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Fire with Fire (2012)
Waste With Waste
Muddled and confusing, plodding and slow-moving. Airhead children becoming accidental heroes. Bruce Willis is totally wasted. Not as much as in 'Cold Light Of Day', and 'Extraction', for he has a lot more screen time, but his character could be eliminated from this script, and no one would notice. Can't believe he did this movie. And, Willis is not the only thing wasted. I wasted 97 minutes of my precious time watching it. The only thing positive I can say about it is that Vincent D'Onofrio is good actor. It takes a good actor to make one hate his character, and he did that very well, though he, too, is far above this garbage. Avoid it at all costs!!
16 Blocks (2006)
Enjoyable, Well-Made Action-Thriller --
I just happened to catch this one on a recent Saturday afternoon, and began watching it, purely out of curiosity, wondering how I missed it's theatrical release, back in 2006. I quickly became interested in it, and I must say that I was very impressed.
This is a very well-made movie, expertly handled by director Richard Donner, and Richard Wenk's script - Though not totally new material - Is excellent. A witness with damaging evidence against the police department is remanded to the custody of an aging, weary, ne'er-do-well, booze-soaked detective for escort to the trial. The witness is, of course, a marked man, and the alcoholic detective, soon discovering that he's considered expendable, is nonetheless determined to finally prove himself, do the right thing, and accomplish his mission, with the odds heavily against him.
Sound familiar? It should, since that's the basic plot-line of Clint Eastwood's 'The Gauntlet', from 1977. There's even a chase scene involving a bus. However, though not completely fresh material, Wenk re-works it very well, turning it into quite a taut piece, with plenty of action. The acting of all involved, is first rate, and I was particularly impressed with Mos Def's performance as the affable, small- time crook, who has made up his mind to go straight, and realize his dream of opening a specialty bakery.
Impressive photography, and a great music score enhance this thoroughly enjoyable movie, and I highly recommend it to Willis fans, or fans of action movies, in general. 7 out of 10 stars.
Revenge of Bigfoot (1979)
My Big-Screen Debut -
Way back in the summer of 1978, I was a member of a club, in my home town of Little Rock, Arkansas, known as 'Central Arkansas Filmmakers' An organization of amateur filmmakers who produced home-made movies on super 8 film. The CAF was where I got my first experience as a film Actor.
In September of that year, I got a call from Marvin Walker, President and Co-Founder of that organization. Marvin told me that we had been invited to appear in a movie being shot in southwest Arkansas, titled: 'Revenge Of Bigfoot'. It seems that Marvin knew somebody, who knew somebody, who knew somebody who knew Harry Thomason, and word had reached him that Harry was looking for talent, in the form of extras for his production.
I, along with several other members of the CAF, made the trip to Texarkana, one Saturday, that September, and it was quite an interesting and fun experience for all of us, especially me, for I got to meet my first big Hollywood star Rory Calhoun. Mr. Calhoun was quite an amiable and friendly guy, and even set aside some time for a kind of 'question and answer' session with our members. I even had my picture taken with him, and I have that framed, black-and-white 5x7 print sitting on my nightstand, to this day.
We spent most of a day shooting 2 scenes: One where a hunting party was being assembled, to go and look for 'bigfoot', and another, later, in a country nightclub, where the monster was to make an appearance, and scare everybody half to death. I managed to sneak in a line, during the 'posse' scene, but I have no idea if it made it to the final cut, for I've never seen the finished product. I seem to remember that we weren't invited to the premiere, and it's theatrical release was so short, that I blinked my eyes, and missed it.
Surely, there must be some videotape copies of this movie, somewhere, and I would really like to see it, if anyone knows how to get hold of one, especially now that I've heard and read some good things about it. Meanwhile, if you see it, look for the big guy in a camouflage hunting cap, wearing a Levi jacket, and carrying a double-barrel 12-gauge shotgun. I'm sure you'll be impressed with his imposing presence.
A Christmas Carol (2004)
Pretty Darned Impressive For A Musical –
I am a huge fan of Charles Dickens' 'A Christmas Carol'. I've read the short story at least once, every Christmas Season, since 1995, and it is my absolute most favorite piece of literature ever written. It therefore follows, that I am also a huge fan of the major cinematic productions based on the story, which I have seen over the years (Though that doesn't necessarily mean that I like them all).
