Friday, December 21, 2012

Year One. Day Twenty-One: "Scrooge" (1935)

Day Twenty-One of my Advent Christmas Carol Challenge:

"Scrooge" (1935)

After adaptations featuring the Smurfs, the Muppets and the Flintstones over the previous few days, it was quite an enjoyable change to return to another traditional version of the tale.

This 1935 British version is the earliest film of the story made with sound. It stars Seymour Hicks in the lead role - an actor who has now become almost forgotten, but was once one of the most famous actors in the country.

Decent prints of this movie seem to have been lost to time, but the grainy, saturated image in the version I found seemed to work somewhat in its favour. The streets of London have never looked more miserable or quite so bleak, and at times, the figures shuffling about the place looked like little more than shadows. How much of this was artistic intention rather than a product of a diminished print is anyone's guess, but I rather appreciated it.

Hicks is a rather peculiar Scrooge. Perhaps it is thanks to later versions of the film that we now have such a firm grasp upon how Scrooge must look and act, because in this version he is almost a vagabond. Scruffy of hair, dishevelled of clothes whilst shuffling around the streets looking like Lon Chaney's Phantom of the Opera.

If this film is remembered at all, it is often only thanks to the very unusual decision to not show us many of the ghosts. Marley is invisible, the Ghost of Christmas past is always off screen and Christmas Yet to Come is only the shadow of a finger. Only Christmas Present is seen in full (though not for long.)

The absence of these ghosts is greatly missed, as is the huge swathes of the story this version omits, including the entirety of Scrooge's childhood (and a great deal of his present.)

There is a sense of melancholy to the film that sets it apart from the others and the score and visuals help set the mood. But a lacklustre central performance and too many liberties taken with the source material mean that there is very little here worth recommending.

As bleak as a midwinter when frosty winds made moan.

"Scrooge" (1935) 2/5

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