Wednesday, December 28, 2005


That is, in essence, the post, but since I've got some time to kill, allow me to elaborate.

Since as long as I can remember, I've been continually subjected to version after version of the Christmas Carol. Many is the memory of smiling as the classic tale appeared on the screen of my tv during the holidays. I have, however, equally as many memories of cringing in despair as a horrible cartoon version of the tale began, and my memory has only unclouded some of the horror and despair felt as Tiny Tim limped his way onto the screen in these versions, with a squeaky voice and smiling face in which you are contractually obligated to love. I don't remember loving him, liking him or even barely standing him. I do remember a long drawn out scream as I clawed my way deep into the Christmas tree, begging it to be over...but let's not dwell on such things. Let's dwell on the incredible, ney, epic number of versions of this tale, so you, the potential victim, can shield yourselves from the depth of the darkest pit of rasselberry dressing...

Scrooge (1970):

In my opinion, this is the overall best version of the Christmas Carol. I don't know why I always feel the need to start with the best, only to descend slowly into the dark, painful grip of 'he who shall not be named' (I can hear the clank of his crutch approaching even now...), but I might as well go with it. This version is a musical, but the songs are mostly enjoyable, and include ones that anyone with a television might find themselves humming. I won't bore you with details such as actor names, but needless to say the cast was all quite good, although Scrooge was a bit generic, it takes a little while to get started, and Tim had a horrifying 'Oliver from the Brady Bunch Quality'. The most memorable part of the movie is not the scenes, but the characters, as the version gives life to often overlooked characters such as the debtors to Scrooge, the wife of Scrooge's nephew, and Scrooge's ex-fiancee. Also, this is one of the few versions which goes to lengths to show that Scrooge honestly believes he's a good person, and that it's as much ignorance as it is greed that taints his heart. Overall the songs were very memorable, the plot and cast were good, Scrooge had great chemistry with Jacob Marley and the ghost of Xmas present, the debtors rousing chorus of 'thank you very much' is fantastic, and the scene in hell, which is usually ommitted from the television version, gives a unique glimpse as to what awaits Scrooge in the afterlife, with Jacob Marley snickering all the way. Oh, and the Scrooge redemption scene at the end is so delightfully over the top that there's no way not to love it.

Scrooge (1951)

Far more dramatic then its counterparts, this b&w British version holds just the right amount of comic relief as well. Unlike the previous entry, this version is not a musical, and includes a few of the more serious scenes which are usually ommitted from the original screenplay. Scrooge is magnificent, providing a far more realistic and tragic figure then the musical, as his suffering seems far more genuine, revealing how a man could become as dark a figure as Scrooge. That being said, this version is also a bit perplexing, as the poor and destitute Cratchett family...doesn't seem very poor and destitute. That's a fairly nice house you live in Bob. Is that a painting on the wall? Well, you've certainly done all you possibly could to save Tim. I can see how selling the Rembrant would be a step too far. Listen, I hate Tim as much as anyone, but this Tim isn't nearly as annoying as the ones that got songs. Besides the powerful performance by Scrooge, the most memorable aspects of the movie are the often deleted darker scenes of Scrooge's sister dying (complete with her dying wish that he didn't hear, and subsequently didn't follow, helping lead Scrooge onto the path of close-heartedness) and the ghost of christmas present revealing the children of man clutching his legs (from the original story, clothed in rags, the boy is ignorance, the girl is want, beware them both of all beware this boy! whoa). Like the musical, this version portrays Scrooge as ignorant, believing himself to be good, only to find out how evil he truly is. Also included is a scene of his ex-fiancee in the present (a rarity) helping people and having a fulfilled life, and a hilarious scene of Scrooge's maid the next morning, believing him to be completely insane.

Muppet Christmas Carol (1992)

This is without a doubt the best Muppet movie since The Great Muppet Caper, as it was not only funny, but also thoughtful and poinant, mostly thanks to a wonderful performance by Michael Caine as Scrooge. Caine's Scrooge is delightfully dry and cold, seething with bitterness and hatred underneath. This version is also fairly accurate, except for the inherent change of making Scrooge a landlord rather than a moneylender, as kids today probably won't understand an independant moneylender. Marley is split into Marley and Marley, so they can be played by both Statler and Waldorf, and they go the extra mile to show themselves as damned. It's kind of weird to imagine Statler and Waldorf damned for all eternity...shouldn't have been mean to Fozzie all those years...huh...ANYWAY! Kermit nails the part of Bob Cratchett (love his shaking), the ghost of Christmas past is delightfully creepy, Christmas present is delightfully strange and future is admittedly generic. The scene where Scrooge's girlfriend leaves him in the past is quite touching, again thanks to Caine's performance, but for some reason the song 'the love is gone' was edited out of the theatrical release, but put into the video release. I guess they figured they'd lose their young audience's attention, which is a shame since it's quite a touching song, ending with Scrooge singing along, showing that after all those years, he still remembered the words. Robin is yet another annoying Tiny Tim, the nephew is as generic as ever, and I have mixed feelings about Gonzo constantly interrupting as narrator along with Rizzo, but the scene where Scrooge goes to the Cratchett home after his redemption is classic. Is thirteen years long enough ago to be considered classic? Anyway, Michael Caine is god. That's not a typo. I didn't mean to type good, I meant god. The fact he steps over Tiny Tim's "God Bless Us Every One" line (or GBUE1 as we call it in the business) makes him god and a half.

