johnlink ranks SCROOGE (1970)

I’m really not a fan of filmed musicals. I don’t have any logic to apply here, since I don’t mind musical animated movies and I’m alright with musical theater. But for whatever reason, I tend to steer clear of musicals on film altogether. But I’ve always heard that Albert Finney is considered by some to be the quintessential Scrooge (despite the fact that he was only 34 when this came out), and I hadn’t yet watched a version of Dickens’ Christmas Carol yet this holiday season. So I figured, what the heck, let’s give it a shot! (As a side note, this is my 300th movie ranked! Woohoo!)

I watched SCROOGE (1970) on 12.21.11. It was my first viewing of the film.

So I walk away from this thinking, both, Albert Finney IS a great Scrooge and… I still don’t like musicals.

There were a few musical sequences in this which worked. The Fezziwig scene (Fezziwig being the source for the name of my favorite winter beer), was very well executed. The song in Christmas Future wherein the entire city revels in Scrooge’s death is probably the highlight of the film’s music. And the final sequence is great… until it drags on for five minutes too long.

But I knew this was going to be somewhat tedious when the film started with a black screen which read simply: OVERTURE in one third of the screen and SCROOGE on another third. Three or four minutes of an overture with no visuals? Is that a musical standard? Because I don’t remember ever seeing that before save, perhaps, for an intermission of an epic film. Then we get a few tedious musical numbers capped off by Alec Guinness as Jacob Marley singing three bars of a song before a subtle break (I later learned that this song was mostly cut form the film). The music, really, just did not do it for me.

But Finney as Scrooge? He sure did. While he feels younger than most on-screen Scrooges, fifties perhaps, he certainly doesn’t play as young as Finney was. His take on the classic Dickens’ dialogue is grounded and fierce. Some play it for comedy, some play it as a heightened reality. But Finney, when not singing anyway, is a fear-mongering terror. The biggest question every Scrooge must face is simply: When does he change his mind? When does he realize the error of his ways. Throughout the story, starting with Marley’s intervention, Scrooge pays lip service to being changed. He also gets caught up in small memories, and finds bits of happiness to cling to. But there must be, at some point, a fundamental change in character. Finney’s choice is nuanced, but it seems to be in Christmas Present at his nephew Fred’s party. This is an unusual choice, it would seem, but also an extremely effective one. When he runs into Fred on Christmas morning there is some more cache there, as we have seen Scrooge revel in the party which is about to happen already.

I liked the portrayal of  each of the spirits, though showing the skeleton body of Christmas Future is a little unnecessary. A post-future scene with Scrooge in hell served only to make sure Guinness’ Marley had more screen time in the film. However, the moment of Scrooge waking up on a black floor outlined by a red coffin image is the most haunting image in all of the film. I forgive the unnecessary scene for at least being visually interesting.

Ultimately, I didn’t enjoy this as much as I would have had it not been a musical. I feel uncultured and silly for saying that, but I can’t deny it. I remember liking 1776 way back when I saw it over a decade ago. I’m convinced there are musicals out there for me (Hell, I love DR. HORRIBLE… it’s just not a movie!), I just need to find them!





~ by johnlink00 on December 22, 2011.

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