Even though SCROOGE is set in the Victorian era, and has wonderful details, there is a 70’s vibe about the movie. Certainly a post OLIVER tone. But let me start at the beginning.
I first saw this version on a Girl Scout field trip. Now if it was the year of release, I was about eight. My sister and I remember being scared witless by a few of the scenes, especially the hell scene at the end of the movie (after Scrooge falls into the grave). Jacob Marley is played by Alec Guinness, which may explain the “extra” hell scene. Wouldn’t you want to use him more? Anyway, I remember being horrified when the half naked sweaty men (very 70’s, those forgers) kept wrapping Scrooge in chains. Remember–we saw it in a movie theater. And I was a wimp.
Scrooge is played by Albert Finney, who was young and handsome but played old and eccentric very well. (See MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS for another example). When Scrooge drinks his soup (just prior to Marley’s visit) you have a sense of the cold and self imposed poverty. Scrooges dirty fingernails also speak to his disregard. And the Belle scene is a killer, with old Scrooge hating having to watch the folly of his younger self. Finney is so good. And the cinematography is wonderful–all grays with flashes of red, like Scrooge’s long underwear.
There are some plot changes–not huge but not insignificant. Belle is Fezziwig’s daughter in this version. We get to know a lot of the townsfolk who owe Scrooge money. Tiny Tim and his cute sister stare at the toy store window longingly while waiting for their father. Most of these changes help support the musical numbers.
Yes, that’s right. This version is a musical.
Maybe that’s one reason for the 70’s vibe–Leslie Bricusse also wrote or co-wrote WILLY WONKA AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY and DOCTOR DOLITTLE. “Thank You Very Much” came from this movie–you’ve probably heard it, but thought it was from OLIVER or another period 70’s musical.
I suspect that this may not be a great version, but I have such a fondness for it I can’t judge. I loved the “I Like Life” song with the Ghost of Christmas Present (Kenneth More, complete with pendant and chest hair). And I loved the big redemption number at the end. Come on, musical theater and A CHRISTMAS CAROL. How could it go wrong?*
*Let us count the ways…later this month.