The many different cinematic productions of this story are practically uncountable. But, of the major versions I have seen, I have chosen 8 as my favorites, based on their adherence to Dickens' original story: Under the title of 'Scrooge', there is the 1935 version, with Sir Seymour Hicks , the 1951 version – With Alastair Sim, and the 1970 musical, with Albert Finney. Under the title 'A Christmas Carol', there's the 1938 version, with Reginald Owen as Scrooge, the 2009 Disney version, with Jim Carrey, and the made-for-TV productions: 1984 – With George C. Scott, 1999 – With Patrick Stewart, and this one – Officially titled: 'A Christmas Carol: The Musical' – Which I must rank #4.
Two years ago, I could hardly contain my excitement, when I heard that the Mike Ockrent/Lynn Ahrens Broadway musical had been turned into a TV movie. There are many who had fallen into the 'Oh-no-not-another-version!', attitude, but not me. I was, however, a bit apprehensive about the fact that it was a musical. I'm not, and never have been a great fan of musicals, but, the two musical versions of this story have made me appreciate them much more, and they've begun to grow on me – Especially this one. And I gotta admit I was pretty darned impressed! Kelsey Grammar is the 2nd American to play the central character, and does a heckuva fine job. He was 49, at the time, and some good makeup gives him a few more years, to bring him more visually into the role. He does some fine singing, and – Though he's no George C. Scott, or Alastair Sim – He does quite well in the acting department. He did, however, seem to be having a bit of trouble, here and there, keeping his English accent, but, his "Bah! Humbug!" is the best I've ever heard.
Jason Alexander makes an acceptable Jacob Marley. He's a pretty good singer, and does well with some complicated choreography. But, the real stars of the scene, in Scrooge's home, that Christmas Eve night, are the various other ghosts, and some marvelous 21st century special effects, courtesy of Zoltán Benyó, and his Team of Digital Artists.
In a film so full of fine performances, it's tough to single any of them out. Edward Gower shines as Bob Cratchit, with some great singing and acting, and Jacob Moriarty makes an excellent Tiny Tim. Moriarty is obviously a competent Actor and Singer, and the chemistry between him, and his on-screen Dad becomes quite evident in some heart-tugging scenes that they have together.
Jane Krakowski's graceful moves, and gorgeous singing voice make her performance as 'The Ghost Of Christmas Past' a delight. Jesse L. Martin makes a fine 'Ghost Of Christmas Present'. He's gentle at times, tough at others, and his singing and dancing are marvelous. Julian Ovenden handles quite well, the role of Fred (Scrooge's Nephew), and, Geraldine Chaplin does very well, as The Ghost Of Christmas Yet To Be. The only female, to date, to play the part, Chaplin's face is fully visible, thanks to a costume far different from the traditional black, hooded robe.
Other notable performances include: Jennifer Love Hewitt as Scrooge's lost love, Emily (Why these Writers keep changing the name of this character, I'll never know. What's wrong with the name Dickens gave her?!), Brian Bedford as Mr. Fezziwig, Josh Wilmott, as the 10 year-old Ebenezer, Leah-Verity White as Scrooge's Sister, Fan, and an outstanding performance by Steven Miller, as the young Scrooge. It takes a good Actor to make you hate his character, and Miller's performance had me cursing at him. In fact, I was tempted to throw things at my TV, during one particular scene. Also, pay particular attention to a wonderful little Actress by the name of Emily Deamer, who plays Grace Smythe – The little girl whose Mother has passed away, and whose Father asks for sympathy from Scrooge. Deamer's screen time is short, and her lines few, but her voice is Angelic, and it didn't take much for her to steal my heart. And, as you'll see, she comes very close to melting Scrooge's frozen heart, in one very brief scene, early on.
Lynn Ahrens' teleplay doesn't adhere to the book as well as I'd have liked. She rewrites some book scenes, omits others, and combines still others. But it all works, fits, and flows very well.
In short, this is a delightful movie. Excellent photography, editing, sets, costumes, special effects, and score, were all expertly put together by Director Arthur Allan Seidelman. Some spectacular dance numbers – Including the outstanding 'Mr. Fezziwig's Annual Christmas Ball' – And the absolutely beautiful Mike Ockrent/Lynn Ahrens songs – In particular: 'Christmas Together', 'You Mean More To Me Than Anything', and 'God Bless Us Every One' (Not to be confused with the different song of the same title, from the 1984 version) – Make this movie quite an enjoyable experience.