Mickey’s Christmas Carol (1983)

First of all, Mickey’s barely in this. Calling it Mickey’s Christmas Carol is to suggest that Bob Cratchett is the main character. This aside, this is a remarkably good portrayal of the Christmas Carol, and unlike the other movies, they manage it in only 25 minutes. This short running length is achieved mostly by cutting out excess scenes and dialog (Mrs. Cratchett, played by Mini, doesn’t have any lines at all), but never does the story seem sparse or hard to follow. Every scene is kept to the point, there are no songs sung by the characters, and by a small mercy from the gods, Tiny Tim barely says anything at all. Also, in some cases less is more, as the graveyard scene is one of the most powerful out of all the versions of the Christmas Carol I’ve seen. Not only do they not beat you over the head with Tiny Tim’s death, but Black Pete is, hands down, the best ghost of Christmas Future of them all. He shows his face, and laughs at Scrooge as he pushes his into the open pit to hell below ('Why it’s yours Ebanezer…the richest man in the cemetary!' All while lighting a cigar. Priceless). Difinitive? No, but to the point and enjoyable. It wouldn’t be the only version of the Christmas Carol I’d watch during the holidays, but I’d watch this one as well

Jetson's Christmas Carol (2000)

Not much here, except the fact that Astro is the sick one instead of Elroy, leading to the possibility of Astro dying (strangely believable enough to gain your attention) and of course leading to Astro delivering the GBUE1, which was quite funny.

Flintstones Christmas Carol (1994)

Crap. Oh, is that an attempt at irony Fred? Oh, are you going to learn a valuable lesson? Congratulations Fred, you managed to make a Christmas Carol slightly less lame than the one you completely ripped off...

Mr. Magoo Christmas Carol (1962)

Words fail me. The songs were godawful, and the jokes were lame (the classic Magoo having a hard time seeing actually didn't come up that much). The underworld dwellers selling their ill gotten goods song was okay I guess, but the Cratchett family song is always enough to make me make my yearly attempt to impale myself on the Christmas tree. Laugh if you like, but this Tiny Tim, singing about Rasselberry dressing, is enough to shatter even the merriest holiday soul. I would gladly duel this kid to death with crutches, and damn the consequences! This Tiny Tim is the essence of everything that's horrifying about the part, and I would have every copy destroyed if it were not for one thing! Mr. Magoo's Christmas Carol is unique in that when Scrooge sees that he's died, it isn't the fear of death or damnation that causes him to turn. Instead, he sings a somber repraise of the song he sang when he was a lonely kid, "I'm all alone in the world." It isn't the fear of hell or death, but the fact that he dies alone, unloving and unloved that breaks his heart. For him, it's actually meaningless whether or not he lives or dies, or if he's going to heaven or hell. What matters to him is experiencing the most out of life, loving others and being loved himself. This is by far the most existential moment I've seen Scrooge ever have in one of these movies, as we see that although he's a bitter old man, he's still that sad lonely boy. Now that I think of it, Rasselberry dressing be damned, this is better than the Flintstones Christmas Carol (but only by a little bit).

Scrooged (1988)

Not a traditional Christmas Carol, but an effective modern day interpretation, as Bill Murray (who never fails to please) plays a heartless tv executive, hopelessly vain and caring nothing for the needs or suffering of others. As Scrooge normally obsesses over money, Murry instead obsesses over ratings and success. This is once again, like Flintstones and Magoo, an ironic parody, as the executive is producing a live version of Scrooge at the same time. The ghosts are far more bitter and abusive than normal, which adds to the movie's charm, and although it's mainly a comedy, Murray puts heart and soul into the part, showing Scrooge as a believable and human character in a simultaneously funny, edgy and creepy environment (similar to some of his other movies like Ghostbusters, Little Shop of Horrors, and What About Bob). The ending goes much further than expected, as Murray does what no other Scrooge would do, damning the consequences to bring his message of hope and redemption to millions of viewers, with Bobcat literally holding the film crew hostage. Heartwarming and fun, with more than a bit of Murray punch (have you tried staples?) make this a permanent DVD on my shelf, but it'd be a stretch to call it a literal version of the Christmas Carol. Like the Mickey version, it's a nice movie watch along with the Christmas Carol, but not a replacement. Oh, and Tiny Tim is one of the better ones, as he says almost nothing (except the dreaded GBUE1 line), and the scene where Scrooge looks in on him and the family is one of the better ones. If only he said nothing...then we'd really be getting somewhere.

