Tag Archives: Charles Dickens

A CHRISTMAS CAROL (2018)

A Christmas Carol 2018A CHRISTMAS CAROL (2018) – MERRY CHRISTMAS! Balladeer’s Blog’s eleventh annual Christmas Carol-A-Thon takes a look at this Scottish adaptation of the Dickens classic. David Izatt directed and Stuart Brennan wrote and stars as Ebenezer Scrooge. 

The premise of a modern-day Scrooge running a distillery definitely sounds like it could work, but Brennan is absurdly over the top in the lead role. He’s not stingy and covetous, he’s psychotic. There are cartoon depictions of Scrooge who aren’t as artificial as this.

Brennan’s Scrooge is more like a supervillain from a bad comic book movie than he is like a money-grubbing executive. J.R. Ewing would tell this guy to show some subtlety.

Sarina Taylor portrays Bob Cratchit … not even Bobbie Cratchit, just “Bob” in a fairly lazy creative decision. She doesn’t have a sickly son named Tiny Tim, she has a cancer-stricken husband named Tim (Scott Ironside). Whether or not she calls him Tiny Tim is an issue for their marriage counselor, not me.  Continue reading

17 Comments

Filed under A CHRISTMAS CAROL

A DIVA’S CHRISTMAS CAROL (2000)

A Diva's Christmas CarolA DIVA’S CHRISTMAS CAROL (2000) – Balladeer’s Blog’s Eleventh Annual Christmas Carol-A-Thon continues with a look at this Vanessa Williams venture. Due to the nature of this adaptation of the Dickens classic it is often categorized as one of the “African-American versions.” Among other such Carols I have reviewed are Christmas is Comin’ Uptown with Gregory Hines and John Grin’s Christmas starring Robert Guillaume. 

The forever-underrated Vanessa Williams is brilliant in this very good film that mixes comedy, music and drama together far better than many stage versions manage to do. Williams stars as Ebony Scrooge, a pop singer who puts on a kind and pleasant public face but who is a … well, a diva behind the scenes.  

Ebony is even more nasty than usual as she pushes her entourage beyond all their limits to get ready for an alleged “charity” show for the homeless on Christmas. Ebony’s demeanor makes it clear that she is really doing it all just for public image reasons and to feed her own ego (Bono – cough – Bono) as she wallows in the plaudits sent her way.   Continue reading

24 Comments

Filed under A CHRISTMAS CAROL

RICH LITTLE’S CHRISTMAS CAROL (1979)

Rich Little's Christmas CarolRICH LITTLE’S CHRISTMAS CAROL (1979) – Balladeer’s Blog’s ELEVENTH annual Christmas Carol-A-Thon continues! If you’re into celebrity trivia from the 1970’s and earlier Rich Little’s Christmas Carol will have you laughing from start to finish over all the sly jokes and riffs that abound in this Canadian- made special. For those unfamiliar with Little he was the Frank Caliendo of the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s, a first- class celebrity impressionist. The Canadian comic’s first venture into using the voices and personas of iconic celebrities as characters in the Charles Dickens classic began in the 1960’s. Part of Rich’s stand-up act was a several minute sendup of A Christmas Carol with John Wayne, Jack Benny and other figures playing roles in the famous story.

In 1979 Little expanded the story into an hour-long television special in which, through the aid of trick photography, costumes and makeup, he impersonated all of the entertainment legends that he worked into the Yuletide epic. Here is a rundown of the celebrities that Rich Little appeared as in this enjoyable Christmas special:

For the central role of Ebenezer Scrooge Little impersonated W.C. Fields, the whiskey- soaked and curmudgeonly comedian whose misanthropic humor made his persona perfect for the role. Little impersonated Hollywood Squares mainstay Paul “The JM J Bullock of his time” Lynde in the role of Bob Cratchit and long-time Tonight Show host Johnny Carson as the cheerful and charming Nephew Fred. Rich did a turn as Laurel and Hardy as the Charity Solicitors to round out the “cast” for the opening scene at Scrooge and Marley’s. Continue reading

20 Comments

Filed under A CHRISTMAS CAROL

SCROOGE AND THE STARS (1963)

Scrooge and the Stars

Balladeer’s Blog’s Eleventh Annual Christmas Carol-A-Thon 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.