The Others Pale, In Comparison -
I am a huge fan of Charles Dickens' 'A Christmas Carol'. I have read the story many times – Always during the Christmas Season – Over the past few years, and it is my most favorite piece of literature ever written. It therefore follows, that I am also a big fan of the cinematic productions based on the story, which I have seen over the years (Though that doesn't necessarily mean that I like them all).
There have now been 8 major cinematic productions of 'A Christmas Carol' (Discounting the animated versions, and the several silent productions of the teens and 20s, some of which, are only now becoming available). Under the title 'A Christmas Carol', there was the 1938 version, with Reginald Owen as Scrooge, and the made-for-TV productions: 1984 – With George C. Scott, 1999 – With Patrick Stewart, and the 2004 musical, with Kelsey Grammar. Under the title of 'Scrooge', there was the rather obscure 1935 version, with Sir Seymour Hicks, and the 1970 musical, with Albert Finney. A new Disney version – Under the title 'A Christmas Carol', with Jim Carrey in the lead – Was recently released to the big screen, but I haven't quite made up my mind about it, yet. But, I think I can safely say that this one – Made in 1951, under the title of 'Scrooge' – Will definitely hold on to it's #1 ranking.
I have been watching this movie for some 17 years, now, and it seems to get better with each viewing. Alastair Sim's performance as Ebenezer Scrooge is as close to perfect as humanly possible. He's terribly mean, nasty, and cold-hearted, and his transition to good, kind, caring, and loving is wonderfully real, with the many years of bitterness and hatred bottled up inside him, released with a delightful mixture of physical and emotional relief. Hard as I tried, I couldn't pick out even one single negative aspect of his performance, and very few, in the film, overall.
Here, again, Bob Cratchit seems a bit too well-fed, to be the sole support for a Wife, and five children, on fifteen shillings a week. That, of course, isn't Mervyn Johns' fault, for he does quite well with his turn as the hard-working, dedicated Family Man, loyal to his Employer, despite Scrooge's attitude. It just seems to me that he should appear more lean, and hungry.
Michael Hordern's performance as The Ghost Of Jacob Marley is bone-chillingly believable. Hordern conveys the horrific regret of his wasted life in quite an enthusiastic performance. Brian Worth makes a fine, light-hearted Fred (Scrooge's Nephew), and Michael Dolan plays, quite well, The Spirit Of Christmas Past in a gentle, soft-spoken manner, but is undeniably firm when he needs to be, and is very close to the character described by Dickens. Francis DeWolff appears as the Spirit Of Christmas Present, and plays the role in a pleasant, easy-going manner, and, though he could have been a bit tougher, he does very well.
Writer Noel Langley adds scenes that weren't in Dickens' original story, but that work very well, and fit in nicely. For instance, he explains how Scrooge and Marley built their careers, and came to be business partners, and, with the help of George Cole's expert performance, effectively shows how Scrooge eventually became so selfish and hateful. Cole's transition from the moralistic young Scrooge, to the bitter, greedy older one, is nothing less than terrific.
Other characters get much more screen time, with Langley's interpretation, than in the other productions. Roddy Hughes – Though not as jolly as he could have been – Does very well with his extended turn as Mr. Fezziwig; Ernest Thesiger makes a fine, very morose Undertaker, and Kathleen Harrison's performance as 'Mrs. Dilber' (Especially her scene on the staircase, with Scrooge) is an absolute delight. Even Michael Hordern gets some extra screen time as a live Jacob Marley. But he's much better as a ghost, than as a living, breathing person. Also, keep an eye out for Patrick MacNee, who turns in a brief, but fine performance, as the young Jacob Marley Other notable performances include Hermione Baddeley's (Probably best known as 'Mrs. Naugatuck' of TV's 'Maude') as Mrs. Cratchit – Rona Anderson as 'Alice' ('Belle', in the book – Scrooge's Lost Love) – And Carol Marsh, as Scrooge's older Sister, Fan. Glyn Dearman makes a pretty good Tiny Tim, doing well with what little he has to work with, and the 'Rag And Bone Shop' segment is a superbly handled by Miles Malleson, Louise Hampton, Ernest Thesiger, and Kathleen Harrison.
It was tough for me not to judge 'The Spirit Of Christmas Yet To Come' scenes by modern standards, but it seems to me that something could have been done to make them more 'ghostly'. Not much can be said – Good or bad – About the performance of C. Konarski as the Spirit, for he doesn't do much more than point a finger, every now and then. These scenes were average, at best, and just weren't scary enough for me. Konarski wears a simple, black drape over his head and body, rather than a hooded robe, and the head-covering is semi-transparent, giving us a partial view of his face, here and there. This may, or may not have been intentional, but it detracts from the nature of the character, by making him more human, than ghostly. These scenes were, however, much better than those in the 1999 version.
