MERRY CHRISTMAS! Balladeer’s Blog’s Christmas Carol-a-Thon 2022 comes to a close with this look at Simon Callow’s one man show A Christmas Carol. Under Tom Cairns’ direction, Callow’s lauded performance, this time taking place in an abandoned warehouse, gets just enough goosing from smoke, sound effects, fake snow and other enhancements to justify capturing it on film.
Callow even lights a fire at one point and in another portion warms his hands over a lit candle, Bob Cratchit style. The only score consists of ambient electronic music from Ben and Max Ringham.
Simon Callow has surpassed Patrick Stewart’s old one-man performance of the Carol in recent decades and he even portrayed Charles Dickens himself doing a public reading of A Christmas Carol in a Doctor Who special in 2005. Like Patrick Stewart, Callow uses Dickens’ old prompt copy for public readings as his launching point but acts out each character in a far more impressive manner than Stewart ever did. Continue reading
Wealthy John Grin (left) with a Ghostly Visitor
JOHN GRIN’S CHRISTMAS (1986) – The 2022 edition of Balladeer’s Blog’s Annual Christmas Carol-A-Thon continues with this obscure item from the 1980s. My copy of John Grin’s Christmas was already barely watchable when I first tracked it down and it looks worse and worse each time I watch it. Still no DVD release, though, so I’ve decided to give up hoping for a clearer copy and will just review it as is.
Regular readers are familiar with the obsessive lengths I go to in order to track down the various out-of-the-way adaptations of A Christmas Carol. I’m afraid this time around the story is kind of dull – I bought John Grin’s Christmas from someone on E-Bay a few years back. They had taped it off television in 1986 and were selling that very faded and gargly-sounding VHS tape.
Renaissance Man Robert Guillaume directed and stars as the Ebenezer Scrooge stand-in John Grin, our title craftsman who makes a variety of collectibles. Many sources claim he only makes toys but that is not true, it’s just that as Christmas approaches most of his sales are toys. And, since the story is set around Christmas time … Continue reading
A few years back, when Balladeer’s Blog reviewed I Met Father Christmas, I went on a little tangent about one of the filming locations – Rovaniemi in Lapland, Finland. Beginning in 1985 Rovaniemi’s Santa Claus Village was Finland’s new “official” designation of the site of Santa’s workshop and related items.
Prior to 1985, Korvatunturi was considered Santa’s home, which is why I suspect that I Met Father Christmas may have been part of a 1984 publicity push regarding Finland’s upcoming “official” re-designation of Rovaniemi as the site of Santa’s workshop and village. Rovaniemi’s airport is just a mile away from Santa Claus Village.
In the years since then, Rovaniemi has become more and more entrenched as the home of Santa and his workshop. A Christmas special called Lapland Out was filmed there as part of Tots TV, as was the Bam Margera movie Where The #$&% Is Santa? Hell, even a Lordi heavy metal music video was filmed there for their song Hardrock Hallelujah. (That overhead line marks the actual Arctic Circle.)
Santa Claus Village seems like a fantastic spot for a family vacation if you don’t mind traveling, and if you don’t mind the frigid outside conditions. There are sleigh rides powered by reindeer (above right), snowmobile touring, dogsledding, a petting zoo, an Elf Academy and much more. Continue reading
Balladeer’s Blog’s Christmas Carol-A-Thon 2022 continues! Back in the 2012 edition I reviewed Rich Little’s Christmas Carol, his 1978 television special. In that review I mentioned impressionist Little’s earlier, shorter, stand-up version of the special in which he used the voices of entirely different celebrities for the characters in A Christmas Carol.
This time around I will look at that 1963 AUDIO version. Rich Little had compiled the piece over the course of years, stretching back to his days as a DJ when he would ad-lib much of the material.
A historical footnote is the fact that – since Rich Little prepared the material far in advance of Christmas – he used the voice of John F Kennedy for the Ghost of Christmas Present. The record album version was released mere days after JFK’s assassination.
The voice lineup for the other characters went as follows:
Scrooge – Jack Benny Continue reading
Balladeer’s Blog’s Christmas Carol-A-Thon 2022 rolls along with Ponsett’s Christmas Carol. Back during 2013’s Carol-A-Thon I reviewed The Trail to Christmas (1957), Jimmy Stewart’s television adaptation of this particular radio play.
Stewart was basically cannibalizing a script from his own radio show, The Six-Shooter, on which that Old West version of A Christmas Carol, titled Ponsett’s Christmas Carol, first aired in 1953.
So here it is in its original radio format:
Christmas Carol-a-Thon 2022 continues here at Balladeer’s Blog with this look at the often-overlooked animated version from 1997.
