1970’s Scrooge is a magical take on the classic Dickens tale

We all rewatch movies. Why? To relive that initial experience? To analyze the acting, directing, or screenplay? Or are we simply creatures of habit, replaying on a favorite film like one would slip on a pair of comfortable slippers? The reasons why vary with the individual and the film, but a main reason I rewatch certain films is simple: “’tis the season.”

I have several perennial favorites I rewatch at certain times of the year to get in a particular holiday mood. John Carpenter’s Halloween, I watch when All Hallow’s Eve approaches. I put in Jaws just before July 4th. The Godfather, I often rewatch on Labor Day. And when Christmas time approaches, I rewatch in the 1970 movie Scrooge.

If you’ve never heard of Scrooge (or may confuse it with Bill Murray’s brilliant dark comedy Scrooged) let me describe it to you. It’s one of the most faithful adaptation of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol ever filmed, a movie shot in England without a single American actor. It stars Albert Finney as Scrooge, in a tour de force performance. Finney disappears into the part, and when you see him in flashbacks sans old man makeup it’s startling how good both his makeup and his acting is. His take on the role is my personal favorite, one of the best ever. It features an amazing supporting cast, lead by a hammy Alec Guinness as Marley.

Oh, did I also mention it was a musical?

The idea of making a musical out of A Christmas Carol is a totally daft concept, one of those “it’s so crazy, it just might work” ideas that are called High Concept pitches in today’s Hollywood. And yet… It totally works, far more than it should.The songs service the story, and is not “pigeon-holed” into the plot arbitrarily. And they are GREAT songs, written by noted songwriter Leslie Bricusse, songs that are at varying moments touching, joyous and very funny.

Now, obviously, I’m biased – Scrooge is a movie I love and one, as noted above, I revisit every year – but one of the whole points of this series is to revisit neglected films and showcase them to potential new viewers. And, while Scrooge has been consistently rerun at Christmas time since the late 70s, it’s still hasn’t gotten near the appreciation I think it’s due. It’s a marvelous film, a movie that can charm all but the crustiest of curmudgeons. I know, because I used to have a friend who was the living embodiment of Ebenezer Scrooge, and when I showed him this movie one year… you could see the ice thawing and his heart growing three sizes bigger before the final song even begun.

Scrooge is a joy, and if it is not a tradition in your home I suggest you try it out and make it one. If you doesn’t warm your heart and make you cry with joy by the end, you may be beyond help.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go roast some chestnuts. Merry Christmas!