Technically, this production leaves very little, if anything, to be desired. Photography, score, and costuming are all excellent, and the performances – Indeed, the entire production – Speak very well of Brian Desmond-Hurst's direction.
This is a definite 'Don't Miss' for the holidays and should be on anyone's list of regular Holiday movies.
A Christmas Carol (1999)
Don't Expect Much, And You Won't Be Disappointed -
I am a huge fan of Charles Dickens' 'A Christmas Carol'. I have read his short story many times – Always during the Christmas Season – Over the past few years, and it is my most favorite piece of literature ever written.It therefore follows, that I am also a big fan of the major cinematic productions based on the story, which I have seen over the years (Though that doesn't necessarily mean that I like them all).
The many different cinematic productions of 'A Christmas Carol' are practically uncountable. But, there are 8 of them that bear a serious look: Under the title of 'Scrooge', there was the 1935 version, with Sir Seymour Hicks, the 1951 version,with Alastair Sim, and the 1970 musical, with Albert Finney. Under the title 'A Christmas Carol', there was the 1938 version, with Reginald Owen as Scrooge, the 2009 Disney version, with Jim Carrey, and the made-for-TV productions: 1984 – With George C. Scott, the 2004 musical - With Kelsey Grammar, and this one, which I rate at #7.
Back in '99, when I first heard that TNT had made a new version of Charles Dickens' timeless Christmas story, I got very excited, and looked forward, with great anticipation, to Patrick Stewart's turn as the miserly, cold-hearted Scrooge. What a tremendous let-down!! Stewart makes a fair Ebenezer Scrooge, at best (And that's stretching it, a bit). He's much better than Hicks, a little better than Owen, not quite as good as Finney, but isn't even in the same ballpark as Scott or Sim. At 59 (At the time – The 2nd oldest of the 8 to play the part), he gives Scrooge a new look, in that he's totally hairless, both on his head and his face, which gives him the appearance of being much younger than other Scrooges, a fact which detracts, visually, from his characterization. His acting leaves much to be desired, in that he makes the character more stuffy and snobbish, than mean, nasty, bitter, and hateful. He seems a bit unsure of himself with his line delivery, and looks, at times, as though he's trying too hard, and at others, like he's not trying hard enough.
The strongest performance, here, is Richard E. Grant's, as Bob Cratchit. By comparison, Grant plays a less dignified, much less cheerful Cratchit, who lets his situation get him down, but manages a faint smile, here and there. Bernard Lloyd's appearance as The Ghost Of Jacob Marley is acceptable, though only due to some late-90s special effects. But, the scene wasn't nearly as scary as it should have been, and Lloyd doesn't make Marley regretful or remorseful enough for his life of greed and ignorance. Desmond Barrit's lack of light- heartedness tends to make his characterization of The Ghost Of Christmas Present somewhat of a downer, and is downright boring, at times.
Among other notable performances, are Dominic West's, as a fine, cheerful Fred (Scrooge's Nephew), who doesn't allow his Uncle's attitude to affect his. Oscar®-winner Joel Grey appears as The Ghost Of Christmas Past, and fits the role almost perfectly, based on Dickens' description of the character, and Saskia Reeves delivers a strong performance as Mrs. Cratchit, the dedicated Wife and Mother, supportive of her Husband, despite his loyalty to his employer.
The Christmas Eve dance, at Fezziwig's Warehouse is one of the few high points in this film. Ian McNeice's performance as Mr. Fezziwig is sufficiently jolly, but too much emphasis was placed on physical weight, in this scene.
Other performances in this production, such as: Kenny Doughty, as 'Young Scrooge' – Laura Fraser, as 'Belle' – Josh Maguire, as the 'Boy Scrooge,' and Rosie Wiggins, as 'Fran', are neither outstanding nor poor. Ben Tibber plays Tiny Tim, and, here again, he seems a bit too healthy for the role, but fits it, otherwise. All are acceptable, but merely average. Also, I must note Crispin Letts' brief, but amusing turn as 'Topper Haines'. Letts makes Topper somewhat of a womanizer, who seems a bit stuck on himself, and, with this, adds a bit more humor to the Christmas Eve party at Fred's home.
