Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Year Two. Day Ten. "A Christmas Carol" (1949)

This oddity from 1949 was a made for TV Christmas special featuring none other than Vincent Price - a man who would go on to be known as one of the all time great horror/comedy actors as the narrator of this very conventional adaptation of the novel.

Price plays the role of kindly narrator well, putting his classically train chops to good use as he sits down in an armchair to bookend this tale. Stripped of the trappings of horror cliches, he has a surprisingly warm, avuncular air and his voice, distinct and crisp as ever is a welcome addition to this otherwise unmemorable version.

At only 25 minutes long, this version is a necessary brief skim through the highlights of the book, which nevertheless manages to hit the right notes of charm and whimsy in its closing act.

Our Scrooge is played by Taylor Holmes, whose performance is hammy but likably so, conjuring memories of stage performers adjusting awkwardly to the smaller limitations of TV and the lack of a need to emote to the back row. The rest of the cast veer from wooden to inexplicable, with some of the most bizarre deliveries I have thus far seen. Sometimes it feels as if the actors are having their lines held aloft on cards, just out of frame.

That said, after so many wild and wildly different versions of the book, it was very nice to return to a good old fashioned, straightforward retelling, complete with shutters being thrown open and presents aplenty for the Cratchit children, and news of a miracle doctor for Tiny Tim ("Who did not die," Price informs us with incredible warmth in his voice.)

Sadly, the ghosts are presented as somewhat cheap looking creations in poorly made costumes, which to be fair, is likely more owing to the limitations of budget and the (possible?) fact that this may have been transmitted live.

Without the presence of Vincent Price, this would be an entirely forgettable rendition of the tale, but to have him here makes this version a peculiar oddity that is well worth a look.

As warm as a glass of mulled wine.

"A Christmas Carol." (1949)  3/5

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