Tag Archives: Charles Dickens

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

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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

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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

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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

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AN ALL DOGS CHRISTMAS CAROL (1998): CHRISTMAS CAROL-A-THON CONTINUES

All Dogs Christmas CarolBalladeer’s Blog’s Christmas Carol-A-Thon 2018 continues with a look at this animated sequel to All Dogs Go To Heaven.

The dog-angel characters from that reasonably successful film use their Heavenly powers to get the dog-gangster Carface Caruthers (Ernest Borgnine) to change his ways. The portions of this direct-to- video flick dealing with the actual Christmas Carol adaptation are very good. 

Unfortunately that element takes up barely half of the story. The overall tale is about a demonic figure called Belladonna (Bebe Neuwirth) who wants to use a gigantic magic dog bone to manipulate all of Earth’s dogs in a plot to destroy Christmas. Dog-Angels Charlie Barkin (Steven Weber) and Itchy (Dom Deluise) from the previous movie need the help of canine crime-lord Carface to thwart Belladonna’s plans. Hence the plot to “Dickens” him into becoming a better man … or dog, actually.   Continue reading

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CHRISTMAS CAROL-A-THON: TWELVE HUNDRED GHOSTS (2016)

Christmas Carol-A-Thon 2018 rolls along. Heath – one of Balladeer’s Blog’s long-time readers – has done a Supercut version of A Christmas Carol. The video runs 53 minutes and is sheer genius! Plus the rest of the videos on Heath’s channel are worth checking out as well! 

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SUSAN LUCCI’S CHRISTMAS CAROL: EBBIE (1995)

ebbieEBBIE (1995) Balladeer’s Blog’s Ninth Annual Christmas Carol-A-Thon rolls along with this 1995 telefilm  starring soap opera queen Susan Lucci. The eternally-sexy Lucci plays Elizabeth “Ebbie” Scrooge, our regulation “grasping and covetous” business magnate who runs the Dobson’s department store empire. This version of A Christmas Carol is kind of cute and it tries hard.

At its core Ebbie combines the Dickens tale with elements of the Diane Keaton movie Baby Boom. The dialogue self-consciously uses Big Business/ Executive Culture cliches in various exchanges. For example, where Scrooge normally says “Can’t I take them (the Ghosts) all at once and have it over with” Ebbie instead says “Can’t I just Conference Call them all in and have it over with?” Plus Marley’s Ghost refers to Scrooge “taking meetings” with the three Spirits. Sometimes these substitutions are amusing, other times just eye-rolling.  

Ebbie is one of those Carols which make the Ghosts look like people that the Scrooge figure knows in real life. Personally I don’t care for that approach but others do, so it’s all just a question of taste. An interesting note is that outside of Susan Lucci and the guy who plays her late partner Jake Marley (Jeffrey DeMunn) virtually NOBODY in the cast is recognizable. It’s like The Susan Lucci Community Theater Players Present A Christmas Carol.

Taking the crucial elements of the tale in order: Continue reading

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A CHRISTMAS CAROL (1984): GEORGE C SCOTT VERSION

George C Scott CarolBalladeer’s Blog’s 9th Annual Christmas Carol-A-Thon continues with this take on one of the perennial staples of Christmastime viewing. Readers are often surprised that I haven’t reviewed this one even though it’s one of my favorites. No special reason, it’s just that so many excellent reviews have already covered this Carol that I wanted to hit the more obscure versions first.

A CHRISTMAS CAROL (1984) – Let me kick off this review with my old, overused joke about wanting to hear George C Scott holler “Dickens, you magnificent bastard … I READ YER BOOOOOOOOK!”

My only complaints about this undeniable classic would be 1) the way it’s one of those Carols which unnecessarily add extra tension to the relationship between Scrooge and his father  and 2) unnecessary magnification of why the poor and unemployed are sad at Christmas. Dickens put it poetically. This adaptation belabors it.

Moving on to the performances:

SCROOGE – Be thankful that George C Scott toned down his George C Scottishness for this role. If you’ve seen him as Fagan in the 1982 adaptation of Oliver Twist you know what a bullet this Christmas Carol dodged. (“When you put your hand into a pile of goo that a minute ago was the Artful Dodger’s face … You’ll know what to do.” That’s the last time I’ll do that. I promise.)  Continue reading

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CHRISTMAS CAROL-A-THON CONTINUES: JOHN GRIN’S CHRISTMAS (1986)

john-grins-christmas

Wealthy John Grin (left) with a Ghostly Visitor

JOHN GRIN’S CHRISTMAS (1986) – The 2018 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

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CHRISTMAS CAROL-A-THON 2018 BEGINS: LEYENDA DE NAVIDAD (1947)

If it’s the Friday after Thanksgiving then that means it’s the start of this year’s Christmas Carol-A-Thon! Between now and Christmas Day Balladeer’s Blog will examine multiple versions of A Christmas Carol, both new reviews AND old favorites mixed in. 

Leyenda de NavidadThis film version of A Christmas Carol was produced in Spain in 1947 (and was remade for Spanish television in 1966 ) and the Spanish language title is Leyenda de Navidad ( Legend of Christmas, of course).

The film was written and directed by Manuel Tamayo (who wrote the screenplay for the 1955 feature Tarde de Toros) This is a wonderful version for several reasons, not the least of which would be its well-done (for the time period) sets of 1843 London.

We’ll take the differences and similarities to other versions in order – 1. Scrooge has several people working for him for some reason, not just Bob Cratchit and NONE of them get Christmas Day off from this Scrooge  …

2.  Marley’s Ghost steps out of a life-sized portrait of the man that adorns the wall above a fireplace, and returns to that portrait after his standard warning about the 3 Ghosts … Continue reading

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