One of the greatest movies ever made.
This movie is a quite faithful adaption of Charles Dickens' classic novel. You all know the story, Scrooge (Alister Sim) is a greedy covetous old man. He has grown cold hearted and has no sympathy for anyone else's misfortune. One night he is visited by the ghost of his former partner Jacob Marley (Michael Hordern), who warns him to change his ways before it is too late. He also tells Scrooge he will be visited by three more ghosts. These ghosts show Scrooge, Christmases of his past, present and future, so that Scrooge can see the error of his ways.
There have been more film adaptions of A Christmas Carol than I care to count. Some perfectly fine adaptions have fallen through the cracks simply because while being good movies, they don't stand out among the many adaptions. So, what makes this film so special that it stands as easily the best of these adaptions? This is not an easy question to answer, but for the most part it comes down to excellent filmmaking and an incredible performance by Alister Sim.
For many movie fans, Alister Sim is Scrooge. His performance embodies everything this character should be. Though many great actors have played Scrooge, none have captured the vulnerable and abundantly human side of Scrooge as well as Sim. He can make you feel deeply for the character even when he is at his most despicable. His performance is possibly the only performance of the character that can move me to near tears. You feel sadness when he feels sadness and joy when he feels joy. Yet all this is done without sacrificing the darker and unlikable parts of this famous character. As strange as it might seem today, there was in outcry against Sim playing the character when it was announced. He was a popular actor in Britian at this time but was known mainly for comic roles. Few thought he had the dramatic chops to portray such a character. In fact, George Minter, managing director of Renown Pictures (which made the movie), wrote an article in the magazine, Picturegoer to explain the choice to those who didn't understand. Yet many movie fans cannot read Charles Dickens' classic story without picturing Alister Sim in their heads.
What this movie also does better than any other film adaption is to capture the balance of darkness and joy that are present in Dickens' classic story. This is a movie that can be equal parts sad, scary and joyous. Yet in no way does this ever feel forced. It goes from each of these emotions in a way that feels perfectly natural and real. Director Brian Desmond Hurst and writer Noel Langley, create the most emotional and powerful film version of this classic story.
DVD audio commentary by Marcus Hearn and George Cole
DVD introduction by Leonard Maltin
Christmas in the Movies by Jeremy Arnold