A Christmas Carol

1951, Movie, NR, 86 mins


Alastair Sim's performance in Dickens' hoary holiday classic provided one of the defining moments of his career; the result is the definitive filming of the story, breathing life into the familiar plot while earnestly hewing to the author's vision.

On Christmas Eve, miserly, callous Scrooge is visited by the ghost of his former partner and by a series of other supernatural agents, who try to bring him to a realization of his own mortality and the emptiness of his cramped existence. The heavy-handed political subtext--poverty and ignorance are the evils that Scrooge nurses through his reliance on the "sufficiency" of workhouses and orphanages to care for the poor--is handled with skill, and even in its most obviously manipulative moments is true to Dickens' intentions. But Sim's amazing embodiment of the character is outstanding, coursing through the range of human experience toward a giddy, heartfelt redemption that is truly earned. The result is a fable that is as irresistible as it is corny, as compelling as it is predetermined; in short, a classic.

The script is almost entirely taken verbatim from the original text; Hurst's otherwise unexceptional direction succeeds largely by peopling the film with superb British character actors (e.g. Bull, Hordern, Baddeley, Marsh, Patrick Macnee as the young Marley, and Elsa Lanchester in an uncredited cameo) and letting them have fune with Dickens' prose. Most versions of the story, particularly a 1984 TV film with George C. Scott, gloss over Scrooge's loss of self-control, without which his redemption becomes impossible. Stick with this one. leave a comment

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