Day five and we’ve hit our first musical! I’ve no idea what to expect.
Hello, my old friend.
We start with some gaslighting.
This is an absolutely hideous opening shot but I guess we can’t all be Scrooge (1951).
Straight into music – some carolers wander around the streets of London singing hymns. I assume they’re original; I don’t recognise them and can barely hear the lyrics. It all sounds fairly generic. I wonder what poor soul got given the task of writing it?
Oh sure, only one of the single greatest and most prolific film composers of all time. Way to make me look like an asshole, facts.
There’s a nice slow reveal of Scrooge hampered only by the fact that he is an almost cartoonishly large hooked nose.
He looks like a goblin. Specifically, this goblin from the first Harry Potter film. They look so similar that I do not believe it was coincidental.
To its credit, this whole sequence does do quite a nice job of framing him Scrooge an outsider. He alone stands against Christmas and boy, how. This Scrooge hates Christmas! More on that later. For now enjoy this thing Scrooge does with his face after the “surplus population line”.
Now we meet Fred. Oh dear. I do not think I have seen anyone so totally misjudge the character of Fred as the actor who plays him here. He is a big booming lumberjack of a man, straight out of Seven Brides for Seven Brothers.
That’s a shot of him having just shouted “and a happy new year!” at max volume straight into Scrooge’s face. Look how happy he is. I don’t blame this Scrooge for not wanting to spend Christmas dinner with this Fred. He’s a dickhead. Dickfred.
No songs yet. As Bob Cratchit leaves the office the carolers start singing the same hymn from the beginning and I wonder: “is that it? Is this one of those cases where someone on IMDb misremembered that this was a musical because it just had the same interminable hymn fucking repeated constantly?”. Hoo boy, if only.
Look how much this Scrooge hates Christmas. He wont even TOLERATE the MENTION of the word.
Also, if you’re thinking that Fredric March”s Ebenezer Scrooge sounds like Christopher Lloyd’s Doc Brown then I suggest you read all 600 youtube comments saying exactly the same thing.
We get to midnight and Jacob Marley’s ghost. It is completely unclear what Scrooge is meant to be reacting to as he arrives. Is it… is it the incidental music? It can’t just be the chiming of one clock. If you have any guesses feel free to leave a comment on my webzone.
Basil Rathbone is Jacob Marley. Like Fredric March, he is completely wasted here (possibly in more ways than one). However, his arrival opens up a mystery.
During the visitation, a temporarily tangible Marley picks up a ledger from Scrooge’s desk detailing their money lending (careful of the flame, Jacob). For some reason Scrooge seems pained to look at it and it’s all very odd. But then:
Marley, ledger in hand, turns intangible again. The ledger follows suit. Then, Marley tosses the ledger to the floor. Both remain intangible throughout. I cannot overstate how huge the implications are for human/ ghost interactions. First of all, does the intangible book rest on the ground or fall through to the centre of the earth? If it does rest on the ground does it remain intangible forever? Would Scrooge ever be able to pick it up again? What if there are important tax documents in there?
I was considering pausing the movie here to consult a psychic but then Scrooge does a lot of work for me:
Still, the implications remain huge. There is clearly a cooling off period for spectral intangibility. What if you turn tangible again when halfway through a door? I will have to put this on the back burner for now because we are only 1/3 of the way into this movie.
In the scene following Marley’s exit, Scrooge is spooked and goes around his study nervously. It was probably shot with very little direction because it just looks like there’s a bee trapped in the room.
Huh? What’s this?
An odd use of the present continuous tense and an ill omen generally.
Power steering, eh? Turns out A Christmas Carol (Shower of Stars) is so-called because it was part of a CBS variety show called Shower of Stars which was sponsored by Chrysler I guess. Chrysler was such a beloved brand that they didn’t even take their ads out of the home video release.
At this point part of me wondered if the jingle at the end of that ad that qualified this as a musical because, Christmas carols aside, we’ve had nothing yet.
Aha! The first woman ghost! Who said corporations don’t have a social conscience? (Though I hear that in the 1938 version – which I’m increasingly annoyed that I missed – she was also a woman).
I looked back at the original text because I was sure Past was a described either as a woman or not specifically as a man. Looks like Past was originally described as being androgynous and white robed. However, Past was also originally described as:
“being now a thing with one arm, now with one leg, now with twenty legs, now a pair of legs without a head, now a head without a body: of which dissolving parts, no outline would be visible in the dense gloom where in they melted away”
I’d pay to see Robert Zemeckis CGI that. Sounds like the biblical descriptions of angels.
When Scrooge remarks that Fezziwig is alive again, the Ghost of Christmas Past normally corrects him and says “These are the shadows of things that have been.” In this version, we get the rather terse rebuff: “No, not alive, this is Christmas past.” Then Scrooge pulls a face.
Young Scrooge doesn’t have a massive hooknose.
We can only assume he got it later in life after trapping it in that unnecessarily large semi-tangible ledger.
Canny individuals will note that the same actress playing Scrooge’s fiancée, Belle, also plays the Ghost of Christmas Past.
They take each others hands and part waltz over to the staircase as the harp begins to play.
Could… could this be the first song?
