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A Christmas Carol

A Christmas Carol(1951)

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Home Video Reviews

Of the many film and television versions of the Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol, everyone has their favorite interpretation whether it's the animated 1962 Mr. Magoo's Christmas Carol or the 1970 musical, Scrooge starring Albert Finney or even Bill Murray as the infamous humbug in Scrooged (1988). But it's harder to decide who is the definitive Ebenezer Scrooge. Many people are fond of Reginald Owen's performance in the 1938 version of A Christmas Carol, which was produced by MGM (Originally Lionel Barrymore was supposed to play Scrooge but a leg injury prevented him for working). However, most people seem to agree that the definitive Scrooge - the one closest to Dickens' original conception - is probably Alastair Sim in the 1951 version of A Christmas Carol, which was originally released in England as Scrooge. Available now on DVD and VHS from VCI Entertainment, the Alastair Sim version not only boasts excellent black and white art direction by Ralph Brinton but also features a memorable score by Muir Mathieson and a first rate supporting cast; you might recognize Mervyn Johns (the actor playing Bob Cratchit) from Dead of Night (1945), a superb supernatural thriller in which Johns played the doomed protagonist, trapped in a never ending nightmare. All in all, the Alastair Sim version has a slight edge over the Reginald Owen version in terms of production value but the latter does possess a more menacing supernatural quality. Still, there are many haunting sequences in the Sim version too, particularly Michael Hordern's first appearance as the wailing, tormented ghost of Jacob Marley.

VCI's DVD edition of A Christmas Carol includes an introduction and closing comments by Patrick MacNee - they bookend the feature - which appear to be an attempt at a "Masterpiece Theatre"-like presentation. Though completely unnecessary, it is interesting to note that MacNee appears in A Christmas Carol in a minor role as the real young Jacob Marley. The DVD also includes cast biographies and the Technicolor cartoon by animator Max Fleischer, "Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer," which is in desperate need of restoration; though viewable, it is a less than pristine presentation of this popular cartoon. A Christmas Carol, however, has been fully restored and re-mastered from the original 35mm negative which was recently discovered in England. Though there are a few occasional visual imperfections which exist on the master (some print damage, speckling, etc.) this is the best-looking version of A Christmas Carol currently available on DVD and VHS.

For more information about A Christmas Carol , visit VCI Entertainment. To order the DVD of A Christmas Carol, visit Movies Unlimited.

by Jeff Stafford