A Christmas Carol (1984)
Article 6078 by Dave Sindelar
Directed by Clive Donner
Featuring George C. Scott, Frank Finlay, Angela Pleasence
Country: UK / USA
What it is: You know the story
Ebenezer Scrooge finds himself haunted by spirits intent on making him understand the greatness of Christmas and to abandon his miserly ways before it’s too late…
This version of the Dickens favorite came highly recommended to me from several people, most of them stressing the excellent performance of George C. Scott. And though I have no issue with Scott’s grounded and nuanced take on the Scrooge character, it isn’t the main attraction for me here. Rather, it’s the well-constructed script which keeps a razor-sharp focus on the story it’s telling. It’s clear that this version’s goal is to emphasize just what needs to happen to Scrooge for him to make the necessary changes to his character to emerge as he does in the final moments. That is not an easy task; the story is so famous that it’s easy to get lost in the little traps, such as turning Scrooge into a icon of miserliness or turning the whole show into one big Christmas party. And, like the Alastair Sim version, by keeping its focus, it helps me to appreciate and understand the roles that certain characters play in Dickens’ story; for example, it’s the first movie version where I really felt Fezziwig was a necessary character. The movie has a few very minor flaws, but it is one of the best versions out there, and I’m always glad to see David Warner cast against type, here playing Bob Cratchit.
Santa Claus (1925)
Article 6077 by Dave Sindelar
Directed by Frank E. Kleinschmidt
What it is: Santa’s life on film
Two children wait up for Santa and ask him how he spends the rest of his year.
I’m rather surprised that I haven’t reviewed this one yet. This 29-minute silent short which purports to tell us how Santa Claus spends his time during the rest of the year is a genuinely charming Christmas short, in which I learn (among other things) that Walruses are goblins, the Easter Bunny drops by and trades information with Santa about the children they visit, and that Santa spends Saturdays visiting his closest neighbors, the Eskimos. Sure, these amount to little more than whimsical details, but it displays a certain creativity and is highly entertaining. If I were to put together a collection of the best Christmas shorts I’ve seen, this one would be on it.