A Chradvent Carol #5: A Christmas Carol (Shower of Stars) (1954)

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)

A Chradvent Carolendar #4: Scrooge (1951)

Right, this one is really, really good.

When people talk about their favourite version of A Christmas Carol it’s invariably the 1970 Albert Finney musical, the version The Muppets did or this. Having sat through three adaptations in a row I was skeptical how you could execute the story well enough for it to be definitive. Surely it’s just hitting the beats with an acceptable level of technical competence? That’s what the 1935 and 1939 versions did and they were fine. 

But Scrooge (1951) doesn’t do that – it is not a straight adaptation and is largely not faithful to the source material. Instead, it takes the basic elements of the original story and twists them into fun, creative shapes.  It treats Scrooge like a human being and not a cartoon character. It’s just really, really good.

Opening credits then.


What’s that?


This bodes extremely well.


I wondered how long it’d be before we got to the first Noel.


Look at that deep focus. It’s so pretty and this is just the first shot!

Going to get on my wanky high horse and start comparing this to Citizen Kane. It almost feels like the similarities are deliberate – both films use deep focus extensively, both use striking, expressionist cinematography and both follow a dispassionate businessman who left his friends and family behind in pursuit of wealth and glory.

Usually Scrooge’s past is glossed over; he was a lonely schoolboy who traded bonhomie for bond equity (nice – Ed), but Scrooge (1951) fills in the gaps in wonderful, unexpected ways that give Scrooge’s character such depth and texture that I have no idea why other versions didn’t adopt what happens here as the new Canon.

We spend a full 30 minutes – more than 1/3 of the total running time – with the Ghost of Christmas Past. Seven new segments are added that flesh out Scrooge’s relationship with his sister (Fred’s mother who died in childbirth) and Jacob Marley. We are actually shown Scrooge being a ruthless businessman rather than just a) being told he is and b) having him wish the poor to die. Even his reluctance to participate in charity is justified during a scene where we learn that he was traumatised by the death of his sister.

“One must stele oneself to survive [modern life]. Not be crushed under by the weak and infirm.” he says to a young Robert Marley in the scene immediately after her death.

The film is not so much about Christmas as it is about Scrooge’s redemption arc. It just so happens that his redemption arc coincides with the Christmas. I cannot overstate how important this is to the interpretation. Scrooge does not hate Christmas, he is indifferent to and bemused by it.

“Christmas has even less to do with it, my dear sir, than your wife has or l have. You still owe me twenty pounds and you are not in the position to repay it if was in the middle of a heat wave on August bank holiday. Good afternoon.”

Scrooge is intelligent, sarcastic and witty. His grave/ gravy joke should be a natural tell for this but Alastair Sim is the first Scrooge so far to deliver it while not sounding like an alien. Scrooge is a political animal and fully self assured in the conservatism that feeds his downward trajectory. You can feel Dickens’ contemporary satirical edge here when Scrooge wearily corrects the chuggers, stating that his taxes pay for the institutions designed to support the poor (workhouses, debtors prisons) and that those are sufficient. He is less of a miser and more of an Adam Smith Institute sanctioned neoliberal.

“The world, that can be so brutally cruel to the poor, professes to condemn the pursuit of wealth in the same breath.”

That could almost be a tweet by Daniel Hannan.

Another perfect shot. 1951e.png

Look at the way the direction of the lighting and the placement of the staircase draws your eyes to Scrooge who’s positioned quite non-naturally in the northeast of the frame.

This is also the only Marley so far that remotely approaches being terrifying. I suggest skipping to 3.40 in the clip below.

I’m going to draw another Citizen Kane parallel here; during TGOCPast we learn that Mr Jorkin, pictured below on the left, wants to first buy Fezziwig’s firm. He is unsuccessful but then manages to recruit Scrooge after flattering his intelligence. Scrooge’s relationship with Fezziwig, his trusted and benevolent employer, is ruined forever.

Remember the bit Citizen Kane where Charles continually forfeits family for wealth in the name of ambition? The difference here is that Scrooge’s failures in life are entirely of his own doing and were not set in stone from his youth.