A CHRISTMAS CAROL (1997) – This musical cartoon version of the Dickens classic was produced by DIC, the animators known for the early Real Ghostbusters and Sonic the Hedgehog cartoons. The animation quality is adequate but nothing outstanding. However, I will say I find this version’s animation superior to that in the 1982 Australian cartoon A Christmas Carol.
The songs range from bland and forgettable to annoying. I take back everything bad I ever said about a few of Leslie Bricusse’s songs in Scrooge. Every bit of his work towers over the “striving for competence” songs we get in many other Christmas Carol renditions. Santa’s Sooty Suit from this one sticks in your head but not necessarily in a good way.
Tim Curry of all people voices Ebenezer Scrooge and shows how good he can really be. If you’re like me, you can’t see anything but Dr. Frank N. Furter from The Rocky Horror Picture Show whenever Curry appears as himself on screen. Because he gets to hide behind animation in this production it’s much easier to lose yourself in the character he plays, and he does an excellent job. Continue reading
For my full-length review of the entirety of Scrooge’s Rock and Roll Christmas click HERE. Below you can see Paul Revere and the Raiders performing Jingle Bells from that odd version of A Christmas Carol.
Christmas Carol-A-Thon 2022 continues, this time combined with the weekend’s light-hearted, escapist superhero blog post. This item looks at A Christmas Carol getting adapted through two separate stories – first with Luke Cage/ Power Man and then with the Teen Titans.
LUKE CAGE, HERO FOR HIRE Vol 1 #7 (March 1973)
Jingle Bombs was the real title of this holiday tale which pitted superhero Luke Cage aka Hero for Hire aka Power Man against the one-off supervillain called Marley. Like a Guest Villain from the Adam West Batman show Marley uses a campy Christmas Carol motif for his nefarious plan … yet, oddly the story is kind of quaint.
On Christmas Eve, Luke Cage is hanging out with his then-girlfriend Claire Temple, a doctor who worked at a clinic in the New York ghetto. Later on in the series Claire would be the center of a romantic triangle between Luke Cage and another of Marvel’s black superheroes – Black Goliath, Hank Pym’s former lab assistant who used Pym’s inventions to turn to giant-size and back.
As night approaches Luke sees a ruckus outside the clinic: a man in Dickensian 1800s clothing is using his walking stick to beat a little handicapped boy named Timmy. Our hero goes out to save the little boy and is attacked by the strange man, who identifies himself as “Marley.” Continue reading
Christmas Carol-A-Thon 2022 continues with Balladeer’s Blog’s look at this neglected 1982 Australian cartoon version.
A CHRISTMAS CAROL (1982) – Burbank Films of Australia produced this mediocre at best animated version of the Dickens classic. Previously I reviewed the 1969 Australian cartoon version and if you were to go strictly by this 1982 rendition of A Christmas Carol you would think that Australian animation technology had not progressed one bit since 1969.
Background figures often don’t move at all and the ones that do just repeat the same gestures and gesticulations ad nauseum like in early video games. There’s also a delayed reaction element to every dialogue exchange early on. The Australian accents add a bit of novelty but that was also true of the 1969 version.
Moving on to the story, Nephew Fred’s visit to his Uncle Ebenezer and Bob Cratchit largely sticks to dialogue directly taken from the novel but pointlessly throws in meaningless asides here and there. The delayed reactions in the early exchanges of dialogue really stick out here. It’s like you’re watching live actors who take a while to remember their next line.
The dialogue flows much better between Scrooge and the two Charity Collectors. Bob Cratchit’s farewell to his boss is trimmed to the bone, robbing it of any impact, but this IS one of those versions which shows Bob joining children in sliding along the sidewalk ice like an overgrown kid so that’s nice. Continue reading
BLACKADDER’S CHRISTMAS CAROL – Balladeer’s Blog’s 13th Annual Christmas Carol-A-Thon continues! Long-time readers know what a big fan I am of Rowan Atkinson’s work – especially his Blackadder programs. Hell, I’m even an enormous fan of his more serious work in Full Throttle. And I never tire of telling anyone who will listen that I think he’d make a perfect Dikaiopolis in Aristophanes’ comedy The Acharnians.
As to why it took me so long to finally get around to reviewing Blackadder’s Christmas Carol, it’s the same reason that applied to the George C Scott version: I wanted to handle some of the more obscure Carols before hitting the well-known ones.
This Christmas Special is set in Victorian England with Atkinson starring as Ebenezer Blackadder, owner of a moustache shop. Tony Robinson is on hand as yet another member of the Baldrick family line.
In typically perverse Blackadder fashion the storyline reverses the usual sequence of events. Ebenezer starts out as a kind-hearted and generous soul but soon the Christmas Spirit (Robbie Coltrane) shows him visions of Blackadders Past, Present and Yet-to-Come. Continue reading