Showing posts with the label Classic

So You're Planning to Remake A Christmas Carol...

If you've been following along, you know I've been watching adaptations, remakes, homages, and reimaginings of A Christmas Carol in bulk this year. As you might expect, I've got some thoughts about what makes an adaptation work and what doesn't. I figured I'd pass on my notes to whatever studio executive thinks it's a good idea to remake Scrooge for the [checks notes] I have no idea what number time we're up to. As a sidenote, this article is mainly going to concern itself with adaptations of the original book. I might turn to quasi-sequels like Scrooged and Spirited for guidance, but that's not what this is about. Do We Need Another Adaptation? I thought I'd start with some thoughts on whether there's even a point in doing this again. You may be surprised to hear my answer is, "Maybe." One takeaway from this whole project is that while there are a lot of versions out there, there isn't really a single definitive one that meets all

The Sound of Music (1965)

Along with The Wizard of Oz, The Sound of Music is one of two movies that have sort of broken into the canon of established Christmas movies, despite containing no scenes set at Christmas. Normally, we don't review movies simply because they've become associated with the holiday, but due to the significance of these two classics, along with the sustained connections they've formed, we're making these exceptions. For the time being, these are the only two movies we're granting this honorary status: maybe we'll revisit a few others in another decade or two. For Oz, we dedicated an entire article about the convoluted history between that and the yuletide season. I think The Sound of Music's Christmas credentials are a bit simpler, so let's get them out of the way upfront. The simplest and most straightforward holiday connection comes from the fact the song, My Favorite Things, has long been associated with Christmas and appears on numerous Christmas albums.

The Wizard of Oz (1939)

The Wizard of Oz is one of two movies that hold a somewhat unique place in Christmas media. It is not, by any real quantifiable measure, a Christmas  movie, but for somewhat complicated reasons it is heavily associated with the holidays. We've held off on reviewing it here for a long time, but finally decided there should be some sort of a review on this site, given how significant this is to both holiday tradition and to film history in general. Before going on, I feel should probably remind everyone that the writer of the book this is based on, L. Frank Baum,  was quite literally a proponent of genocide . He was a racist, an awful human being, and any discussion of his legacy should include that note. Fortunately, the 1939 movie isn't limited to Baum's legacy. In a sense, the story of the movie is secondary to the craftmanship that went into making an imaginary world real. The source of that world is fairly trivial: they could have selected any fairytale or kid's book

Hell's Heroes (1929)

As far as I can tell, this is the earliest feature-length Christmas talkie that still exists. There's a movie released earlier in 1929 called "Auld Lang Syne" which I'm assuming was holiday themed, but no copies are believed to have survived, and I can't find so much as a synopsis online. If anyone knows anything about that movie or any other Christmas movies from the 1920s with sound, please   reach out . But as far as extant Christmas movies featuring synchronized sound with talking, this appears to be the first. I know that sounds like a lot of qualifiers, but I think the addition of synchronized sound - particularly sound with dialogue - is functionally the boundary between an earlier art form and modern movies. I don't want to disparage silent pictures in any way: they are a fascinating medium in their own right, and I have every intention of tracking down more silent Christmas films. But watching them is a very different experience than watching a film w

A Christmas Carol (1971)

This 1971 British TV special was subsequently given a brief theatrical showing, making it eligible for the Academy Award for an Animated Short, which it rightly won. It's easy to see why - with all due respect to Mickey's Christmas Carol, I've got a new favorite animated adaptation. It's directed by Richard Williams, the genius who handled the animation side of Who Framed Roger Rabbit and spent decades working on The Thief and the Cobbler, a legendary animated production that was never properly finished. Ken Harris and Chuck Jones worked on this as well, in case being directed by one of the greatest animators in history wasn't enough. Stylistically, this is based on illustrations accompanying classic versions of Dickens's book. To put it another way, you will recognize these characters. In a similar vein, they got Alistair Sim to reprise his role as Scrooge from the 1951 production. This is, without a doubt, the most impressive half-hour version of A Christmas C

Scrooge (1951) [Revisited]

I reviewed this once before, way back in 2011 (a.k.a.: year two of the blog). I didn't have much to say then, mainly because I hadn't seen all that many adaptations of A Christmas Carol at the time (nor was I all that familiar with the era). This was still in the "we'll be wacky and watch a bunch of Christmas stuff for no reason" phase of the blog.  At the time, I basically summed it up as fine for what it was, but still kind of boring to sit through. After watching the 1935 version with Seymour Hicks , I wanted to give this another viewing to see what I'd missed. Turns out, there was quite a bit.  I've seen this version called the best adaptation out there, a claim that.... Look, I want to be fair here, and - to the extent possible - objective. As a straight adaptation, I think there's a case to be made. This version is faithful to the source material, deviating only to expand the story. I want to take a moment and focus on something that differs bet

A Christmas Carol (1938)

This 1938 MGM version of A Christmas Carol is notable (among other reasons) for being the first Hollywood adaptation of Dickens' classic with sound, though a British version starring Seymour Hicks beats it by three years and is, in my opinion, a far better film. That's not to say this one is bad - parts are fantastic - but the 1935 is difficult to beat. Tonally, this is far more comedic than its predecessor or most subsequent theatrical adaptations. I'll cover the changes in depth in a moment, but as a rule of thumb most of the darkest bits are excised, and the additions favor light, family-friendly fare. When it's not going for laughs, it skews towards lessons. This version is somewhat more instructive than I'm used to, often outright lecturing on morality, rather than having the protagonist come to his own conclusions. This story deviates significantly from the source material, perhaps more so than any major live-action version prior to the 2019 miniseries . As I

Scrooge (1935)

For those of you trying to keep track, this British production is the first feature-length adaptation of A Christmas Carol with sound. It stars Seymore Hicks as Scrooge, and despite leaving an imprint on subsequent versions, it seems to be widely dismissed as inferior to the 1951 movie of the same name . I don't at all agree with that - I prefer this one, and not just because it's shorter (though that doesn't hurt: I'm a believer most modern adaptations of A Christmas Carol are too long). I think Hicks is fantastic as Scrooge. He looks and acts very different than the version that's become the norm. Hicks is quite a bit stockier than most versions of Scrooge, and he's a little wilder in appearance and in his mannerisms. To me, this makes his eccentricities a little more believable. At the beginning, he feels like a curmudgeonly old man who's not quite right in the head. Frankly, he's an angry conservative, rather than a cliché villain. Then, after his tr

Scrooge (1901), A Christmas Carol (1910), Scrooge (1913), A Christmas Carol (1914), Scrooge (1922), and A Christmas Carol (1923)

As you've probably guessed from the heading, this covers six separate silent adaptations of A Christmas Carol. As far as I can tell, this is the entirety of surviving footage from that era. To be clear, there are several other known versions that have been lost, including "The Right to be Happy," a 55-minute film from 1916. Not all of the films discussed here are available in complete forms, either. If you're curious about any, they're all readily available for free online - just go to YouTube and search by name and year. Before I get to my individual reviews (to the extent the term even applies here), I'll give a brief overview for those of you who'd rather not wade through four thousand words of text about a bunch of movies 100+ years old. That's all of you, right? I'm grouping these together as a single post, because I can't imagine anyone would be in the least bit interested in seeing these appear one a day for a week. In general, these mov