The absolute low point of this production would have to be The Ghost Of Christmas Yet To Come. Tim Potter wears the black robe, here, but it's fortunate, for him, that he has no lines, and that no one can see his face, for his costume is utterly ridiculous. Had this movie been made 50 years earlier, this costume might have been borderline- acceptable. But the boxy, phony-looking headpiece, with eyes – Like two weak flashlight bulbs – Shining out from under the black hood, makes him look more like something from a grade-school stage play, rather than a terrifying apparition. It seems to me that, with the technology available in 1999, and considering the other fine special effects in this film, these scenes could have been made much more believable, with regard to this highly important character. Instead – Thanks to this laughable costume – They come off, at times, as almost funny.
Technically, this film is quite well-made. Some impressive computer- aided special effects (The 'Wandering Spirits' scene is spectacular!) enhance Ian Wilson's superb photography, and Peter Barnes's teleplay is excellent, and almost perfectly faithful to Dickens' story, scene- for scene. But David Hugh Jones should have tried harder, with some of his Actors, to get better performances out of them.
All-in-all, this movie isn't a bad way to kill a couple of hours, during the Holiday Season, but watch the 1935 version first, then this one, and get them out of the way, before you see the much better ones.
A Christmas Carol (1984)
A Very Close Second
I am a huge fan of Charles Dickens' 'A Christmas Carol'. I have read the short story at least once every Christmas Season since 1995, and it is my most favorite piece of literature ever written. It therefore follows, that I am also a huge fan of the major cinematic productions based on the story, which I have seen over the years (Though that doesn't necessarily mean that I like them all).
The many different cinematic versions of 'A Christmas Carol' are practically uncountable. But, I have chosen the following 8 as my favorites, based on their adherence to Dickens' original story:
Under the title of 'Scrooge', there is the rather obscure 1935 version, with Sir Seymour Hicks, the 1951 version, with Alastair Sim, and the 1970 musical, with Albert Finney. Under the title 'A Christmas Carol', there was the 1938 version, with Reginald Owen as Scrooge, the 2009 Disney production, with Jim Carrey, and the made-for-TV productions: 1999 – With Patrick Stewart, the 2004 musical, with Kelsey Grammar - Officially titled: 'A Christmas Carol: The Musical' - And this one, which I rank at #2.
It was tough for me to put this one in 2nd place, for it came very close to being my favorite. Both this one, and the 1951 version were well-written, acted, directed, and photographed, but the mere fact that the 1951 version was just as well done, back then - As the this one, made 33 years later - Was what helped me make my decision.
The late, great, Hollywood maverick, George C. Scott, is nothing less than terrific as Ebenezer Scrooge. With a convincing English accent, Scott plays the character with just enough openness that, if studied closely, one can see that, deep down, he really wants to enjoy Christmas as much as everyone else, but allows his bitterness and hatred to get the best of him. His performance rated an Emmy nomination – And well deserved it – Though I guess it's just as well that he didn't win, for he probably would have turned it down. The only negative comment I can make, about Scott's performance, is that he gets that famous phrase backward, instead of the way we're most familiar with.
Frank Finlay turns in quite a powerful performance as The Ghost Of Jacob Marley. He conveys very well, the character's unavailing grief and regret in a very intense performance, that's downright scary. Angela Pleasance, Daughter of the late Donald Pleasance, plays, quite well, The Ghost Of Christmas Past with a toughness not present in any of the other portrayals of the character. Ed Woodward is excellent as The Ghost Of Christmas Present, in a very no-nonsense portrayal. Though his performance has it's lighter moments, he's not quite as cheerful, nor nearly as funny as other 'GOCPs'. Woodward plays the character in a more serious manner, and seems to be basing his characterization on anger, which meets Scott's angry Scrooge head-on, rather than contrasting with it.
Roger Rees plays Fred – Scrooge's Nephew – In not nearly as cheerful a manner as he should have, but does quite well, nonetheless. Suffice it to say that David Warner's is, by far, the best of all the portrayals of the long-suffering Bob Cratchit, and young Anthony Walters' performance as Tiny Tim, is heart-wrenchingly convincing, in a near-perfect re-creation of Dickens' sickly youngster.
Joanne Whalley, in a brief, but strong performance as 'Fan', becomes Scrooge's older (Rather than younger) Sister, in a very interesting interpretation of her scene with young Ebenezer. Though I never like it when an Author's original material is re-written, I'm willing to overlook that, in this instance, for – Very simply – It works. Writer Roger Hirson effectively explains Scrooge's bitterness towards Christmas, with this twist, and even throws in an appearance by Ebenezer's Father, Silas – Who doesn't appear in the book – For good measure. Nigel Davenport's performance as the elder Mr. Scrooge makes it easy to see why Ebenezer has an attitude.