Jorkin on the left, Young Scrooge (Thursdays at 8:30/7:30c on CBS) on the right

The scenes where Scrooge witnesses his sister dying and where he undercuts his old firm to turn a quick profit are so rich and well executed that I’m including them in full below. I hope you appreciate that I had to individually convert them from mkv to mp4 then painstakingly edit, upload and embed them just for this.
They’re short and I recommend you watch them.

The dialogue is tightly written and delivered well enough that you can’t really hear the (sometimes) distracting Dickensian verbiage. This is the only adaptation so far to do that.

Christ, I haven’t even touched on half of what makes this incredible yet. Remember early on in the story when Scrooge asks Bob Cratchit
I suppose you’ll be wanting the whole day off tomorrow?” and Bob replies
“If it’s not inconvenient”?

Well in this version they’ve been having that same exchange every Christmas for years. Ebenezer checks whether or not Bob still insists on this very silly idea while Bob nervously treads around him. It’s almost a ritual. It’s such a simple addition that adds so much depth to what is nominally a throwaway line that it makes me want to give up Chradvent four days in. That and the brain ache. 

Consistently throughout the night Scrooge shows small signs of regret before going back to insisting that he is too old to change, that he is tired and that he wants to be left to keep Christmas in his own way. His remorse builds naturally with each visitation and the gravestone is only a tipping point rather than the set piece of Scrooge’s rehabilitation. 

Despite the Ghost of Christmas Yet To Come being just a man in a black veil I still believe that Scrooge is more scared of him than any other spirit.


The brilliant way in which he is introduced somewhat mediates the lackluster costume.


Hand shown to scale.

Remember the Old Joe segment and how I hate it? Yeah well guess what, it’s really good here. For a start, it’s fairly clear that Scrooge is aware of who they’re talking about throughout (did you know? it was him!).
Secondly, instead of the three skivs being generic working class thieves, they each have a distinct characterisation and relationship with Joe. The maid knows him well, the undertaker is out of his depth etc. The filmmakers also take a while to reveal exactly why they’re there, giving us a couple of minutes of fun as they establish themselves.

Mrs Cratchit is Ellen from Mary Poppins. 1951i

Step in time, Tiny Ti- oops.

They even managed to make Tiny Tim’s speech about Jesus helping the lame to walk not totally shitty and pretentious. Also the Cratchit children drink gin throughout and eat boiled Christmas pudding if you wanted some indication of the libertarian hell hole in which Scrooge the AnCap would have us live.

I’m going to force myself to stop now because almost every single shot in almost every single scene deserves an entire dedicated day of Chradvent. Maybe next year. Safe to say, the film ends with Scrooge doxxing the Cratchits (2 Porter Street, Camden Town).

As I mentioned in the intro, the very important message to take away from this is that when you are adapting a property,  it’s probably far more worth your time to focus on translating it for the medium for which it is intended rather than simply copying the text. Scrooge (1951) plays fast and wild with the original but is, I imagine, exactly how Dickens would have wanted Scrooge to have been portrayed provided the man himself didn’t have a crippling fear of deep focus. He died in 1870 so we’ll never know for sure. 

Watch this version, Muppet lovers.

9 fucking awful boiled puddings out of 10

I’d say this only loses points for not making enough use of the Mechanical Victorian Dolls, so torturously teased in the opening credits.

Side note: I’m having to be fairly brutal with what I pick for this month and am missing out a film from 1938 notable for featuring a massively fat Bob Cratchit. This depressing compromise was alleviated by only finding out about it well after I could’ve had a look at it, per rule #2 of Chradvent. There’s a thin blue line separating society from chaos and I intend to respect it.

A Chradvent Carolendar #3: The Christmas Carol (1949)

Day three is a made for TV movie narrated by Vincent Price. Oh boy! I wonder who’s playing…


Ebeneezer Scrooge? Well hopefully they spent all the proofreading money on incredible special effects!

