At the height of Fonzie-mania in the 1970s Henry Winkler had so much pull he could have insisted on a side-deal in which he got to play every D’Ascoyne in a televised remake of Kind Hearts and Coronets if he had wanted to. Mercifully he instead chose to star in this adaptation of A Christmas Carol.
Eric Till directed this telefilm which sets Dickens’ story in Depression- Era America. Winkler, so heavily made-up he looks like a zombie instead of an old man, portrays Benedict Slade, the Scrooge stand-in and R.H. Thompson plays Slade’s man-bitch Thatcher, the Bob Cratchit counterpart. Kenneth Pogue has the Jacob Marley role as Latham and Susan Hogan barely registers as the forever-irritating Belle stand-in. (Thank you to Garrett Kieran for catching an error – I accidentally listed David Wayne as the Marley stand-in.)
This version of the Carol pulls the annoying maneuver of pretending the visits from Merrivale and the other ghosts are all a dream. There’s even an in-world reference to the Dickens novel A Christmas Carol.
On the plus side the visits of each of the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Yet to Come are cleverly heralded by time period appropriate music and news broadcasts airing on Slade’s bedside radio. The old tight-wad is especially discomfited by the outre 1970s music blaring from the radio before the arrival of the black Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come.
We viewers see that Slade started life at an orphanage, where he spent many lonely and disappointing Christmases. Part of the further darkening of his character comes about from his service in World War One, which is a nice and interesting approach but it means Scrooge should not be ANYWHERE near as old as he is by the time of the Great Depression if he was young enough to run off and serve in the Great War.
Scrooge does not have to be a withered old man in every version of the story, y’know, and this would have been the perfect time to depict a Scrooge figure that was still young enough to get quite a few years of enjoyment out of his new outlook on life. With most Scrooges you get the feeling they had maybe a nice five or six years tops after that very memorable Christmas Eve.
This one tries hard to tug on the heart-strings but never quite rises to the level of a classic. It’s always essential for my yearly viewing but I’m obviously a sucker for just about any version of this story. For non-enthusiasts of the Carol I would say that fans of the Depression-set television series The Waltons would probably be the people most likely to enjoy this version of the Dickens story.
FOR DOZENS MORE VERSIONS OF A CHRISTMAS CAROL CLICK HERE: https://glitternight.com/category/a-christmas-carol-2/
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