Friday, November 06, 2009

Dickens's Christmas Carol

A new version of A Christmas Carol comes out today. This one uses motion capture and CGI. Reviews have not been kind. From the beginning I was wondering why we need a new version. The advertising for this version has been relentless and all of it has focused on Scrooge flying through London.

This seems like a good time to mention some previous versions that are redoubtably better than the new version.

Years before Charlie Brown's Christmas, Mr. Magoo did a version. I was very young at the time - I turned 8 a few days after it was shown. In retrospect, this was a very 1960s production. The animation was not all that good. Regardless, it holds up fairly well.

CBS aired a made-for-tv production in 1984. CBS was at the top of their game in the 1980s. This one had a great cast starting with George C. Scott as Scrooge. We watched it last year. It holds up very well. Production values were very high. The sets look authentic. Scott plays the part with a light touch. His Scrooge is never evil but events in his past conspired to make him lonely and bitter. Regardless, he never lost his sense of humor. He tries to dismiss Marley's ghost as indigestion, using line straight from the book. about my only quibble is that Tiny Tim looks too well-fed and healthy.

WKRP in Cincinnati did a Christmas Carol adaptation in the early 1980s. The Art Carleson, the station manager, ate some funny brownies and dreamed a version. It was one of the best episodes of one of the best sitcoms of its day. Again, this was a CBS production.

Bill Murray did a great update of the story in 1988's Scrooged. This includes a play within a play where Murray is producing a live TV special of a Christmas Carol while living the story. It includes lots of digs at TV producers. This is up there with Groundhog Day.

Also in 1988, BBC's Black Adder did a Christmas special in which the nicest man in England is accidentally visited by a spirit who gives him visions of his ancestors and decedents. It turns him into the meanest man in England.
Following Jim Henson's death, the Muppets went from new plots featuring Kermit to adaptations of classics as ensemble productions. Their 1992 version of a Christmas Carol was the first of these and quite effective.

There have been other versions but none of them are worth looking up.

In the meantime, wait until December before watching any version.

No comments: