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The Christmas Carol (1949)

REVIEW

As adaptations of A Christmas Carol go, this is certainly an odd one. Made on a ridiculously restricted budget, it's watchable now only for the presence of Vincent Price as the on-screen narrator though it laughing at low-budget ineptitude is your thing, you might find something else here to enjoy.

The story is well known enough now for it to need recounting again here, but even though Dickens' novel was a fairly short affair, it needs some serious trimming to cram it all into the 25 minutes afforded it by this production and the result is disorientating to say the least. The meagre running time is eaten into further by an unfeasibly long opening title sequence (it takes nearly two precious minutes to tell us very little at all) before Price pops up on a couch to begin telling the story.

It guts Dickens' novel of only the barest essentials, missing out many of the incidental pleasures of the book - never once do we get the impression that it's actually set at Christmas, let alone in Victorian London, and a good many of the memorable supporting cast are omitted altogether in favour of concentrating on the ghosts and their haunting of Scrooge.

But even at an inadequate 25 minutes and with so much of the story missing, The Christmas Carol (it can't even get the title right) drags its heels. A lot of time is devoted to Scooge taking off his coat, wandering about in his room, sleeping and other business that could easily have been tightened up to allow slightly more of the substance of the novel to make it to the screen.

The ghosts are adequately done, though the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come lacks the creepiness that one expects and which has been so well captured by many other adaptations of the story. The Ghost of Christmas Present is a touch melodramatic perhaps, but he's in good company as there's barely a restrained performance in the entire production. Particularly guilty of this is Taylor Holmes whose reading of Scrooge alternates between the stilted and the shamelessly hammy. His insane cackling when he realises that he hasn't yet missed Christmas Day is priceless.

Hidden away among the supporting cast is one Jill Oppenheim, at the time a preciocious nine year old who would later change her name and achieve fame as actress Jull St. John - here she appears as one of the Cratchit children. Also among the cast is Robert Clarke, a full decade before he took on The Hideous Sun Demon (1959). In 1958, the entire cast of The Christmas Carol reconvened with director Arthur Pierson for a remake, this time broadcast under the umbrella of the Family Theatre series.

Fans of Vincent Price won't want to be without The Christmas Carol, though if it's an adaptation of Dickens you're after there are many others to choose from and most of them are a lot better than this.
KEVIN LYONS

 


Last Updated: 1 January, 2009

 


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