Continue reading

28 Comments

Filed under A CHRISTMAS CAROL

SCROOGE’S ROCK AND ROLL CHRISTMAS (1983)

scrooges rock and rollChristmas Carol-A-Thon 2020, my ELEVENTH ANNUAL Carol-A-Thon,  continues with another post in Balladeer’s Blog’s annual orgy of entries on various versions of THE Christmas tale. 

Scrooge’s Rock & Roll Christmas grows on me more and more each time I watch it. It’s value as a version of A Christmas Carol is virtually nil, but it features some wonderful renditions of a variety of Yuletide songs along with some striking wintry scenery.

Most sources list this made-for- tv special as a 1984 production, but the actual copyright date on the VHS copy I tracked down says 1983, so that’s what I’m going by. If it first aired in late December 1983 it’s almost a 1984 product anyway so I can see where the confusion might come in.

A better title for this 45 minute novelty item would be Have Yourself A Has- Been Little Christmas since it features appearances by several rock singers who were already two decades past their days as chart- toppers. The premise of this telefilm is that a young lady looking for a record store (and how old does THAT sound these days) instead finds the establishment to be occupied by Ebenezer Scrooge, played by Jack Elam … yes, Jack Elam. Continue reading

10 Comments

Filed under A CHRISTMAS CAROL

BLACKADDER’S CHRISTMAS CAROL (1988)

blackadder's christmas carolBLACKADDER’S CHRISTMAS CAROL (1988) – My 11th Annual Christmas Carol-A-Thon continues here at Balladeer’s Blog! 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

6 Comments

Filed under A CHRISTMAS CAROL, humor

CHRISTMAS CAROL-A-THON 2020 BEGINS!

masc graveyard smallerIf it’s the Friday after Thanksgiving then it must be the start of Balladeer’s Blog’s Annual Christmas Carol-A-Thon! As always I review obscure versions of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol AND well-known versions. I also post new reviews each year PLUS rotate in old favorites from the past. Long past? No, YOUR past.

Kicking off my Eleventh Christmas Carol-A-Thon is this look at many truly rare versions of the Carol. Long-time readers are aware of the obsessive lengths I have gone to over the years to obtain some of these gems but this post doesn’t bore you with those details. 

Ghost of Christmas PresentAren’t we all pretty fed up with the same versions of A Christmas Carol being rammed down our throats like Razzleberry Dressing every Christmas season while many of the clever but lesser known variations of the Dickens Yuletide classic languish in obscurity?

Drawing on the extensive, albeit geeky, expertise that I’ve gained in this subject over the years I’d like to spread the word about some of the versions of the story that can be found in the remote hinterlands of home video or audio.

This post will be a look at variations of the actual Dickens story, set in London in the 1840s. An entirely separate article could be written about adaptations of A Christmas Carol set in different time periods and locales, like Rod Serling’s anti-war parable Carol For Another Christmas, or the 1975 conservation short The Energy Carol or even the year 2000 Brazilian version depicting the Scrooge figure as a drug lord who repents. Just think of me as the Ghost of Christmas Carol Obscurities.

After reading this list you’ll hopefully conduct your own search for versions of the Carol beyond the limited world of Mr Magoo, Alastair Sim and George C Scott (“Dickens, you magnificent bastard! I read yer booooook!”) . 

The man all mimes aspire to be ... damn them.

The man all mimes aspire to be … damn them.

Marcel Marceau Presents a Christmas Carol (1973) – Marcel Marceau is possibly the only name that comes to mind if you try to think of famous mimes. In fact “Famous Mimes” would make for one easy  Jeopardy category because the response would always be “Who is Marcel Marceau?” Anyway, this BBC presentation featured Marceau acting out a pantomime of the Carol and playing every role.