XmasFlix.com will be a very close friend of mine over this month. They seem to have almost every single non-commercially viable Christmas film uploaded to their YouTube channel and maintain an active but completely anonymous social media presence. I’ve no idea what they could be getting out of it other than satisfying a substantially deep, year-long fetishistic obsession with Christmas. That is, after all, why I’m doing this.

Vincent Price introduces The Christmas Carol while holding a copy of a book that says A Christmas Carol.


I’m guessing this was simply for convenience. After all, “The” is considerably easier to say than “A”.

Taylor Holmes’ Scrooge is bad, poor thing. Listen to how he manages to turn “be here all the earlier” into one syllable. It’s almost commendable.

The staging of that clip is fairly typical of the rest of the film. Flat and boring. Done in one take.

Never before have overacting and underacting been blended together so marvelously as when Marley’s ghost enters.


Low budgeted films like these can often lead to interesting directorial decisions; like the decision to have Marley explode whenever he passes through a door.

This is probably an allusion to Dickens, who used to explode when he passed through doors.

Vincent Price announces that Scrooge fell asleep without undressing. It’s a neat coincidence that that would’ve allowed them to get filming done in a day with only one set of costumes.

We then meet the Ghost of Christmas Past. I presume he’s standing behind this man dressed as Mother Theresa. 1949c.png

The screen fades to black and then we’re in the schoolhouse. At this point I feel the weight of terrible direction far overshadows any one individual’s bad acting. Scrooge is dispassionate and reacts weirdly to action, delivering a lot of lines like he has no idea what he’s saying.

For instance, he delivers the line “my playmates , they didn’t like me” with whimsy and, upon seeing himself as a boy, remarks that he regrets not giving some money to a caroler we heard earlier singing The First Noel. The good news here is that Scrooge is already reformed! The spirits did it one night! The bad news is that The First Noel plays a bigger part in this story than the Ghost of Christmas Present.

Speaking of which, Hello.


On closer inspection he looks like John C Reilly, never mind.


In this version Tiny Tim doesn’t get to talk much, only to say “God bless us, every one” and when he does everyone drinks and looks around like it’s really awkward.

At least it’s a change from all of the pretentious Tiny Tims who genuinely deserve to die.

They really hit on something with the sound effect transitions here.

It’s time for the future ghost. I wonder what cool lighting or camera tricks they’re going to use?


Well this is definitely the only version I’m aware of where the Ghost of Christmas Future is visibly shorter than Scrooge by several inches. And if nothing else this is technically the first western Ninja film. 

It’s about this time that I realise that I haven’t seen Vincent Price in a while. 

We miss Old Joe (thank god) but do get the bankers talking about the death of a mysterious gentleman (Scrooge is so stupid) and jump straight into the gravestone reveal. It’s all academic of course because Scrooge reformed 40 seconds after meeting TGOCPast. We cut to him sitting up in bed (filming him lying down would have required maneuvering the camera between the bedposts) and we get this fun laugh:

Either he’s very happy or about to commit suicide. Whatever happens I’m just glad he’s confident enough to share his feelings.

We then go to the Cratchit’s house and Fred is there too I guess. Scrooge turns to Tiny Tim and says he’s going to give him surgery but Tiny Tim hasn’t to this point actually shown any signs of disability. If anything his freakish height seems to indicate almost superhuman vigour. 1949g.png

Wondered if the title card was a typo?


Wrong, bitch, this production had a systematic misunderstanding of the letter E. You’d think adapting from a book would make misspelling the name of the main character extremely difficult. Wrong again.

This was a bad adaptation. Cute and campy but I can safely say it is not Superior.

I give this 3 extremely mighty Tiny Tims out of 10


3 days in and I’m already starting to get tired of the story. I’m sure this will pass.

A Chradvent Carolendar #2: A Christmas Carol (1939)

You’d be surprised how far they get into this before they say the words “A Christmas Carol”.

We’re at 1939 and my first and only chradventure into radio is in the company of sleigh mogul/ bored Transformer Orson Welles. Two months after the infamous War of the Worlds broadcast, the Mercury Theatre’s radio company was bought by Campbell’s soup. It was only natural, therefore, that a year later they’d do an adaptation of A Christmas Carol.