I wouldn’t bother watching that video. Fun fact: I got a copyright claim on it so someone, presumably at Chrysler Corp, is still getting money for this. I’d cut your losses short if I were you, mate.
At one point Belle starts singing directly into the camera which is a bit unnerving but was not uncommon for the time.
There’s a dumb bit where it looks like Old Ebenezer has just worked out that Belle looks like Past despite mentioning exactly that a bit earlier. But there’s also a nice moment as he reacts with melancholy to his younger self singing.
Then young Scrooge straight up yells in Belle’s ear.
Look guys, if you really don’t know what to get each other for Christmas then maybe you shouldn’t be together. This isn’t a problem for long though, because the second they stop singing they break up with each other.
That’s it for Christmas Past. The ghost disappears and Scrooge runs back to bed.
It’s time for Christmas Present. Oh dear. Oh no. It’s Fred. Oh dear. Oh no. This is the comedy character.
The song is so awful and repetitive I’m not even going to clip it for you. Here are the lyrics.
A merry, a merry, a merry, merry Christmas. [repeat x34]
The sequence largely consists of Present pointing and singing at Scrooge then performing close-up magic tricks.
I wouldn’t hang that up mate, you don’t know where it’s been.
He fucks up the clock
He bodily possesses Scrooge
I don’t even know what’s happening here but I don’t like it.
The whole thing is extremely distressing. The truth is that there are so many odd moments in this sequence that I physically cannot gif them all. I’ve already dropped half a gig of wordpress storage on gifs out of a total 6 and I’m barely a week into Chradvent.
He does his whole exhausting, infuriatingly bad spiel and then just sits down normally like nothing happened. This man is clearly a psychopath.
Scrooge asks him who he is and he STARTS SINGING THE FUCKING SONG AGAIN.
Thankfully, we cut to Bob Cratchit’s house before anything else happens. Ghost of the Present, I hate you more than any spectre I have yet seen.
We’re treated to a bit of dialogue about the dressing for the goose, presumably sponsored by Chrysler kitchen, and are introduced to Tiny Tim, who is the only character in this film to have an English accent.
The Fred and Cratchit scenes from the Present are combined because the raw power of Ray Middleton’s acting means he cannot play both Fred and Present in the same scene (like Sally Fraser did effortlessly for Belle and Past). The problem with this is that Fred’s mean game of 20 questions where the answer is Scrooge is now delivered by Bob Cratchit, who also insists on toasting to Scrooge’s health and thanks him for the meal against his wife’s wishes. An extremely dumb editorial decision.
The third song of the film, if you count the second song as a song, is “God Bless Us Every One” delivered by Tiny Tim. Unlike Belle, who directed her solo straight into the camera, Tiny Tim directs it literally everywhere other than the camera.
It’s completely unremarkable, don’t bother to look it up.
Then we see the following exchange after the Ghost of Christmas Present tells Scrooge that he sees a vacant seat and a crutch without an owner.
Present: These shadows may be altered only by the spirit of the future.
Scrooge: Where do I find this spirit of the future?
Present: Look within yourself for if you continue as you are then the answer is there before you.
What the fuck does that mean? The spirit of the future can alter shadows of the future? I thought the whole point was that that was exactly what the ghosts couldn’t do? The spirit of the future is within Scrooge? Is the future ghost metaphorical now? If so, why weren’t the others?
I calm down assured that my questions will be answered soon. Perhaps the ghost of future will be another cameo – maybe the chuggers or even Tiny Tim himself? That’d be cool.
Is that… is the bird from this gif from earlier?
Christ knows. Anyway, Scrooge is in the graveyard now and he sees his gravestone and also Tiny Tim’s and there’s a moment where he’s sobbing over Tim’s grave in sadness and it’s clearly made out of polystyrene.
We get no future ghost – unless the bird counts (is it a moorhen?) – so that means Jacob Marley lied when he said Scrooge would be visited by three spirits.
Scrooge wakes up etc donates some money to the chuggers etc goes and says hello to Fred and asks to save him a mince pie as “he’s about to rejoin the human race”.
You and me both, Fred.
Scrooge then pays an unannounced visit to Bob Cratchit’s house, immediately raises his salary and invites himself in for Christmas dinner. Bob is clearly uncomfortable with this and the whole scene is very odd. Fred, who had specifically invited Scrooge for dinner, is rejected in favour of this very large, very poor family who are clearly struggling to make ends meet. Peter Cratchit was earlier reprimanded for eating a scrap of gingerbread dough before it was ready, so poor are they. Scrooge takes Bob’s place at the table and the family introduce themselves. When we get to “I’m Tim” Scrooge says “I know you are”, the creepiest possible thing you could say in that moment.
Tim sings us out and we spend the last minute of the film watching Scrooge’s face as he listens to the song. What is obvious is that Fredric March has not heard the song because his face shifts from sad to pensive to happy every few seconds regardless of any emotional shifts in the music.
I hated this. This film was terrible. It was more technically competent than 1949 but less charming and with an obviously higher budget so less can be excused.
3 hideous, hateful renditions of the Ghost of Christmas Present’s song out of 10
Next week’s episode: Ethel Merman’s Show Stoppers (is presenting by Chrysler)