Time for another post in Balladeer’s Blog’s annual orgy of entries on various versions of THE Christmas tale. The Charles Dickens classic has a certain unquenchable charm that ensures it will continue to be adapted for at least another few hundred years.
Mr Scrooge was originally broadcast on December 21st, 1964 by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. It runs just an hour and stars Cyril Ritchard as Ebenezer Scrooge and the very appropriately named Eric Christmas as Marley’s Ghost. As with the 1978 Canadian telefilm Scrooge the budget is very tight on this production, but even with that AND the fact that Mr Scrooge is in black & white I can definitely say this 1964 venture is more touching and has more of a festive air to it than the 1978 version.
Cyril Ritchard was famed for playing Captain Hook to Mary Martin’s Peter Pan on Broadway and plays a Scrooge who is almost uniquely aristocratic. Think George C Scott’s portrayal crossed with a suave James Bond villain and you’ve got Ritchard’s Scrooge. The low budget and short running time result in each of the three Christmas Ghosts only transporting Scrooge to one location each during their visits, so I’d have eliminated the fairly bland songs to allow for more expansive storytelling.
The best part of this version of the Carol would be the depiction of said ghosts. We viewers get three of the most memorable phantasmal visitors from any presentation this side of Rich Little’s. The Ghost of Christmas Past rides a penny-farthing bicycle (insert your own Prisoner joke here) and has Scrooge ride with him back in time. The Ghost of Christmas Present is a drunken British soldier who seems equal parts Dudley Moore in Arthur and Peter O’Toole in My Favorite Year. The biggest visual treat (and trick) is the Ghost of Christmas Yet To Come, a decapitated spectre whose eeriness is enhanced by the fact that he carries his head under his arm. The creepy image this presents more than makes up for the fact that this is one of those Carols that unfortunately has this usually silent ghost speak.
About the only complaint I have, aside from the short running time and its resulting “rushed” feel, is the fact that the creative team behind this effort didn’t make the Ghost of Christmas Past a female figure. In the novel Dickens describes that spirit as being of indeterminate gender, so it’s amazing how many versions of the Carol fail to exploit this way of providing a major female role that doesn’t feel forced. Overall, though, Mr Scrooge is pretty enjoyable and if forced to rank it on a scale from one to ten I’d give it a seven.
FOR MORE VERSIONS OF A CHRISTMAS CAROL CLICK HERE: https://glitternight.com/category/a-christmas-carol-2/