We start with another rendition of The First Noel though thankfully this one is considerably more tuneful than the one in the 1935 version. This gives way to the meat of the performance; Orson Welles rambling about Lionel Barrimore, “the best loved actor of our time”. Barrimore would later go on to play Mr Potter in It’s A Wonderful Life, the #6 most hated villain in all film.

Another short ad for soup and then we’re off! Orson jumps straight in with “Marley was dead to begin with”. I paused at this point because I could’ve sworn he was playing Scrooge. Some further investigation revealed that his company had, in fact, done five separate versions of A Christmas Carol and this was the only one where we don’t get to see Ebenezer Welles. But this was also the only one with such an overwhelming emphasis on soup, my favourite of all the semi-liquid foods.

When you take out the soup ads and Orson’s tangential monologues about acting, the piece is about 40 minutes long. We get no Marley knocker but are instead treated to the ghost Marley scene in full. We miss out Old Joe, post-rehabilitation Christmas Day and vast, vast swathes of Christmas Present. These are all good cuts, especially the Old Joe segment, which I have decided I hate. Are we meant to be held in suspense over whose drapes they’re trying to flog? Is Scrooge a moron? What is with this ongoing cultural association of ghosts and terrible mysteries? 

The good news is that after the Ghost of Christmas Past there’s an ad break for soup. 

As a completely silent character, The Ghost of Christmas Yet To Come is very difficult to portray on radio. They get around this issue by having Scrooge narrate every single thing that is happening at all points. 

As you can see (hear – Ed), they make no attempts at English accents. 

One of the stranger cuts is the second appearance of the gentleman collecting for charity -“the chugger”. In the original he is introduced and reintroduced to demonstrate in the simplest possible terms that where Scrooge was once miserly now he is magnanimous. In this timeline we can then assume that either the Poor Law Act of 1834 was repealed over Christmas Eve or that he himself died that Tiny Tim may live.

That’s basically it. It’s actually a very strong adaptation and really shows how much brevity is the etc of etc. There are a few upcoming adaptations that are over 2 hours long and I am beginning to dread them.

We’re hit with another ad for soup and then we go straight into Orson Welles dedicating the performance to all of his friends and all the members of the cast and crew. It’s very luvvie and very sweet and very Orson and I love it and him.
We then get a very quick interview with our lead actor, the great Lionel Barrimore, and it quickly becomes apparent that his seemingly overacted old man Scrooge voice is his natural speaking voice. I can only hope the rest of the cast went equally as method, especially Tiny Tim (who is insanely pretentious here).

I still wish I’d listened to Orson Welles’ Scrooge though.
6½ tins of Campbell’s tomato soup out of soup. I mean 10. 

Sad that I won’t get to listen to any other radio adaptations, this was really fun. But there are so many that I doubt I’d even fit them into one Advent.

A Chradvent Carolendar #1: Scrooge (1935)

The Rules of Chradvent:
#1: I must consume one adaptation of A Christmas Carol every day of Advent to finally identify which is Superior
#2: The adaptations must be evaluated in chronological order
#3: Nothing under 25 minutes
#4: No watching or writing up in advance. Each day. A new film.

I wanted to start in the silent era but the first feature length adaptation of A Christmas Carol, The Right to be Happy (1916), has been completely lost to time. Everything we know about it is from one scathing review in the New York Dramatic Mirror which says that the Christmas scenes were “staged under a blazing California sky amid the luxuriant green foliage of Mid-Summer”. I’m as furious that I didn’t get to watch it as they were that they did.

Instead, we’re jumping straight into 1935’s Scrooge, produced by a man called Julius Hagen who went bankrupt two years later because he spent too much money on 1935’s Scrooge. By now we’re almost ten years into the sound era and people have pretty much got a grip on how to make movies. It is unfortunate, then, that the first thing you hear in the film is one of the oddest, most tuneless renditions of The First Noel I’ve ever heard. I’ve clipped it below.

If Scrooge had to put up with that every Christmas then I don’t blame him for anything.

Straight into the credits.

