Movie Review: A Christmas Carol (1938)

Posted: December 7, 2009 in Holiday, Movie Review, Reviews
Tags: , , , , , , ,

A Christmas Carol (1938 MGM Dir. Edwin L. Marin)


All these people are ashamed of themselves now.

Ah Hollywood, you’d change the Biblical story of Easter to make it so he lives at the end and thereby guarantees a sequel if you thought you could get away with it, wouldn’t you? I won’t say that the Reginald Owen version of the story is completely valueless entirely. After all, it is in focus. A whole lot of things were dropped from this version to make it more audience friendly, and then as a result a lot of things were extended to make up the short falls in plot.


London has no idea what kind of bomb is about to be dropped on it.

Some of the liberties take involve a expanding the roll of Bob Cratchit and Fred to ridiculous degrees. Bob’s fired in this movie, but then spends his every last penny buying a feast for his family. I know it sounds like a small point, but it does rather render Scrooge’s buying of the goose later to be a bit pointless. In fact, the way Bob gets fired is exceptionally annoying and proves he couldn’t possibly do what he does. He throws a snowball, which causes Scrooge’s hat to get run over by a cart, and as a result Scrooge fires him and announces he’s keeping Bob’s wages for next week to pay for the hat. Not only that, but a week of Bob’s wages won’t cover it so he has to give some of his pocket money up to cover the extra costs. So here we have a guy who can’t afford a hat with a week’s wages, yet he’s able to afford a full meal and a really huge place to live in. Not only that, but he desires the one ring when his character was the only person in the book who could resist it. The less said about Gollum being turned into a major character despite only having a small roll in the books is possibly better left for another day when I’m not so frustrated.


I saw a werewolf with a Chinese menu in his hand…

Anyway, we get the basic check list things like Fred’s speech, the two charitable gentlemen, and an extremely truncated version of the coal argument. Well, actually the argument doesn’t even exist. Bob has it on his own, puts some coal in and then when Scrooge enters the office he pulls the coals out of the fire. Yeah, he reaches into the fire and yanks the coals out after having put them in when Scrooge wasn’t around and couldn’t have caught him at it. Its things like this that makes the movie pants. Anyway, we get the day off argument, which gives us another tick on our list.


Seriously is it just me or does the word “Cannibal” spring to your mind too?

We go through Bob getting fired, having to give up his wages, and showing up the Helm’s Deep with the elves just before he starts laughing like a mad man. After his laughing fit he goes and a spending bender. He then brings back all his packages to what is possibly the nicest version of the Cratchit house ever put to film. His place is bigger than mine, and it’s better appointed. How is it that this guy who can’t afford the price of a hat lives in a place like this? What is he, a Mason with a secret? Is he being paid by the brothers to keep and eye on Scrooge? His half dozen kids come out and look at the wrapped groceries as if they’ve never seen anything so exciting as packages wrapped in brown paper. Perhaps they think they contain pornographic toys or something.


I saw Lon Chaney walking with the queen…

Now fortunately, Marley in the doorknocker isn’t skipped, but there are a lot of things that are going to be. A whole lot of things ended up being cut because the studio heads wanted to sanitize Dickens as much a possible. There are the bells, there is transparent Marley in his chains, although they skip the more gravy than grave line here too. The city watch is invited in, I guess just to show that no one but Scrooge could see Marley. Either that or it’s just another lame addition like having Fred only get the re-forged sword after he decides to go through the paths of the dead. We don’t get to see talk of the other tortured spirits, and of course we don’t see them, this makes Marley’s entire visit as an instructional piece useless. However, by this point the audience is getting used to elements from the movie and useless being used in the same sentence. Let’s move on to the ghosts shall we?


I’m cool with everything except the hat. Why would anyone wear a hat like that?

Gosh, Christmas Past is kind of a hottie. While not entirely unheard of, it’s not to the book, but that wouldn’t be an issue if the cutie could act. She keeps delivering her lines as if she only learned them about six minutes ago. I can’t blame this on Ann Rutherford, because actually the way she delivers he lines it sort of looks like she was expecting to have other bits of dialogue cut in. One of the major problems I have with this movie is that I think some actors were told to do all their lines for a scene at once and that they’d have the other angle for the other actor’s lines cut in between… only they didn’t do that. So poor Ann Rutherford has to stand there and say “Your welfare… your reclamation…Rise and walk with me” all at once in one shot and she sort of comes off looking like she can’t act. The end result is that the movie drags in many places almost entirely due to really crap editing.


