Balladeer’s Blog resumes its annual orgy of reviews of the various versions of the Charles Dickens classic A Christmas Carol.
A CHRISTMAS CAROL (1923) – Not only am I an enthusiastic fan of this Dickens story but I’m also a lover of silent movies. There were plenty of adaptations of A Christmas Carol in the silent era but this one has got to be the most disappointing. By the 1920’s the art of silent filmmaking was at its creative peak with many of the masterpieces of the pre-sound era premiering during the decade. This British film adaptation is an undeniable bomb which sucks the soul out of of the story as effectively as the 1910 Edison Company version.
At least the 1910 version had the excuse of coming out when silent movies were still finding their way creatively, but this 1923 Hi-Mark production is an embarrassment and a definite step backward in the storytelling technique of silent films. This film was screened only at museums in England for several decades before finally being released on home video in 2007. The lack of exposure built up a certain mystique around this movie and its British pedigree enhanced the feelings of anticipation surrounding its release.
Watching the film quickly disillusions anyone expecting the usual 1920’s silent movie magic. There are numerous typos and grammatical errors in the dialogue boards, as well as outright omissions of entire words that leave a few sentences reading like non sequiturs. The film is also poorly paced, with the opening at Scrooge & Marley’s featuring nephew Fred’s visit on up through Marley’s Ghost’s well-known lecture to Ebenezer Scrooge taking up roughly two-thirds of the total run time. This leaves precious little time for the Christmas Ghosts to conduct their business.
After Marley’s warning to Scrooge about the three ghosts – a warning that is botched by having some of the dialogue boards shown IN THE WRONG ORDER – the Ghost of Christmas Past at last makes its appearance. In the only positive element of this Carol adaptation the filmmakers do some nice camera trickery to depict the Ghost as an imp just a few feet tall. The Ghost shows Scrooge one lone vision – of his breakup with Belle, a vision so hurried there aren’t even any dialogue boards, then he skedaddles on his way.
The Ghost of Christmas Present shows up next. More camera trickery is employed to depict this Ghost as a giant, just like he’s described in the novel. This Ghost is normally the emotional high point of the very best versions of the Carol, but here he doesn’t even get to show Scrooge ONE SINGLE VISION! All he does is TELL him what a great time the Cratchits and his nephew Fred will have on Christmas Day, then splits. (“Hurts, don’t it? BYE!” Bad movie buffs will get it.)
The Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come makes his entrance now, looking appropriately spectral. Unfortunately this 1923 version compounds the error many adaptations of A Christmas Carol make. All the Ghost shows Scrooge is his own tombstone, making it seem like Scrooge is shocked to learn that he’ll die some day. In the novel (and in competent adaptations) Scrooge is shown the plight of a dead man whose demise has caused nothing but indifference or outright joy rather than mourning, to the point where scavengers have even stolen clothing and bed-curtains from around his neglected, unlamented corpse. When Scrooge asks who the dead man was THEN the Ghost shows him the notorious gravestone with his name on it.
Determined to be lame to the bitter end this film then has Scrooge share a scene with nephew Fred and one of his dinner guests, Topper. That’s right, this version of A Christmas Carol does NOT feature Tiny Tim, but DOES throw in a scene with a supporting character usually forgotten even in some of the most faithful adaptations. Classic. Scrooge is then shown being nicer to Bob Cratchit. The End.
This movie is a disappointment on every level. If not for the fact that I make a point of owning every Carol variation that I can lay my hands on, even I wouldn’t bother with it. It’s almost as bad as the porno versions called Ebenezer Screwed and The Passions of Carol.
FOR MORE VERSIONS OF A CHRISTMAS CAROL CLICK HERE: https://glitternight.com/category/a-christmas-carol-2/