There have been many cinematic interpretations of A Christmas Carol but none holds a candle to the 1951 Alastair Sim’s portrayal of Ebenezer Scrooge. It doesn’t hurt that the producers stayed true to Dickens’ novella and that Alastair Sim is flawless as Scrooge. VCI has put together the best possible package that could be assembled for the presentation of this classic of the Christmas season and the cinema. In the collection are one DVD with the restored version in black and white of A Christmas Carol in 4x3 and 16x9 versions which is handy if you have a large screen television.
A Christmas Carol the movie starts the exact same was as the novella:
“MARLEY was dead: to begin with. There is no doubt whatever about that. The register of his burial was signed by the clergyman, the clerk, the undertaker, and the chief mourner. Scrooge signed it: and Scrooge's name was good upon 'Change, for anything he chose to put his hand to. Old Marley was as dead as a door-nail.”
In no uncertain terms that is one of the greatest paragraphs in English literature it sets up the entire story defining both the protagonist and the spirit of the story. The set up of Scrooge in the movie is slightly different from that of Scrooge in the novella – starting with Scrooge at the London Exchange instead of at his warehouse with Bob Cratchit but the variation is merely to give a better sense of Scrooge and having established the character bypass the coal scuttle scene which is a little awkward in the 1935 version (also included on the second DVD in this set).
The restored version of A Christmas Carol is as crisp as one could possibly expect from a print almost sixty years old. The occasional stutter (a jumped frame?) does show up in four scenes of the movie but one or two frames hardly has an effect on the simple pleasure of watching the sheer genius of this film. The real genius was in the hands of the producers and director who kept much of the original dialogue from the novella and Alastair Sim leading a cast which delivers the lines with flawless accents and timing.
Also included in the boxed set is a colourized version of the 1951 A Christmas Carol. In this area my own bias must be admitted: I believe there is a special place in hell reserved for those who were responsible for colourizing the movie libraries of pre-colour films. There is nothing wrong with the colourized version, it is pleasant and the colours are at least well done. In some respects the colouring of the movie detracts from the art of both the costumer and make-up artists who worked on the movie originally.
Quite simply Alastair Sim’s A Christmas Carol is the best version of the story ever put to film and belongs in everyone’s library along with a handful other holiday movies that have reached the same legendary status.
Jonathan Winters performs A Christmas Carol