Haunting music, and excellent sound and visual effects, make the Ghost Of Christmas Yet To Come scenes frighteningly believable. Michael Carter wears the black robe, in this sequence, but – No offense to Mr. Carter – He seems only to be there because he fit the robe. Gliding steadily over the misty ground without foot or leg movements made the phantom much more believable and frightening, and his turns, and other movements are smooth and graceful, adding to the intensity of these scenes.
This has to be Director Clive Donner's finest work, though, to be honest, I have only seen one other of his films, and 'The Nude Bomb' is certainly nothing to compare this one to. Tony Imi's cinematography is excellent, Nick Bicat's musical score is very 'Christmasy', and his Brother, Tony, wrote the lyrics to the very pretty closing-credits song 'God Bless Us Every One'.
This one is a definite 'Don't miss' for holiday movie watching. It has become a regular at our home, during the Christmas season, and, if you're as fond of Charles Dickens' story and characters as I am, perhaps it will become a regular, in your home, as well.
A Christmas Carol (1938)
A Fairly Pleasant Diversion On A Cold, Holiday Season Evening
I am a huge fan of Charles Dickens' 'A Christmas Carol'. I have read the short story many times – Always during the Christmas Season – Over the past few years, and it is my most favorite piece of literature ever written. It therefore follows, that I am also a huge fan of the major cinematic productions based on the story, which I have seen over the years (Though that doesn't necessarily mean that I like them all).
The many different filmed versions of this story are practically uncountable. I have seen most of them, and have chosen the following 8 of them as my favorites, based on their adherence to Dickens' original story. Under the title of 'Scrooge': The rather obscure 1935 version, with Sir Seymour Hicks, the 1951 British production, with Alastair Sim, and the 1970 musical, with Albert Finney. Under the title of 'A Christmas Carol': The new Disney version, with Jim Carrey, the made-for-TV productions: 1984 – With George C. Scott, 1999 – With Patrick Stewart, and the 2004 musical, with Kelsey Grammar. And This one, released by MGM in 1938, which I rank at #4.
I must begin by saying, very simply, that Reginald Owen makes a 'pretty good' Ebenezer Scrooge . His performance, and his characterization, overall, are merely average, meaning - In other words - That I've seen better, and I've seen worse.
Barry MacKay is excellent, and very likable as Scrooge's Nephew, Fred. Leo G. Carroll plays a rather drab, soft-spoken Ghost Of Jacob Marley, and makes what should be a terrifying character downright boring. Lionel Braham is quite pleasant as The Ghost Of Christmas Present, and Ann Rutherford – Only 21, at the time – Does very well with her turn as The Ghost Of Christmas Past, but her screen time is way too short, thanks to the omission of some of the 'Christmas Past' sequences, from the book.
A rather rotund Gene Lockhart does well as Bob Cratchit, but doesn't fit the role, physically. Two of Mr. Lockhart's real-life family members play two members of his on-screen family. His Wife, Kathleen, plays Mrs. Cratchit, and his Daughter, June (Later, of TV's 'Lassie', and 'Lost In Space'), plays the younger Cratchit Daughter, Belinda. Mrs. Lockhart does quite well, but it bothered me a bit, that her character doesn't seem to have a hateful-enough attitude toward her Husband's employer.
Elvira Stevens, in a very brief 'Christmas Past' sequence, is delightful as Fran ('Fan' in the book), Scrooge's young Sister, and was very close to the character described by Dickens. Terry Kilburn was hard to accept, as Tiny Tim. He was too old (13 at the time), and definitely too big for the part, and appears way too healthy to be afflicted with the unnamed debilitating disease of Dickens' story.
I was disappointed that some sequences from the book were left out, in favor of some made-up scenes. The Christmas Eve dance at Fezziwig's warehouse, Scrooge's ill-fated love affair with Belle, and the 'Rag and bone shop' scenes are the most notable absences. The producers apparently wanted to keep this film short, but it seems to me that they could have included at least one of these book scenes in place of – For instance – The snowball-throwing scene, which isn't in the original story.
Overall, this is a pretty good movie. Though not nearly as faithful to Dickens' story as it could have been, some good sets and costumes convey well, the Old London atmosphere, and the special effects aren't bad, if you don't judge them by later standards. If one can overlook some writing, acting, and casting shortcomings, it's a fairly pleasant diversion for a cold holiday season evening.
