Scrooge ★★★★

Continuing my marathon of A Christmas Carol adaptations. It seems likely that I saw this version at some point in my childhood, though I honestly cannot say I recall, so I'm counting this as a first-time viewing. Alastair Sim is held in high regard for his performance as Ebenezer Scrooge. He's less rigid than Seymour Hicks, which allows him to give an exuberant Scrooge in the end of the picture. In fact, I think a case could be made that Sim played Scrooge more as just introverted than as crusty or mean.

One of the first things that caught my eye in the credits is that Ernest Thesiger (Dr. Pretorius in Bride of Frankenstein) is the undertaker in this film. It's a small part, appearing in just two scenes, but the veteran actor manages to imbue the role with an eerie subtext, as though we really don't want to look behind the scenes when this guy gets hold of a corpse. Maybe that's me conflating the undertaker with Dr. Pretorius, but let's not overlook that he swiped several personal effects from Scrooge's body. It seems to me that in addition to making amends with his nephew and his clerk, Scrooge should probably initiate an investigation into the undertaker. There's no telling how many other people's effects have been pilfered by that shady dude.

Mervyn Jones is an affable Bob Cratchit, but he looks too well-fed for the part. His ruddy face and perma-grin bespeak a guy in a cozy middle management position taking the credit and end-of-year bonus earned on the backs of others; not being one of the others at the bottom doing the heavy lifting.

Where the 1935 Scrooge omitted the relationship between Scrooge and his family, this version invents a parallel that the root of Scrooge's father's resentment toward him was because his mother died giving birth to him...just as Scrooge's sister, Fran, would later die giving birth to his nephew, Fred. It's contrived and unnecessary, but I'll grant that it's a curious novelty.

That plot thread may be a non-starter for me, but the invented back story of the Scrooge & Marley partnership is terrific. It's fresh, but it's also organic. We see how the duo rightly saw themselves as ambitious, but responsible, businessmen challenging the complacent and irresponsible establishment. Those scenes play very strongly; unlike the unnecessary invention of Marley's death scene (though that at least introduces us briefly to Thesiger's undertaker). Someone could do an entire TV series just about young Scrooge & Marley, Mad Men-style, and it's something I never would have thought of until I saw this movie.

The Scrooge/Belle relationship is also well done throughout this version, particularly juxtaposed with the formation of his alliance with Jacob Marley. If someone ever did that aforementioned TV show concept I just mentioned, a key aspect would have to be Scrooge & Belle's relationship being challenged and undermined by Marley's avarice manipulating Scrooge's insecurities. We see those things in play here, but Belle never addresses the matter of Marley directly; only Scrooge's fearing the world too much and his growing fixation on wealth.

There are some fumbles, but this adaptation breathes well and moves at a nice pace. It hits more, and higher, highs than the '35 version, though overall I have to say I found myself more taken in by Hicks and Colthrop than Sim and Jones.

How Scrooge Entered My Flickchart

Scrooge > Clueless --> #804
Scrooge < Barbershop --> #804
Scrooge > Con Air --> #603
Scrooge < The Nightmare Before Christmas --> #603
Scrooge > Exit Through the Gift Shop --> #552
Scrooge > The Lost World: Jurassic Park --> #527
Scrooge > The Dukes of Hazzard --> #515
Scrooge > Undercover Brother --> #508
Scrooge > For a Few Dollars More --> #505
Scrooge > Despicable Me --> #504
Scrooge < The Nightmare Before Christmas --> #504

Scrooge entered my Flickchart at #504/1608