Turn Back the Clock
Distributed By: Paramount Pictures
Reviewed by Melissa Minners
When I was a kid, I walked in on my Dad watching the ending of a Christmas musical that looked like a lot of fun. My Dad told me that this musical – Scrooge, starring Albert Finney – was one of his favorite versions of A Christmas Carol. After watching the full version of the movie, I could definitely understand. Since that day, Scrooge has become my favorite as well and a musical that has become a must see for me every year.
In this version of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, Albert Finney stars as Ebenezer Scrooge, the skinflint old miser who runs the local counting house. Everyone owes money to Scrooge and he is quite happy about that. He hates Christmas, a time when good will towards men means frivolous spending and silly sentimental mush. Scrooge would just as soon never see another Christmas again and he reminds everyone of that fact every chance he gets.
When he is visited by the ghost of Jacob Marley (Alec Guinness) on Christmas Eve, Scrooge is informed that his greed and disregard for human kindness has forged him quite a chain in the depths of Hell. The only thing that can save him is a visit from three spirits, designed to show him the meaning of Christmas. Scrooge is skeptical as usual, but the first spirit to visit, the Ghost of Christmas Past is enough to dispel this skepticism.
As in the Charles Dickens’ tale, Scrooge is visited by three spirits and his visions of Christmases past, present and those of Christmases to come – which foretell of the death of his employee’s sweet, young son and his own lonely and much celebrated death – are enough to make Scrooge realize what sort of man he has become and what sort of man he wants to be. Scrooge learns what the milk of human kindness is all about and he spreads it around quite generously from then on.
There is some excellent acting here from Albert Finney who is barely recognizable as the elderly Scrooge. Once we view the flashbacks into Scrooge’s younger Christmases, we begin to realize who this actor is. Many will remember him as the rumpled, underdog lawyer who wins his case against the evil energy company in Erin Brokovich. Star Wars fans will see quite another side of Alec Guinness as Jacob Marley. Most think of Marley as one of the scarier parts of the film, but Sir Alec Guinness adds a comedic air to the ghost that never ceases to make me laugh.
But it’s not the story or the acting alone that makes this version of A Christmas Carol so much fun – it’s the song and dance numbers. I love singing along with Scrooge as he expounds about how much he hates people and why. There have been times throughout the year, especially after a rough work day, that I can’t help but sing this song aloud, with or without music accompaniment. I love singing both versions of Father Christmas – the first mocking Scrooge as a mean, skinflint and the second telling of his kindness and generosity.
The very first song I ever learned from this movie was from the song and dance number that I walked in on my father watching, Thank You Very Much. In the initial version, one of the merchants deep in debt to Scrooge is singing his thanks in the future for Scrooge’s death which absolves him of his debt. The dancing this man does is quite amazing to watch and the actor seems to have a whole lot of fun performing this number. The second time the song is sung is after Scrooge has decided to change his ways. After telling everyone that he will be erasing all debts owed to him for Christmas, the merchant, Scrooge and dozens of merchants and children in the town sing the song. In that particular version of the number there is some rather clever dancing by pipers and some captivating dance and music from a group of bell-ringers.
Scrooge is one of those traditional musicals that I can’t do without on Christmas. I thank my father for introducing me to such an enjoyable musical and I do my best to pass on the favor to those who have never heard of it. Scrooge is such a fun version of A Christmas Carol that I can’t imagine celebrating Christmas without it. If it’s not playing on television, I simply load up the DVD player and my face instantly lights up as the opening music begins. I can watch it over and over again and never get tired of it. It’s just not Christmas without Scrooge!