This was accompanied by narration by another actor who once portrayed Scrooge, Michael Hordern. If you prefer versions of the Carol devoid of any and all speaking there are several silent movie Carols available out there.   Continue reading

18 Comments

Filed under A CHRISTMAS CAROL

A CHRISTMAS CAROL (1984) – KENT STATE VERSION

PBSBalladeer’s Blog continues its annual orgy of versions of the Dickens classic as Christmas Carol-A-Thon 2019 resumes!

A CHRISTMAS CAROL (1984) – Don’t be misled by the 1984 date, this is neither the George C Scott version NOR the French TV version which I first reviewed years ago. This is a taped stage performance that aired on Ohio Public Television station WNEO on December 22nd, 1984.  

Just to give you an idea of the psychotically obsessive lengths I sometimes go to to track down these obscure versions of the Carol: Years ago when I bought this it was one of the many productions not available on video. Nor was it to be found on E-bay or Amazon or any of the usual outlets.

By emailing various staff members at Kent State University (whose theatre department mounted this version) I eventually reached a kind individual. He stated that, though the university did not have copies of the production for sale he would ask around on the KSU faculty’s exclusive chat boards to see if anyone had a copy they may have taped off television back in 1984. Continue reading

20 Comments

Filed under A CHRISTMAS CAROL

A CAROL CHRISTMAS (2003): CHRISTMAS CAROL-A-THON CONTINUES

A Carol ChristmasA CAROL CHRISTMAS (2003) – Here’s another entry in Balladeer’s Blog’s Ninth Annual Christmas Carol-A-Thon. This version is one of the many that tries mining laughs out of setting the Dickens classic in the modern age. These adaptations have varying degrees of success and on a scale of 1 to 10 I would give this effort a 6.5.

A Carol Christmas isn’t trying to be the most touching or the funniest rendition of A Christmas Carol, it’s just a pleasant, fluffy diversion for the Christmas season. Tori Spelling stars as Carol Cartman, a daytime hostess like Jenny Jones, Oprah and so many others. As the Scrooge figure Spelling is selfish, mean-spirited and abuses her staff, especially her assistant Roberta, the Bob Cratchit role.

Roberta (Nina Siemaszko) is a struggling single mother caught up in a custody battle for her version of Tiny Tim in a novel departure from the usual Cratchit family pathos. 

Dinah Manoff portrays the ghost of Carol’s late aunt and manager Marla. Aunt Marla was a driven “show-biz mom” type whose monomaniacal, cold-hearted drive was passed on to Carol as she forced the girl into a show business career she never really wanted. Because of this Marla is cursed in a Jacob Marley manner and has come to warn her niece that she faces the same fate unless she changes her ways. Continue reading

4 Comments

Filed under A CHRISTMAS CAROL

CHRISTMAS CAROL-A-THON: BRE’ER RABBIT’S CHRISTMAS CAROL (1992)

brer-rabbits-christmas-carolBR’ER RABBIT’S CHRISTMAS CAROL (1992) – Balladeer’s Blog’s Ninth Annual Christmas Carol-A-Thon continues! Br’er Rabbit, Br’er Fox, Br’er Bear, Br’er Gator and many other characters created by Joel Chandler Harris are featured in this animated version of the Dickens tale.

Br’er Rabbit’s Christmas Carol is my favorite out of all the versions which present A Christmas Carol as the framework of a Mission Impossible/ Leverage “con job” to make a greedy character change their ways. To nobody’s surprise, Br’er Fox is the Scrooge stand-in who requires a wakeup call.

brer-rabbits-christmas-carol-2All the characters live in a town in the American South, where a charity stage production of A Christmas Carol is being performed, with the proceeds going to benefit the terribly ill Timmy Mouse. No, not “Br’er Timmy” or anything like that, just Timmy Mouse as our Tiny Tim stand-in.

Br’er Fox has no time for silly fiction and is completely unfamiliar with the Dickens Christmas classic. That fact gives Br’er Rabbit the idea to work with his friends to instill some holiday spirit into Br’er Fox, who refuses to help Timmy Mouse and charges the other animals exorbitant prices for the firewood he sells. If they can’t afford to pay, they go cold.   Continue reading

6 Comments

Filed under A CHRISTMAS CAROL