A 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
A 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
RICH 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
A CHRISTMAS CAROL ADAPTED BY MARTIN PREST (2017) – Balladeer’s Blog’s ELEVENTH Annual Christmas Carol-A-Thon continues with this look at British actor and producer Martin Prest’s one-man performance of the tale. As the poster says, it’s “spellingbinding” … (?)
This video presentation runs just 57 minutes so obviously it is a heavily truncated version of A Christmas Carol.
Prest, like Patrick Stewart and others before him, acts out all the characters himself on stage. A succession of backdrops and some lighting adjustments are the only help his one-man show receives. Prest’s voicework isn’t as varied as some other performers but he makes up for a lot of that with his facial expressions. Continue reading
Regular readers of Balladeer’s Blog are very familiar with my Bad Movie page. Laughing at bad and weird movies is one of the great joys of life so I often post holiday-themed looks at cinematic turkeys around Halloween and Thanksgiving.
The Yuletide season has its fair share of turkeys as well, so enjoy this examination of more Christmas season bombs than even Henry Kissinger ever dreamed of. I will exclude overexposed movies like Santa Claus Conquers the Martians and the Mexican film Santa Claus. Visit my Bad Movie page if you want full-length reviews of the following 14 flicks.
THE CHRISTMAS MARTIAN (1971) – This Canadian flick is dubbed into English from its orginal French so viewers get treated to the Old School bad movie fun of the actor’s lip movements rarely matching the words being said. An annoyingly whimsical and whacky Martian gets stuck in Canada at Christmas time. A young brother and sister help the alien visitor repair his Ed Wood- level spaceship and save him from suspicious Canadian authorities. Yes, it all seems … reminiscent … of the much-later movie E.T. but I’m sure it’s just a coincidence that E.T. is so similar. (?)
The Martian overdoes the zaniness factor to such a degree that even Charles Nelson Reilly would have told him to tone it down a little. He also wallows in a Canadian candy treat that looks a lot like Reese’s Pieces. Just sayin’.
SANTA AND THE ICE CREAM BUNNY (1972) – Ever want to see Santa Claus sweating so much that his red pants cling to his butt tightly enough for his crack and each buttock to stand out wide and proud? THIS is the movie for you! (And please stay away from children.) Santa’s sleigh crash-lands in Continue reading
A CHRISTIAN CAROL (2016) – Balladeer’s Blog’s 11th Annual Christmas Carol-A-Thon continues with this look at a religious-themed variation of A Christmas Carol. Directed by Stan Severance and written by Wesley T Highlander, A Christian Carol follows in the footsteps of the 1983 production The Gospel According to Scrooge.
That 1983 project has been reviewed previously by Balladeer’s Blog and I will say again that it is so well done that it can appeal to true-believers AND to people like me, who laugh and roll their eyes at it. By comparison, this 2016 production is pretty weak and may barely even appeal to active, devout Christians. Acting, writing, special effects and singing are strictly low-level with only a few bright spots along the way.
Let’s take A Christian Carol beat by beat:
SCROOGE: The stand-in for Ebenezer Scrooge in this modern adaptation of A Christmas Carol is a woman known to us only as Carol. She’s the usual “tight-fisted hand at the grindstone” and runs a company called Rev13. GET IT? The British narrator – who sounds a bit like Robin Leach at times – tells us Carol was as dead inside as a doornail in a cute little twist on the Carol‘s opening line. Our title character has lost her Christian faith and cares only about money now.
Carol is portrayed by Brenda Roesel but comes across more like a potential mass shooter than a Scrooge-like figure. Her pathological hatred of any and every display of Christmas spirit by her employees was so heavily on the unhinged side that I actually paused to check if she was the same woman who played the end-of-her-rope madwoman in the mock Claridryl ad from years ago. (She’s not, but could have been, she’s THAT creepy.) Continue reading
I MET FATHER CHRISTMAS aka J’AI RENCONTRE LE PERE NOEL (1984) – Not to be confused with I Killed Einstein, Gentlemen, I Met Father Christmas is a 1984 children’s holiday film from France. This little honey is directed by Christian Gion, known mostly for his sub-Police Academy level comedies. I Met Father Christmas is partially enjoyable as a Yuletide kiddy flick but most of its entertainment value comes from the filmmaker’s ineptitude and their inclusion of some very questionable story elements.
Simon (Emeric Chapuis), who lives with his grandmother, is a withdrawn little boy often bullied by his peers, like the protagonists of so many other children’s tales. What makes him UNLIKE the protagonists of so many other children’s tales is the reason for his melancholy nature – his parents were seized by African terrorists and the French government has refused to meet the conditions set by the warlord for releasing them alive.
No, I’m not joking. (And no, this isn’t an origin story for young John McClane.) The poor kid is in emotional limbo, not knowing if his parents are dead or alive or if he’ll ever see them again. Even his letter to Santa says he doesn’t want toys, he just wants his parents back home safely. (Insert your own “You’ll put your eye out, kid” joke here.) Continue reading
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.
Christmas 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
BLACKADDER’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