and in the case of Robert Zemeckis’ recent 3D version, even motion-capture technology. The scene where a visibly haunted Scrooge, in the background, is tormented by the ominous silhouetted hand of The Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come is truly outstanding framing and image-making.

At the centre of this lovely story is the incarnation of Scrooge by a sensational Alastair Sim. You can have all your computers and motion capture technologies you want, but the sheer genius of Sim capturing Scrooge’s epic emotional journey from miserable curmudgeon, through the lessons of the ghostly visitations, to the heart-warming (and humorous) cathartic ending is a joy to behold. Yes, the film is ever so treacly in parts, but then so is Dickens’ source novel, and going forward, if anyone asks me to recommend a film that best demonstrates the true moral and sentimental value of Christmas, I will reference this special little gem from yesteryear. (December 2015)

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