Don’t worry lads, Charlie’s on hair.

Within five minutes we have the “surplus population” line and by 13 minutes Scrooge is on his way home. Fine. But the story then diverts, for FIFTEEN minutes to a banquet hosted by the Lord Mayor who we never see again. There then follows a FURTHER FIVE minutes of comedy vignettes. Here’s an exciting bit with some jellies.

At one point during the banquet everyone stands and, facing in different directions, sings the first verse of the National Anthem. Even the kids outside stop being hungry and ask God to save the Queen. Nice of them.

We only see Marley once, when his face is superimposed onto Scrooge’s knocker. When he appears later he does so as a disembodied voice. He comes into the house,  immediately declares that only Scrooge can see him then sits down in a chair. Ghosts get tired too, even conveniently invisible ones. Throughout, Scrooge helpfully points at where he’s supposed to be. Thanks Scrooge.


I’ve read that, in the Director’s cut, Scrooge continued to helpfully point at Marley as he got up from his chair and made increasingly wild movements around the room, backflipping between cabinets at max speed. The G forces involved nearly shattered Scrooge’s wrist. Sadly, the Dickens estate came down hard on this interpretation and Julius Hagen lost a cool 100k on reshoots.

We skip the “more of gravy than a grave” line then Marley says “Look to see me no more” and jumps out the window.

This is all rather forgivably camp. No-one involved had any idea how to make ghosts look good on film. Why not excise them completely? (maybe “exorcise them completely”? – Ed)

I find it interesting that Claude Rains, the actor playing Marley, a tiny role with almost no screen time, is by and far the biggest name in this entire film. For an actor contemporaneously co-starring with Cary Grant I can only assume that he agreed to this dispassionate 2 minute voice over as terms of his own Scrooge-like rehabilitation.


This is how they handle the Ghost of Christmas Past. Pretty neat effect and some good hair work from Charles.

We don’t see much of Scrooge’s past. No schoolhouse, no Fezziwig, just a scene where an only slightly younger Scrooge refuses a loan extension. His fiancée threatens to leave him and in response Scrooge says “I’m ready to make allowances to your feelings as a woman” which is nice of him, that he’d make allowances for those.

We cut to the ex-fiancée years later surrounded by an uncountably huge number of children. I’ve included the clip below and I challenge you to count for yourself – I think there are around twenty but past a dozen my eyes begin to cloud over. Scrooge gets sad because they’re not his kids but I don’t envy him. Or his wife. Or his wife’s pelvic floor.


The ghost dies when Scrooge snuffs out the candle and we quickly meet the Ghost of Christmas Present.

The Ghost of Christmas Present is the only ghost the audience ever see and he delivers his lines in an awkward, stilted monotone that feels like he’s reading off cards. This version of the spirit isn’t especially jolly or conciliatory and, as he disappears, he mockingly laughs at Scrooge through flames.


Curious, I looked up the actor and his name is Oscar Asche, one of the biggest stars of contemporary stage. He was most famous for an insanely racist musical called Chu Chin Chow which ran for over 2,200 performances, holding the record for over fifty years. He wasted nearly all of his money from the show on greyhounds. Here he is in costume.

Scrooge was one of the last things he ever did, as “in his final years, Asche became obese, poor, argumentative and violent”. Living the dream, my son.

We meet Tiny Tim here, and spend some time with the Cratchit family.
There was something annoying me about the actor playing Bob Cratchit and I couldn’t quite pinpoint what it was. Then I realised it was because he looked like the potara fusion of Marty Feldman and Ken Branagh from the 2012 Olympics. 1935e.png

The Ghost of Christmas Present says his bit about seeing a vacant seat in the chimney-corner and then we’re taken on a magnificent tour of the other sets that were set up in Twickenham Film Studios lot at the time. A lighthouse, a ship in a storm, the works.


We also get a nice model shot of London where the only landmark is St Paul’s.

I’ll freely admit that the effect for The Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come’s visions is insanely cool. I mean, I’m not too sure what’s going on but I like it.


