The Christmas Carol (1949)

Just so there's no confusion, this isn't a movie: it's a 25-minute version of A Christmas Carol made for television. Actually, Wikipedia claims it's the first TV adaptation of A Christmas Carol - I have no idea if that's actually true, but let's give it the benefit of the doubt.

If you're wondering how they're able to condense the entirety of A Christmas Carol into 25 minutes, rest assured the answer is "poorly." Very poorly, in fact, and it doesn't help that a significant portion of that runtime goes to overlong opening credits where Scrooge's first name is misspelled (seriously) and an intro from narrator Vincent Price.

Don't get too excited: he's warm and friendly here - picture the Platonic ideal of "Christmas special host," and you should have a good idea of what he's wearing, how he's dressed, and what the set looks like. Also, try to act surprised when I tell you he reads the story from a book. Still, Price is always a welcome addition to just about anything. His role here is mainly to offer context and speed things along by periodically filling in details they don't have time to actually show, which is a great deal.

Once we're through the intro, we cut to the story itself, now in hilariously truncated form. The charity collectors are gone, and everything else is sped up and trimmed back so as to lose all effect. Price fills in the gap between Scrooge's business and his home, with the doorbell sequence cut entirely. They dash through Marley's ghost in record time, and we're into the Spirit of Christmas Past before we know it.

And if you thought things were moving fast before...

All we get is Scrooge's past is a brief visit to see him sitting alone in school. They discuss the situation for a moment, then the ghost offers to bring Scrooge to the Christmas his girlfriend broke up with him. Scrooge refuses, the ghost brings him home, and we're ready for ghost #2.

Before we even get to the special, I want to take a moment and describe the Ghost of Christmas Present. I think they're trying to be faithful here, but between their limited budget and lack of time they ended up with a character who looks like a cross between a serialized superhero and a Roman god as portrayed by a community theater.

They skip Fred's party and cut right to the Cratchits, which is probably the most sensible cut in the whole special. The ghost tells Scrooge he sees an empty spot and all that, so I half expected them to skip over the aftermath in Christmas Yet to Come (honestly, they probably should have done that and used the time for the past), but a shortened version of that sequence sticks around.

We met the third ghost, who's a... well... The second ghost was a superhero, so I guess it makes sense the third is wearing a ninja mask. No, really: he's basically a ninja in a robe doing weird things with his hands. It's hilarious.

We get two sequences in the future: the aforementioned Cratchit scene and the brief bit where Scrooge's business associates are joking about him being dead. Scrooge is then shown a cutaway to his grave, and he wakes up.

The rest is kind of a blur. We get a comically recut sequence with the Cratchits to tie everything up as fast as humanly possible, then we're back to Vincent Price for some closing thoughts.

So, yeah, pretty lame, all things considered.

Scrooge is played by Taylor Holmes, who has a decent filmography (including a few voice roles in classic Disney animated movies). I have to believe he's capable of doing better with this role, despite there being very little evidence here to back that up. His Scrooge comes off as flat, and while the bulk of blame belongs with whoever thought cramming this into a half-hour special was a good idea, Holmes doesn't offer much to make the situation better. No one does, really. My guess is the filming was as rushed as the script - it's the only explanation I can come up with for why no one tries to do anything interesting (aside from the unintended comedy we get from the Ghosts' designs).

That said, there's at least one fun piece of casting trivia: one of Cratchit's daughters is played by a very young Jill St. John, who - among numerous other roles - would play Tiffany Case in Diamonds Are Forever. 

Between that, Vincent Price, and this being the first TV version of A Christmas Carol, this is worth including as a footnote in the history of adaptations, but it's not worth watching. Whatever value this had has long since faded as expectations for television have risen over the decades. There's really no reason to sit through this.