She’s just sort of totally zoned out here.

So we see Scrooge left behind at school, and our list gains a much needed checkmark. When Fan comes in to claim her brother and bring him home, we gain another checkmark, and we gain another for remembering that she died and had one child. Another checkmark for remembering Fezziwig, but we loose a point because Christmas Past starts looking like maybe she had one or two shots of something strong at this point. Of course if I were in this movie, I might start drinking too. There is no party, no Belle, and a speech and moralizing by the Spirit before he throws her skirt over her head and strangles her. No, sadly, I didn’t just make that up. They really do skip half the Spirit of the Past’s bit by showing that Ebenezer hafta choke a bitch.


When big fat guy dressed in nothing but robes shows up and starts waving flashlights at you it’s time to call AA.

So what’s The Ghost of the Present like? Well, he manages to screw up his first line. He says “Come here, come here and know me better Scrooge” when everyone who has memorized this story can tell you the line is “Come in and know me better man.” They should also be able to tell you that zombies don’t run, but that’s another review. Still there is a feeling of things not going right. Once again, the Fred and Bob show is on. They both seem to be at the same church, singing the same song. Fred, who I want to hit with a shovel every time I see him, is in love with some cutie who I guess he hasn’t actually married yet. Fred is supposed to have gotten married despite his uncle’s wishes, instead of waiting until he gets Scrooge’s approval as they do in this. Just another bit of sanitation that this story gets involved in.


Seriously, don’t you want to hit him with a shovel?

Another point of annoyance, the Ghost of the Present tells scrooge about how poor and destitute Bob is, except we’ve already seen the HUGE house the Cratchit’s have and how nicely his family is dressed. I’ve never seen a poor family with as nice a place as this. Also, they’ve clearly got plenty of money for drugs, as all the children seem to be stoned out of their minds with excitement. I’ve always kind of hated the Cratchit family anyway, because they’re very much the nice grateful poor people that condescending liberals like to think about. I also note with annoyance that it’s Mrs. Cratchit who toasts to Mr. Scrooge, making me want to set her on fire. Then we see Fred and his well fed and overly smug middle class friends who are exactly the sort who like to see poor people like the Cratchits. Sadly, no one whacks him in the head with a shovel.


The gravestone. They can’t all be jokes.

So then Future shows up and the checklist gets a mark with the gentlemen discussing that man who died that we aren’t supposed to know who he is. We see the poor fellow, whoever he is, in the bed. Then we get to see the nice upper middle class poor Cratchit house again. Then we’re taken right to the cemetery, because Old Joe and company would be too unpleasent for the audiences. They show us the tombstone and Scrooge has his break down, except the breakdown is sort of gutless. The whole movie is gutless, but that one scene should be done well at least. If Scrooge doesn’t collapse into tears and totally loose his shit then the whole movie is for not. So… this whole movie is for not.


Does anyone else hear Yakity-sax? Is that just me?

So, he comes back and finds that he’s not dead. Gets the kid to buy the prize turkey and then goes out into the street to look like Benny Hill at the Playboy Mansion. He beams and smiles and looks like someone slipped something into his morning coffee. Scrooge goes to Fred’s house and Fred actually fails to recognize his uncle… with a hat on? I have no idea why he has to have his uncle remind him of who the hell he is before Fred grips his hand and smiles. I’m really thinking at this point that I need to get a time machine, go back in time and punch these idiots in the face. I really do hate this version.


Best shot in the whole movie.

At this point everyone is just laughing and smiling and acting like they’ve all gotten so stoned that there is no return. Fred comes with him to Bob’s house and everything turns out to be alright, I suppose. Bob gets a raise, Fred’s going to get married, Tim is going to get well, and the evil Zargon war fleet will turn back and invade some other planet. It’s all wrapped up with no rhyme or reason really. This movie has given me a headache. I won’t go into the DVD, because you shouldn’t buy it. Stay away from this movie and get some other version. You can avoid this one because you don’t have the sort of problems I do. Run away from this one! RUN!

Official Score:
-31 Degrees on the Graffiti Bridge Scale.

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