SCROOGE (1970)

Scrooge 1970 2Christmas Carol-A-Thon 2016 continues here at Balladeer’s Blog with a look at the 1970 musical version that starred Albert Finney.

The only – and dubious – advantage to having such a young man portraying Ebenezer Scrooge is that he could realistically play Scrooge’s younger self in the Christmas Past scenes.

Big deal. In reality it meant that the portions with Belle get dragged out even longer and more excruciatingly than they usually do, just to take advantage of the fact that for once it’s not a different actor playing the younger Ebenezer. Again – big deal.  

Yet I like this version much more than I should. A rerun of it late one Christmas night was my first exposure to it years ago when I was first getting into the multiple versions of A Christmas Carol. That has probably colored my feelings about it all these years because I have to admit when I read negative reviews of this production I laugh like hell and nod my head in agreement at all the bashing it gets … yet I still like it for some reason.

Scrooge 1970Alec Guinness makes an entertaining Marley’s Ghost and plays him with a dark impishness especially in the Christmas Yet to Come section when this adaptation throws in a scene depicting the late Scrooge’s arrival in hell. Suzanne Neve plays the Belle that I despise the most because of her expanded screen time.

Edith Evans plays the Ghost of Christmas Past, making this one of those rare Carols that takes advantage of Dickens’ description of this Ghost’s androgynous nature by casting a woman in the role. Kenneth More makes a terrific Ghost of Christmas Present, helped by the fact that this version introduces him surrounded by as much splendor and plenty as Dickens described in the novel.

Nephew Fred is portrayed by Michael Medwin in an adequate way and Laurence Naismith shines as possibly the best Fezziwig of them all. He and Mrs Fezziwig sing one of the few catchy songs from this musical, December the 25th. (Sing) A Christmas Carol and Father Christmas are the only other truly hummable tunes from this oddly bland musical, outside of the mammoth showstopper.

That showstopper is, of course, Thank You Very Much, sung by Anton Schizoid Man Rodgers. Rodgers plays this Carol’s made-up character Tom Jenkins and gets to do two different renditions of this contagiously catchy song. It stands out SO much from all the other numbers in this musical that it almost seems like a lost song from Oliver! rather than a piece from Scrooge.

Well, those are the good elements of this movie. Here are just a few of the bad elements:

Scrooge 1970 3* Finney’s eccentric decision to deliver all his lines as Scrooge as if he’s Michael Palin’s Gumby character from Monty Python.

* The way most of the songs are either unmemorable or – even worse – annoying. No matter how many times I watch Scrooge I still wind up fast-forwarding through all the songs except the ones I mentioned above.

* This film features one of the wimpiest Bob Cratchits EVER and one of the most nauseatingly saccharine Tiny Tims.  

* Scrooge unnecessarily moves the story from 1843 up to the 1860’s just so Scrooge can dress up like Thomas Nast’s depiction of Santa Claus during his morning after celebration. This adds nothing whatsoever to the proceedings and does not enhance the story at all.

* The omission of Ignorance and Want is a sign that the filmmakers just didn’t “get” A Christmas Carol.

For fanatics like me watching this Carol is a no-brainer, but casual viewers may not have the patience to wade through all its deficiencies.


© Edward Wozniak and Balladeer’s Blog, 2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Edward Wozniak and Balladeer’s Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. 




4 responses to “SCROOGE (1970)

  1. Garrett Kieran

    The last time you wrote about this, I gave you my opinion regarding the songs. Now, there’s something else I want to mention. I strongly disagree with your notion that the filmmakers didn’t ‘get’ the story. Remember, this wasn’t the first version to omit Ignorance and Want, and it sure as heck wasn’t the last. But more important is the fact that, despite their absence, the Ghost of Christmas Present tells Scrooge exactly what Dickens was trying to communicate in the story. You know, “there’s never enough time to do everything you wish”, “time is short and soon you’re not here anymore”, and all that. I too wish those allegorical kids had been included, and visually, it probably would have been quite well done, considering what an impressive job they did with the tormented spirits Marley shows Scrooge. But, of all the Christmas Present sequences that don’t include them (that I’ve seen anyway), I think this one easily has the best conclusion.

    • Hello! Always good to hear your opinion of various versions of the Carol!

      I like your thinking on this one, but I guess we’ll have to agree to disagree about this production. Something about it falls flat for me in many scenes.

      It might just be Finney’s delivery of his lines and his mannerisms. He seems more like Mickey Rooney as Bill to me.

      Anyway, like I mentioned last time around I don’t actually hate any version of A Christmas Carol, it’s just that my reviews would be pretty dull if all I ever did was praise each of them.

      I try to look at them through the eyes of someone who doesn’t automatically like the story going in, and I feel Scrooge (1970) has too many moments that would be off-putting to non-fans of the Carol.

  2. Garrett Kieran

    That’s certainly an admirable approach to how you rate these things. And yes, I’m all about agreeing to disagree, though you do see where I’m coming from regarding Ignorance and Want, don’t you?

    Also, sorry to sound dumb, but who is this Bill played by Mickey Rooney who you say Finney’s performance as Scrooge reminds you of?

    By the way, did you get my email from last week?

  3. Garrett Kieran

    If you don’t mind, in honor of the day, I’d like to share this song from the movie. It is one of the ones you like, I believe.

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