Ebenezer Scrooge is a bitter old man who hates people and everything to do with Christmas. But on Christmas Eve he is visited by ghosts who warn him about the consequences of his choices forcing Scrooge to re-evaluate his life.
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“To be wakened by a ghost at 1:00 in the morning is hardly conducive to my welfare!”
It’s 1860 and the streets of London are bustling with excitement. Everyone is touched by the Christmas spirit. Everyone, except that bitter, old man holed up in his office counting out his coins. That’s Ebenezer Scrooge (Albert Finney) and he “hates people.” He works his lone employee, Mr. Cratchit (David Collings) past an appropriate hour, brushes off his nephew’s (Michael Medwin) dinner invitation and yells at the caroling children on the street. No one likes Ebenezer Scrooge. Based on Charles Dickens’ story “A Christmas Carol,” Scrooge was released as a musical re-telling of the classic tale in 1970, with an all English cast and filmed in London.
At Scrooge trudges home, he stops by to collect debt owed from shop keepers and vendors. As they beg and barter for some extra time to pay, Scrooge is unforgiving, penciling the added debt in his tiny ledger. Arriving at home, he settles in for some broth by the fireplace but is interrupted by an upbeat ghost. Jacob Marley (Alec Guinness), the deceased business partner of Scrooge arrives to warn him about three impending visits – from more ghosts. Scrooge doesn’t take to this idea well, denying the existence of such nonsense. But late at night Scrooge is indeed visited by the ghosts. The Ghost of Christmas Past (Dame Edith Evans) takes Scrooge back to his unhappy childhood and the loss of his great love. The Ghost of Christmas Present (Kenneth More) exposes Scrooge to the fun and love he’s missing by not opening his heart to Cratchit and his nephew. And the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come is one menacing fella; he only points to graves and shoves Scrooge into the recesses of hell. As Scrooge passes through a dark canal and lands in hell, he repents and is born again. Rising out of bed, Ebenezer Scrooge opens his heart and finds a newfound appreciation for life.
Nominated for Oscars in Art Direction, Costume and Original Song, the film showcases beautiful sets, lovely costumes and fun musical numbers. The home and office where Scrooge spends most of his time are swathed in dark, drab colours. Scrooge’s house is filled with various shades of gray; minimal and cold. In contrast, the streets of London are filled with colour, quick movement and life as the Cratchit’s household swims in lights, people and laughter. But by the end of the film, Scrooge trades in his drab coat for a bright red Father Christmas suit, leading a festive parade through the streets of London in a large-scale musical number.
The only fault of this delightful film are in the songs which are mostly all forgettable. Sung with clear, beautiful voices, the songs are lovely but rather bland. The only song which is catchy and thoroughly entertaining is “Thank You Very Much,” nominated for Best Original Song. It is sung twice in the film, when Scrooge realizes the town is overjoyed at his future funeral and finally included in the last musical number when Scrooge celebrates Christmas with the townspeople. The song is accompanied by brilliant choreography, a huge crowd and some heartwarming moments.
Albert Finney gives the character of Scrooge depth, displaying a sense of deep loss and regret which he carries everyday in the form of bitterness. As he travels through time, visiting the consequences of his choices, his character softens and releases the chains that bind him to his loneliness. Alec Guinness as the Ghost of Jacob Marley is both comical and grim, exhibiting a dramatic flair every time he and his chains rattle into a room. And the children with their angelic voices are perfectly placed, appealing to the children in the audience as well as giving Scrooge the perfect means with which to display his changed ways.
Scrooge is an entertaining, family-friendly film that cautions against the error of ungratefulness. It reminds one to release the past, embrace the present and hope for a bright future. The streets of London, the 1800s costumes, the choreography and story all lend themselves to an enjoyable and festive Christmas musical.