What's that I hear? If you think you know so much about the Christmas Carol, why don't you make one yourself? Hmm.....

-Starts black and then fades into the words, in festive trim, "Max Freeman's Ultimate Christmas Carol".

-Scrooge starts at his television executive job, smiling at himself in the mirror and then showing the board 'his' version of the Christmas Carol commercial. Afterwards he immediately goes back to his office.

-Scrooge's nephew Donald shows up to bring him a wreath and try to get him to come to come to his house for the holidays, only to get kicked out.

-Without any dialog from Gonzo or Rizzo, Bunson Honeydew and Beaker come in to attempt to receive a donation from Scrooge, only to be kicked out. This scene continues on to Scrooge grudgingly (after delivering a great line 'be here at 8:00...but sir, it's Christmas...8:30 then') gives the staff of Kermit and the rats the day off.

-On his way home, Scrooge (1970) collects debts from the people who owe him money, including the puppeteer and the stew salesman. The songs are carefully edited out, since children can't sing worth a damn.

-To build dramatic tension, the scenes of Scrooge in his home, complete with ghosts, is taken from the 1970 musical version of Scrooge, right up until Jacob Marley shows up.

-Marley and Marley show up to torment Scrooge and sing "Marley and Marley", telling Scrooge of their plight and the three ghosts that will visit him. Again all scenes of Gonzo and Rizzo are edited out.

-The spooky ghost from the Muppet Christmas Carol appears before Scrooge.

-The explaination of how looking into the past works, from Scrooged, is used up to the point the action starts between his family members.

-We BRIEFLY see the child version of Scrooge at school sing ONE verse of the song "I'm all alone in the world".

-School finishes out seriously in black and white, and moves directly to the scene of Scrooge's sister dying.

-Fezziwig's is cut out compelely. No need to see the beginning of Scrooge's romance with his girlfriend, really.

-Scrooge talks with his girlfriend at the park as Scrooge (played by Michael Caine) looks on sadly as their love breaks apart. Right before the song, after she says you did once...

-His girlfriend throws her ring in one side of a scale and two coins in the other. She gives the 'if you measure me by gain' line to Scrooge (1970).

-NOW she sings "The Love is Gone".

-The 1970's musical version of Scrooge's Ghost of Christmas present verbally smacks Scrooge around...

-...and the Scrooged Ghost of Christmas present physically smacks him around.

-There's a brief, heavily edited stop to the nephew's house from the 1970's musical.

-There's a brief, heavily edited stop to the Mickey Cratchett home.

-Tiny Tim, much to Bill Murray's surprise, solves the puzzle without a problem, and learns of the boy's plight.

-In black and white, the Ghost of Christmas present shows Scrooge the children of man and crushes Scrooge with a vicious delivery of the 'are there no prisons are there no poorhouses' line.

-Scrooge McDuck is greeted my the mysterious Ghost of Christmas Past.

-The debtors sing 'thank you very much' for Scrooge.

-Scrooge McDuck finds himself at the graveyard, playing out the entire scene ending with him falling into hell.

-In hell, Scrooge finds Jacob Marley, is tormented beyond belief and it's HILARIOUS!

-Before breaking down completely, Scrooge realizes that the worst tragedy is dying alone, never truly experiencing love and human kindness, and sings ONE verse of "I'm all alone in the world".

-Scrooge, wakes up back in Kansas...I mean in black and white, and scares the hell out of his cleaning lady.

-Scrooge runs into Bunson Honeydew and Beaker, donates and receives a gift from Beaker.

-The redemption is right out of the 1970's musical, with only a little bit of editing, right until they get to the Cratchett home.

-Michael Caine is hilarious as he pulls Kermit's leg before revealing his new nature.

-Scrooge quickly goes back to his TV executive job and has a heavily edited (no girlfriend, brother or Tiny Tim) redemption speech. Just as girlfriend would show up...

-Scrooge runs into the debtors and finishes up completely as the musical. Just as he says Merry Christmas to everyone...

-Astro says "Grahd Ress Us Every One!"

Oh, and Tiny Tim's dead. Just heard it on the news. I wasn't there. Ask Amber, I was eating pancakes with Frank. You weren't even there. That isn't my bloody crutch. I mean that isn't his bloody crutch. I mean...GOTTA GO!

Oh and Cyborg Santa 2050, while buzzing over your house at just under the speed of sound, screeches a code in binary that translates through the proper cypher to: HAPPY HOLIDAYS ONE AND ALL!