It's now available on DVD, but try to catch it on TCM, during the holiday season (As I did), before you buy, and judge for yourself.
It Could Have Been Much Better, Even In 1935
I am a huge fan of Charles Dickens' 'A Christmas Carol'. I have read the unabridged novelette several times – Always during the Christmas Season – Over the past few years, and it is my most favorite piece of literature ever written. It therefore follows, that I am also a huge fan of the major cinematic productions based on the story, which I have seen over the years (Though that doesn't necessarily mean that I like them all).
The many different filmed versions of this story are practically uncountable. But of the ones I have seen, only the following 8 bear a serious look: Under the title of 'A Christmas Carol', there was the 1938 version, with Reginald Owen as Scrooge, and the made-for-TV productions: 1984 – With George C. Scott, 1999 – With Patrick Stewart, more recently, 2004, with Kelsey Grammar (Officially titled: 'A Christmas Carol: The Musical'), and the 2009 animated version with Jim Carrey. Under the title 'Scrooge', there's the 1951 version – With Alistair Sim as Scrooge, the 1970 musical, with Albert Finney, and this rather obscure 1935 version, which I would have to rank at #6.
Sir Seymour Hicks was knighted in 1935, but it couldn't have been because he was a good actor. Not having not seen any of his other film appearances, I have only this one to judge his talent on, and his performance, here, was a big disappointment. I can't even say that his acting was consistent, for, in some scenes, Hicks acts as though he'd memorized his lines just before his scenes were shot, and took little, if any, time to work on characterization. In others, his actions are somewhat jerky, and he spits out his lines with hardly any emotion, and in still others, he overacts, which is almost as bad as not acting at all.
Donald Calthrop plays a barely acceptable Bob Cratchit. He looks a bit too old for the part, and his acting is below average, at best. Robert Cochran appears briefly as Scrooge's Nephew, Fred, but does well with his short screen time. Also in brief, but notable performances, are Mary Glynne, as Scrooge's lost love – Belle, and Barbara Everest as Bob Cratchit's Wife, both of whom do well, with what little they've got to work with.
The 'Rag and bone shop' scene is my favorite, in this movie, though that's not saying much. Hugh E. Wright, Athene Seyler, Margaret Yarde, and D.J. Williams – as 'Old Joe', 'Scrooge's Charwoman', 'Scrooge's Laundress', and 'The Undertaker', respectively, do okay, but other interpretations of this scene, in other productions, are much better.
Jacob Marley – Scrooge's 7-years-dead partner – Is seen only once, and very briefly. His confrontation scene with Scrooge, later, is not nearly as terrifying as it should have been, for reasons that will be obvious, when you see it. Much greater care should have been taken in the portrayal of a character as important to this story as Marley. I realize that special effects were, by comparison, primitive, in those days, but it seems that something could have been done to make this important scene more believable.
I was very disappointed, almost to the point of sadness, with Oscar Asche's performance as 'The Spirit Of Christmas Present'. This character is supposed to be a gentle, jolly giant, but Asche makes him a disgusting slob. He delivers his lines as though he's reading them from a cue card, and keeps losing his place. Perhaps he was a better Actor on the stage, with Shakespearean roles, but here, he turns what is supposed to be quite a likable character into someone you'd try to avoid.
If you're as big a fan of Dickens' story and characters as me, you might want to see this version just out of curiosity. And, by all means, please do! Just don't expect much, and you won't be as disappointed as I was.
Excellent Holiday Musical
I am a huge fan of Charles Dickens' 'A Christmas Carol'. I have read the story numerous times – Always during the Christmas Season – Over the past few years, and it is my most favorite piece of literature ever written. It therefore follows, that I am also a big fan of the various cinematic productions based on the story, which I have seen over the years.
The cinematic productions of the story are practically uncountable, but there are at least 8 that bear a serious look. Under the title 'A Christmas Carol': The 1938 version, with Reginald Owen as Scrooge, the 2009 Disney animated version, with Jim Carrey, and the made-for-TV productions: 1984 – With George C. Scott, 1999 – With Patrick Stewart, and the 2004 musical, with Kelsey Grammar. Under the title of 'Scrooge', there was the rather obscure 1935 version, with Sir Seymour Hicks, the 1951 British production, with Alastair Sim, and this one, which I rank at #3.