The only thing about this effect is that producing it clearly required Scrooge to keep his head perfectly still throughout. The result is that he cannot move or emote while talking, which is fun. The conceit falls apart a bit when he has to get mopey on his grave and brush off the snow but it’s nice looking enough for the rest of the time.

Oh, in this version we see Tiny Tim’s corpse.


Who here’s willing to bet that the lifeless body of Bam Bam pops up in A Flintstones Christmas Carol? I’ll take those odds.

Ebenezer has his little character arc in the graveyard and we’re all done with the Spirits by 65 minutes into the movie, with another 15 to go. Worth noting at this early stage that only 45 minutes of this 80 minute long movie is spent in the company of ghosts. This is a clear repudiation of Charles Dickens as The Ghost Novelist. I can happily announce that this title can now return to Chuck Tingle.

The epilogue to this is enormous and completely uninteresting. It hits all the beats in the way you’d expect. The story then takes a dark twist when Scrooge, drunk on bonhomie, decides to play a nasty prank on Bob. Feigning x-mas rage, Scrooge roughly shoves him into a door frame. This is the last straw for the impoverished, overworked Mr Cratchit. He sees red and snaps. Fumbling for a weapon, he raises a steel rod high over his head and is only stopped from caving in Scrooge’s skull when offered a pay rise. Psychopath.
attack.gifScrooge also says “Hello Marley” instead of the original “I shall love it, as long as I live! I scarcely ever looked at it before. What an honest expression it has in its face! It’s a wonderful knocker!”. Brevity is the soul of, etc.

What a wonderful knocker indeed. This isn’t, altogether, a bad adaptation of A Christmas Carol. Not seeing any of the ghosts means you do get a nice sense that Scrooge’s experiences may not have been literal. However, the weird way in which story was adapted means its almost impossible to follow Scrooge’s emotional journey and his transformation from being complicit in child manslaughter to benevolent philanthropist is not at all clear. Seymour Hicks does a fine job as Scrooge. It’s a little overplayed but he has some nice flourishes towards the end.

5 ½ furious, fat, destitute racists out of 10

As we have not opened any other doors on the Chradvent Carolendar this is, by default, the most Superior version yet. I have a strong suspicion, however, that I will completely forget it almost immediately.

Ben Getting Hit By Football: #1 “Speed” (1994)/ “Sideshow Bob’s Last Gleaming” (1995)

As part of my New Year’s Ultimatums (“resolutions” is way too passive) I said to myself I’d review every film I saw in 2017 by comparing them to the nearest possible equivalent episode of The Simpsons. I call this series “Ben Getting Hit By Football”.

Speed (1994) dir. Jan de Bont

Otherwise known as The Bus That Couldn’t Slow Down, Keanu Reeves’ Speed draws an obvious parallel with Sideshow Bob’s Last Gleaming (S07E09) both of which feature an homicidal maniac extorting the authorities with a bomb.

Speed is a film that I am exclusively aware of thanks to the Father Ted episode “Speed 3”. Speed was directed by the man who did Die Hard, a film I have not seen, so my expectations were set at absolute neutral. I was not to be disappointed.

Speed sees the boundaries of physics often pushed to their limits – in one scene a bus effortless jumps a 50 foot gap on the motorway. Of course, in Sideshow Bob’s Last Gleaming adherence to the laws of nature are woven inextricably into the plot, as it is our old friend Helium and its effect on the human voice that gives away Sideshow Bob’s location. In Speed, Dennis Hopper gives away his own location! What a loser.

In Sideshow Bob’s Last Gleaming, Sideshow Bob is defeated by his own hubris – his murderous obsession with Krusty leads him to steal the original Wright Brothers plane and crash it into the shack in which Krusty is holed up. This is a terrible plan and it fails.


However, in Speed, Dennis Hopper gets decapitated by the true hero of this film, the Los Angeles Subway System. This is an on-going trend in Western action films that sees the main villain of the film violently and arbitrarily executed –he is not a victim of his own arrogance or blind ambition, but the wrong end of a gun. It’s an easy, stupid and lazy way to remove the villain at the end and almost completely robs the hero of any agency. Sure, Keanu Reeves may have been the one to push Dennis Hopper’s head into the ceiling but anyone could’ve done that at any point and achieved the same emotional effect. I’ve been told it’s iconic but, more often than not, “cool” does not mean “good”.

