Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Year Two. Day Four. "A Christmas Carol" (1977)

Despite its richly deserved reputation for lavish and faithful adaptations of classic literature, the BBC has only adapted A Christmas Carol once for television.

This 1977 version stars Michael Hordern - a highly acclaimed actor, who had twice previously played the role of Jacob Marley in earlier adaptations. His Scrooge is a ferocious, barely contained beast with a particularly withering regard for his fellow men, particularly over the Christmas period.

This traditional version is very faithful to the book, and despite running at just under an hour, manages to retain a good deal of the original text, without seeming too rushed or chaotic.

Perhaps this adaptation would be more fondly remembered had it not been so evidently made on the cheap, with the BBC doing its best to keep costs down by utilising tacky looking green screen effects for all exterior scenes, while filming the interior scenes so closely it feels as if the sets aren't large enough to accommodate even the small cast this version features.

It's a real shame that the BBC, already proud of its status as a world leader in period drama, did not lavish this adaptation with a bit more money. Perhaps taking the spirit of Scrooge to heart, the finished product looks very much like it could have greatly used a few pennies more spent upon it, limping onto the screen looking as tired and weary as poor Tiny Tim.

Most of the scenes are filmed in long, static shots to give the whole thing a sense of a stage production, which serve the slender cast and their performances well; allowing interactions to play out naturally, yet at the same time giving the whole thing a rather dull and lifeless air.

Never is there much of a sense that we are in a vibrant, important city. London seems to consist of a handful of people, dashing about between one another's houses, rather than the overpopulated, overwhelming mess of chaos that so many other adaptation have so ably bought to the screen.

Perhaps, one day the BBC will look over its back catalogue of Dickens adaptations and decide that the time has come to give "A Christmas Carol" another go - and that their adaptation will be every bit as polished and exquisite as we have come to expect from them.

As mean as a Christmas present from Scrooge.

"A Christmas Carol." (1977) 3/5

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