I'm not, and never have been a great fan of musicals, but the subject matter of this film – Along with its Old London Christmas setting, and period flavor – Helps me to set those feelings aside, long enough to enjoy it. It's generally quite well done, with excellent photography and costuming, Oscar-nominated sets, well-staged musical numbers, with good choreography, catchy music and lyrics, and some darn fine dancing. And Ronald Neame's direction is right on par.
At first, I wasn't greatly impressed with Albert Finney's performance. However, after having seen this movie numerous times, and studying it carefully, I have changed my opinion. Finney was only 34 years old, at the time, but does very well with this role, and is very believable as a character that is some 30 years older. Some excellent makeup work ages him, visually, and his characterization is masterful. It's easy to see why he won a Golden Globe for this performance, and he really should have been considered for an Oscar.
Also doing quite well with their characterizations are Alec Guinness – As The Ghost Of Jacob Marley, Edith Evans – As The Ghost Of Christmas Past, and Kenneth More – As The Ghost of Christmas Present. All are played for laughs, with More's biting sarcasm drawing more than one hearty laugh from me.
Michael Medwin plays a very cheerful 'Fred' (Scrooge's Nephew), whose Christmas attitude is infectious, and David Collings turns in a fine performance as Bob Cratchit, and is a pretty good singer, to boot.
Leslie Bricusse's Oscar-nominated music and lyrics are catchy, and the dance numbers are well-staged. 'Thank You Very Much' – Even for a non- musical-lover – Is an absolute gem(!), and 'Soup Seller' Anton Rodgers has great fun with it. My second-favorite number would have to be 'I Hate People', very well done by Finney.
All-in-all, 'Scrooge' is quite a pleasant holiday movie, and is a regular in my home, during Christmastime. Give it a chance (As I did) even if you're not a great fan of musicals.
Movin' On (1974)
Sweet memories from the mid 70s
I never missed this show. Tuesday nights, at 8 p.m. CST, I was there, waiting for 'Movin' On'. I even took off work one night, to catch it.
With dependable old Claude Akins in the lead, and a catchy theme song by Merle Haggard, I figured this show couldn't miss. And I was quite disappointed when it got cancelled in '76.
Some of the plots were pretty silly - Most notably, the one where Sonny (Akins) makes a statement about truckers being 'The toughest men in America', which gets picked up by the press, and leads to a slug from a Logger, and a stint in Marine Corps boot camp - But there was that certain 'something' that kept me watching.
Akins - Perfect casting, if there ever was any - Fit the role of a gypsy trucker to a tee, and became one of my TV favorites (Though, oddly enough, I never watched 'Sheriff Lobo'). Converse - A heckuva fine Actor - Makes a great sidekick (Too bad he hasn't gone on to bigger and better things), and occasional appearances by Art Metrano and Rosey Grier add comedy relief.
It's not available on tape or DVD, and, judging from it's low popularity, it probably never will be. I can only hope that TV Land, Hallmark, or Trio will show the series, someday.
Sanford and Son (1972)
The Name Is Fred G. Sanford - And The 'G' Is for Great TV!
There have been 4 show business personalities, over the years, over whom I shed tears, when they passed on. John Wayne, Jimmy Stewart, Roy Rogers, and... Redd Foxx. The reason is very simple: Redd Foxx, as the arthritic, heart-troubled Watts Junk Dealer, made me laugh. Something that not many performers can do. I have experienced more genuine laughter, while watching 'Sanford And Son', than with any other TV show, or movie, ever.
I have seen every episode at least 20 times, (Except for the Christmas episode - I only watch it during the Christmas season). I never tire of them, and the antics of the gripy, grumpy old 'Commodities' dealer and his family and friends never fail to draw a laugh from me, despite the fact that I know every episode by heart.
Until 'Sanford And Son', Redd Foxx was probably best known for his nightclub acts, featuring his dirty stand-up routines. He was a master of improvisation, and shows his true comedy colors, in this classic sitcom. And, he was no slouch when it came to drama, as proved by his performance in the episode where he must ask his girlfriend, Donna, to marry him, before she accepts a proposal from another man. That particular episode made me cry, as well as laugh.
Admittedly, much of the writing wasn't all that great, and the acting - In the case of some characters, obviously played by non-Actors - Leaves something to be desired. But the laughter is there, making up for that, and then some.
I once heard it said that laughter is a gift, and Redd Foxx gave me that gift, with 'Sanford And Son'. The show has a tremendous following, to this day, better than 30 years after it's cancellation - A fact which speaks volumes on the talent of Redd Foxx.