Instead; what if by constantly forcing Dennis Hopper to change or abandon his fastidiously planned attacks, Keanu Reeves drives him to further extremes; forces him to use more and more dynamite, to become more desperate for any money, to come out in the open, to reveal his plots due to stress, to become more slapdash in the handling of his explosives. Eventually Dennis Hopper could meet his end after accidentally and prematurely detonating his mismanaged load, destroying his footing. Keanu Reeves struggles to save him, but cannot hold Dennis Hopper’s hand which was injured in the earlier explosion. Hopper falls to his death. Maybe he gets decapitated in some way, people really seem to like the decapitation. You can’t even see that much blood!  My version is probably less interesting on the surface but it at least has the scope to broaden both characters beyond simple exchanges of violence. It is through Hopper’s own failings that his death comes, and not a prosthetic head being severed from its torso by a signal light.

It is completely accidental that The Simpsons perfectly showcases how a villain is most satisfactorily foiled by comparison and it is a testament to the instinctive understanding of character AND comedy that every writer and producer working on it showed time and time again.

Sideshow Bob’s Last Gleaming is not an especially quotable episode, nor does it stand out among the many better Sideshow Bob episodes of the first 9 series. The problem then is that it might be a 3*** Bob episode, a 5***** general sitcom episode or a 4****  early Simpsons episode. I’m of the opinion that when trying to weigh up how good something is you’ve got to look at what it’s trying to accomplish and see if it met the goals it set for itself. You gotta consider its value as a Simpsons episode contemporary with other Simpsons episodes.

If I were to think of a quintessentially macho action film, it would be Speed. However, as far as blimp heists go, The Simpsons knocks Speed right out of the blimp hangar.

SPEED VERDICT:  2 ½ post-Ferris Bueller Alan Rucks out of 5
SIDESHOW BOB’S LAST GLEAMING VERDICT:  4 cups of Alcohol-Free Duff ($6) out of 5

Easy Simpsons win.

UK interest rates cut to ℵ0 %

Pictured: Governor of the Bank of England Paul Godiva-Smith

In a move that has both shocked and confused economists around the world, the Bank of England today either slashed or raised interest rates to the aleph-null, the smallest infinite cardinal number.

Following June’s shock Brexit vote and subsequent revised growth forecasts it is believed that cutting interest rates will encourage spending in the economy whereas high interest rates will motivate people to save. It is so far unclear what changing the interest rates to a post-infinite hypothetical number will have on international markets.

At a recent speech at an event held by Mathematics lobbying group n ∈ ℕ: n2the Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond was quoted as saying:

“I don’t know much about what’s going on, but I’m sure it’s probably ok.”

Giving a statement at 10:15am this morning, Governor of the Bank of England Mark Carney said:

“The Bank of England is prepared to buy £60bn of government bonds to help stabilise the economy and also define the cardinality of the continuum.”

Responding to the Mail on Sunday journalist Mark Hodgeson’s questions “What?” and “Why?” Mark Carney broke into a cold sweat and began counting upwards from zero.

He was hospitalised at 16:42 this evening.

The FTSE closed ℶ points up today.

Source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-36976528


EU referendum: Leave campaign derailed over Gove “yiffing” comment – It’s The News

Justice Minister and MP for West Haltemprice South, Michael Gove

Michael Gove has drawn criticism from campaigners for repeatedly mentioning the furry community in a live Q&A on Sky news.

Over the course of the hour long programme, the usually calm Justice Secretary made 46 open references to the furry community, 18 of which specifically referred to the act of “yiffing” (a term used to refer to cybersex between members).

When questioned by host Faisal Islam over the disputed £350M EU expenditure figure touted by the Vote Leave campaign, Mr Gove was quoted as saying the following:

“I’m perfectly happy to have that figure submitted to a full audit but the larger point is that not only do we simply not have control of that money but also I have never once engaged in any aspect of humanimal paraphilia”.

Taking questions from the audience, Mr Gove interrupted immigration-concerned pensioner Peter Lazenby to restate the fact that he has never put on a fursuit or drawn explicit pictures of anthropomorphic animals mutually masturbating.

According to floor manager Jane Parks, the audience was repeatedly stunned into silence at Gove’s manic insistence of his own bestial sexual chastity. According to Parks, when asked by the host why he was “doing all this”, Gove literally spluttered over the desk and began listing the tertiary characters from the 2016 Disney film “Zootropolis”.

In a decision that pro-Leave former Mayor Boris Johnson has described as “absolutely baffling and chronically stupid”, Gove’s closing statement of the evening persistently referenced the fetish website FurAffinity and called for tolerance and understanding of those who are sexually attracted to animal-human hybrids.

Although both Gove’s constituency office and CCHQ were unavailable for comment in the hours following the broadcast, pro-Brexit MP Iain Duncan-Smith is believed to have endorsed his comments in an exclusive interview with The Times, calling him “controversial and bold, but telling it how it is”.

Mr Duncan-Smith refused to rule out his own involvement in the furry community.

Source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-eu-referendum-36447923

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child casting controversy rages – It’s The News

Mark David Featherstone as Harry Potter, Evan McKensie as Albus Severus Potter and Celia S. MacArthur as Ginny Weasley

The first cast photos for the stage production of Harry Potter have been released today amidst controversy over the decision to re-cast Ron as an internet famous disabled cat.

Monty, a cat with chromosome abnormalities who has over 250,000 likes on Facebook, entered into talks with Sonia Friedman Productions this week following ongoing disputes over the description of Ron’s species in the books.

‘I’m so happy I get to take part in something as totally PAWsome as Harry Potter!’ Monty’s owners  posted to his Facebook page this morning. ‘Happy Caturday!’
There then followed a 2 hour livestream of the cat trying and failing to eat some food.

Ron Weasley

When asked to comment, the casting director Julia Horan released a brief statement saying:

‘We auditioned hundreds of brilliant actors for the role of Ron, but Monty was he only one who truly captured how pathetic and ineffectual Ron is at the heart of his character. It has nothing to do with species. Also, he was the hairiest candidate which is definitely a direction we want to take Ron in.’

In response to the controversy, fanned by subreddits r/rowlinginaction and  r/cuckedbyronagain, J.K. Rowling took to twitter in support of the new casting decision.


Claims that Ron’s character has been appropriated by animal rights activists to highlight their political causes have been circulating on Reddit and Twitter.

‘They’re disregarding Ron’s point in the story’ Reddit user Bum23 wrote in a post that has garnered at the time of writing 4382 upvotes on r/harrypotter.

‘In the books Ron actively campaigns for the destruction of animals, he would  never go “oh, we need to donate to an animal sanctuary”. It would’ve completely ruined the wizard holocaust arc.’

The producers of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child however, insist that the casting decision is final and that Monty will be joining the rest of the cast in rehearsals later this summer.

Source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/entertainment-arts-36415909


Zika crisis: Who rejects ‘move Rio Olympics’ call? – It’s The News

The Rio Olympics mark the 4th anniversary of the London Olympics

The World Health Organisation has come under criticism for releasing a series of aggressive and cryptic comments in the wake of calls to postpone the Rio Olympics due to the Zika outbreak.

The organisation has stirred controversy after attacking supporters of the Summer Games in a rhetorical headline that suggests any and all opposition to the delay is both “futile and stupid”.

This comes despite claims that moving the games would “not significantly alter” the spread of the virus. A spokesperson from the International Olympic Committee who wishes to remain anonymous has said:

‘What the WHO fail to realise is that the “who” they are talking about is actually a fairly substantial portion of the population. It is an outrage that they have been given a platform to discuss this or my name isn’t Sebastian Coe.’

Lord Coe, a life peer in the House of Lords, intends to propose legislation that would “strip these fuckers of everything they own”, a statement that was met with murmurs of agreement from the Government benches.

Source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-latin-america-36401150